Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In defence of Kash Heed on election spending controversy - somewhat that is

Kash Heed before being cast adrift
BC Liberal MLA Kash Heed may be unworthy of public office - but he has every right to appeal his situation to the courts - and BC Liberal Party has a lot to answer for

I am no supporter of embattled BC Liberal MLA Kash Heed.

The former solicitor general and MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview is an embarrassment to BC politics, not just to his own party.  His egotistical comments about his great abilities are too much even for a politician.

But I feel compelled to offer Heed some defence in the current feeding frenzy of columnists, reporters and political commentators over his going to the courts to try and avoid an order from Elections BC to file an updated financial disclosure for his controversial May 2009 election win.

The BC Liberal Party has a lot of tough questions to answer about its role in the May 2009 Kash Heed election campaign - like what the hell have they been doing all this time while the scandal developed? 

And why did longtime BC Liberal Party Executive Director Kelly Reichert suddenly resign last December?  What steps did Reichert take to help resolve this issue?  Did he appoint Heed's campaign team members, including those now facing charges?

Heed could lose his seat according to a letter from Elections BC Acting Chief Electoral Officer Craig James sent December 2, 2010.

"Should you fail to comply with the provisions of the [Election] Act . . . I will feel compelled to forthwith present a report to the Speaker informing him that you have ceased to hold office and that your seat has thereby become vacant," James wrote.

Heed responded by filing a petition in BC Supreme Court - discovered and released by the BC New Democrats - asking that James' order be dismissed.

"I did not prepare the initial or amended Election Financing Report and at the present time I have no reason to believe the Election Financing Report is inaccurate," Heed states, blaming his former financial agent Satpal Johl for any problems.

Johl and Heed's campaign manager Barinder Sall both face Election Act violations, with Sall also facing criminal charges over allegations they were involved in distributing a vicious and false anti-NDP leaflet in the riding that was paid for but never declared by the Heed campaign in its financial disclosures.

And last week an RCMP search warrant "Information To Obtain" document showed that Heed himself may yet face charges of breach of trust and other offences related to that campaign.

But Heed's argument in the affidavit makes some sense.

"Since I am unable to compel Mr. Johl to file a supplementary report and I personally have no information on which to base a supplementary report ... I am seeking to be relieved of this responsibility," he added.

Let's presume three things for the sake of this argument in defence of Heed: 

1)  When Heed says he had no knowledge of the finances of his campaign he is telling the absolute truth;

2)  The only way Heed could file a supplementary disclosure statement is by obtaining the information from the two campaign officials facing serious charges; and

3)  Heed cannot get the assistance of the BC Liberal Party to file the new disclosure requested by Elections BC.

If the above three points are accurate, then what choice is left to Kash Heed but to appeal to the court?

Should he be contacting two men charged with offences directly related to the impugned campaign and ask them to help him out?

When he himself is under investigation?

Not bloody likely a good plan!

The real issue is why the BC Liberal Party has not stepped in to clean up the mess.

Make no mistake - political parties of every stripe have had past problems with Financial Agents who can't - or won't - do their job during or after an election.  It just happens.

That's when the party has to intervene and resolve any outstanding issues, not the individual candidate.

And don't believe the bravado of some current MLAs saying Heed should have known better - I would be amazed if most MLAs have a thorough understanding of the reporting requirements - thorough enough to be able to step in if their own financial agent disappeared and without considerable party assistance.

Interim NDP Leader Dawn Black did exactly the right thing yesterday in releasing the Kash Heed court documents - call on Heed and the BC Liberals to file the disclosure as demanded by Elections BC.

But Heed has the right to argue in court that he personally can't supply that information.

And if it's true - or at least highly believable to a judge - expect Heed to avoid being thrown out of office.

But that won't solve his other problems - and it certainly won't let the BC Liberal Party off the hook whatsoever.

As I said, Heed is an embarrassment to BC politics - but due process is due process - it should be followed before there's any public hanging.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Bill Tieleman endorses Adrian Dix for BC NDP leadership

Adrian Dix, Sharon Prescott & Bill Tieleman
Tieleman Backs Adrian Dix

'His record shows Dix is a fighter for ordinary people. He gets results.'

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday January 25, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Nothing so conclusively proves a man's ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself."

- Thomas J. Watson, 1874-1956, president of IBM

In the contest to lead the British Columbia New Democratic Party, one candidate has already proven his ability through hard work, dedication and intensity -- Adrian Dix.

Adrian is a good friend and a former colleague of mine when we both worked for premier Glen Clark in 1996, so you may say I am biased. But I'd feel the same way if I had never met him before.

The reasons Dix would make the best leader are many.

Since being elected as member of the legislative assembly for Vancouver-Kingsway in 2005, Dix been the NDP's most effective and impassioned critic.

Dix always stands up for ordinary people -- from hospital workers and nurses whose union contracts were legislatively shredded by the BC Liberals, to women fearing for their safety at SkyTrain stations, to small business owners being crushed by the Harmonized Sales Tax, to the most vulnerable of all citizens -- children in government care.

And despite being in opposition, Dix gets results. His persistent high profile questioning of cover ups of child deaths in care and funding cuts to the ministry of children and families forced the government to change.

As health critic, Dix has repeatedly pressured the BC Liberals to answer for long waiting lists and cutbacks in beds, doctors and staff.

And Dix also led the successful fight to save Sir Guy Carleton and other Vancouver schools from closure due to provincial education funding shortfalls.

Best equipped to fight

The new NDP leader will face a BC Liberal Party likely led by either George Abbott or Kevin Falcon -- both former health ministers who fear Dix's persistent, knowledgeable and impassioned questioning in the legislature.

And it's likely a provincial election will take place in 2011, since having a BC Liberal premier govern for over two years with no mandate from voters is untenable.

Dix faces talented leadership competition within the NDP caucus, without question. Mike Farnworth has been highly effective on public safety issues, as has John Horgan on energy concerns.

Nicholas Simons wants more democratic engagement and attention paid to the arts and culture, while Harry Lali is boldly questioning party equity quotas and saying out loud what some members think.

I like and respect them all.

Marijuana legalization advocate Dana Larsen is also running, as he has every right to.

But Dix is my choice, based on his work ethic, his communications savvy and his demonstrated commitment to social justice.

I also believe Dix can best heal the divide in the NDP that formed over Carole James' leadership, as it must if the party is to win the next election.

Shifting the burden

What's more, Dix has ideas to add to his ideals.

His promise to kill the Harmonized Sales Tax was matched by his energetic canvassing to gain signatures for the citizens initiative petition began by Fight HST, the group former Premier Bill Vander Zalm, Chris Delaney and I helped create.

"What we are seeing is a fundamental shift in who is responsible for paying for the critical institutions in British Columbia. We're seeing taxes imposed on working people who are already struggling in our communities," Dix said in the legislature on Sept. 17, 2009. "This is a dramatic shift in taxation onto small business and onto working people."

"It will damage small businesses in our community. That's why, when I walk up and down Kingsway in our community and we walk in with petitions, everyone signs, because they know the effect -- business people know the effect; working people know the effect -- of this wrong-headed policy, and in their heart of hearts they know the effect of it as well," he said of his canvassing efforts.

But while he promises to kill the HST, he also pledges to reintroduce the corporate capital tax on big banks and financial institutions that the BC Liberals eliminated in a multi-million gift to their backers while hiking B.C. Medical Services Plan premiums by over 50 per cent for the rest of us.

Dix also won't accept for a moment the myth that the BC Liberal government has managed the provincial economy well while previous NDP administrations allegedly ruined it.

"Let me be clear: I will put the record of the BC NDP governments up against that of the BC Liberals without a moment's hesitation anywhere, anytime," Dix said in launching his campaign Jan. 17.

"Here are the facts, not the spin: the average economic growth under the NDP governments of the 1990s was three per cent -- significantly higher than the BC Liberals' two per cent."

"Economic growth in the Liberals' 10 years has been much lower than it was in the 10 years of NDP government, which had both higher economic and job growth," Dix said.

It's refreshing to actually hear a New Democrat refute the endlessly repeated claims that outgoing BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell was a great economic manager -- when the facts clearly show otherwise.

The NDP won't win an election solely based on who will best run B.C.'s economy, but they will certainly lose if they run away from the debate, as they did in 2009.

Healthy understandings

Health is Dix's critic area but it's also intensely personal. As a Type 1 diabetic, Adrian has a deep understanding -- and a big stake -- in an effective public health care system.

His willingness to openly discuss his condition and advocate on behalf of other diabetics -- including leading a successful fight in 2008 to have the province provide insulin pumps to kids with diabetes -- because of his high profile is admirable.

Dix has also fought hard on behalf of hospital workers, who have continually and unfairly been attacked by the BC Liberals, through privatizing their jobs and ripping up their legally negotiated contracts -- which Campbell promised before the election in their own union newspaper not to do.

"You know, there are constituents of mine who are single parents and have children. They work very hard, and their jobs were privatized. Their wages were slashed, and they now work 70 hours a week. Those are hours taken away from their children that they'll never get back," Dix said on May 8, 2007 in the legislature.

"So I think it's quite reasonable to ask why the honourable minister of health is fearmongering by putting into this request for proposals the jobs of those health care workers in Kelowna," Dix told George Abbott.

In the kids' corner

But Dix has perhaps been at his best fighting for kids in government care.

"This government has cut too deep and too hard into child protection in B.C. So I want to ask the minister of finance, because the minister of children and family development surely didn't make the case to her before this minibudget: can she explain why another big-business tax cut took priority over the government's fundamental responsibility, indeed all of our fundamental responsibility, to protect kids?" Dix asked then finance minister Carole Taylor on Sept. 15, 2005.

She dodged the question.

"Can the solicitor general confirm that the files of the former children's commissioner are being housed in a Victoria warehouse?" Dix asked on Nov. 17, 2005.

Then-minister John Les replied: "I have not visited any particular location, but I am told that they were in storage in a warehouse in Victoria."

Dix then blasted Les: "This minister a few minutes ago used the term 'shameful.' It is shameful to replace a children's commissioner and a children's commission -- with experts, with committed people, with hard-working people, with people who cared about children -- with a warehouse."

"It is shameful. That is shameful, and that is the responsibility of this premier and his ministers in this government."

Speaking out for survivors

Lastly, Dix stood up for Woodlands School survivors -- who were physically and sexually abused as children at an institution for those with developmental challenges -- and were forced to go to court to seek compensation. Dix continues to fight for those wrongly excluded from a settlement with the provincial government.

"I've met many Woodlands survivors, and many of them are suffering through the most abject poverty, suffering through indignity to this day, suffering through the terrible consequences of what they suffered at Woodlands, which has been described -- not by me but by the ombudsman who did a report into the issue, Dulcie McCallum -- as systemic abuse," Dix said in the legislature on Nov. 24, 2005.

"Surely, even though the amount of money we're talking about is, I think it's fair to say, totally inadequate," he said.

"The minister said he didn't agree with my characterization that there was systemic abuse... I think that's what Dulcie McCallum, in her first-phase review, said. She said to the government that there was systemic abuse. She said the government should learn more from Woodlands survivors."

"Their memory, their courage, all they provide to our society, which is an inspiration to me as an MLA, I think, justifies those actions. I want to ask the minister what he thinks of that," Dix concluded.

It's that kind of commitment to righting wrongs committed against the powerless that I want to see in a leader.

The backdated memo issue

Dix's background gives him excellent preparation to lead the NDP. In addition to his role as Clark's chief of staff, including through the upset NDP election win over Campbell in 1996 when I was director of communications, he has also worked in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

But more importantly to me was his five-year role as executive director of Canadian Parents for French's B.C. branch, where he grew the membership from about 100 to 7,000.

Working outside of government with a non-profit organization rounded Dix's experience out considerably and also gave him the chance to travel the province extensively -- something he continues as an MLA.

But don't believe BC Liberal spin that they want Dix to win the leadership -- think why anyone would even say that out loud if it were true. They know Dix is a formidable opponent who gives no quarter.

BC Liberal MLAs continue to hope that shouting "memo to file" will deter Dix. It hasn't before and it won't now.

Dix admitted he made an error in the 1990s by backdating a memo regarding Clark's instructions on a casino application, paid a significant price and learned from it.

Would that the B.C. government do the same, instead of repeatedly making grievous errors that hurt the province's most vulnerable citizens, deny any wrongdoing and learn nothing.

We all make mistakes in our lives -- it's those who acknowledge and learn from them that become better people as a result.

Can Adrian Dix lead the NDP and lead it to victory in the next provincial election?

Absolutely -- his record shows Dix is a fighter for ordinary people who have been shafted for the past 10 years by the BC Liberals -- Dix is the right choice.

Tieleman on TV

I will be appearing on David Berner's new Shaw Cable TV show to talk about the Basi-Virk/B.C. legislature raid case this Monday at 4:30 a.m., with rebroadcasts Tuesday at 10:30 p.m., Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. and Friday at 2:30 p.m. -- tune in!


Christy Clark hit by V for Vendettas - Tunisian coup, coup de grace from Pat Bell & Shirley Bond

Who launched the Vendetta against Christy Clark?
Christy Clark's campaign for the BC Liberal leadership appears to be the subject of several vendettas - from a hacker taking over part of her website Sunday to former cabinet colleagues Pat Bell and Shirley Bond endorsing arch-rival Kevin Falcon today.

CKNW exclusively reported that Clark's website was altered by someone describing themselves as "Ali the Tunisian hacker" - who posted a Guy Fawkes mask like the one from the movie V for Vendetta and music in place of Clark's membership signup page. 

CKNW says one of the Tunisian hacker's messages was: "Until you learn how to make your website secure, let me tell you that the party is over."

But it was this morning when two of the remaining cabinet political heavyweights - Prince George's Bell and Bond - gave their considerable support to Falcon that the party for Clark seemed to be over.

Clark remains deadlocked with just one minor BC Liberal MLA backbencher - Harry Bloy - on her side more than 6 weeks after launching her campaign amidst much hoopla and speculation from polling that she was the frontrunner.

But frontrunners always get - and must have - support from their party's caucus members.  Clark still doesn't and the pickings are getting very slim.

And while Clark got the headlines and support from ex-news anchor Pamela Martin and several former MLAs, it's George Abbott and Falcon who have sewn up most of the current caucus members.

Falcon now has 15 MLAs on his side, while Abbott boasts 17 MLAs, including ousted from the caucus BC Liberal Bill Bennett and controversial Kash Heed.

Meanwhile "Open Mike" de Jong pulled a large crowd of 700 mostly from the South Asian community in Surrey on Sunday, his caucus support so far is an empty phone booth - no one.

Moira Stillwell is also blanco in the MLA support tally.

When will de Jong and Stillwell pull the plug on their campaigns and fall in with one of the frontrunners?  Because that looks like the best option for both.

And will Christy Clark consider doing the same?


Friday, January 21, 2011

Some NDP & BC Liberal politicos agree - BC should get rid of recall - it's not fair to Ida Chong. Unbelievable!

Stew Murray and Merv Evans staff the Fight HST petition table outside Nanaimo General Regional Hospital on May 15
Recall and citizen initiatives hold MLAs accountable, and that's sorely needed

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee

Tuesday January 18, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end."

- Adlai Stevenson, U.S. politician,1900-1965

Prominent British Columbia politicians of all persuasions really don't trust you, the voter.

It doesn't matter if they hold a BC Liberal or BC New Democrat membership card or were premier or cabinet ministers -- your democratic rights are a threat to their privileged existence.

That's the blunt lesson to be learned from the comments last week of a former B.C. premier, an ex-attorney general, a former finance minister and a former member of parliament and provincial cabinet minister, as well as current ministers.

What's got them absolutely steaming mad? Recall and citizens' initiatives.

Why? Because it takes a small measure of power away from politicians and puts it in the hands of voters.

How undemocratic, they shout!

And they want a future government to eliminate both recall and citizens initiatives, so campaigns like that against Premier Gordon Campbell's Harmonized Sales Tax or any other issue can never happen again.

Sound crazy? Insulting? Offensive?

You bet it is.

But both former NDP premier Dan Miller and former Social Credit attorney general Brian Smith said so loudly last week, in language that's shocking.

You decide. Here's what Smith said about the recall campaign against BC Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong over the HST.

"What could be a more inappropriate, in fact disgustingly inappropriate moment than to have a bunch of people in yellow jackets ringing doorbells to get rid of MLAS?" Smith told CKNW radio host Mike Smyth last Monday.

"Recall is not to be used at whim to target innocent MLAs. And the fact that they're using it, I hope there will be some changes to that recall legislation so this can never happen again," Smith blustered. "You can't have MLAs being recalled willy-nilly because people are mad at the government. The system is not going to work."

Exactly -- the system where voters elect a government that misleads them and then ignores their concerns and objections for four years can't work -- when citizens can propose their own legislation and recall MLAs who don't listen.

Political 'violation'?

Smith wasn't finished pontificating either.

"It [recall] was not brought in to try and target MLAs who might have slim majorities and might be vulnerable because they happen to be part of a party whose policies the recallers don't like," Smith said.

"MLAs were elected for the term of the legislature. That's four years -- they sign off. Ida can't go back to accounting for four years. Mr. McRae, who's the next recall target in Comox, he can't go back to teaching, he's signed off on a leave of absence."

"And now the rules are being changed by these people who don't like one particular policy so they're going to throw them out for one policy. That's not what recall was for."

"The other reason I think in this case that recall is not legitimate is that the tax reform people have already achieved what they said they wanted to do at the beginning. That is they want to get rid of the HST."

"And they have got a referendum which the retiring premier even changed the rules to make it easier for them to win the referendum when it just requires a simple majority who show up and vote instead of those on the voters list. So they've done that," Smith said.

Wow, how generous of those MLAs to give up their professions for us peasants and of Campbell to actually respond to voter concerns!

Host Mike Smyth challenged the former attorney general on a lot of that, noting that there are absolutely no rules that say what recall can or cannot be used for.

"Listen, you can legally do it -- of course you can. But if you look at all the debates and discussion of recall when it was introduced, it was introduced to get rid of bad apples," Brian Smith replied.

"This is a political violation of the raison d'etre behind recall," he said.

Smith is dead wrong. As noted here previously, the only legislative requirement for recall is a 200-word statement giving the proponent's reasons for wanting to remove the MLA. No reasons are inadmissible.

Miller: 'bad policy'

But Smith is hardly alone in being mistaken.

Former premier Miller called in on the open line to back up Smith -- his political adversary in the past.

"I agree 100 per cent with Brian Smith," Miller fumed. "Let's trace this back. Why did recall come about anyways? It's because the Socreds were desperate in the dying days 1991... and the NDP not wanting to be offside or potentially lose some votes, agreed with it.

"It came about as an act of desperation by a losing government and it's bad policy and quite frankly it ought to be revoked."

"But to try and remove an MLA on a matter of policy it seems to me is fundamentally wrong."

Miller didn't stop at opposing recall either -- he went on to criticize the successful Fight HST citizens initiative petition I helped organize with former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm and former Unity Party leader Chris Delaney.

"And quite frankly I'm offended by the triumvirate who are self-appointed, meaning Vander Zalm, Delaney and Bill Tieleman, who seem to think they speak for ordinary British Columbians -- they don't at all," Miller said.

Let's be clear -- 705,643 individual British Columbians signed the citizens initiative petition, and Elections BC verified that 557,383 signatures -- more than 10 per cent of voters in every one of B.C.'s 85 ridings -- were valid, making it the first successful initiative.

The entire campaign was run by volunteers -- no paid staff, shoestring budget, just ordinary citizens contributing their personal time and energy -- that's why it worked. And poll after poll showed overwhelming opposition to the HST.

Vander Zalm, Delaney and I were honoured to lead that campaign, but I think Miller is offended not by us but by the audacity of ordinary voters to presume to tell politicians they did the wrong thing, in a way that couldn't be ignored.

Killing the HST dead

The HST cost Campbell his job -- and may cost his party the next election if they don't scrap it.

The recall against Chong -- a future effort against Comox, B.C. Liberal MLA Don McRae -- is the second part of campaign to kill the HST by putting pressure on the government.

It is entirely legal and proper according to legislation that Dan Miller even voted for. In those ridings voters will democratically decide whether or not recalling government MLAs over the HST is needed or supported.

But Miller and Smith are outraged by the mere thought of recall being used to influence government policy, as are former NDP cabinet ministers Paul Ramsey and Ian Waddell.

"Instead of electing dedicated professionals, in the case of Ida and the guy in Comox, you're going to elect people of a different kind, people who are opportunists and so on, you are not going to get the same commitment or the same calibre of commitment," Smith said. "I mean, this is not a good system."

Heaven forbid that voters might end up with "opportunists" as MLAs! What would happen to our government without high calibre members like Chong?

Smith continued his rant: "We're a parliamentary democracy. We are not a plebiscitary democracy."

Oh, I see. Politicians who are better than voters, smarter than voters and more committed than voters will decide major questions for us -- including to impose the HST, a $2 billion a year tax shift so consumers pay instead of big business.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Smith should understand that people of every political persuasion -- BC Liberal, Green, New Democrat, BC Conservative, Refederation, BC First -- and those who have none -- all signed the citizens initiative petition to eliminate the HST.

British Columbians voted in favour of the initiative and recall legislation in a referendum concurrent with the 1991 provincial election.

And last year voters showed that when provoked they will use that legislation appropriately as they see fit.
Waddell: 'We have elections'

The same day on CKNW, Waddell, a former NDP provincial tourism minister and federal MP, told host Bill Good his views on recall.

"I'm speaking personally, I don't like it," said Waddell. "It came from I think originally, brought in by the NDP I believe, very hypocritically -- I think we were hypocrites in a way because it was the flavour of the day."

"Preston Manning had talked about it, the Reform Party, it comes from the Americans, from California. It's not in the British parliamentary tradition."

"We brought it in with a very, very high level, hoping that, well we sort of did it but they won't do it. I think it should be restricted to very serious, like fraud, criminal acts of an MLA," Waddell said.

And Waddell opposes the recall campaign against Chong.
"I was in the House with Ida Chong. I don't agree with her policies but she's perfectly a good MLA, doing her job. So why are we recalling her? We have elections, that's what we have," Waddell said.

That would be the election where the BC Liberal Party told both the restaurant association and the new home developers association that they were not planning to bring in an HST -- in response to direct questions. Then they did it after the election.

Privileged opponents

Ex-NDP finance minister Paul Ramsey has extra reasons to be agitated about recall. He was the target of a bitter recall campaign in his Prince George riding in 1998 that failed.

And despite political party differences he opposes the Chong recall.

"Frankly, I think she [Chong] is doing the right thing -- this isn't about the HST -- it's about government policy," Ramsey told CBC Radio's On The Island show Dec. 8, referring to Chong's anti-recall campaign approach.

Smith, Miller, Ramsey, Waddell and Chong are all totally entitled to their views against recall and the citizens initiative process.

But remember -- they are all members or former members of the same club -- Members of the Legislative Assembly of B.C. -- and it's a privileged group.

MLAs are paid extremely well -- because they voted themselves a big raise to about $100,000 a year -- more than double the wages of ordinary British Columbians.

And they get expenses too -- like the nearly $6,000 in meals Chong charged last year despite living minutes from the legislature.

They also receive handsome pensions most British Columbians don't get, courtesy of taxpayers. Many MLAs voted to retroactively restore their pensions at full value after the Glen Clark NDP government eliminated them in favour of a more modest annual RRSP contribution -- partly because of pressure from BC Liberal leader Gordon Campbell.

And cabinet ministers, committee chairs and other legislature officers in both parties also recently got additional salaries for doing their jobs.

So when ordinary voters come along questioning their entitlements to not only generous pay, pensions and benefits but also their ability to keep them despite angering the public -- watch out!

Those politicians who fight all day in the legislature close ranks quickly to oppose any threat to their privileged existence.

Recalls 'most effective': Ramsey

Let me be clear. I opposed restoring pensions and giving MLAs and cabinet ministers big pay increases. But I do support MLAs having a fair salary and some form of retirement benefits.

Just not a gold-plated plan that few citizens could possibly obtain in their own jobs.

And how dare any current or former MLAs attempt to get rid of citizens initiatives or recall!

The legislation is already seriously flawed to the point of making it nearly impossible to succeed.

That's why MLAs who don't fear their voters should do what Premier Gordon Campbell promised to do -- and broke his pledge -- make both initiatives and recall more workable and fair.

But don't count on it. Empowered voters are way too threatening to all politicians.
Perhaps it was Paul Ramsey who best made the case in favour of recall, despite his personal opposition.

Ramsey wrote in 2003: "There's much to be said against the current recall campaigns in British Columbia. They clearly abuse the intent of the recall legislation. They create bitter divisions in communities. They distract M.L.A.'s and ministers from their real duties of office.

"But the campaigns have proven to be more effective at getting the government's attention than other forms of political protest," he continued. "One thing is clear: the recall campaigns have forced the government to pay far more attention to the local effects of provincial policies.

"Recall petitioners may not gather enough signatures to throw MLAs out of office, but they will affect government policy," he concluded.

Exactly right. And that's the point.

Tell your MLA, tell any candidate for MLA, tell any leadership candidate from the BC Liberals or NDP or BC Conservatives that you will fight all the way against any effort to take citizens initiatives or recall legislation away from voters.

Don't let politicians take away your power.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why both NDP & BC Liberal politicians want to kill Recall & Initiative legislation

Hola from Mexico! My 24 hours/The Tyee column from Tuesday will be posted here when I rerurn Friday but you can read all about why both NDP & BC Liberal politicians want to elimate recall and Initiative legislation by going to this Tyee link now. I will attempt to post your comments here as well.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bill Tieleman in Mexico - hasta luego!

Bill Tieleman in Mexico
Hola amigas y amigos!

I will be in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico from January 13 through 20th on holiday - there won't likely be any postings till I return.

I will do my best to moderate and post comments when I can - if I feel like it and if I'm not busy drinking cerveza and tequila.

But watch for my column Tuesday in 24 hours newspaper and The Tyee online.  It will ruffle a few feathers on all sides of the BC Legislature in my absence I predict!

Hasta luego!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ida Chong thinks Recall isn't about the HST - Ida-know where she gets that idea!

Ida Chong & her right-hand man Gordon Campbell
Ida Chong Gets the Recall Wrong

She says it isn't about the HST. And a few other mistaken notions.

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours / TheTyee column
Tuesday January 11, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"We're going to have to work really hard to remind people what recall is all about, and let them know that it's not about fighting the HST."

- B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong

Does Ida Chong really think that recalling her isn't about fighting the Harmonized Sales Tax that she voted for and defended in the B.C. legislature?

Ida-know why she said that -- because recall is completely driven by the HST.

But Chong -- MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head in Victoria -- is desperately pretending the Fight HST recall campaign isn't about the hated tax or her role in passing it.

Chong also says recall was only designed to get rid of "bad" MLAs -- not her!

"Recall legislation was implemented so that the public had recourse against an MLA who broke the law or committed serious ethical violations," Chong wrote in the Georgia Straight last year. "It was designed to remove an MLA who has committed wrongdoing, and was never intended to be used as retribution against MLAs for an unpopular vote in the legislature."

Chong adds that the fate of the HST will be decided by a provincial referendum on Sept. 24, not by recall, which she claims "is being used to refight the last election by creating a by-election."

Reality check
Unfortunately for Chong, she is wrong on all counts.

Fortunately for the strong majority of British Columbians who oppose the HST, the voters of Oak Bay-Gordon Head can straighten Chong out by signing the recall petition to remove her from office. And over 6,000 already have.

Here are the facts, as opposed to Chong's frantic spin.

First, here's the best reason I can find to support recall:

"If we can turn to the recall legislation, I think it's obvious why people demand this legislation. They are tired of politicians who make promises before an election and do the exact opposite after," one powerful speaker told the B.C. legislature on July 6, 1994.

"The fact of the matter is that people will not abuse this right. They will simply require that all of us as elected politicians live according to the pledges we make to them."

Right on! Who was it? Why the then-opposition leader -- a guy named Gordon Campbell said all that.
Second, the Dec. 6 recall campaign statement from proponent Michael Hayes and approved by Elections BC is crystal clear.

It starts with: "I am proposing the recall of Oak Bay-Gordon Head member of the legislative assembly, Ida Chong, because she supported the deceptive introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax and refuses to represent the clear wishes of her constituents, in the legislative assembly."

Third, there are absolutely no restrictions on reasons for recall of an MLA -- the legislation makes no mention of breaking the law or misconduct.

Instead it simply states that the proponent submit "a statement, not exceeding 200 words, setting out why, in the opinion of the applicant, the recall of the member is warranted."

Fourth, the referendum Chong refers to is non-binding, and if successful would only force the citizens initiative petition legislation to kill the HST to be introduced in the legislature -- not to be passed.

Premier Campbell promised last year that the referendum would actually be binding and would only require a simple majority of the votes of those who participate to extinguish the HST -- but Campbell has resigned and won't be premier after next month.

There is no guarantee that Campbell's successor will honour his word -- and nothing he promised is in legislation.

A record of broken promises

What's more, Campbell and his BC Liberal government have a "promising" history -- of making and then breaking their pledges.
Campbell promised not to impose an HST in the first place, not to sell BC Rail, not to rip up hospital workers' contracts and not to have a budget deficit six times larger than he said it was before the 2009 election.

And just before he was forced to resign, Campbell unwisely and in desperation announced a 15 per cent income tax cut in a province-wide TV address -- and then dropped it soon afterwards.

So when it comes to trusting Campbell, it's not a very promising picture.

No, what forced Campbell and crew to pledge a binding, fair referendum was the political pressure created by the Fight HST citizens initiative that was signed by 705,643 British Columbians.

That's why pursuing recall campaigns to keep the pressure on the BC Liberals to honour their promise is essential.

It's a simple question -- can you trust them to keep their word when they have broken it so many times? Recall will help them be promise-keepers -- or else.

And an early fair and binding HST referendum vote would end the need for recall.

Big dinner bills

Some people think Chong is guilty of political misconduct for more than just the HST -- her charging nearly $6,000 to taxpayers in one year for meals when she lives just minutes from the legislature enraged many constituents.

Don't forget that Chong's $6,000 for meals is double the amount a single person on income assistance gets for everything but rent in a year.

Chong wants voters to think she isn't responsible for the HST. Tell that to former BC Liberal cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom, who resigned from both cabinet and caucus because he respected the views of his constituents and now sits as an independent.

Uphill climb

But make no mistake, recall is a very tough test for Fight HST, which I helped create in 2009 with former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm and former Unity Party leader Chris Delaney and still support, to bring together voters of every persuasion to stop the HST.

Recall requires the support of 40 per cent of the riding's voters in the 2009 provincial election -- that means 15,368 validated signatures.

It's extremely challenging, especially with difficult rules and a lack of access to voters who live in apartment buildings.

Most ridiculous is the recall rule that to force a by-election -- which Ida Chong can still be a candidate in -- requires the signatures of nearly 4,000 more voters than the 11,877 who actually cast a ballot for Chong in 2009.

Campbell's vision

Ironically, if an amendment proposed by then-opposition leader Gordon Campbell in 1994 had been accepted, recall would be much easier:

"The issue that has been referred to in section 23(b) is indeed an important component of the recall legislation that's before us, and I would like to put before the committee an amendment to section 23 as follows: '(b) the petition must be signed by at least the same number of voters as the number of votes the member received in the last election, plus one,'" Campbell said in the legislature on July 7, 1994.

Then again, almost everything Campbell said then about recall is now highly embarrassing.

"When you read the title of the bill, there is great hope: recall and initiative legislation, it points out. But the fact is that this is not recall and initiative legislation; it is legislation that is meant not to work," Campbell said.

And even though he was right, even though he promised to make it easier to undertake recall, Campbell did nothing in nine years in office because he feared a situation like that facing his government MLAs today.

But hundreds of volunteers and thousands of voters are determined to give it their best try under the existing rules -- and they deserve our thanks.

People who want to join up and try to make this recall campaign a success can attend a town hall meeting with Vander Zalm and Delaney on Friday, Jan. 14 at the Gordon Head Rec Centre or go to

Two more reasons to recall

And even if Chong was somehow right -- that recall isn't all about the HST or her role in it -- there are dozens of other reasons to sign a recall petition against her or any other BC Liberal MLA.

Here are two really good ones: how about because Chong and company refuse to hold a public inquiry into the B.C. legislature raid case that suddenly ended with a guilty plea bargain by former government aides David Basi and Bob Virk after just two witnesses testified?

(If you agree a public inquiry is needed, join my new Facebook page -- Basi-Virk Public Inquiry.)

Or maybe Chong and the BC Liberals should face recall because our province has had the worst child poverty rate in Canada for seven straight years?

Sorry, Ida, but whether recall is about the HST or your government's record, it still makes sense.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Crown seeks return of Basi-Virk documents in court Monday - hearing set for Feb 16

The Crown in the Basi-Virk case has been given the right to a hearing February 16 in its efforts to seek the return of disclosure evidence provided to defence lawyers.

Bill Tieleman & David Basi
outside court

As has so often been the case in the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case, a hearing date changed and many observers were unaware until too late that the Tuesday 2 p.m. previously scheduled time was moved to Monday at 2 p.m.

Fortunately my Vancouver Sun colleague Neal Hall was able to attend and has filed a full report.

As readers here know, there has been some controversy around this issue, with RCMP Superintendent Kevin Debruyckere telling me exclusively last year that return of disclosure evidence is standard practice and that it would be retained for 10 to 12 years - long enough for any public inquiry to access it.

Others strongly doubt that and fear it would be destroyed, making an inquiry useless.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

87 journalists killed in 2010 for reporting the truth in their countries - support Canadians Journalists for Free Expression

Bill Tieleman surveys damage after his office is broken into and trashed - December 3, 2007 - Rob Kruyt photo
Photo from ceiling where intruders entered Bill Tieleman's office to break in - December 3, 2007 - Rob Kruyt photo

In December of 2007 I discovered what happens when people are very angry with what you report as a journalist.

My office was broken into and trashed on the weekend of December 1-2, 2007 - with an unmistakeable calling card left identifying my lengthy coverage of the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case as the reason for the violent intrusion. 

A fictional book titled The Raid that was ostensibly about the Basi-Virk case was carefully removed from my desk and placed on top of broken acoustic tiles five feet away - it was impossible that it could have gotten there without someone deliberately setting it there.

The incident was shocking and meant to intimidate my family and I.  It didn't but it was a reminder of how little respect there is for reporting.  The Vancouver Police promptly investigated but no clues or security camera footage was available to lead to an arrest.

In April of 2008 I got an even stronger reminder that what you write can have consequences - death threats.

A 24 hours column I had written suggesting rather that boycotting the Beijing Olympic Games over abuse of human rights perhaps people should simply boycott China itself and its many products brought two death threats from the same source - later tracked down by Vancouver Police to an email address in China.

Outrageously and regrettably, Chinese authorities do not cooperate with other police forces to investigate such crimes originating within their borders.  One of the biggest authoritarian police states simply lets its citizens threaten individuals without consequence.  No further threats were received, however.

I state all this as an introduction to this next item - the very sad news that in 2010 a shocking 87 journalists were killed for reporting the truth in their countries. 

I believe it is the duty of all journalists to publicize these awful crimes wherever possible - and to call on authorities in every country to do far more to protect those whose job it is to inform fellow citizens. 

The relatively minor threats and attacks I have been subject to are nothing compared to those of others - including brave journalists in this country and city - some of whom have given their lives simply for telling the truth.

Below is the full news release from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.  You can donate to their work and you can also to other organizations that protect human rights, such as Amnesty International.

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CJFE reports that 87 journalists were killed worldwide in 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Toronto - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) recorded the killings of 87 journalists in 2010 as journalists around the world continue to face great danger while carrying out their work.

Three countries bore the brunt of the killings – Pakistan (14), Mexico (13) and Honduras (10) which accounts for 43% of journalists murdered in 2010. The governments of all three countries have failed utterly to protect the safety of journalists. The countries also share the parallel problem of impunity – killers of journalists are not being brought to justice.

The 87 journalists killed this year is a decrease from the 101 journalists killed in 2009, but that figure included the tragic massacre of 32 journalists on November 23 in the Philippines – the most journalists ever killed in one day.

“On the surface – the fact that 14 fewer journalists were killed this year than last year is good news,” says CJFE President Arnold Amber. “But quite obviously many journalists live with this constant threat just for doing their jobs.”

Although the image of a journalist being caught in the crossfire of conflict is a common one – the reality for most of the 87 journalists killed this year, as in other years, is that they were deliberately targeted. And many of them had reported receiving death threats because of the type of investigative stories they were covering in the weeks or months before their murders.

The ways in which journalists have been killed are various and paint a chilling picture of the dangers journalists face. Turkish journalist Metin Alataş appears to have been forced to commit suicide (April 4); Mexican journalist Marco Aurelio Martínez Tijerina was kidnapped on July 9 and found dead July 10 with at least one bullet to the head and signs of torture; Military officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed journalist Patient Chebeya Bankome at his home (April 5); and journalists Pervez Khan and Abdul Wahab were killed by a suicide bomber in Pakistan (December 6).

In one tragic and preventable case, Yemen journalist Mohammed Shu'i Al-Rabu'i, was killed on February 13, by four or five gunmen who had been arrested after attacking him a few months earlier but were released before charges were brought. Security Chief Abdelrazeq Az-Zareq said that he took "full responsibility" for their release at the end of 2009.

Many journalists are targeted either at their place of work or at their home – and there are many reports of police or military involvement. In Mexico, journalists are targeted by drug traffickers, police and members of the army. Mexican president Calderon’s move to intensify drug enforcement has seen increased violence and made reporting significantly more dangerous, causing many journalists to flee the country.

Also, of great concern is the new trend in Pakistan of suicide bombings of journalists. Six journalists died from bombings; the other eight were shot in various attacks. In a Dec. 6 suicide bombing in which journalists were killed, the journalists were covering an anti-terrorism strategy discussion at a council meeting in the northwest Pakistani border town of Ghalanai.

While local journalists continue to face the greatest danger in carrying out their work, 2010 did see several attacks and killings of foreign journalists working abroad. These included British journalist Rupert Hamer in Afghanistan; Tongalese journalist Stanislas Ocloo in Angola; Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi in Thailand; Turkish journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar in international waters near Israel; and American journalist James P. Hunter in Afghanistan.

Kidnappings of journalists, local and foreign continue to be a major problem especially in Mexico, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia and other nations. Canadian journalist Khadija Abdul Qahaar, also known as Beverly Giesbrecht, was abducted in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2008. She remains missing but there were disturbing reports in November that she may have died; these reports have not been confirmed.

“In releasing this report, CJFE hopes to draw attention to the risks that journalists face around the world,” Amber stated. “Our organization is calling on Canadians and the international community to work together to protect the rights of journalists and to end the tragic culture of impunity which allows most murders of journalists to go unpunished.”

CJFE records the number of journalists that are killed or targeted in the line of duty because of their reporting or affiliation with a news organization. CJFE compiles its statistics from the reports of the more than 90 member groups that make up the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). The IFEX Clearinghouse which gathers and disseminates information from the network is managed by CJFE and based in Toronto.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and abroad.