Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Premier Christy Clark's BC Hydro Hijinks Will Cost You

You're Going to Get Zapped by BC Hydro
Ex-Premier Gordon Campbell - April 2010 at Site C announcement - BC Hydro is dam trouble for BC Liberals - and especially Premier Christy Clark
Why you shouldn't believe Premier Christy Clark's claims her government just spared you from big Hydro rate hikes.

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday May 29, 2012

By Bill Tieleman

"Restore an independent Utilities Commission to re-regulate BC Hydro's electricity rates."

-BC Liberal Party 2001 election platform. 

Some political promises are hard to keep, others are violated or shamelessly denied. Then there are BC Hydro promises.

Last week Premier Christy Clark proved she is no different than former premier Gordon Campbell when it comes to not just breaking a promise, but blowing it to smithereens.

Clark's decision to dictate marching orders to the B.C. Utilities Commission, which is supposed to be an independent authority regulating BC Hydro electricity rates, was outrageous enough.

But Clark and Energy Minister Rich Coleman went much further than that, wrongly claiming they were actually keeping a promise to dramatically cut BC Hydro rate hikes and save consumers money.
Fat chance.

Power trip

What they are really doing is foisting a scheme on British Columbians that will have you paying grossly inflated BC Hydro bills for decades -- but only after the 2013 election.

Unlike most shell games though, you can see right through this one, if you look hard enough.

Clark and Coleman would have you believe that they've stopped the evil power barons of BC Hydro from raising your electricity rates by 50 per cent, with the Utilities Commission rubber-stamping their nefarious plot.

"When times are tough, a 50 per cent rate increase is pretty tough to take," Clark said. "I think British Columbians don't want to see those huge rate increases, they want to know we are working hard to try and reduce total costs for everybody."
"The Utilities Commission had a different view of this, they would have had rates go up by 50 per cent," Clark claimed before the Commission could even call one witness, let alone make a ruling.

"I told British Columbians I was going to wrestle that rate increase down. I'm keeping my promise!" Clark boasted.

Thank goodness Christy and Rich came to our rescue! Now we can all turn the lights on again without going broke.

It's a real feel-good story -- except for the facts.

Financial facts

First, Clark and Coleman still imposed a 17 per cent BC Hydro rate increase over three years -- money out of your pocket.
Second, there was no "50 per cent" rate hike on the table. BC Hydro's original 32 per cent request had already been cut to 17 per cent last year.

Was Clark being deliberately devious by repeating the wrong number six times in her scrum with media?

Third, Clark and Coleman arbitrarily cancelled public hearings by the Commission that would have laid out why BC Hydro needed a big rate increase.

Those hearings would have included full cross examination of officials under oath about BC Hydro's finances -- and that's why the government quickly shut them down.

Because the Commission would have asked about the horrendously high cost of the government forcing BC Hydro to buy expensive "green" electricity from independent power producers at rates up to 10 times higher than either from BC Hydro's own hydroelectric dams or the spot energy market.
BC Hydro's long term obligation to buy the private IPP's power is more than $30 billion over 25 years.

But the BC Liberal Party's cost to benefit their financial supporters? Priceless.

Deferral of costs

Fourth, the Commission and public interest intervenors would doubtless want to know about BC Hydro's stunning deferral of $4.5 billion in expenses by 2017 that ratepayers will eventually have to pay for.

Those deferrals come at the same time government siphons money off BC Hydro revenues to balance its own budget.

Fifth, the Commission would have looked at the $1-billion smart meter boondoggle, previously having been stopped from reviewing it before the dubious devices were imposed on unhappy consumers by another BC Liberal direct order.

While smart meters are highly controversial for health reasons due to their emitting wireless radiation, what is unquestionable is that they produce extremely healthy profits for the corporations building and installing them.

Sixth, Clark and Coleman conveniently forgot to mention that their government appoints the BC Hydro board of directors and the members of the B.C. Utilities Commission -- they're ultimately in charge of both.

So to sum up, Christy Clark cancels public hearings into BC Hydro's multi-billion dollar debts, but still imposes big rate increases while declaring herself a hero for "saving" us from even higher -- but imaginary -- hikes at the hands of two organizations she actually controls.
That's damn good politics -- if no one catches on.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pat Tieleman - gone but never forgotten - my mom.

My three sons - Bill, Ralph & Jack with Pat Tieleman in the middle

Pat Tieleman and daugher-in-law Shirley Ross

Pat Tieleman with only grand-daughter Erin Ross Coward

My beloved mom Pat Tieleman passed away 2 years ago today - I miss her every day, as do my brothers Ralph and Jack, my wife Shirley and daughter Erin and her many family and friends, especially her dear friend Noreen Rourke, who was with her and Ralph, Jack and I when she passed away from lung cancer after a short illness at Nanaimo General Hospital' hospice. 

Love your moms, don't take them for granted ever and don't smoke. 

We all hoped for a few more years with Pat - an amazing person. 

Here is my tribute to her from 2010:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who Mowed Down the Premier? Christy Clark's promised ban on cosmetic pesticides killed by big business and lobbyists

Cosmetic pesticide issue pits Cancer Society versus BC government in no-win situation for Christy Clark.

Premiers' pesticide promises pulled
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday  May 22, 2012

By Bill Tieleman  

"The Canadian Cancer Society is very disappointed... I think it does have the potential to put the health of British Columbians at risk."
Big business and lobbyists have publicly defeated the plans of not one but two successive BC Liberal premiers, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Lung Association to ban cosmetic pesticides.
Last week a special legislative committee led by renegade BC Liberal MLA Bill Bennett and dominated by her MLAs handed Premier Christy Clark and Environment Minister Terry Lake a stunning rebuke -- rejecting Clark and Lake's stated goal of banning pesticides and herbicides believed to cause cancer.
Bennett's majority ruling also rejected the pro-ban submissions of roughly 80 per cent of the over 8,600 individuals and organizations that participated -- a record number for a B.C. committee.
Now Clark faces a lose-lose proposition.
She can either kowtow to the cosmetic pesticide industry in a humiliating surrender that will cost votes among urban environmentalists and conservationists -- or override her own MLAs' lengthy study and embarrass them in public 11 months before an election while also aggravating some rural voters.
New Democrat MLAs on the committee support the ban, ironically having accepted Clark's invitation to work together, while her own MLAs went rogue.
Promises made
Clark just can't win on this one but she should have at least known better when she proposed the ban during her BC Liberal leadership campaign.
That's because former Premier Gordon Campbell -- you know, the guy whose name she never says in public (kind of like Lord Valdemort's in the Harry Potter books) promised similar action in the 2009 B.C. Throne Speech.
"British Columbians will be consulted on new statutory protections to further safeguard our environment from cosmetic chemical pesticides," it said.
But that 2009 promise was broken after well-organized cosmetic and agricultural pesticide users mounted a powerful petition campaign to enlist the opposition of golf club members, sports field users, nearby homeowners and others to kill the ban dead.
And Clark's own promise was even more threatening to the industry.
"To put families first, we must ensure that our families are raised in safe environments," Clark said during her leadership run.
"That is why I want to see a ban on cosmetic pesticides on lawns, parks and playgrounds. These dangerous pesticides are proven to increase the likelihood of childhood cancer and other illnesses, and have no place near our homes. I don't want to see my son playing on a lawn with toxic pesticides. I don't want to see anyone's child playing on a lawn with toxic pesticides."
Pesticide makers' backlash
As premier, Clark set up a special legislative committee to investigate a ban, chaired by MLA Margaret MacDiarmid, a family physician and former president of the B.C. Medical Association.
But when MacDiarmid was promoted to cabinet, the chair went to Bennett -- an outspoken right-wing rural MLA who has previously been suspended from the BC Liberal caucus for public criticism of Campbell before the premier was forced to resign.
And the ban proposal also brought a well-funded effort from the multinational makers of agricultural, lawn and garden chemicals like Round-Up and Killex under the umbrella group CropLife Canada, which also includes agricultural producers.
Killex is produced by Scotts Canada and Round-Up is manufactured by Monsanto, both CropLife members, for example.
Other CropLife members include Dupont, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., which donated $2,650 to the BC Liberal Party since 2010 Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, whose Canadian arm donated $2,500 in 2005 and Univar Canada, which donated $925 in 2009.
CropLife wasted no time trying to kill the second attempt at a cosmetic pesticide ban, hiring prominent senior lobbyist Bruce Young of the Earnscliffe Strategy Group to represent their interests starting in March 2010 and ending March 31, 2012.
Young's "targets" according to the B.C. Lobbyists Registry, included Clark and just about every other BC Liberal MLA, as well as New Democrats and independents.
(Young also lobbies on behalf of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, among other groups and businesses.)
Earnscliffe's Michael Drummond also worked for CropLife until April 30, 2012 and four in-house CropLife executives also registered to contact MLAs.
Premier Clark's divided house
The anti-cosmetic pesticide ban forces also have a very powerful ally in Gwyn Morgan -- a key transition team advisor to Clark during her leadership campaign and the former CEO of Encana, the giant natural gas firm.
Morgan has publicly attacked municipal bans on carcinogenic insecticides and weed killers, saying the Canadian Cancer Society was supporting "junk science," as were any "scientifically illiterate municipal councilors" who agreed with it.
Claimed Morgan: "The medical evidence is scant."
After all, what do the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Lung Association, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Public Health Association of B.C. know about medicine anyway and how dare they call for a ban?
Morgan no doubt disagrees with the more than 70 per cent of British Columbians who favoured legislation restricting pesticide use in a 2010 Canadian Cancer Society commissioned poll and has made clear his views on the over 35 B.C. municipalities that already restrict cosmetic use of pesticides.
The Canadian Cancer Society isn’t impressed with the Bennett committee's decision.
"If these recommendations become law, they will not protect all British Columbian children from being exposed to unnecessary chemicals and possible carcinogens," said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO for the B.C. and Yukon branch of the Society.
"We waited years for the B.C. government to follow the lead of other provinces and B.C. municipalities, and this is the result? The report was slow in coming and is weak in content. It is disappointing overall," Kaminsky said.  
Fraser Institute's green (lawn) argument
Legislative committee vice-chair, NDP MLA Rob Fleming, agrees.
"New Democrats are profoundly disappointed in the outcome of this process," said Fleming. "The associated health risks of cosmetic pesticides warrants government action to reduce everyday exposure to toxins that are potentially harmful and easily misused."
But joining Bennett and Morgan in opposing the Cancer Society's call for a ban on pesticides -- the right-wing Fraser Institute think-tank.
"Prohibiting the cosmetic use of synthetic pesticides ignores the benefits enjoyed by Canadians in maintaining aesthetically pleasing green landscapes," states an article in its Fraser Forum magazine. "Either a blanket ban or an environmental tax will encourage individuals to substitute natural alternatives that can be potentially more harmful."
Yes, what could be more harmful than pesticides except "natural alternatives"?
Morgan, not surprisingly, is a big fan of the Fraser Institute, sitting on its board of directors and donating $1 million to it together with his wife Pat Trottier. And he is a public defender of genetically modified foods too.
Morgan also sits on the board of the Manning Centre for Democracy, the group formed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. The Manning Centre hosted longtime federal Liberal Clark earlier this year for a breakfast speech at a gathering titled "a conservative family reunion" in an effort to bolster her Tory credentials.
But Clark's right-wing pals like Bennett, Morgan and the Fraser Institute may seem more like pests to her now as she faces a no-win decision on cosmetic pesticides that can only alienate one group of voters or another when she needs far more support, not less.


Monday, May 21, 2012

West Star Communications celebrates 14 years in business!

14 years of cheers - from Bill Tieleman!
Today my firm, West Star Communications, celebrated 14 years in business!

I want to thank all my current and past clients for their strong support over those past 14 years!

It has been a privilege to serve you all and I deeply appreciate being entrusted with your strategy, communications and other consulting needs.

It also marks - by far - the longest I have ever held a job!  I guess that's because I'm the boss and can't fire myself.

Being in business can be very challenging and nerve-wracking at time but I really enjoy it and love working with so many different clients - well over 100 - and on so many different projects.

So thanks and all the best!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Premier Christy Clark only BC political leader not taking position on Enbridge Pipeline proposal - "cagey" says CBC host

'Cagey' Christy Clark's 
Pipeline Prevarications

BC Premier Christy Clark - what's my pipeline?
BC Premier won't take position on Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline while BC NDP and BC Conservatives clear -  but Clark claims federal NDP concerns 'goofy' and 'gobbledygook'

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday May 15, 2012

By Bill Tieleman 

"With elections maybe a year away, you're still pretty cagey, frankly, on this Northern Gateway Pipeline."
- CBC Radio's Evan Solomon to B.C. Premier Christy Clark
One British Columbia political party opposes the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal that would ship Alberta oil sands bitumen through B.C. to Asia.
The B.C. New Democrats say building the pipeline through northern B.C. to Kitimat and then sending bitumen to Asia via giant tankers down B.C.'s coastline would be too environmentally risky.
"Under the Enbridge proposal, British Columbia would assume almost all the project's risk, yet would see only a fraction of the benefits. By any measure, such a high-risk, low-return approach simply isn't in B.C.'s interests," NDP leader Adrian Dix said in formally registering opposition with the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel.
Agree or disagree, Dix is clear.
Another provincial party supports the Enbridge pipeline on the basis of economic development -- the B.C. Conservatives.
"We believe and support the notion of the Enbridge pipeline. We think it would be good for British Columbia, good for Canada to get a better price in the world market for our oil," B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins says in an Integrity B.C. online video.
But our governing party -- the BC Liberals -- won't take any understandable position on the pipeline.
All over the pipeline map
In a CBC Radio interview Saturday with host Evan Solomon on The House, Clark was all over the map on Enbridge.
Clark says if the pipeline goes ahead B.C. "would get as many benefits as Nova Scotia," and that "it would create almost no jobs in British Columbia." Sounds opposed.
But then Clark tries to have it both ways.
"Evan, I'm pro-pipeline... we're enabling the construction of three pipelines from the Peace River country... Those are going to be liquefied natural gas... It's going to mean $60 billion in revenue to the province. So we're very much pro-economic development." Sounds in favour.

But if Clark is actually "pretty cagey" on Enbridge, it hasn't stopped her from publicly attacking federal NDP opposition leader Tom Mulcair for expressing concerns about the impact of oil sands exports on Canada's economy, by inflating the value of the dollar and negatively affecting the manufacturing sector.
"I really thought that type of thinking was discredited and it had been discredited for a long time. It's so backwards. I think that's just goofy," Clark told CBC.
"The NDP talk their gobbledygook, but really... they want less economic development. We all know it's a recipe for disaster."
What Mulcair actually said was also clearer than Clark’s views.
"The Canadian dollar is being held artificially high, which is fine if you're going to Walt Disney World, [but] not so good if you want to sell your manufactured product because the American clients, most of the time, can no longer afford to buy it," Mulcair said May 5.
"We've hollowed out the manufacturing sector. In six years since the Conservatives have arrived, we've lost 500,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs," he added.
Mulcair compared oil exports increasing the world value of Canada's dollar, making manufacturing exports more expensive, to the "Dutch disease" of the 1960s, when the Netherlands developed huge offshore natural gas deposits and its manufacturing sector was severely damaged by the higher value of its currency.
And Mulcair said in a substantive Policy Options magazine article in March he does not oppose oil sands development but wants it done in a sustainable manner that includes oil companies paying the costs of environmental impacts.
Which is it?
Clark, not surprisingly, hasn't explained why she believes Mulcair is wrong -- preferring to fire off insults than debate economics.
But some of her comments about Enbridge may be more alarming to its proponents than the NDP.
After all, Enbridge and its supporters strongly argue it will bring major benefits to B.C. through jobs, investment and tax revenue.
So this telling exchange between Clark and Solomon about Enbridge may rankle them:
Clark: "If it goes ahead, at the moment, British Columbia would get as many benefits as Nova Scotia."
Solomon: "I don't understand that -- what do you mean by that?"
Clark: "Well, it would create almost no jobs in British Columbia but we would be a net beneficiary just as any other province is from the royalties that go to Canada."
Solomon: "This is interesting. Building the pipeline doesn't really create jobs for B.C.?"
Clark: "It creates some jobs in the construction phase but there are almost, there are very few long term jobs that would be left in the province after that."
"So for us it's really a balance of risk and benefit. Evan, I'm pro-pipeline. We're building three pipelines, we're enabling the construction of three pipelines from the Peace River country in the northeast right across British Columbia to the north west in Kitimat and Prince Rupert."
"Those are going to be liquefied natural gas... It's going to mean $60 billion in revenue to the province. So we're very much pro economic development."

Hmmm. "Goofy gobbledygook" seems an appropriate description all right, but for Clark's confused views on the Enbridge pipeline, not Mulcair's.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Risky for BC Liberals to Change Brands But Premier Christy Clark Seriously Considering It

The life of the Party!
BC Premier Christy Clark wants to pursue a new name for the BC Liberal Party - but brand name and marketing experts have serious warnings

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday May 8, 2012

By Bill Tieleman

"Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."

- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"We should be considering and actively debating a name change in our party, and I'm glad we're doing it," Premier Christy Clark said last week. "I think we need to have a name for our party that's as inclusive as possible."

But if the BC Liberals do pick a new name they will be breaking new ground.

I can find no record in the last 50 years of a Canadian political party in power for over a decade changing its name before if faced an election.

The only major rebranding for a governing party came when the Saskatchewan Cooperative Commonwealth Federation or CCF became the New Democratic Party while ruling that province in 1961.

But that name change came when the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress created a new national party called the NDP -- and every provincial CCF wing followed suit -- not because the Saskatchewan government desperately needed an identity change. And in fact, they lost the next election under the NDP banner.

Clark should consider the example of famous brand names like Maple Leaf Foods, Tylenol and Jack in the Box.

These companies all suffered international bad publicity after poisoning deaths but you can still buy their sliced meats, pop their pills or enjoy their hamburgers -- and millions do.

Throwing out a recognized and well-established trademark is at best a risky move and at worst, devastating.

Listen to a branding expert

Global brand research agency Millward Brown has some words of warning for anyone considering a name change.

"In our experience, many brands see an immediate five to 20 per cent decline in sales, and can take years to restore levels, while others are negatively affected only in the short term," Millward Brown states online.

"Name changes often result in a drop in sales, but when the process is done well, sales can hold steady. However, if a poor strategy is followed, a name change puts the brand at risk of losing equity, consumer loyalty and ultimately market share," remarks the company that works with 90 per cent of the world's top 100 brands.

But the brand name problem for the BC Liberals is two-fold -- the 2013 election is definitely in the short term -- and they don't want to "hold steady" or just restore levels back to the 23 per cent voter support they have now, before a name change. They want to double that back to the 46 per cent they took to win the 2009 election!

So the BC Liberal Party is entering new and uncharted territory -- and potentially great political danger in ditching a brand name that successfully won three consecutive elections and almost a fourth between 1996 and 2009.

Dwindling market share

The reasons why Clark is thinking of switching rather than fighting are clear -- the B.C. Liberals are badly losing their market share of voters to competitors.

Their latest grim news came from a Forum Research poll released May 3 that shows the BC NDP at 48 per cent support versus the BC Liberals at 23 per cent and BC Conservatives at 18 per cent.

The NDP gained two per cent since Forum's last poll in April, while the Liberals stayed the same and the Conservatives dropped five per cent,

More ominously, that means the "vote splitting" argument used by Clark against the Conservatives -- that voting for the party led by John Cummins will only ensure an NDP victory -- isn't actually happening.

In fact, some of the Conservative support has bled to the NDP, not the Liberals, perhaps indicating that voters primarily want to be rid of Clark's crew, "free enterprise coalition" be damned.

That's reiterated by results showing that while 59 per cent of Liberal backers want the party to merge with the Conservatives to prevent an NDP victory, just 27 per cent of Conservatives agree.

And the poll also shows that less than one quarter of remaining BC Liberal supporters think the party should change its name before the next election.

(Ironically, a Liberal-Conservative coalition government ruled British Columbia from 1941 to 1951, before it fell apart and was replaced by W.A.C. Bennett's upstart Social Credit Party for the next 20 years.)

Forum's results indicate that while 64 per cent of NDP supporters are "very enthusiastic" about voting for the party, just 35 per cent of BC Liberals feel that way.

The Coco Pops factor

The BC Liberals may want to consider the cautionary tale of Kellogg's Coco Pops cereal in England before making the fateful decision to change names.

As explained by Millward Brown, killing an established brand name can be deadly for sales.

"Some newly named brands are not picked up on or are over looked, while some are flat-out rejected by consumers. Coco Pops, a Kellogg's cereal brand in the U.K., changed its name after 28 years for global consistency, a decision that resulted in equity and market share declines along with strong public protest."

"Kellogg's responded with a television campaign that gave kids the opportunity to vote on which name they preferred -- 90 per cent chose the original name."

"The company listened and changed the cereal back to its original name. Sales increased 20 per cent over the next year," Millward Brown reports.

So changing the BC Liberal name less than a year before the election may be the biggest mistake of all for a party increasingly known for doing the wrong thing.