Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! Best wishes to all my readers - from Bill Tieleman

Van Dusen Gardens - Festival of Lights - Christmas Eve 2013 - Bill Tieleman photo
I want to wish all my readers near and far a very Merry Christmas and my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday!  

It is a pleasure and a privilege to have loyal readers here in British Columbia and all around the world - thank you for coming by in 2013 and may  2014 be a wonderful years for you!


Bill Tieleman


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vancouver Demolishes Its Past - A City Losing Part of Its Past, Unsure About its Future

Inhabiting a changing, unsure city as heritage disappears
Kitsilano's Hollywood Theatre
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column
Tuesday December 24, 2013
By Bill Tieleman
"His soul swooned softly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
- James Joyce, "The Dead"
As the snow fell on Vancouver last week, it landed on a city losing parts of its past and unsure about its future.
The Vancouver of my youth has mostly disappeared in a constant swirl of change that obliterates old landmarks and creates new ones that may or may not last as long.
The Hollywood Theatre in Kitsilano, where I saw movies as both a child and adult, is all but gone; it's trademark neon sign and marquee are recently both bare of the name that generations knew so well.
Vancouver October 2013 - former site of The Toybox kids store -
Bill Tieleman photo
While the city passed a Heritage Action Plan and talks with the owner, it will likely never screen movies again -- housing trumps Hollywood.
Right across the street, The Toybox children's store has swiftly altered this year from bubbling with kids and parents buying toys and games to demolished dust and construction site for new rental housing.

Peter's Ice Cream plaque at Swiss Chalet
Further down Broadway at Trutch was my favourite place as a child -- Peter's Ice Cream -- where my grandparents took me for cones and sundaes.
It opened in 1945 and was a Vancouver institution for ages -- but now it is a Swiss Chalet chain restaurant and only a small plaque on the wall indicates Peter's ever even existed.
Up Arbutus Street at 16th Avenue the Varsity Ridge Bowling Alley, where the pins were endlessly set up and knocked down for decades, has been completely swept away this year for condominium construction. Only its trademark giant one-ton bowling pin sign was saved while the adjacent Ridge Theatre also succumbed to the wrecking ball.
Varsity Ridge Bowling Alley sign
Walk down Arbutus to 12th Avenue and the massive Carling O'Keefe brewery that once produced millions of Extra Old Stock beer in stubby bottles is now a maze of housing, some for stubby old people.
On 4th Avenue and Vine Street the block-long Plimley Chrysler Dodge car dealership is long gone, with only a plaque and some stylized hubcaps on the building to recognize its history.
Ironically, the original main tenant was Capers Community Market and one storefront was Duthie's Books -- now both businesses have also vanished.
And on Broadway the Bowmac car dealership that boasted Canada's largest neon sign became a Toys 'R Us store, with the original sign ridiculously hidden behind the new one.
The examples can go on and on and doubtlessly more heritage will face the hammer in the new year.
Rushing into the future
Anyone who has lived in Vancouver for even a few years knows that this is a changing city whose citizens place more emphasis on nostalgia than history, on development over preservation and on the future, not the past.
Some of that is good. Vancouver is infinitely more diverse, tolerant and cosmopolitan than when I was a child.
And we cannot freeze Vancouver in time, immune to market forces, rising land prices and a dramatically different economy.
The Hollywood Theatre and Varsity Ridge Bowling Alley were businesses, not museums, and after decades of profitable operation they were no longer viable -- except as land for other uses.
Harry, Bill and Ralph Tieleman - Christmas 1961- Pat Tieleman photo
The reality is that unless taxpayers want to subsidize money-losing ventures for the declining number of people who go to the movies or play five-pin bowling, we will continue to see more venerable businesses and buildings disappear or become mere facades, reminding us of a past that is long gone.
And in one hopeful sign, The Toybox owners say the store will return in a new building nearby in 2014.
The past is gone and we can only try to find new ways to meaningfully and appropriately preserve our city's heritage without using money better spent on needed public services.
But part of me still wishes to be back in 1965 Vancouver having a snowy Merry Christmas opening gift packages from relatives in Holland and England full of Droste chocolate letters and Blackpool rock candy before going to the movies at the Hollywood with my parents.
Happy holidays to all my readers!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Conservative cabinet minister James Moore: Hungry children not government’s job ....unless the public gets outraged

Minister Moore's Merry Christmas to Hungry Kids - and His Less Than Heartfelt Apology Afterwards 
Conservative Industry Minister James Moore

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver /The Tyee column

Tuesday December 17, 2013

By Bill Tieleman

Children living in poverty need help, not heartless cabinet ministers who later apologize.

"The government says it's my job to feed my neighbour's child? I don't think so." -- Conservative Industry Minister James Moore, Dec. 13
Breathtaking arrogance. Callous disregard for the poor. Stunning ignorance about poverty.
Coming from someone adamantly refusing to give a dime to charity for hungry children, it would be shameful and disturbing.
But when a federal government cabinet minister makes such an offensive statement just days before Christmas, it almost defies belief.
Yet that's what James Moore, British Columbia's senior minister in the Conservative government, said Friday in response to questions about child poverty from radio station News 1130.
By Monday, outrage forced Moore to retreat: "An apology. The cause of fighting poverty is not helped by comments like those I made last week. I am sorry."
And so Moore should be!
But on Twitter Sunday, the Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam MP was claiming: "It is a ridiculous 'story' that completely takes a comment out of context."
Really? Not based on what else Moore said in the same interview, with full audio available online.
When questioned why one in seven children in Canada still live in poverty -- 967,000 hungry kids, according to advocacy group Campaign 2000 -- and why the Conservatives have no child poverty plan, Moore responded dismissively.
"Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government's job to be there to serve people their breakfast?" Moore asked reporters.
And then the kicker: "The government says it's my job to feed my neighbour's child? I don't think so" -- followed by a clearly audible laugh from Moore.
Actually minister, it is the government's job to make sure kids don't go hungry. In fact, it's awfully hard to see what role is more important. And B.C. has the worst child poverty rate in Canada, at 18.5 per cent.
Moore's dreamland
Social media users exploded in outrage at Moore's comments Sunday.
Perhaps that's why on Monday morning Moore changed his tune to: "All levels of government, indeed all members of our society, have a responsibility to be compassionate and care for those in need."
Because before then, Moore obviously still believed it's a wonderful life in Canada.
"There's no question prosperity is up, unemployment is down in every region, more Canadians are working than ever before," Moore claimed.
That's great news, except for the 1,325,000 Canadians who didn't have a job in November -- an unacceptable unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent -- or the 8,000 British Columbians who lost jobs last month.
And fewer jobs are being created in 2013 than in 2012, so things are getting worse, not better. Statistics Canada says job creation in Canada averaged 13,400 per month in 2013, about half the average 25,400 jobs from January to November in 2012.
Nor will it make young workers aged 15 to 24 feel better, because they have a 13.4 per cent jobless rate and saw 26,000 jobs disappear in November.
But Moore still boasted on Friday: "We've never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier."
Perhaps Moore was simply thinking of himself, because he makes a lot of money: $160,200 as a Member of Parliament plus another $76,700 as a federal cabinet minister for a total of $236,900 a year. Not to mention his gold-plated pension worth millions in retirement.
But if it wasn't public outrage over the weekend that convinced Moore he and his government actually do have some responsibility for "feeding my neighbour's child," maybe he read the Bible.
As Jesus Christ said: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
Hungry children need help, not heartless cabinet ministers.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

BASI-VIRK: Auditor General report saying no political interference in $6 million indemnification to the guilty is no surprise at all

Nothing to see here, move along, move along....Basi-Virk/BC Railgate/BC Legislature Raid case indemnification of the guilty for $6 million had "no political interference" - why would it?
Bill Tieleman meets David Basi for the first time in April 2010 outside BC Supreme Court
"Secrecy feeds distrust and dishonesty. Openness builds trust and integrity." 

Gordon Campbell, 1998

Perhaps the biggest anti-climax we've seen in any BC political scandal came Wednesday when BC Auditor General Russ Jones arrived at the same conclusion I did years ago - no political interference in allowing two ministerial aides who pleaded guilty to breach of trust and fraud charges to collect $6.4 million in legal fees nonetheless.

David Basi and Bob Virk had little choice in pleading guilty after five years before the courts and facing massive legal bills for their excellent defence team led by Michael Bolton and Kevin McCullough - as I have documented extensively on this blog, in 24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee after the surprise ending to their trial after just two witnesses testified of an expected 40 or more.

You can read my view of the stunning end of this political scandal when Basi and Virk were hung out to dry and the background to my six years of coverage that earned me a serious break in and trashing of my office back in December 2007 for writing on things that others wanted left unsaid - and many fans and praise too, I must add.

Bill Tieleman sorts through the wreakage of his office after December 7, 2007
 break-in by persons unknown to this date
But don't be surprised that I'm not in the least shocked by Jones' determining that two senior deputy ministers of the BC Liberal government appointed by then-Premier Gordon Campbell didn't consult their political masters before deciding to pay Basi and Virk's enormous legal bills despite their admitting guilt.

Why?  What did you expect?  

With high profile witnesses about to testify, possibly from former BC Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins - who Basi worked for - to ex-BC Liberal Transportation Minister Judith Reid - to BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark's brother Bruce Clark, to Campbell and Christy Clark themselves, it would have been a political three-ring circus for months.

Basi and Virk's veteran criminal law team were set to lay out their defence - that Basi and Virk were pawns in an alleged massive conspiracy they had already outlined in BC Supreme Court: to sell BC Rail for $1 billion to CN Rail and to compensate the only remaining and losing bidder OmniTRAX for staying in a contest that CP Rail and others called "tainted" with other valuable contracts.

Police raids on the homes of Bruce Clark and Pilothouse lobbyist Erik Bornmann - who admitted to police to bribing Basi and Virk for confidential BC Rail information when he turned Crown witness - found plenty of evidence, but only Basi and Virk were ever charged.

That despite key documents being found by police at Bruce Clark's home - information outlined in the jointly agreed Crown prosecution and defence lawyers mutually agreed "Statement of Facts" entered in the court when the case ended.

"statement of facts" agreed to by both Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and defence lawyers says police found confidential government information on a second BC Rail privatization of its Roberts Bank spur line in Clark's home and that it came from Basi and Virk. 

The line was estimated to be worth about $70 million.

Clark was a lobbyist for the Washington Marine Group at the time and the Roberts Bank bidding was cancelled after police informed then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon that the process was tainted. 

Move along, move along - nothing to see here.
But on the $6.4 million legal fees being paid, Auditor General Jones argues:  

"In the case of Mr. Basi's and Mr. Virk's indemnities, senior public servants deliberately didn't consult with ministers or the premier prior to making these indemnity decisions because they did not risk compromising the administration with political influence.  Overall, we found that government's indemnity practice wasn't perfect, but it was principled."
Uh-huh.  Principled.
More precisely, in a news release the independent Auditor General states that: 

“The decision to amend Mr. Basi’s and Mr. Virk’s indemnities was made by public servants, separate from the trial. It was made to avoid the future cost of a lengthy trial.
And God knows we wouldn't want taxpayers to suffer through a lengthy trial, testimony by witnesses at the highest level of the BC Liberal government, including potentially Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark themselves. What purpose would that serve?
Which public servants?  Then-deputy attorney general David Loukedelis and then-deputy finance minister Graham Whitmarsh - now long gone from government after the fall of Campbell.
I truly do not doubt that they did not consult BC Liberal politicians in coming to the decision to do the deal to end the trial, save $2 million or more taxpayer dollars and pay Basi and Virk's legal bills of $6.4 million in return.

Why would they?  

It would be completely inappropriate, highly dangerous to all involved and totally unnecessary if there were any political interference.

I impute no motives, no political considerations and no malice to either Loukedelis or Whitmarsh, who understood their role completely as senior deputy ministers appointed by Gordon Campbell through Orders In Council.

The trial suddenly ended, the parade of BC Liberal politicians set to testify was cancelled, Basi and Virk didn't go to jail, those who bribed them didn't take to the stand or face charges, and taxpayers saved $2 million on a massive $1 billion privatization of a key Crown asset owned by the people.

It simply doesn't get better than this.

After nearly a decade of covering this case starting on December 28, 2003 - when police raided the BC Legislature - I am weary of it, but have made an effort to respond to the Auditor General's report.

The whole truth may yet out - but I seriously doubt it. 

And you can still join my Basi-Virk Public Inquiry page on Facebook if you like, but don't hold your breath - the political powers that be and the NDP failure to win the 2013 election have all but ended the possibility of an independent judicial inquiry into one of BC's biggest political scandals.

My old friend BC Mary, sadly departed from this earth in 2012, would be aghast to see that despite all her enormous work documenting the BC Legislature Raids - as her blog was called - and everything else that has happened, we still don't know the truth of what happened.

So now move along, move along - truly, there is nothing to see here - or even better, forget what you have seen, it can only be too disturbing to remember.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Premier Christy Clark's BC Jobs Plan Isn't Working - Look At The Results

The BC Jobs Plan pitch from Premier Christy Clark - the results, not so good.

Another number one for BC: The worst unemployment rate in western Canada.

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday December 10, 2013

By Bill Tieleman 

I'm going to run in the next election on the strong economy. I'm going to run on [being] number one in job creation."

B.C.'s Jobs Plan isn't working.

And neither are about 8,000 British Columbians who actually lost their jobs in November alone, according to Statistics Canada's latest labour force survey, bumping the unemployment rate up to 6.7 per cent from October's 6.5 per cent, even though 21,600 jobs were gained nationally.

The number of people employed in B.C. has dropped 15,500 since Nov. 2012, StatsCan reports.

Clark launched her BC Jobs Plan with a $15-million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign back in Sept. 2011 that promised work. But in the past year, it has only delivered pink slips.

Worst in western unemployment

It's rather hard to lead the country in job creation when you are shedding, not creating employment.

B.C.'s unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent is the worst in western Canada, with Saskatchewan at just 4.1 per cent jobless, Alberta at 4.7 per cent and Manitoba at 5.6 per cent.

Vancouver has the highest jobless rate of major cities in western Canada at 6.6 per cent, compared to Regina at 3.9 per cent, Calgary at 4.6 per cent, Edmonton at 5.1 per cent and Winnipeg at 5.9 per cent. Clark's new hometown of Kelowna, where she is now an MLA, has a 6.2 per cent unemployment rate.

From Sept. 2011 to Nov. 2013, British Columbia added a minuscule 1,800 more jobs while the population increased by 83,300, according to StatsCan numbers.
Meanwhile, during the same period Canada as a whole added 435,000 jobs.

Help Clark do her job

If Clark's jobs plan continues to enjoy this rate of success, B.C. would lead the country in job creation by, well, never.

Kind of doesn't validate what Clark claimed when she launched the BC Jobs Plan on Sept. 22, 2011: "The first pillar is job creation, job creation with a common sense government that opens doors, instead of closing them."

But let's be charitable and give the premier a positive suggestion: restore the position of Jobs Protection Commissioner that was abolished in 2001 by ex-premier Gordon Campbell.

Between 1990 and 2001, the Jobs Protection Commissioner helped save 75,000 good jobs by bringing together workers, employers, creditors, investors, unions, government and community leaders to find constructive alternatives to employment termination.

That's one B.C. jobs plan that might actually work.


Thursday, December 05, 2013

More Evidence Against Forced Flu Shots - Dubious Science, Doubtful Death Rates, Ignored Side Effects Mean Big Doubts

Flu Shot - Lance McCord photo
Flu shots an expensive, intrusive public policy that's not backed up by adequate numbers, say researchers

Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday December 3, 2013
By Bill Tieleman
"How many deaths are there? They can't tell you. The information on deaths in B.C. from the flu isn't available." 
- Drug policy researcher Alan Cassels
British Columbians are being told -- or even ordered -- to get a flu shot to save lives.
But what if provincial health authorities couldn't quantify how many lives are being saved by flu shots, or how many lives are lost due to the flu?
How could they justify the enormous expense and intrusion into personal health choices if flu shots don't work well and few people die from the flu?
Given recent research showing flu shots are only 59 per cent effective on average for adults aged 18 to 65 and less so for the elderly, are flu shots worth it?
These are questions with troubling answers to Victoria drug policy researcher Alan Cassels and other top medical experts around the world.
But with flu season now on, in B.C. you must have received a flu shot or wear a mask to visit hospitals and care homes under a new Health Ministry policy.
Hospital and care home staff were already ordered to either get the flu shot or wear a mask at work from December to April. But now health authorities are "also expecting the public to protect vulnerable patients from contracting influenza by getting vaccinated, or wearing a mask," reads a government news release.
The policy, unique in Canada to B.C., caused the cancellation of the White Rock Chamber Music Program from January through March because concerts take place at Crescent Gardens Retirement Community, which is under Health Ministry flu shot or mask orders.
"That means that some audience members would have to sit for two hours with a mask on -- and for singers, it's just impossible," organizer Ellen Neal told the Peace Arch News last week. "It's been a dilemma. We had to cancel two young pianists for the December concert because they have not had flu shots and don't wish to have them."
'No fully accurate accounting': BC's top doc
How many people are really dying from the flu? Are such measures warranted?
A Nov. 7 B.C. Health Ministry news release states: "Each year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die from complications from influenza."
Federal health authorities have the same stats: "Every year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of the flu and its complications, and even more become seriously ill and require hospitalization."
But Cassels says the number of deaths is misleading and not backed up by research. "I'm a researcher. I trust numbers. We can't guess on this stuff. We need the numbers," he said in an interview.
Making major decisions about flu shot public policy without adequate evidence, Cassels says, "is like building a bridge without knowing where the other side is."
Publicly reported flu numbers wildly differ with the claims of 2,000 to 8,000 deaths.
On Health Canada's Flu Watch website, cumulative statistics from Aug. 25 to Nov. 23, 2013 show that: "To date this season, 57 influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported."
Flu Watch continues: "No deaths have been reported. It is important to note that the hospitalization or death does not have to be attributable to influenza, a positive laboratory test is sufficient for reporting."
Even more troubling, Flu Watch says B.C. doesn't report "influenza-associated hospitalizations" to the Public Health Agency of Canada, nor do Quebec, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, while "only hospitalizations that require intensive medical care are reported by Saskatchewan."
Flu Watch does say B.C. reports "positive influenza specimens" and from Aug. 25 to Nov. 23, 2013 there were 11 Influenza A and four Influenza B cases.
In an email response Sunday to questions about the varying statistics, Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer wrote: "As no jurisdiction tests every admission or death for influenza, there is no fully accurate accounting.
"We rely on a variety of surveys and models. Obviously as vaccination rates, vaccine effectiveness and viral virulence change from year to year, so will the numbers," he said.
Kendall referred this columnist to a 2013 paper by Dr. Bonnie Henry of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control that reviews flu shot research for other answers.
That paper cuts the maximum mortality rate in half compared to the B.C. Health Ministry news release, stating: "We generally estimate that between 2,000-4,000 Canadian die from influenza annually."
Three of the five studies Henry references estimate Canadian deaths per year at 370, 700 and 700 while the other two estimate 2,600 and 4,000 deaths.
Dr. Michael Gardam, director of the infection prevention and control unit at Toronto's University Health Network, is also skeptical of the 2,000 to 8,000 deaths claims.
"This is a scientific guess. This is not the truth," Gardam told CBC News last year. "I think people may have the misconception that every person who dies from the flu is somehow counted somewhere, and they're not."
Dr. Tom Jefferson is even more damning of the statistics. The researcher with the independent Cochrane Collaboration has looked extensively at flu shot research and isn't impressed.
"There are no real figures on deaths from influenza. They don't collect that information. So if they don't collect that information, how do they know it's a threat?" Jefferson says. "And if they don't collect that information, how do they know that their policies will work? This is called faith-based medicine, not evidence-based medicine."
Henry of B.C.'s Centre for Disease Control disagrees, and explains the challenge of measuring the impact of the flu in her paper this way: "Many people with influenza do not seek medical attention for their influenza illness, but may be admitted to hospital or have complications from the infection or from worsening of their underlying illness."
Henry concludes that flu shots should be mandatory for health care workers and are worthwhile for others.
"Vaccination of healthcare workers will reduce their risk of getting influenza and spreading it to patients, other healthcare workers or their families. The most effective strategy for preventing influenza is annual vaccination. Influenza vaccine is safe and effective... what is clear is that the vaccine provides good protection in healthy adults and much more modest protection in the population that needs it most, those at risk for severe illness or death from influenza."
Cassels isn't convinced and has this advice for the public: "Demand credible support for the flu shot policy, not the ‘Trust us, we're experts' approach."
Shots are safe? Questionable...
The veteran researcher also warns that claims flu shots are completely safe have been questioned by new research. Cassels points to a study by Dr. Danuta Skowronski of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and colleagues that discovered increased rates of people contracting the pandemic H1N1 influenza in 2009 after they received regular flu shots, called the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV).
Skowronski's study in the Oxford Journals states: "Specifically, outbreak investigation conducted during the early stages of the pandemic in a northern B.C. community identified that participants reporting pH1N1-related ILI during the period 1 April through 5 June 2009 were more than twice as likely to report having previously received seasonal influenza vaccine."
"Conclusions. An outbreak investigation in British Columbia during the late spring of 2009 provided the first indication of an unexpected association between receipt of TIV and pH1N1 illness. This led to five additional studies through the summer 2009 in Canada, each of which corroborated these initial findings."
While Skowronski outlines "several limitations to this study warranting cautious interpretation of the results," it nevertheless gives Cassels concern that the seasonal flu shot may be negatively affecting people's natural immunity to more serious illnesses like H1N1.
Cassels also refers to The National Vaccine Information Center, a U.S. non-profit organization that gives clear information about potential negative consequences from flu shots:
"Reported moderate reactions to influenza vaccine include fever, local reactions (pain, redness, swelling at the site of the injection), headache, fatigue, sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, joint and muscle pain, and nausea. Reported serious complications include brain inflammation, convulsions, Bell's palsy, limb paralysis, neuropathy, shock, wheezing/asthma and other breathing problems.
"Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a disabling neurological disorder that involves temporary or permanent paralysis that can lead to death and has been causally related to influenza vaccinations.
"As of Nov. 2013, there have been more than 93,000 reports of reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following influenza vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 1,080 related deaths, 8,888 hospitalizations, 1,801 related disabilities and over 1,700 cases of GBS."
This is not information that is well publicized at all, let alone discussed by those who promote mandatory flu shots.
It's not small pox
Personally, the information on Guillain Barre Syndrome hits home. My father Harry suffered a GBS attack in the early 1970s that put him in hospital with partial paralysis and required rehabilitation for months.
His illness was unrelated to getting vaccinated, but having seen the results of GBS, it adds another reason why I do not get the flu shot.
Cassels says the severity of influenza is being overblown to push the seasonal shots. "We're talking about the flu here -- not small pox or rubella!" he exclaimed.
But like it or not, variable facts or not, in B.C. flu shots are being imposed.