Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fall Sittings and the NDP

I want to talk about a subject that the NDP continuously harps about and that is fall sittings being cancelled by the big, bad BC Liberal Government

Between 1991-2001, under the BC NDP, fall sittings never occurred, that I can remember anyways, sittings occurred on a moments' notice and Special Warrants for the provincial budget was common place. Tell you think it is appropriate to have a 20 member cabinet approve expenditures of $30 billion dollars without Legislature approval? I think not

Once again, Carole James during the Premier's Estimates debates asked the Premier if a fall sitting would occur.

The Premier's response: Those are discussions that occur between House Leaders', as it should be

For the NDP to be the saviours' on democracy and whether or not the House sits and when is truly breathtaking and really rich on their part

Look...The NDP are not the government...the BC Liberal Party is. They have the most seats in the House. I don't believe that recalling the House for the sake of debate isn't good use of taxpayers' money. The House should/must sit if there are bills to be debated/approved or even taxpayer expenditures to be approved or even native treaties to be approved. But if there isn't any government work to be completed, then why bother have a fall sitting if the government has no business to propose to the House

It just goes to show you that Carole James is all talk - no action. For her to say that she wants to change the political system in Victoria and then whine/cry about no fall session shows the NDP hasn't learned anything since leaving office in 2001

Highlights of WL City Council Meeting - May 29th, 2007


1) Donna Sellers from the Northern Shuswap Treaty Society gave Council a brief update on the Treaty Society's activities.

2) Andre Chevigny from Pioneer Family Partnership gave Council an introduction to their application for a Re-Zoning for property they own on South Lakeside Drive. The 1st phase will include the building of a Wal-Mart along with 2-3 other "big box" stores with the names to be revealed over the next 6 months. Council gave 1st reading to Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2021 and when the appropriate studies are completed (Geotech, Infrastructure, Traffic), then the entire application will be referred to the Advisory Planning Commission for its' comments/recommendations. This should occur sometime in late July/early August

Other Business:

1) Council gave 3 readings to the Revitalization Tax Exemption Program Bylaw No. 2013 which will allow for tax deferrals for any developer who completes a building project inside of the Tax Exemption Zone, which is primarily inside of the downtown zone

2) Council gave approval for a cowboy statue to be placed at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Oliver Street, by the old Petro-Canada gas station. The project will be completed and 100% funded by the local Communities in Bloom Committee

3) Councillors Rathor, Barr and Wolbers in his capacity as CRD Chair will be attending the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) in Calgary to be held at the end of this week. I look forward for these Councillors to bring back best practices that could possibly be used in the City of Williams Lake

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Are Carole James days numbered as BC NDP Leader?


Here's an article by Michael Smyth, Vancouver Province's Political Reporter in the May 24th, 2007 edition of the Vancouver Province:

The New Democrats keep falling in the opinion polls, no matter how hard they try. But there's one issue NDP Leader Carole James could have used to nail Premier Gordon Campbell to the wall and close the gap.

Consider this scenario:
After a public backlash kills a proposed 15-per-cent pay raise for MLAs, Campbell appoints an independent panel to come up with a new package. Shockingly, the panel recommends a minimum 29-per-cent MLA raise (54-per-cent for Campbell) and a gold-plated pension plan than could turn MLAs into millionaires after just a few terms in office

An indignant James announces the insane package is too rich and the New Democrats will refuse to accept it. Campbell says the Libs will take it, anyway.
James' position looks even more solid when one of the panelists says she thought the package was over the top, too, and complains the other two changed the final recommendations while she was out of the country!

All of the above stuff really did happen. Now here's the alternative time line:
With the panelists publicly squabbling, James calls a news conference.
"This is exactly what I was talking about," she rails. "The process was fatally flawed from the start. It's time for the premier to reject this obscene cash grab."
But Campbell and the Liberals vote to take the money. The NDP stick to their guns and vote no.
"It's a dark day for B.C. taxpayers," James says.
One week later, all 33 NDP MLAs -- trailed by a pack of TV cameras -- march to the Speaker's office and officially hand in their written notices opting out of the pay-and-pension package.
"I challenge the Liberals to do the same," says James, who promises to cancel the $100-million pay-and-pension booty haul if the NDP wins the next election.
That election may be two years away, but the New Democrats launch a pre-emptive advertising campaign against the Liberals' "highway robbery" of taxpayers.
"Give the money back!" scream the full-page newspaper ads that appear around the province.
By the time the 2009 election rolls around, public opinion on the issue has swung badly against Campbell -- and James delivers the coup de grace during the televised leaders' debate.
After Campbell's stale cheap shot about money wasted on the NDP's fast ferries more than a decade ago, James fires back: "At least I didn't pick the pockets of taxpayers with that pay-and-pension cash grab. Give the money back, Mr. Campbell."

What a moment. What an election it would have been.
Instead, James and the New Democrats flip-flopped and took the gold-plated pension, robbing themselves of a golden political opportunity.
How sad for her: She really could have been somebody.
She coulda been a contender.

I definitely agree with Mr. Smyth's conclusion... :)

If the NDP had Mr. Smyth as one of their advisors...I would agree that the BC Liberals' could have been in political trouble on this issue but because he isn't, I believe the BC Liberals' could easily become the 1st political party in this province's history to receive 3 consecutive majority governments

Future NDP Leaders'

Based on the comments I received on my last blog about the NDP response to the MLA's new pay and pension package, I want to talk about individuals whom might replace Carole James, should the NDP decide to either replace prior to or after the 2009 Provincial General Election

In no particular order:

1) Bob Simpson - Presently the NDP MLA for Cariboo-North and also the NDP's Critic for the Ministry of Forests and Range and Minister Responsible for Housing

2) Mike Farnworth - Presently the NDP MLA for Port Coquitlam - Burke Mountain, also the Opposition House Leader and the NDP Critic for the Solicitor-General

3) Derek Corrigan - Presently the Mayor of Burnaby. At present, he's against the Gateway Project although he supported it when the NDP were in power during the '90's. I understand, through other blogs, that he coveys Ms. James job badly

And those are the ones I know of for sure, there are probably a handful of other NDP MLA's inside Ms. James's caucus that would like to see Ms. James replaced prior to the '09 Provincial Election to help improve the NDP Poll Numbers. As they say, we'll see what happens.

But I predict if Ms. James isn't replaced prior to the 2009 Provincial Election, the Liberals will keep all of their present 46 seats and are likely to gain as many as 5-7 extra seats. Of course, all of this will depend on what the Electoral Boundary Commission recommends to the Speaker on how many extra seats be added to the present 79 seats in the Legislative Assembly

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The BC-NDP on the new MLA Pay Package

This editorial was run in several Black Press newspapers:

You get what you pay for and that's why members of the legislature (MLA’s) deserve their proposed raises.

An independent panel has researched the issue and decided our MLAs deserve raises totalling 29 per cent. That same panel also figures premier Gordon Campbell should get a pay boost of about 53 per cent.

Politicians, especially those in opposition, are quick to pounce on an easy score if it means they score political points with the electorate.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that Carole James, the NDP opposition leader, is on record as saying the raises are “too rich,” and her people will refuse to accept higher wages.

James is merely playing politics, which is, after all, her real job. James pulled a fast one on the Liberals a couple of years ago when first she supported the proposed raises, then turned around and made everyone else look like greedy money grubbers by flatly opposing the proposed increases.

The Opposition will certainly take the money; the NDP just has to find a way to rationalize their acceptance of it.

Numbers are pretty slippery when dealing with percentages, so let’s get real. Just what does an MLA make in B.C. these days? The answer is $76,100. That’s your basic backbencher whose most important job is to put his hand up when called upon in the legislature.

If you are a cabinet member, your salary goes up to $115,100. If you happen to be the premier, you can expect to make $121,100 per year.

Do you really want a guy making say 80 grand a year leading the province?

OK, let’s say Premier Campbell gets his raise and goes up to $186,000 a year. Is that not a reasonable wage to pay a guy to run the entire province?

Would it not be ridiculous to pay the premier roughly the same as what the average school superintendent gets right now? Well, that’s what’s happening.

It would not be out of line, in our view, to go even further and pay the premier $200,000 a year. That’s fair, especially when the guy who runs the entire country, the Prime Minister, gets only $300,000 a year.

And while we’re at it, let’s give our MLAs a solid pension plan. Hey, if you want great candidates to run for office, you better have some carrots to dangle in front of them. If you want to offer minimum wage, then expect Homer and Gomer to line up for those jobs.

With respect to the above, I agree with it completely however 2 things stand out with respect to the NDP's position on the new MLA pay package:

1) They (NDP Opposition) completely flip-flopped on this issue despite assurances by Carole James to the contrary. Harry Lali (NDP MLA for Yale-Lillioet) is already on public record supporting both the new MLA wage and benefit package. For her to turn it down and then meet with her caucus and then say we'll vote against the package but if it passes, we'll donate the extra pay above the $78,000 that MLA's make to charity and also accept the new pension plan is absolutely at the height of hypocrisy. I predict that if the NDP poll numbers hold and the BC Liberals win the '09 Provincial Election - Carole James is finished as NDP Leader

2) The NDP are already asking for suggestions from constituents about where to donate the difference between the MLA's present pay and the new MLA pay to charity. Question: Don't the NDP know already where they (NDP MLA's) want to donate the money. Carole James has already indicated that she'll donate the money to the Mary Manning Centre in Victoria and what's worse, NDP MLA's can even get a tax deduction for this donation to charity.

The NDP stance on the new MLA's pay package was despicable to say the least. If you publicly oppose the new pay package, then vote against it and opt-out of it if you don't like it. Mike DeJong (Government House Leader/Minister of Aboriginal Relations) said it best about Carole James's stance on the new MLA's pay package:

"Talk about leading your members into the Valley of Death"

At this point, it appears the NDP aren't ready to govern the province again and I personally hope that they never run this province again but more importantly it appears at this point that they are destined to sit in Opposition benches after the 2009 Election

Friday, May 18, 2007

Government of BC's Credit Rating Upgraded

British Columbia’s credit rating was upgraded today by Standard & Poor’s to AAA, putting the province on par with Alberta and the government of Canada which both are rated AAA.

The agency cited strong budgetary performances, strong management culture and improved transparency for planning and reporting in its decision to bump up its rating for B.C. It also noted that B.C.’s net tax-supported debt as a share of gross domestic product will continue to gradually decline, according to a press release from B.C.’s finance minister."Achieving the best possible rating from S&P is excellent news," B.C. Finance Minister Carol Taylor said in the release. "It confirms that our fiscal and economic policies are working and tells potential investors that British Columbia is a great place to invest."

The S&P upgrade brings to seven the number of credit rating upgrades the province has received since November, 2004. Earlier this month, Dominion Bond Rating Service upgraded the province to AA (high). Last October, Moody’s Investor Services upgrades B.C.’s credit rating to Aaa.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

WL City Council Meeting Highlights - May 15th, 2007

1) Delegations

a) Bill Derbyshire / Gurbax Saini from the Crematorium Society presented a cheque of $5,900 to Council as it was money left over from the fundraising for the Crematorium that has occurred over the last number of years. On motion of Councillor Rathor, Council supported his motion to deposit the money into a reserve account to be used only in case the running of the crematorium runs into a deficit position

b) Winnifred Gooding - President of the local O.A.P.O (Branch #93) re: Home Support Campaign

Council endorsed a resolution by the local O.A.P.O Branch asking that further cutbacks to Home Support cease and that Home Support be restored to 1994 levels. Councillors Rathor/French asked Ms. Gooding to send the Resolution directly from the local O.A.P.O Branch in order to send a message to the Provincial Government that everyone is concerned about Home Care Support Levels

c) Sheila Mortensen - Local Commander from the Cariboo Power & Sail Squadron

Ms. Mortensen requested a Proclamation declaring the week of May 19th - May 26th in the City of Williams Lake as Safe Boating Awareness Week

Council agreed with Ms. Mortensen's request

2) Council / Staff Reports'

i) 2006 Audited Financial Statements

Council approved the Statements. Councillor Barr commented that the City's Financial Position is one of strength. The City's Equity increased by $5,000,000 while debt increased by $500,000

ii) Re-Zoning Application for Hamel Road - Applicant: Tyler Boucher

Council gave 1st Reading Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2019 to allow for re-zoning from Acreage Reserve (A-1 Zone) to Single Family Residential (R-1 Zone) + Low Density Multi-Family Residential (R-3 Zone). This application has now been referred to the City's Advisory Planning Commission for their comments/recommendations. The site in question is up the street from the Laughing Loon

iii) Annual WL Stampede Proclamation

Council unanimously gave approval for this proclamation and also give permission to City Staff to enter the City's Float in the annual Stampede Parade to be held at the end of June. I personally would encourage everyone to please take in all the events happening during the WL Stampede occuring between June 25 - July 2, 2007

Mayor S.D. Nelson also announced at the end of the meeting that an annoucement on a future retail store was immaninent in the next 2 weeks. It was also revealed the developer in question will be in Williams Lake in the next 1-2 week to work on the application in order to make this announcement at the May 29th, 2007 Council Meeting

NCMA Conference - Day 2 on Friday, May 4th, 2007

NCMA Conference - Day 2 of 3:

7:00 - 8:00am - Breakfast by local Rotary group - consisted of eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc

8:00 - 9:10am - Official Opening of NCMA Conference

Opening Statements by Mayor Scott Nelson (City of Williams Lake) / Jon Wolbers (CRD Chair)

Also Bob Simpson (NDP MLA - Cariboo-North) made opening remarks as well as discussing the role of local governments in relation to serving the public. He also noted that politicians don't get nearly the respect and appreciation from the public that they deserve

During the day, discussion pursued in the Gibraltar Room over 2007 NCMA Resolutions by NCMA Delegates.

At 9:55am, Dr. Don Cozzetto (President - University of Northern BC) gave a speech to NCMA Delegates about some of the work that UNBC was doing to promote post-secondary education in Northern BC Communities including TeleEducation in smaller, remote communities and work on the Northern Medical Trust which allows medical professionals to upgrade their medical training in the North without leaving the region again. The Trust has some $6,000,000 in its' account, which was its' goal for next year. Councillor Ron Paull (City of Quesnel) informed NCMA Delegates that their next goal for the Northern Medical Trust is to push the amount of money inside the Trust to beyond $6,000,000

I unfortunately didn't get a chance to attend Day 3 which occurred on Saturday, May 4th, 2007. However, I can say that I did thoroughly enjoy my time at NCMA and if given the opportunity, I would gladly attend another NCMA Conference once again.

Next year are local government elections and perhaps if I am elected in November of 2008, 1 of the conferences as a elected Councillor that I want to attend is the 2009 NCMA Conference, wherever it is located

Thursday, May 3, 2007

NCMA Conference - 1st Full Day

Hello all...

Here's what happened during the 1st full day of the NCMA Conference in Williams Lake:

7-8:30am - Breakfast for all delegates, which including pancakes, bacon, etc

8:30am - 9:30am - I attended a session on the Ommenica Beetle Action Coalition and what they are doing to diversify their local economy after the impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle has come and gone. The Ommenica Beetle Action Coalition covers an area both North and North west/east of Prince George. I also attended a session discussing the opportunities resulting out of the 2010 Olympics including work on-going with the Spirit of BC Committees' throughout the Province

9:45 -10:30am - The Premier gave a speech to the NCMA delegates present. The theme of his speech was Change. He talked about the need to have compact communities, the need to take advantage of programs such as LocalMotion, Spirit Square and Towns for Tomorrow to improve the quality of life for residents' who reside in small towns in the NCMA region. He also thanked those in attendance for serving their residents' with valour to ensure a high quality of life for the constituents' that they serve. All-in-all, a 5-Star speech, I think. The Premier received a standing ovation at the end of his speech

1:30 - 2:00pm - I attended an another workshop called "Climate Change & Energy - Planning Opportunities for Local Governments" which was presented by Michael Wilson. He talked about initiatives that local governments could do to lessen their impact on the environment, which is on the minds of everyone these days. Mr. Wilson suggested things like have LEED standards in OCP's (Official Community Plan) including increasing density in neighborhoods - term for having more people into a smaller area. Also, developing a local energy plan to stop the leakage of "energy dollars" from leaving their communities. For example, Quesnel lost $15,000,000 (15 Million Dollars) due to the lack of local energy options for Quesnel residents. He also talked about Revelstoke's heat distribution system which helps save money for the local forest industry in running the local Kilns (where they dry the "rough" lumber). Williams Lake is looking into this right now. The study is been referred to City Staff for development/analysis and then it will come back to WL Council for further consideration. Ken Day from the UBC Research Forest Office made a proposal to WL Council a number of weeks ago using steam escaping from the Co-Gen Plant (EPCOR Plant) to "fund" geo-thermal projects to provide heat to buildings/kilns, etc

2:00pm - 2:20pm - The Hon. Ida Chong, Minister of Community Services also spoke to NCMA Delegates talked a little bit more on what the Premier discussed earlier in the day. She also told delegates that more money was on the way for Regional Districts in terms of their unconditional grants that they receive each year. Also, she revealed that municipalities would receive significantly more money from Victoria, in terms of the traffic fine revenue. As you may remember, the Premier told UBCM Delegates that Victoria will return 100% of traffic fine revenue to municipalities to be used for crime reduction strategies provided that each municipality provided a report detailing how the money was used. For example, the money can't be used for general projects (i.e.: sidewalks, roads, etc). At the end of her speech, as was the case for the Premier, she received a standing ovation from NCMA Delegates present.

3:15pm - 3:30pm - The Leader of Her Majesty Loyal Official Opposition and the Leader of the BC New Democrats, Carole James gave a speech to about 60 NCMA Delegates present. I must say that I was disappointed on the content of her speech, which was partisan in nature. She essentially "slammed" the BC Liberals of cost overruns at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre Expansion Projects, no plan for the Mountain Pine Beetle, purported "dirty tricks" occurring inside the Premier's Office, and that Victoria doesn't care about the concerns about local municipal leaders. I must say I was most disappointed about the content of the speech. As I said, it was partisan in nature and the Premier/Minister of Community Services' Speeches weren't partisan in nature and dealt only with local government concerns/programs, which as it should be as this is a local government conference. There is a time/place to be partisan and this conference wasn't it as there are mayors/councillors'/RD (Regional District) Directors'/Chairs who support the NDP and those who suppport the BC Liberals. Which is probably why she didn't receive a standing ovation at the end of Ms. James's speech.

Later on in the day, I had an opportunity to have a private dinner with the Hon. Ida Chong (Minister of Community Services) with a few others and we all talked about how to ensure we have a BC Liberal MLA in Cariboo South in 2009 and other political happenings' of the day

I will report more tomorrow as it is Day 2 of the NCMA Conference

NCMA Convention - 1st Night

Hello all:

Wednesday evening at 7:30pm was the Welcoming Reception for all delegates attending the NCMA Convention here in Williams Lake. I had the opportunity to see some old friends including Councillor Mary Sjostrom from Quesnel, many of the Council members here in Williams Lake including Mayor Nelson, Councillor Jon Wolbers (including his "other" role as CRD Chair), Councillor Paul French, Councillor SPS Rathor, CRD Communications Manager Shelly Burich, the Mayor of Mackenzie and the owner of the Laughing Loon.

Tomorrow (Thursday), the Premier - Hon. Gordon Campbell, the Minister of Community Services - Hon. Ida Chong and the Leader of the Official Opposition/BC NDP Leader Carole James will all be speaking to NCMA delegates. It will interesting to see what each have to say to those in attendance. There are also numerous workshops for delegates to attend. I plan to take in 1 or 2 workshops myself in addition to listening to Premier Campbell, Minister Chong and Ms. James

I'll let you know tomorrow evening what each had to say to delegates present.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

MLA's Pay

This afternoon, the Commission looking at MLA's Pay reported to the Speaker.

They recommended the following:

1) MLA's Base Pay

That it be increased from $78,000 per year to $98,000 per year which would be retroactive to April 1st, 2007

2) Pension Plan

The Commission recommended a Pension Plan for MLA's be restored

3) Premier's Pay

The Commission recommended that the Premier's Pay be increased to $186,000 per year from $121,000 per year

4) Other Pay

The Commission also recommended that the Leader of the Opposition's Pay be increased to $147,000 per year. As well, they recommended that other parliamentary position's pay be increased (i.e: Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Party Whip, etc)

I think given the work that our MLA's do in Victoria, advocating on our behalf, the pay increase recommended by the commission is fair

You can read the Commission's Full Report here:

What do you think??