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Burnaby South Deserves a BC MP!

February 4th, 2019 · 29 Comments

It happened when I was covering Parliament Hill in Ottawa … and Toronto Bay Street lawyer John Turner was in the Capital to announce his candidacy to become federal Liberal Leader.

At a packed afternoon gathering of Liberal stalwarts, movers and shakers … elected, appointed, fundraisers, party supporters … and central Canada (ie Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto) media, Turner vowed if he became Leader, he’d form a truly NATIONAL government … even bringing the WEST back into the Liberal fold.

In fact, although he had mostly lived and been educated back East (Turner had been for years a Montreal and Toronto lawyer and both a Montreal and then Ottawa MP)  Turner said HE would seek HIS Parliamentary seat in Vancouver to emphasize his determination to improve the sorry Liberal standings in BC.

At least John Turner had SOME BC connections: he had lived as a child in Rossland, BC; his father later became Lieutenant Governor of the Province; and, Turner had attended UBC.

But let’s keep it real: in both his legal career and political life, Turner had been more a part of the Central Canada establishment …. so I challenged him on his new-found Western dedication.

With his background, I asked,  why should British Columbians believer HE would be any different than previous Liberal Leaders … making all kinds of promises to the West BEFORE the election, but then catering overwhelmingly to Quebec and Ontario afterwards … and giving the West short shrift????

All heads turned … and there was an audible moan in the room.

Turner vowed He’d be different … and said his commitment to seek a BC seat was genuine. Which he later did … representing Vancouver Quadra as MP from 1984-93.

And when he did make it to the PM job, Turner DID try to involve and boost and BC’s profile and interests back East … but Central Canadian Chretien Liberals (who he had defeated) were determined to get rid of him and he was out as PM within six months!

But at his re-entry into politics announcement,  the room was clearly shocked at such impertinence from a BC reporter who almost none of them had ever heard of or knew even existed in Ottawa!  LOL!

CTV reporter Jim Munson (now Liberal Senator) was so incensed at my question for some reason, back at the CTV offices (where the BCTV bureau was located, because we were part owners of the CTV network) he shouted at me: “What a question! That’s why you’ll never work for the national network!!”

“Good”, I shouted back. “I couldn’t take the pay cut!”

Munson was infuriated. But fortunately, BC viewers and my newsroom cohorts back home LOVED the question.

Decades later, my concern remains the same … this time with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh … as it was with Turner.

I believe Singh is seeking what he hopes will be a safe seat as an MP so he can get back to what he really wants: being the Leader of the NDP, headquartered in Ottawa, working hard to cater to Ontario, with its 121 seats, and Quebec, with its 78.

Burnaby South deserves better than an MP whose real interest lies 2,000 miles East. .

The voters should have an MP who will fight for THEIR interests, THEIR needs, THEIR priorities,  and, THEIR positions on national issue as BRITISH COLUMBIANS….and SPEAK OUT LOUDLY for them, even when their interests run counter to those of other provinces.

I don’t believe they would get that with Singh. 

Burnaby South voters will just be background extras in a larger Singh performance aimed at wooing and catering to Central Canadian voters (Ontario and Quebec).

At the expense of Burnaby South and British Columbia… because I predict Singh would NEVER stand up for them AGAINST the interests (federal jobs, contracts, spending … and, most of all, powerful political positions and Supreme Court appointments ) of Ontario and Quebec in his bid to win votes in the seat-rich East.

And let’s keep it real: unlike Turner, he will NOT become PM anyway … so a vote for Singh is a wasted vote.

If voters there really care about jobs in their riding, or in the Vancouver, Lower Mainland and BC economies … federally right now only the Liberals or Conservatives have a realistic chance of delivering for Burnaby South.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: You can get First Alerts of new postings on this BC-based Blog by following @harveyoberfeld on Twitter. No spam …just First Alerts of new topics/comments.)

 

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Legislative Scandal: Politicians Set the Tone

January 28th, 2019 · 41 Comments

What a great story! The scandal rocking the BC Legislature, surrounding alleged spending improprieties by two public officials, have riveted the attention of both the media and the public.

However, there are also larger issues that I don’t think have yet  been adequately canvassed or explored: WHY did this happen? HOW could it? WHO is really responsible for setting the conditions for such abuses?

I say look UP … look way UP … to the politicians in every Canadian jurisdiction to see why, how and who is responsible for the mindset and conditions that can lead to these kinds of abuses.

Have we already forgotten that in 2016, there were 14 Canadian Senators ordered, after a special investigation by former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, to pay back improperly charged expenses … as high as $200,000.

And that was totally apart from the other questionable spending habits of Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.

Or International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda’s $16 glass of orange juice and $1,000 a day limousine tab; Airbus; Shawinigate; Sponsorship; or Prime Minister Trudeau’s ‘free” vacation on the Agha Kahn’s private Caribbean island.

In BC, of course, we’ve witnessed decades of questions, allegations and accusations surrounding a whole host of political figures and their actions, involving waste, conflicts of interest, dealings,  spending or over-spending.

Just to name a FEW: the Robert Sommers affair; Gracie’s finger; Dirty Tricks; Fantasy Gardens; Phil Gaglardi; Bill Reid; Stephen Rogers; Bingogate; BC Rail; Fast Ferries; Coquihalla Highway;  Bill Bennett/Doman Industries; Bollywood; and,  how about when Christy Clark’s government “sold off 150 hectares of land in Port Coquitlam for $43 million BELOW the appraised value, all in the effort to make a quick buck to produce her “balanced budget” for the 2013/2014 fiscal year.” (Huffpost).  Yikes! 

Want more?  Take a look at this synopsis on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_scandals_in_Canada

And don’t get me started on all those extravagant “renovations” of offices and furnishings that politicians also so often find necessary to make themselves more “efficient”.   I’d say “comfortable”.

It is NOT just a question of legality: it goes well beyond that to lack of RESPECT. Lack of respect for the public and lack of respect for the taxpayers’ money … and how hard people work to get it … and then turn it over to politicians … too many of whom abuse it.

Just take a look at all those meetings and conferences and conventions and trade missions and fact-finding or friendship boondoggles … ooops, business trips … our elected officials find so important to attend personally, that are so often held at First Class hotels or resorts in balmy, world-wide five-star locations!

Not just politicians at the federal or provincial levels of government, but municipally and regionally as well … too many living too high too often … sucking on the public teat.

Some meetings/conventions etc. are no doubt worthy and productive … but far too many, I believe, do not yield much in the way of productive return on the taxpayers’ dollars. And I have no doubt politicians attending those, especially in wonderful or exotic foreign locales and accompanied by their partners, know that before they go.

It’s our politicians who set the tone … where privilege, pampering and public payouts for private profit …. so often can run amok, to the detriment of our society.

So when “adults” act improperly … it should be no surprise the “kids” are watching … and learning.

None of this, of course, excuses any actions or abuses carried out … if true … by Legislative Assembly Clerk Craig James or Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz.

But when, over decades, too many of the elected “leaders” show so little regard or self-restraint in spending public dollars on pet projects or partisan political promotions or, worse, feathering their own personal nests, rewarding their friends, families, associates and supporters, why would we be so surprised when bureaucrats also err?

Think about that as the latest scandal unfolds …. and politicians line up to express shock and dismay at abuses by those who so long witnessed how money is spent from within the system.

Harv Oberfeld

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