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Alberta Politics: Notley Government navigates a profound crisis with grace and empathy, as even some conservatives begin to recognize

PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who has risen to the challenge of a difficult moment in Alberta’s history. Below: Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee and a scene from the Fort McMurray fire catastrophe, which continues to burn. The lat… . . . → Read More: Alberta Politics: Notley Government navigates a profound crisis with grace and empathy, as even some conservatives begin to recognize

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.- Allan Woods looks into the pitiful responses to states of emergency declared by First Nations, as well as a decade and a half worth of neglect of cries for help from Pikangikum First Nation in particular. Krist… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

In-Sights: Careless or captured? (A 2009 repeat)

When you read or listen to resource industry advocates, especially ones masquerading as objective political pundits, compare their concerns in 2009 about burning natural gas to generate peak-demand electricity to their current attitudes toward burning natural gas to liquefy natural gas. The following was first published at Northern Insight on August 4, 2009.

Despite deep cynicism about those backing Gordon Campbell’s Liberals, I’ve long held respect for the writing of Vaughn Palmer. My reservoir of appreciation seems now to have run dry. He has been bright, skilled and articulate, usually worth reading throughout 35 years with the Vancouver Sun.

Now, I don’t know. Is he distracted, overburdened, grown careless or captured by his subjects? What can explain Palmer’s early reporting about the British Columbia Utilities Commission decision on BC Hydro’s 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan.

July 31, on his regular Vancouver radio outing, he led with this:

“I think it means the BC Utilities Commission is out of touch. You know, they said, “We’re not persuaded we need all this new green power because you’ve got the Burrard Thermal Plant sitting out there in Port Moody and it could run full time and take care of your power needs for many years.” Which, is completely out of touch. … the Utility Commission’s belief that the Burrard Thermal is the answer to any of the province’s power needs for the future just ignores its impact on air quality among other things.”

That is not merely weak reporting of the Commission’s determination. It is a reprehensible misstatement that totally fails to reflect the actual decision. I can think of only two possibilities. One is that Palmer had not read the report but relied on someone’s corrupt précis. The other is that he intentionally misled the audience for some purpose.

Sidekick Keith Baldrey, also of Canwest Global, contributed:

“And, that’s why I don’t understand why a number of environmental groups who are applauding this decision have remained silent on the fact that Burrard Thermal is to be relied on at an increasing rate because it produces dirty energy. That’s a contradictory and hypocritical position and a number of people haven’t really squared themselves with that.”

No Keith, the BC Utilities Commission simply didn’t say that.

Palmer subsequently shifted his attack, all but accusing the BCUC of joining forces with uninformed racists:

“You know, that bit about the First Nations – I mean think about this for a minute – if we go out and get public opinion on First Nations, one of the first things you hear from people is, “You know, they always want a handout from the government, they’re always taking government money.” You know, here you got a bunch of First Nations in British Columbia – some of the best led native bands in the province – gone out and they’ve found private partners to develop their own resources on their own traditional territory and the big provincial government regulator has slammed the door on their face. I mean, it’s no wonder that they’re feeling frustrated.”

Baldrey added:

“. . . these independent power projects have as economic partners First Nations groups. These are a huge economic development tool for impoverished First Nations and Vaughn and I were reading this morning, from the Sechelt Indian Band, a letter they’ve written the BC Utilities Commission accusing them of essentially, and I quote, “This appears to us to be nothing less than regulated racism.” So you’ve got First Nations now very much up in arms. With the stroke of a pen, the Utilities Commission has kiboshed what they saw as the number one tool to lift a lot of their people out of fairly extensive poverty and I don’t know if the Utilities Commission thought this through properly.”

I was interested to note that at 9am July 31, Baldrey and Palmer knew the contents of the Sechelt Band’s letter and were even armed with the pointed quote claiming “regulated racism.” Yet that letter was still warm from printing, being dated only one day before, July 30. I wonder how it came to be reviewed so promptly and publicly by the Victoria based journalists.

Was the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB) or the Independent Power Producers Association of BC (IPPBC) helping Chief Garry Feschuk and the shishalh First Nation circulate the letter? Were the flacks also providing pre-digested interpretations of the BCUC decision to certain journalists?

Palmer went on to provide a bit of accurate detail, saying the BCUC decision did not reject green power, private power or run of the river facilities and that, primarily, BC Hydro had to rework the scheduling of projects. Mind you, he ignored the BCUC determination that BC Hydro had been either inaccurate or dishonest in its power needs forecasting. That should have been news. At best, Palmer had part of the story correct but his headline material was worse than sloppy.

We cannot though accuse all professional journalists of faulty or inadequate reporting. Mark Hume at the Globe and Mail had no difficulty understanding the entire BCUC decision and writing conclusions based on the Commission’s actual findings. He said:

“The commission’s ruling made it clear, however, that there is no energy crisis – and that when there are energy shortfalls, such as during droughts or the period of peak demand in December, BC Hydro has a solid backup system in the Burrard Generating Station, an old, mostly idle plant fueled by natural gas.

“The commission is not saying we should run the Burrard plant, or that Burrard is a better source of energy than clean resources,” said economist Marvin Shaffer. What the commission determined is that Burrard is valuable as a backup facility, and that in that role it has the capacity of at least 5,000 gigawatt hours, not the 3,000 GWh estimated by BC Hydro.

“By refusing to accept the lower capacity, the commission called into question the need for BC Hydro to purchase backup power from IPPs.

“Had the British Columbia Utilities Commission not intervened, B.C. would have been damming its wild and scenic rivers, not in a noble fight against global warming, but in order to run air conditioners in California.”

Contrast that analysis to the one by Keith Baldrey:

“Yes, they (BCUC) just said go and use Burrard Thermal.”

One does not need to be a sophisticated media analyst to conclude that Canwest Global’s Palmer and Baldrey reported on the BCUC in a manner that is entirely below the standard set by Mark Hume. The Globe and Mail faces the same financial challenges as every newspaper publisher but in the western bureau, they employ and deploy high quality staff, particularly in comparison to the competition.

. . . → Read More: In-Sights: Careless or captured? (A 2009 repeat)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how political fund-raising scandals in Ontario and British Columbia only highlight the complete lack of rules governing donations in Saskatchewan.For further reading…- SCOTUS’ Citizens United decision is here (PDF). And Michael Hiltzik discu… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Agenda journalism

Black Press political reporter Tom Fletcher, whose wife is a Public Affairs Officer for the BC Liberal Government, occasionally recalls the nineties: The dark decade, the dismal decade, the decade of destruction …when investment, jobs and people packed up and headed for the B.C. border in response to the NDP governments of Mike Harcourt and . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Agenda journalism

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

I will comment about BC Budget 2014 after more study but I’ve read a few reports from media stenographers. Studying detail takes more time than rewording notes issued by the gaggle of Liberal flacks paid for by munificent taxpayers. One Globe & Mail report, written by the father of an executive assistant in the . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

Alberta Diary: Never mind the Mudville Nine: Nothing has changed, nothing ever will, that is all!

“Your health. Our promise.” It’s March 1, 2013, and then-premier Alison Redford announces plans to build a new cancer treatment facility in Calgary to replace the grubby and overcrowded Tom Baker Cancer Centre. (Photo grabbed from Metro Newspapers.) But that was then. This is now. Below: Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel; the Tom . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: Never mind the Mudville Nine: Nothing has changed, nothing ever will, that is all!

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Jeremy Warren reports on the latest Canadians for Tax Fairness events working to ensure that Cameco and other megacorporations pay at least their fair share. And Sheila Block and Kaylie Tiessen point out that Ontario could do plenty to reduce its deficit by reining in regressive tax giveaways.

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Alberta Diary: The bloom is off the (Wild)rose – Opposition Leader Danielle Smith assailed by doubts, dissent and departures

Are the wheels falling off the Wildrose bus, which may or may not look exactly as illustrated any more? Below: Beleaguered Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, Taber-Warner-Cardston MLA Gary Bikman and Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson.

These may be happy days for the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Jim Prentice, but the bloom is definitely . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: The bloom is off the (Wild)rose – Opposition Leader Danielle Smith assailed by doubts, dissent and departures

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Careless or captured?

When you read or listen to resource industry advocates, especially ones masquerading as objective political pundits, compare their concerns in 2009 about burning natural gas to generate peak-demand electricity to their current support for burning natural gas to liquefy natural gas. The following was first published at Northern Insight on August 4, 2009.

Despite deep . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Careless or captured?

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Northern Insight / Perceptivity 2014-10-29 22:45:00

[View the story “Gary Mason on Manitoba NDP” on Storify]

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Pretending less is known than we know

At times, I wonder if mainstream political journalism in BC is written by the uninformed for the uninformed. Gary Mason provided an example to consider when he commented on the latest threat directed at BC Liberals by Petronus, an Asian energy company. “While senior officials in the government tried to play down that threat, it . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Pretending less is known than we know

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

– Joe Conason discusses the increasingly widespread recognition that inequality represents a barrier to growth. And Heidi Moore takes a look at Thomas Piketty’s place in making that point: This is a deep point. Many American households, if they are lucky, will grow their wealth at the same rate . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Andrew Coyne sees the disproportionate influence wielded by the representatives elected by a minority of voters in Canada and the U.S. as evidence that both countries should move toward proportional representation: Two systems, both dysfunctional, in opposing ways. Is there nevertheless a common thread between the two? I . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Northern Insights / Perceptivity: Gary Mason tweets about van Dongen

Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason has never been a docile follower of the Liberal-friendly press gallery clique. He demonstrates independence this week in his column and especially in his twitter account:

From March 26:

Imagine CC will say JVD’s decision not unexpected and stems from his unhappiness about not being in cab. Which . . . → Read More: Northern Insights / Perceptivity: Gary Mason tweets about van Dongen