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Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Toby Sanger offers some important background to the federal government’s expected plan for privatized infrastructure by noting that the anticipated result would be to double the costs. And Luke Kawa notes that the Libs are already having trouble spending the money they’ve budgeted for infrastructure – leaving . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday 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)

In-Sights: Twitter bits

The final item may present a clue to the current state of British Columbia’s energy market. It’s hard to believe we came to this only through the sheer stupidity of our policy makers.Liberals didn't sell BC's publicly owned #BCHydro, they gave … . . . → Read More: In-Sights: Twitter bits

In-Sights: Twitter bits

The final item may present a clue to the current state of British Columbia’s energy market. It’s hard to believe we came to this only through the sheer stupidity of our policy makers.

Liberals didn’t sell BC’s publicly owned #BCHydro, they gave it away. https://t.co/i5lzREUAsa#bcpoli pic.twitter.com/ifOSyhSYup

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

.@VaughnPalmer analyzes #BCHydro‘s financial status with not one mention of IPPs. #bcpoli https://t.co/i5lzREUAsa pic.twitter.com/pjv6bfp9dV

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 14, 2016

We don’t have commitment liability for FY 2016 but in first 9 months, BC Hydro’s term debts were up another $1.5 billion. #bcpoli

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

#BCHydro presently offering to pay IPPs 205% of the average price at which BCH sold power to heavy industry in Q3 (Dec 2015) #bcpoli

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

#BCHydro is responsible for transmission network upgrade (TNU) costs so the price paid IPPs is just part of its energy costs. #bcpoli

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

IPP contracts provide for annual price escalations and contracts #BCHydro has signed extend for up to 56 years into the future. #bcpoli

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

BC Hydro’s obligation to independent power producers (March 2015) was $12,200 for each man, woman and child in BC. #bcpoli @VaughnPalmer

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

For my immediate family, that’s an obligation to IPPs of $207,400. #bcpoli

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

In @christyclarkbc‘s 5 years as Premier, average price paid #IPP rose 15x rate of increase under Campbell. #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/fNFqCqtH3b

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 16, 2016

SNC-Lavalin, a favourite of @christyclarkbc and #BCLiberals. Gee, wonder why. #bcpoli https://t.co/IbXSQoh3qo pic.twitter.com/Z6Dgjnnzvw

— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) April 15, 2016

. . . → Read More: In-Sights: Twitter bits

In-Sights: News from the echo chamber

Columnist Vaughn Palmer reports concerns expressed by Moody’s Investors Service about growing BC Hydro debt. The agency stated the obvious, which is that numerous capital projects are adding billions to the public utility’s debt and higher electricit… . . . → Read More: In-Sights: News from the echo chamber

In-Sights: News from the echo chamber

Columnist Vaughn Palmer reports concerns expressed by Moody’s Investors Service about growing BC Hydro debt. The agency stated the obvious, which is that numerous capital projects are adding billions to the public utility’s debt and higher electricity rates or contributions from government are inevitable.

Palmer repeats Moody’s judgement that Hydro’s financial metrics “are among the weakest of Canadian provincial utilities.” However, the Vancouver Sun pundit provides an inaccurate explanation of why the situation exists. Readers here know about sixty billion reasons for weakness, from independent power producers alone. Buying massive amounts of unneeded power at three times market value certainly contributes to weak financial metrics. So does selling to heavy industry or exporting electricity for less than the price BC Hydro pays to purchase power. Perhaps that information wasn’t in the press notes provided by BC Liberals.

Palmer blames not the Liberals who’ve held power for 15 years; the predecessors must share responsibility, even if dramatic financial changes are recent. Palmer wrote:

Successive provincial governments have siphoned $6 billion in dividends from Hydro over the past quarter century, about two thirds of it borrowed, as Rob Shaw reported in The Vancouver Sun Tuesday.

It is silly to suggest only 2/3 of BC Hydro’s payments to government were borrowed funds. Since 2001, BC Hydro has paid $10.3 billion to governments for dividends, water use, capital taxes and local services. Had those transfers not been made, the retained cash would have paid for new investments and kept term debt near zero at least until Christy Clark took control of the Premier’s office.

Palmer writes about other problems with BC Hydro financials:

Then there’s Hydro’s massive expansion into the realms of deferred accounting under the B.C. Liberals…

But, we need not worry about dividends, or about deferred expenses, he implies, even if BC’s Auditor General recently expressed major concerns. Palmer tells us:

The Liberals have begun to rein in both abuses…

In addition to that reassurance, we’re told the Liberals have been conservative. The Moody’s report is quoted:

No income nor economic impacts from LNG development and activities have been incorporated in its budget forecast.

The claims of income and economic impacts have certainly been incorporated in Liberal Party pronouncements but no self-respecting finance ministry officials took the promises of LNG income seriously. They could not when Liberals had signed away the right to taxes and gas resource rents from LNG companies. Government loyalists in the Press Gallery bought the Prosperity Fund nonsense but, unlike officials, they rely on press releases, not facts.

Palmer continues the current Liberal messaging:

Looking ahead, the main risks that could tip the outlook from stable back to negative include political pressures leading to “a loss of fiscal discipline…”

Loss of fiscal discipline is code for spending on education, healthcare, disability benefits and other social needs. Liberals are OK with billions spent on bridges, roads, dams, transmission lines and other projects that put money into the pockets of their financial supporters. But, Premier Clark’s Government views expenditures on needy citizens as undisciplined. They want that message repeated by friendly media.

Some political pundits are like movie stunt fighters, throwing what seem to be heavy punches but never landing hurtful blows. The faux-journalists carry messages for causes they support or for organizations that hold their sympathies but, to be effective, they must create appearances of fair-minded neutrality. Without that, a pundit might as well work for Black Press.

As usual, let us look at BC Hydro’s financial statements to see what the debt trends look like. However, remember that BC Hydro owes tens of billions of dollars to private power producers and that’s a creation entirely by Liberals.

. . . → Read More: In-Sights: News from the echo chamber

In-Sights: Ingrates, eh?

Transcript from Vaughn Palmer’s Voice of BC, May 2012Topic: Extra Funding for Ferries, Vaughn Palmer:This week…. We’ll start with a parochial Vancouver Island guy who lives in Victoria question. You managed to find $80 million for the ferries this … . . . → Read More: In-Sights: Ingrates, eh?

In-Sights: Ingrates, eh?

Transcript from Vaughn Palmer’s Voice of BC, May 2012

Topic: Extra Funding for Ferries

Vaughn Palmer:
This week…. We’ll start with a parochial Vancouver Island guy who lives in Victoria question. You managed to find $80 million for the ferries this week. Did Kevin Falcon turn over the couch cushions or something, and find some money? Where did this money come from?

Blair Lekstrom (Transportation Minister):

…It’s spread over four years, so it breaks down to about $46 million, then another $10.5 million, $11 million, $11.5 million for a total of $79.5 million is what we get to. It is a significant amount of money in these tight fiscal times that we’re in — but we had to do something. There’s no one easy answer to the solution with BC Ferries, that’s for sure.

Vaughn Palmer:

What does this lift the annual subsidy from the two levels of government, too, for the ferries? It must be getting close to $200 million.

Blair Lekstrom:

…The actual service-fee lift will be $10 million this year, $10.5 next year, $11 million, and then $11.5 million…

Vaughn Palmer:

In spite of that, I heard a tremendous amount of whining today — and if you’re watching this live, it’s Thursday — from ferry users that it’s still not enough money.

Blair Lekstrom:

Well, it was interesting. I don’t know if there’s [inaudible].

Vaughn Palmer:

You’re not going to call them a bunch of ingrates?

The reality:

. . . → Read More: In-Sights: Ingrates, eh?

In-Sights: Caution BC Liberals, the temperature’s rising

Your browser does not support this audioListen to more of John McComb’s show HERE. . . . → Read More: In-Sights: Caution BC Liberals, the temperature’s rising

In-Sights: "Throw him some work"

Regular readers know my complaints about corporate media found-ins taking payments from parties affected by media coverage. People taking the cash don’t feel need to explain or excuse and indulgent colleagues seldom raise the conflict issue.

Vancouver Sun political pundit Vaughn Palmer might believe the practice does not influence reporting, but Premier Clark’s Executive Director . . . → Read More: In-Sights: "Throw him some work"

In-Sights: Enablers of misconduct, "if it is done here"

The current FIFA scandal illustrates a human behaviour that allows criminal behaviour to succeed. By nature, people tend to ignore the misconduct of others if preventing or revealing it extracts a higher price than ignoring it. Undoubtedly, insiders and observers were aware of high-level corruption at the international football organization. However, most FIFA Congress members . . . → Read More: In-Sights: Enablers of misconduct, "if it is done here"

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Distracting, dissembling, deflecting – lest you forget

Are you unhappy with rapidly increasing electricity rates and the general state of BC Hydro finances? Are you looking for the party responsible? Well, the Vancouver Sun has the answer. It’s a person named Clark, but not the one presently in the Premier’s office.

Vaughn Palmer thinks readers should be reminded of past NDP sins . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Distracting, dissembling, deflecting – lest you forget

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: All the spin that’s fit to print

This week, British Columbia saw evidence that corporate media does not report adverse details about public finance unless the material is dropped on desks in digested form, complete with defensive spin from government or industry.

The issue of BC taxpayer subsidies to the oil and gas industry is not new. Auditor General John Doyle . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: All the spin that’s fit to print

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Repeaters, not reporters

Ever notice that corporate media seems to speak with one voice? On balance – or rather, on lack-of-balance – they do. It is the voice of big business.

Vaughn Palmer, with American shale gas boom a major threat to B.C. exports, is the latest columnist lobbing fat pitches into the wheelhouse of natural gas promoters. . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Repeaters, not reporters

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Ezra Klein discusses how a corporate focus on buybacks and dividends rather than actually investing capital leads to less opportunities for workers. Nora Loreto offers her take on precarious work in Canada. And Lynne Fernandez and Kirsten Bernas make the case for a living wage in Manitoba . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Northern Insight: This week’s Liberal direction: lower LNG expectations

Friday, The Common Sense Canadian — a site that usually provides worthwhile journalism — posted an article written by Keith Baldrey for Glacier Media, publisher of numerous community recyclables. Not surprisingly, anyone reading the Global News reporter’s account needs the rest of the story.

Here is part of Baldrey’s item, “…Clark is arguing that the . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: This week’s Liberal direction: lower LNG expectations

Northern Insight: Patronage and private privilege – BC Liberal P3

By numerous measures — lower job and GDP creation, fewer public services and rapid expansion of public debt — BC Liberals are colossal failures. Most BC residents are unaware because the major accomplishment of this government is its mastery of disinformation as political strategy.

With a breathtakingly large crew of contractors, communication managers and social . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Patronage and private privilege – BC Liberal P3

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

– Robert Reich proposes that the best way to address corporate criminality is to make sure that those responsible go to jail – rather than simply being able to pay a fine out of corporate coffers and pretend nothing ever happened.

– And Shawn Fraser suggests that . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Northern Insight: Good questions

Not a nincompoop blogger, RossK at The Gazetteer mentioned difficulties faced by Bob Mackin, the province’s preeminent investigative journalist, when Bob digs, and pays, for information the government does not want us to know.

This Day In Snookland…Maybe Mr. Mackin Should Take Out A Membership

In comments, reader Lew wonders about the experiences of other . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Good questions

Northern Insight: Shill, sham and flimflam

Perhaps Vaughn Palmer has a Red Telephone, a hotline for when BC Liberals want news initiated, altered or decried. The record is public and to evaluate, readers need simply ask, “Who and what is served by Palmer’s work?”

The pundit often has no intention of giving a whole story, with background, options and various points . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Shill, sham and flimflam

Northern Insight: Assume the position, please

Reader who goes by the name of Hawgwash left this comment at the earlier article, Subsidies for some, higher fees for others, “I see Vaughn Palmer is actually touching this topic and even with the slightest hint of skepticism. I do though think he left the heavy lifting to you and just may have lightly . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Assume the position, please

Northern Insight: Flimflam sham

When conducting hearings on Northern Gateway, the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel denied participation to many and held sessions behind closed doors to limit opposition voices. Its decision favoured multinational industry over affected Canadian citizens and ran contrary to the bulk of testimony heard, including expert claims that “world-leading” standards will not protect . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Flimflam sham

Northern Insight: Without fairness for all

Successful societies are based on equitable treatment of every citizen. That is not to say that individuals must be dealt with equally, rather that fairness is always evident. Does that precept matter anymore to economic and political leaders of British Columbia and Canada? I conclude it does not.

This week we heard that assets . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Without fairness for all

Northern Insight: No free lunches… ever

Update April 9:

I heard that CKNW’s Bill Good responded on his April 5 morning show to selected critics, people he declined to identify other than through reference to hated bloggers. For a number of days, I tried to listen to the station’s audio vault but the file for 8am to 9am was . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: No free lunches… ever