Some things just need to be said...

Friday, September 23, 2005

BC Government gases BC Consumers

How does this grab you. The BC Liberals change the law in 2003 to allow for complete foreign ownership of BC Gas. BC Gas changes name to Terasan.

The name change was meant to help provide the political cover for both Terasan and the BC Liberal Government. It was intended to remove any connection to "Canadians" owning the company.

Executives of Terasen are likely to be receiving big financial bonuses in anticipation of this sale.
It has been reported that these executives are about to cash in $20 million in stock options should shareholders approve them at the meetings in Vancouver, October 18.

All this while we are being hit with a $150 average increase in our heating bill this winter thanks to the BC Utilities Commission approval of a rate increase for Terasan. It seems to me we are simply paying the money from our wallet directly to some senior executives that are working hard to sell the company to an American energy giant.

The BC Liberals were less than honest about this when they passed the law in 2003 allowing this. Bill Vanderzalm refused to give BC Gas this right to sell to Americans, Bill Bennett said no too. Seems the right wing government of today has learned nothing of the past, the recent energy problems in the United States and of course the the situation in California some years ago now.

So as the government sits back and tries to claim the market is dictating the sale of Terasan, that the BCUC was acting within its mandate to approve an increase in gas prices for you and I, we just have to accept it. We don't have to accept it.

When will we rebel against this kind of government induced market forces. Will we say anything when they go to sell BC Hydro, or BC Hydro transmission lines?

What about the Site C dam BC Hydro and the Liberal government have dusted off? For the sake of arguement here, lets say they get the approval to build it, will it be an American private company that does this. Thats my bet and the effect of this will be "selling off nearly 20% of BC's energy" needs to Americans.

Anyone getting gas yet or do you really need to throw-up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

AIDS Groups walk away from gay men

This article is published at Queer Thoughts and at PEJ News.

It is time for AIDS Walks across Canada.

Each year the walk continues, each of the last few years the numbers of walkers and funds raised is lower.

Here in British Columbia the numbers of gay men becoming infected with HIV is rising as many of us predicted three years ago. Look at these numbers...

2000 - 144 positive test results
2001 - 153;
2002 - 160;
2003 - 159;
2004 - 180 gay men testing positive for HIV

These numbers should be going down. We live in a modern developed country. Why are they rising? The answer to that is not difficult to come too. The provincial government has failed to deliver funds despite a plea from gay men working in gay men's health. We have shown an increase in unsafe activity in data collected from the sexNow survey over the last four years.

There is an increasing movement of AIDS organizations to focus on other population demographics to detriment of gay men. Instead of acquiring more funds to do this work, the current funding has been moved out of gay mens health and prevention.

A few token efforts remain. Gayway in Vancouver is a promising program for gay men yet is being starved for prevention dollars. Their efforts are confined largely to one prevention campaign per year funded largely by Health Canada for a national effort. The money is ridiculously low. It amounts to about $150,000 for cross Canada development, production and distribution. It is amazing they get anything done at all.

The interest of AIDS organizations including those in BC has been to shift dollars to First Nations, injection drug users and women. This effort is driven in part for a need to place some emphasis there, but also to "de-gay" HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Groups are becoming institutionally homophobic in order to survive. This despite a number of gay men involved at or near the top of many of these groups. BC's three largest AIDS organizations are guilty of this and smaller ones have always been wary of being defined for providing services to gay men.

AIDS Vancouver Island and AIDS Vancouver both operate gay mens health programs. Both programs are well down the agenda of the organizations. Yet in both Vancouver and Vancouver Island, the number one group living with HIV is gay men. The number one group being newly tested with HIV is gay men.

Both these organizations were established by gay men and run by them for years, are failing the gay men that fought so hard to establish them.

Here are some examples of those failings, neither organization provides gay male case workers that gay men can relate too. They have very few if any HIV positive staff or membership on their boards of directors.

You would be hard pressed to find a time recently when their executive director spoke out about gay men and HIV in the media. Listen next time you hear them speak. They will refer to the growing numbers of new infections among women and first nations and concern for immigrant and youth. If they mention gay men it will be at the end.

In my work within AIDS organizations and I have worked with and or volunteered with eleven of them in BC, I have found internal resistance due to a lack of funds or other priorities moving to the forefront.

It has not been a healthy situation for gay guys. As the real numbers of gay men contracting HIV continues to rise, AIDS Organizations sit quietly back and hope the problem goes away and or some benevolent government or funder may drop some dollars in their pockets to address the problems and causes of increasing infections among gay men.

I know that the Aids Organizations maybe quiet as they are afraid of offending the provincial government. They are like every other group out there reliant on dollars from the government to operate and they have seen this BC Liberal Government's mean-spirited approach to those that dare criticize them. There is one difference here. These organizations in BC were started by gay men in the face of the same kind of government indifference years ago.

The largest number of people living in BC with HIV/AIDS are gay men and the fastest rising rate of new infections are gay men.

I wonder what those brave gay men, many living with AIDS, would think of the groups they started if they were around today. Would they say the AIDS movement has been taken over by a bunch of do gooders intent on survival? Would they think they were serving gay men well? Would they believe it was possible to see the number of new infections among gay men rise?

I suspect they would not be amused.

Read more in Xtra West!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mayencourt's "sorry" Bill

Vancouver Burrard BC Liberal MLA, Lorne Mayencourt will try to introduce legislation that will permit people to say "I am sorry" according to the Public Eye and 24 Hours columnist Sean Holman.

Mayencourt suggests that legalities get in the way of people apologising for acts they have committed. He is right of course, governments, companies and individuals do tend to avoid saying those three simple words.
"Oftentimes. I think that individuals who have been wronged are just really looking for an acknowledgement of that... and that acknowledgement can change the tone of how people deal with one another. And it might result in a speedier resolution of very important issues for people." Mayencourt speaking to Public Eye
People with something further to lose, people or groups with money would cheer on this bill. Average folks say "I am sorry" often, without consulting lawyers. Mayencourt's proposed bill will of course help some of his constituents and maybe even himself. Trouble is this won't help the guy picked up for aggressive panhandling or stealing a box of Kraft Dinner but will help the guy who bilked millions from seniors in investment fraud.

Chances are the only defense ordinary working folks have when in trouble is to go straight to "I am sorry" and they know it and like most people, actually are sorry for what they have done and the harm caused. Most of us cannot afford a lawyer from Mayencourt's constituency to tell us not to say a word, do not admit any responsibility and then have the lawyer write up a statement that can be read ten different ways. Most of us cannot afford to spend months and years in legal fees to keep a case from being settled.

This new bill is not needed and a huge waste of time for our MLAs that should be dealing with Health, Education and providing safe and affordable housing for people. Why can't these people just say "I am Sorry", at least that is meaningful.
A law that allows you to say, "Without Prejudice, I am Sorry."

That would make you feel better, right?
Mom and Dad were right, If you were wrong or harmed someone, you say "I am sorry" and then accept the consequences.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

BC Liberal goes too far,

Lies and more lies,

"Our government, by comparison, is the first government in the last two decades to actually raise benefits for persons with disabilities. We fought long and hard for that, and I am glad that we were able to do it. We were able to do it because we straightened out British Columbia's financial problems" Lorne Mayencourt, MLA Vancouver Burrard.

"I do reflect sometimes on the discussions that take place in this House. I reflect first of all on some comments that I've heard even sitting here this afternoon, where someone — you know, it's the way the Legislature works in speeches — says things about transition housing or housing for the homeless or issues in and around that. I always find that interesting, because on reflection and in research it is clear that this government, in the last four years, did more in social housing and homelessness initiatives and put more funding into transition houses than the previous government did in ten. I don't think anybody should jump up on top of some pedestal and say that they are better than somebody else in taking care of humanity or caring about people." The Honourable Rich Coleman, Minister of Forests and Housing

Mayencourt continues to try to take credit for a couple of things. 1. he implies he was an advocate for changing the schedule c application process.

As one person who was involved in this a great deal on both the government side and the HIV/AIDS side, I know just how little he did do. Lorne might have said something to the press saying this was an awful state.

Lorne and the BC Liberal government in fact cut the program for people living with HIV. The NDP and MLA Tim Stevenson had announced a new benefit effective July 1, 2001 of $350 per month for People living with HIV/AIDS. The BC Liberals cut it after much more discussion to less than $240 per month and limited the number of people that could apply for the benefit.

They also disentitled people to an addition allowance of $40.00. Making the new benefit worth only $200.00.

Another Liberal lie is their continual claim to have built and provided more social housing than any government before them. This is about as far as they can go. They have claimed seniors assisted living spaces, largely being paid for by the federal government and paid for by seniors themselves as "social housing".

The units have been built at the expense of housing for others. There is no question assisted livbing housing is required. Yet the Liberals and before them the NDP had plans to expand it. The Liberals closed public facilities and reopened private buildings.

The end result was more privatization of public helath care and higher costs. The Liberals did not spend one cent in Kelowna or anywhere else in the Okanangan on affordable housing. Today over 8,000 people live in inadequate or unaffordable housing or are homeless in Kelowna alone.

In Vancouver the Liberals did go ahead with some projects considered too far advanced to be stopped. Again they can not point to any housing other than the Woodwards building and that they forced the City of Vancouver to pay 5 million dollars for.

The Liberals have a long way to go before they can claim to have done anything to improve the ranks of the homeless, under or inadequate, or unaffordable housing situation in BC. The numbers continue to grow, they grow right here in Kelowna, the heart of LIBERAL country.

Rich Coleman has a difficult job, no doubt about that. He needs to first decide to do something, then convince his colleagues it is worth doing. Don't worry about Lorne Mayencourt, he will continue as before, taking credit for all the NDP did and blame them for everything else. Its a formula for re-election.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Politics in BC begins a new term!

I am back, having been looking for work, excitement and change. It was a journey of personal searching and I think I got somewhere.

Now back to what you are use to seeing here...

And so is the BC Legislature. The zoo as many see it as. Gordon Campbell and his BC Liberal government are about to deliver the speech from the throne in the next hour or so. It will be a different place for the BC Liberals. They have run amuck for four years in the chamber and that is about to change. No more all nighters with just two NDP MLA's pushing back.

The Liberals of course still have a good majority government, they will still do what they like in the house. The difference this time is they will be under a great deal more scrutiny. The NDP have a solid opposition bench. They will have enough members on committees to make a difference, they will have enough people to challenge legislation and staff to do the research and support their efforts. Democracy has returned to BC, at least in part.

Gordon Campbell will be trying to chart a different course in public. The original course will continue, more privatization, more access to government by developers, investors and captains of industry and commerce.
The Liberals will have a new frosting on the cake, underneath they still have Rich Coleman BC's former Solicitor General or chief advocate for the status quo with BC's police forces. He now has Forests and Housing. I cannot imagine what he will do here. He had better watch it, Bob Simpson, MLA for Cariboo North understands forestry and the industry. Bob I am predicting to be a standout. The government signs all over BC telling us about the mountain pine beetle certainly don't cut it.

And just how are the BC Liberals going to meet the needs of ever increasing costs of construction. With mega projects cropping up everywhere one has to wonder what the Olympics, Rav Line, Vancouver Convention Centre, Port Mann, and other major highway projects will cost.

Teachers are about to get whacked on the head, Doctors want a pay increase, public sector workers have had 3 years with no increases and Health and community workers saw wages cut between 4 and 15%. All of these folks are up for new contracts most expire in March 2006.

The last bit of stuff soon to hit the Liberals is the BC Rail deal. This will be in the courts again as the Campbell's squad managed to get it all delayed beyond the last election. Funny how that happens for some governments and not others.

Do any of you recall the legislation that tore up public sector contracts, especially in health? The Liberals will soon be defending the legislation in the Supreme Court of Canada as the court agreed earlier this year to hear an appeal from some of BC's biggest unions.