Must Reads from Last Week


BC Electoral Reform Referendum


Proportional Representation lawn signs

Members of Fair Vote Comox Valley are getting a lot of questions about why there aren’t pro-PR signs around the Valley. The No side has lots of signs – and a lot of very large signs – and supporters of PR are getting upset that the Yes side isn’t putting out signs.

So, here’s the answer: Fair Vote Comox Valley HAS been putting out signs, and they are being stolen. As far as we know, signs in people’s yards are being left alone, but virtually all the pro-PR signs on public land have been removed. I say “removed,” but really I mean stolen. Barb Berger of FV Comox Valley has a letter to the editor in the Comox Valley Record. What is astonishing is a comment in the online version from Darryl Pippin, who is involved with WiseVoteBC, which is directly connected to Bill Tieleman and Suzanne Anton’s official opponent group. Pippin accuses Barb Berger of “making widely (sic) inappropriate accusations without some backup.” He then proceeds to make WiseVoteBC the victim by talking about how one of their signs was defaced. He then proceeds to threaten RCMP investigation – of the defacement of their sign, NOT of the theft of FV signs.

Lest you think this referendum is an interesting side-show and you don’t really need to get involved, watch the video on the goose-stepping soldiers. Read this article about how wealthy BC Liberal donors are bankrolling the opposition to proportional representation. Remember that the Independent Contractors of Businesses Association of BC actually went to court to stop the referendum, citing that the referendum violated their constitutional rights! Look at the lies on the Facebook page. The opponents of democracy are pulling out all the stops!

Then contact your local Fair Vote group and get out there doing door hangers or door knocking. People are SO grateful to get information like that available at Fair Vote Comox Valley is going to keep door knocking and reminding people to send in their ballots.

 Understanding the referendum – information sessions

Courtenay Public Library
DATE/TIME:     November 12, 4:30 pm
DATE/TIME:     November 15, 2:30 pm
DATE/TIME:     November 17, 2:30 pm

How first past the post works

Here’s a great video on how FPTP works and how it ends up with two-party rule. Relevant to the Green Party, this video also posits that voting for a third party (like GPC) doesn’t actually change the balance of power unless people overwhelmingly vote for that third party. A heads up for the 2019 election campaign!

This is what disproportionate representation looks like in the US.

Is electoral reform finally taking root in Canada?

“To follow the Canadian electoral reform debate is akin to keeping track of a game of whack-a-mole. No sooner is the issue put down in one political venue that it pops up somewhere else … So why should the ending be different this time? For one, common sense suggests that if pressure to change the system has not abated despite the best efforts of supporters of the status quo the dam will eventually break. It might take just one province — particularly if that province were one of the more populous ones — to have a successful trial run at using a more proportional voting method to trigger a domino effect.” Read more.

Former MLA, Judi Tyabji, accused of meddling with referendum – defends actions

Read more.

Anti-proportional representation side defends ad that uses goose-stepping soldiers

“The anti-proportional representation campaign has launched a provocative advertisement in the first week of referendum voting, saying a vote for proportional representation is a vote for extremism and neo-Nazis.” Read more. Also read this article in Press Progress.

Has the media in BC provided a meaningful conversation on electoral reform?

“In 2016, about 8 of 10 Canadians were reading newspapers, with just over half reading them online. According to Vivadata’s summer 2018 research, 81% of Canadians agree that “the health of our democracy depends on journalists reporting the facts accurately.” Printed national daily newspapers were rated as one of the most trusted sources of information, with 70% rating them very highly for trustworthy news.”

Key findings:

  • “The majority of opinion columns published by the newspapers with large readership numbers vocally opposed the process to decide the referendum questions and/or proportional representation itself.
  • There was significant overlap between columnists opposing the process and those opposing proportional representation.
  • Most regular columnists for the papers with larger circulation were vocally opposed to one or both. Only one was in favour of pro rep, with just one column by that columnist.
  • There was a tendency by regular columnists to focus on dissension between parties (NDP and Liberal) or to claim that the Green Party was driving the NDP’s decisions, rather than focusing on the ballot choices before the voters.
  • There was little in-depth investigation of whether claims made by either the proponent or opponent side held up to scrutiny.
  • There was almost no meaningful discussion of the main implications for voters of the current system versus proportional representation. For example, that with proportional representation, most voters would be represented by more than one MLA, including an MLA they helped elect (rather than a single MLA currently) and that most governments would be a cooperative arrangement between two or more parties representing a majority versus one party representing a plurality. There was little meaningful discussion of how these changes would affect the quality of our democracy, voter themselves, decision making or the policy choices adopted by government.
  • The local papers associated with Glacier Press provided the most diverse opinion coverage whereas the Postmedia and Black Press provided the least.”

While this isn’t really surprising to anyone who understands the corporate capture that has taken place in media companies, nonetheless this is a sad predictor for democracy. To those pundits who say things like, “People get the government they deserve,” we would have to say if our most trusted news sources don’t give us accurate information, how can people make informed decisions? Read more. (Also see the piece below on fake news.)

From the National Observer: Confused about BC’s electoral reform? Use this tool to figure out how to vote

“Despite the best intentions of the people designing the ballot, I’ve heard a lot of voters express confusion about their options, especially the second part of the referendum. Many are unaware that you don’t have to answer the second question at all, and that a ballot can be sent in with just the first question answered. To address this confusion, there’s a survey to help you figure out which system works best for you. It’s simple, because the only questions you have to answer are about your own preferences in a voting system.” Read more.

The lows and highs of grassroots initiatives

“…and then, of course, there’s the [flyer] folding party. We were under the gun because the flyers folded at the party were intended for distribution the very next day outside polling stations in Cumberland, in Courtenay, in Comox and in Areas A, B, and C. And here’s the amazing part:  Thirty-three of us worked a total of nearly 100 person-hours to hand out the flyers between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day.” Read more.

Watch the PR debate between Premier Horgan and BC Liberal party leader, Andrew Wilkinson

DATE/TIME: November 8, 6 pm
See details here.


Strathcona Regional District board takes stand against water bottling

Residents packed the CVRD’s boardroom at a committee meeting in March to protest a proposed water bottling operation in the Merville area. File photo/Comox Valley Record

Area C Director Jim Abram said, “It’s something that we should absolutely oppose. This is just insane, so I hope that everybody will just not support this.” Area D Director Brenda Leigh said, “Water is a human right and a necessity for all life. When any corporate entity tries to commodify it and sell it for profit, it is a threat to our common, public right to water….” Read more. (One of NIPR’s Executive members is in the photo.)

If you’re on Facebook, check out the Merville Water GuardiansThey’ve been on top of this particular water bottling issue since the initial rezoning application to the Comox Valley Regional District.



Climate accountability strikes a chord at the Union of BC municipalities

The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) climate accountability resolution came before the convention this year. “47.9% of local elected officials at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) voted for the organization, which represents all of BC’s local governments, to send a Climate Accountability Letter to 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – just short of the majority we needed.” Read more.

Site C:  Be prepared to be surprised

“BC Hydro has said 13 areas of cultural importance for the Dunne-Za nations — including prime moose habitat, a rare old-growth white spruce and trembling aspen forest and two wetlands called Sucker Lake and Trappers Lake — will be clear cut and bulldozed as early as the beginning of November. “It’s cultural genocide,” said Roland Willson, chief of West Moberly First Nations. “Our culture is being on the land. We’re people of the land and without the land we are no longer Dunne-Za people.” Read more.

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion


99 arrests in Ottawa as students confront Trudeau over pipelines

“I want to send a message to the prime minister that he must have a climate policy which respects not only climate science, but Indigenous rights, and that means rejecting the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Climate leaders don’t build pipelines,” explained Sophie Birks, a McGill University student who was also arrested at the action, in a statement. “My generation wants to see real action on climate change and Indigenous rights. That starts with rejecting the Kinder Morgan pipeline. These youth who were arrested today will be going home and organizing in their communities,” Cam Fenton of 350 Canada, which coordinated today’s action, told Ricochet. “If Trudeau thinks he can approve pipelines and still appeal to millennials in 2019 he has a big problem on his hands.”

Read more. See also this article about students telling Trudeau he will lose the youth vote if he approves Trans Mountain.

Stream of Consciousness online conversations

November 7, 4-6:30 pm Indigenous Perspectives Society: Perspectives to Action.



Elizabeth May’s step-by-step plan for carbon reduction

“I can’t state strongly enough, the role that Canada has to play in the world should not be missed.” Watch here.

2019 Federal election: Liberals set up new debate commission with fair rules

Elizabeth May will be in the 2019 leaders’ debates! “For the first time since 1968, the leaders debate will be run under fair and transparent rules determining which party leaders are included.  For decades, the leaders’ debates have been run under murky rules and backroom dealings.” said Ms. May. Read more.

Brian Gallant’s New Brunswick government loses confidence vote

A coalition with the three Green Party MLAs wasn’t enough. Read more.

Faking it: The impact of fake news on today’s political landscape

Watch this great video on the history and impact of fake news on democracy. It’s long, but well worth the time. Keith Boag, who is CBC’s reporter in the US, talks about politicians who lie, and whether Democrats and Republicans lie equally. Jennifer Ditchburn of Policy Options makes insightful comments about the early relationship between journalism and politicians in Canada, and how journalists got to be seen as left-wing. Elamin Abdelmahmoud of Buzzfeed (which has been nominated for a Pulitzer in 2018) talks about how media organizations really can’t fact-check any more because their staff resources have been so gutted.

Alberta’s oilsands feature prominently in a New York state lawsuit accusing Exxon of fraud

“Canadian federal prosecutors and Imperial Oil are staying mum so far about the lawsuit brought by New York state Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood against Exxon, the Texas-based oil giant. The suit leans heavily on evidence related to its 14 oilsands projects in Alberta, run by Imperial, its Calgary-based subsidiary. “Through its fraudulent scheme, Exxon in effect erected a Potemkin village to create the illusion that it had fully considered the risks of future climate change regulation and had factored those risks into its business operations,” the lawsuit reads.” Read more.

… and, Alberta regulator estimates oilpatch’s financial liabilities are hundreds of billions more than what it told the public

“Cleaning up Alberta’s fossil fuel industry could cost an estimated $260 billion, internal regulatory documents warn. The staggering financial liabilities for the energy industry’s graveyard of spent facilities were spelled out by a high-ranking official of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in a February presentation to a private audience in Calgary. The estimated liabilities for the oil-rich western Canadian province are far higher than any liability amount made public by government and industry officials… estimates are so high that several experts who reviewed the presentations have described the situation as an economic and environmental crisis that raises questions about the financial health of a province that prides itself on strong fiscal management…It’s a big deal,” said Thomas Schneider, an accounting professor from Ryerson University who has tracked liability management issues in the oilpatch for years. ‘I mean $260 billion is a lot of money… We’re sitting on a huge liability, and then it’s just a matter of who’s going to end up having to pay for it.’ Read more.

…and immediately following that: Head of Alberta regulator to resign after $260-billion oilpatch cleanup estimate leads to apology

The president of Alberta’s fossil fuel industry regulator will resign in January, after the organization publicly apologized for the alarm caused by its $260-billion estimate of financial liabilities in the province’s oilpatch. The announcement comes on the heels of a Nov. 1 report by National Observer, Global News, the Toronto Star and StarMetro Calgary that revealed the regulator’s stunning internal estimate of the cost of cleaning up aging and inactive oil and gas exploration wells, facilities, pipelines and toxic tailings ponds from oilsands mines… “The story you reference is unrelated to today’s announcement,” said AER’s communications and international relations director Bob Curran, referring to the liabilities report. Read more.

Regina commits 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050

“The provincial government’s goal is to have 50 per cent of the province’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030. This is the first time a Saskatchewan municipality has set its sights on becoming an official “renewable city. Renewable energy means new jobs, energy diversification, greater community resilience and climate protection…Today, Regina joins other Canadian communities creating a liveable, sustainable and resilient future — Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, Guelph and more.” Read more.

New model helps cities value natural assets, wetlands, as infrastructure

Storm water services provided by ponds and wetlands are a natural asset that local governments should take seriously.

“The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative offers tools for local governments to incorporate key ecosystems and resources into planning. Gibsons is now treating key ecosystems like aquifers, streams and forests as infrastructure assets, putting them in their budgets and plans alongside standard engineered assets. ““Natural assets can deliver the same services that local governments would otherwise have to delivery via engineered assets, and they can do so often at lower costs,” said Roy Brooke, MNAI’s executive director.” Read more.

Emerging leaders working to give Millennials a political voice

Forget the myths that millennials are lazy or disengaged, says CityHive co-founder Tesicca Truong. We’re the most engaged generation. We volunteer our time more than anyone else,” she says. “It’s just in the political system that young people aren’t engaging. But that’s a problem too, says Truong, as cities are missing out on young people’s input, ideas and energy.” Read more.



Don’t blame Hurricane Michael victims for voting for climate deniers

This is a good article on how voter suppression efforts impact the choices voters have. There seems to be a rush to blame people who vote (or who don’t vote) for whatever government gets into power. “People get the government they deserve,” said one pundit on a Facebook post recently. When the deck is so stacked against any opportunity for a change in government, as it is in so many areas of the US, it’s hard to see how the individual voter could change that. So, rather than “people get the government they deserve,” perhaps it would be more accurate to say that, “All people deserve good governance, but people get the government the system has designed to win.” In Canada, there seem to be only superficial differences between the federal Liberals and Conservatives. And under first-past-the-post, it doesn’t really matter how the majority of voters vote; all that matters is how concentrated the votes are in key ridings that will deliver a ‘majority’ government. In the US, so many districts are designed to put the Republicans in power regardless of whether or not they got more votes than the Democrats. The first-past-the-post systems are designed to maintain the status quo - and that status quo always benefits the corporate masters, never the ordinary citizens. Blaming the voters is an easy way of not placing responsibility on the shoulders of the people actually in government.

Corporate Capture overturned: Bayer stock crashes after Monsanto cancer verdict upheld

Growing uncertainty about how a San Francisco Superior Court…would rule in Bayer’s appeal of the Monsanto cancer verdict was resolved Tuesday morning, as the judge upheld the jury’s decision that the glyphosate-based weedkiller (Roundup) sold by Monsanto caused a California man’s terminal cancer and that Monsanto intentionally hid its dangers.” Read more.

This article from August 2018 gives some background as well as a short video on the case. This video by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talks about the current victory. Kennedy talks about the “subversion of democracy, the corruption of officials, the capture of the agencies that are supposed to protect us all…that become captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate, the corruption of science, the falsification of science.” Though the audio is a bit hard to understand, this is a hard-hitting indictment of the corporate capture that goes on around the globe today. In the case of Monsanto and its product, glyphosate (Round Up), he says, they used all the plays in the playbook to “escape the consequences of killing one out of every five of its customers….” Kennedy also has another video on Monsanto, in which he talks about other Monsanto products.

Well-being economies

Short video on the idea that we cannot keep growing gross domestic product indefinitely; the Earth just can’t sustain it. It’s along the lines of #EnoughIsEnough. Check out their website.

From wellbeing economies to uncomfortable economies: NAFTA, er…USMCA

This author claims that the new trade deal with the US and Mexico will end up cementing the USA’s dominance. Not only is sovereignty going to be more at risk but, as the world moves more toward a knowledge economy, “tying Canada to the USMCA will inhibit our participation in the knowledge economy, even as it expands to include more and more of the entire economy.” Read more.

Finding Community in Chaos: Inspiring stories of post-disaster social resilience

George Monbiot, in Out of the Wreckage, says humans are unique in the animal kingdom with our altruism and empathy. This article touches on exactly that human quality.

Excerpt: “Cities are a Pandora’s box filled with people’s stories and memories. Public spaces enhance a sense of community, togetherness and memory. During and after a natural disaster, a strong sense of community contributes to the process of rebuilding what was lost and rejuvenating broken places. At this time, ecological and social memories emerge and cooperation and collaboration become pillars in collectively facilitating the means for neighbourhoods and people to recreate the places they love and build a sense of community amidst crisis. Post-disaster community-led response to adversity often plays out through storytelling, and public spaces betwixt rubble and ruin.”

…and Meaningful communities can come out of disaster

“Over the past week, the world has again been forced to acquaint itself with the inescapable immediacy of climate change, thanks to the IPCC’s declaration that the next decade is truly a make-or-break moment in human history. This hurts. It’s difficult to know where to turn or what to do…If you feel beaten down, you’re not alone. Our strength from this point on will come from embracing the fact that we are in this together. We’ll have to rely on each other if we are to build the better world we all need.” Read more.

Introducing the BC Council for International Co-operation youth delegation to the COP24 climate conference

“BCCIC has the incredible opportunity of sending a youth delegation to the upcoming UNFCCC COP24 conference this December in Katowice, Poland. The 7 youth delegates will represent young people of British Columbia and the provincial council on a global stage that aims to accelerate global climate action and advocate for sustainable development.” Read more.

US top court rejects Trump administration bid to halt climate trial

Excerpt: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected for now a bid by the President Donald Trump‘s administration to block a trial in a lawsuit filed by young activists who have accused the U.S. government of ignoring the perils of climate change. The loss for the administration means it now faces a high-profile examination of U.S. climate change policy during the trial that was due to begin on Oct. 29 in Eugene, Oregon but has since been postponed by the judge… In the lawsuit, 21 activists, ages 11 to 22, said federal officials violated their rights to due process under the U.S. Constitution by failing to adequately address carbon pollution such as emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 against former President Barack Obama and government agencies in a federal court in Eugene, Oregon. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have failed in efforts to have the lawsuit thrown out.”  Read more.

Thought of the day:

“This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant.

Yesterday, I read an article that suggested the administration’s litany of bad executive orders…is a way of giving us “protest fatigue” - we will literally lose our will to continue the fight in the face of the onslaught of negative action.

Let’s remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. With special love to all the musicians and music teachers in my life.” (Michael Moore, 2017)

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