Food Bank use takes a distressing jump

Nov 19, 2009
On Tuesday, Food Banks Canada (the national association of food banks) released its annual Hunger Count report. While the report received some good national coverage (particularly on CBC), I was surprised to see no mention of it in the Vancouver Sun. The report, which surveys food banks across the country every March, found that in… View Article

Public or private – how the choice for P3s gets made

Nov 14, 2009
Did you ever wonder how Partnerships BC justifies using 35 year contracts for public private partnerships rather than borrowing the money publicly and doing things like hospitals and roads as public projects? Well now you can find out.  PBC has published its methodology on a website.  They have even asked for comments on the methodology,… View Article

Risky Business

Nov 12, 2009
The government’s recent rejection of the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) decision on the Burrard Thermal power plant had nothing to do with the operations and GHG or other emissions at Burrard.  BC Hydro freely admits it is business as usual with Burrard. It will operate the plant as it has in the past — to… View Article

On minimum wages and talk radio

Nov 6, 2009
Today marks the third time in the past four months that I get booted off a pre-arranged radio interview on minimum wages in BC. What is it about this topic that the universe doesn’t want me to say on live radio? I mean, I try not to be superstitious, but the string of coincidences is… View Article

2010 and all that

Nov 5, 2009
It is a basic principle in economics that estimates of employment and GDP impacts in themselves tell us nothing about the benefits and costs of government initiatives. Government spending creates jobs. More spending creates more jobs. But whether that is in the public interest raises very different questions. Will the job creation employ people who… View Article

You Don’t Have to Sell BC Hydro to Give it Away

Nov 3, 2009
I recently told a right wing friend of mine that this is the worst government British Columbia has had in a very long time. I said that not because of its political orientation and values that time and again favour the interests of the wealthy over the less fortunate in a rather shameless way. I… View Article

Property taxes: are major industries suffering?

Nov 3, 2009
Businesses across Canada have been complaining about what they pay in property taxes, well, since there were property taxes.  But the issue in BC came into sharper definition in July when Catalyst Paper hand-delivered cheques to four municipalities that only covered 25% of their property tax bill.  Timberwest, Celgar and West Fraser Timber joined Catalyst… View Article

Strengthening the CPP: Maybe the Americans are on to something

Oct 31, 2009
As we emerge from the financial crisis, a new and welcome debate is beginning about how we stabilize and strengthen our pension system. The financial crisis provided a rude (and in some cases surprising) reminder to many retirees (and near retirees) that their private pensions are far from secure. Many took a beating on their… View Article

BC’s GHG emissions shell game

Oct 30, 2009
The BC government recently announced a new climate action of some consequence: the phasing out of the Burrard Thermal plant in Metro Vancouver. The unit was used largely for back-up purposes, producing electricity for BC Hydro to supplement hydropower during times of high demand. But at a large GHG cost per unit of energy —… View Article

CPRN: RIP – the loss of an independent voice

Oct 30, 2009
There was sad news yesterday for those of us who are policy wonks and for anyone else who pays serious attention to public issues in Canada. After 15 years of public policy research the Canadian Policy Research Network is closing its doors.  The organization’s president, Dr. Sharon Manson Singer announced they were no longer financially… View Article

Climate deniers – what more evidence will it take?

Oct 28, 2009
In this lead up to the Copenhagen meetings, it seems to me that we’re seeing a distressing up-tick in activity from the climate denial crowd. You’d think we’d be well past this point now. Some people seem prepared to take the lack of 100% agreement as a legitimate justification for inaction. That’s illogical. I’m a… View Article

Planning for a Green Vancouver

Oct 28, 2009
Last week, the City of Vancouver’s task force, the Greenest City Action Team, issued a plan for the city with short and longer-term goals and policy advice on achieving them. The report covers more than climate change, a good thing as it is important to identify win-wins that lead to improvement on other environmental, health… View Article

Carbon Capture and Storage: Magic Bullet or Delusion?

Oct 27, 2009
Depending on who you talk to, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is either the face of climate salvation or the height of delusional behaviour associated with our favourite hallucinogenic drug, fossil fuels. I have read both cases and suspect that the truth is somewhere in between, but I’m not an engineer either so it has… View Article

Fun and Games

Oct 18, 2009
I don’t really get the Olympics resistance stuff — the Games are coming and we may as well make the best of them. Admittedly I’ll be in Baja — traffic avoidance knows no bounds in our household. But I still think B.C. cannot be any better off by making the  Olympics more disruptive than they… View Article

The catch-22 of low-income benefits that are phased out quickly

Oct 9, 2009
My friend Emily is a single mom. She works full time for a salary that keeps her and her child above the poverty line but doesn’t allow for much more. Her income is low enough that she qualifies for temporary relief from paying her student loans (which are massive even though she is yet to… View Article

HST: Why do the Feds want it so bad?

Oct 7, 2009
As the debate rages in BC about the Harmonized Sales Tax, one curious dimension I’ve been puzzling over is this––why do the Feds want the HST implemented so badly that they are willing to fork over $1.6 billion to the province as an enticement? And it isn’t just the federal Conservatives. Ever since the introduction… View Article

Canada-US Clean Energy Dialogue – worrisome signs

Oct 7, 2009
In February 2009 the US and Canada initiated a joint effort to deal with climate change issues through the US-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue (CED). The CED`s working group issued its Action Plan on Sept. 16th.  Much of the plan is encouraging, particularly priorities around clean energy technologies and research and development. But there are a… View Article

James at the UBCM: A welcome move off revenue-neutrality

Oct 6, 2009
In her  speech last Thursday to the annual meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities, NDP leader Carole James declared: “I am calling on the provincial government to cancel the corporate tax cuts that are scheduled to come in over the next two years related to the carbon tax. And let’s put that money into… View Article

Poverty: How do we measure up? Very poorly

Oct 5, 2009
Discussions about poverty in Canada and BC are, sadly, forever weighed down by debates about how to define and measure poverty. Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off (LICO) is the line most commonly used, as it is the only measure reliably produced by the federal government each year. It is imperfect, but the best we have to… View Article

Something missing from the H1N1 fight

Oct 2, 2009
When the government announced its plans for dealing with H1N1 in schools on August 24th there was something missing. The government’s “pandemic response framework”, announced by the Ministers of Education and Healthy Living and sport deals with issues like transporting the sick, communications, roles of emergency response teams, school instruction and post-pandemic recovery plans. What… View Article