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Canada’s Political Parties Won’t Say What They Know about You

Canada’s Political Parties Won’t Say What They Know about You

Legally, some argue, they don’t have to. Others won’t be fully transparent. One expert says that’s wrong: ‘It’s not their data.’

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Despite several political privacy scandals in recent years, there’s no Canadian federal law allowing individuals to find out what political parties know about them, and how. Photo via Shutterstock.

Despite recent scandals that raised public awareness about how political parties collect and use personal information from individuals, none of Canada’s main federal parties are willing to be fully transparent about what they know about you.

“I think the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised these issues to public prominence, [as well as] the whole issue about how personal data is used in elections, how it’s profiled, how it’s used to target ads,” said Colin Bennett, a University of Victoria political science professor who is an expert on privacy protection.

“Political parties the world over have to do a lot to restore trust, and they need to be more transparent about what data they’re collecting, how they’re using it, and part of that is allowing citizens to have access to it if they wish it,” he said.

There is, however, no federal law allowing individuals to find out what political parties know about them. 

And when The Tyee tried to find out using British Columbia’s provincial privacy law, which does include such a provision, none of the parties fully filled the request, and two asserted they aren’t covered by the B.C. law at all.

British Columbia’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is aware of the jurisdiction issue. A spokesperson confirmed an inquiry is underway into whether the provincial law applies to the activities of federal parties in the province but declined to provide details while the process is ongoing or say when it was likely to be completed.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trudeau Declared a Climate Crisis, then Backed Trans Mountain Again

Trudeau Declared a Climate Crisis, then Backed Trans Mountain Again

Opponents slam approval of potentially ‘catastrophic’ pipeline expansion.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the second approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Ottawa with fellow cabinet ministers. ‘We listened to community concerns and we are acting on community ideas.’ Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, Canadian Press.

A day after declaring a “climate emergency,” the federal government approved for the second time the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline that it now owns. 

In announcing cabinet’s decision, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said fighting climate change and growing the economy are complementary.

“We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future,” he said. “This project has the potential to create thousands of solid middle class jobs for Canadians.”

Opponents, including the B.C. government, slammed the decision and justification, saying the project puts the coast at risk, as well as tens of thousands of jobs that depend on a clean environment. 

The existing pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia has capacity to carry 300,000 barrels of oil and petroleum products a day. The $7.4-billion expansion project would triple that.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The federal government approved the pipeline expansion in 2016, but a Federal Court of Appeal ruling overturned the approval, finding that the government failed to adequately consult First Nations and that the National Energy Board’s review of the project should have considered tanker traffic and the threat to southern resident killer whales.

A year ago, the federal government spent $4.5 billion to buy the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline and take over the expansion project from Texas company Kinder Morgan.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC Energy Minister on Her Site C Reversal: No Regrets

BC Energy Minister on Her Site C Reversal: No Regrets

Michelle Mungall once firmly opposed the mega-dam. Now she’s a powerful figure in a ‘complicated’ party.

Michelle Mungall says she’s not generally a fan of hockey metaphors.

But she uses one to explain what it was like to join British Columbia Premier John Horgan to announce the government would continue building the Site C dam, a project she had fiercely opposed in Opposition.

It was like taking the ice in a Stanley Cup championship game against a much stronger team, knowing you can only lose, said Mungall, the energy, mines and petroleum resources minister.

“You have to go out there and you have to do your best all the same,” she said. “It was a tough day for sure.”

But that’s the reality of being in government, not Opposition, says Mungall, first elected to the B.C. legislature in 2009 as the 31-year-old MLA for Nelson-Creston.

The Site C decision was one of the defining moments of the NDP government’s first year. While it pleased some supporters, including the unions whose members would help build and operate the publicly owned project, it was deeply disappointing to others.

A year later, Mungall does not regret the decision.

An NDP government wouldn’t have started the project, she said during an interview in her office, much of it conducted with her five-month-old son Zavier on her lap. But that didn’t make it easy to stop.

“That’s the nature of being responsible for decisions, is that you have to weigh out everybody’s interests,” she said. In Opposition, the NDP’s Power BCplan emphasized conservation and other alternatives to building the dam.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC Premier Says Kinder Morgan Pipeline Plan Meets Her Conditions, Opposition Objects

BC Premier Says Kinder Morgan Pipeline Plan Meets Her Conditions, Opposition Objects

Project’s foes call Clark’s decision a ‘surprise to absolutely no one’ and ‘simply deceitful.’

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline has met her government’s requirements for approval.

“The project has met the five conditions,” said Clark. “We always said the five conditions were a path to ‘yes’ and that if the project met the five conditions we would say ‘yes’, and that’s where we are today.”

NDP leader John Horgan said he’s opposed to the project because it poses too great an environmental risk to B.C.’s coast.

The project would triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, B.C. and add about six oil tankers a week leaving Vancouver. It received conditional approval from the federal government in November.

The B.C. government announced Wednesday that it had given provincial environmental approval, with 37 conditions, to the project. Clark also said Kinder Morgan has now met her requirement to make sure B.C. received a “fair share” of fiscal and economic benefits.

Kinder Morgan has committed to paying B.C. up to $1 billion as a share of revenue from the project, which the province will use to fund grants to community groups doing environmental protection work, Clark said.

A government backgrounder says the company will pay the province between $25 million and $50 million for 20 years, depending on whether or not the pipeline is operating at full capacity on its spot market contracts, for a total payment between $500 million and $1 billion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Major BC Liberal Donor Named in Panama Papers

Major BC Liberal Donor Named in Panama Papers

Haywood Securities listed as a shareholder in firms registered in British Virgin Islands.

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Finance Minister Michael de Jong said he had ‘no knowledge’ of a BC Liberal donor being named in the Panama Papers. Photo: BC Gov’t Flickr.

The name of a major donor to the British Columbia Liberal Party appears in a database drawn from the Panama Papers leak.

Haywood Securities Inc., a Vancouver company that has giventhe BC Liberals $332,000 since 2005, is described in the database as a shareholder in companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, a researcher with the Dogwood Initiative environmental group in B.C. discovered.

According to the database, Haywood held shares in Kola Gold Ltd., a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2014. The investment firm held the shares both directly and in trust for a holding company.

The database also lists Haywood as holding shares in African Aura Resources Ltd., a mining company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, in trust for 22 investors. And it held shares in trust for an investor in Gem Diamond Mining Company of Africa, which is also registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the database on May 9. On its website, the ICIJ describes the Panama Papers as a “giant leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records exposes a system that enables crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies.”

A disclaimer in the ICIJ website stresses that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts, and the organization does not intend to imply anyone appearing in the database has broken any laws or otherwise acted improperly.

Finance minister won’t ‘speculate’

The Tyee’s call to Haywood was put through to company president Rob Blanchard’s office. An assistant to Blanchard took the message, but the call was not returned by publication time.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gov’t Using Misleading Accounting at BC Hydro, Charges Dix

Gov’t Using Misleading Accounting at BC Hydro, Charges Dix

Minister counters that ‘rate-smoothing’ accounts make sense due to 10-year plan for rate increases.

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BC Hydro transmission tower on Mt. Seymour. Photo by agaumont from Your BC: The Tyee’s Photo Pool.

The British Columbia government has chosen to use misleading accounting at BC Hydro to fudge the province’s finances ahead of the 2017 election, charges NDP energy critic Adrian Dix.

“They misled people about the state of B.C.’s finances, and they misled people about the state of BC Hydro’s finances,” said Dix, the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, in an interview. “This will affect every single person in the province.”

In particular, he said, the government is using “rate smoothing” or “rate stabilization” accounts to move up about $1 billion in revenue that the Crown utility won’t actually receive from ratepayers until after 2021 so that it is included as income for earlier years.

The accounting trick lets the government continue to take money out of the utility to help balance its own books, Dix said.

“We’re borrowing against nothing here,” he said. “This is a pure attempt to mislead people about the state of the province’s finances.”

A table from a March 30 BC Hydro presentation shows the practice peaks in 2017, which happens to be the same year as the next provincial election.

That year, BC Hydro will draw down $250 million from a rate-smoothing account, money that it doesn’t plan to finish repaying until 2024.

For context, the provincial government has budgeted an overall surplus of $287 million in 2017-2018, which in part depends on receiving $706 million from BC Hydro.

The rate-smoothing money is therefore more than one-third of the amount the government plans to take from the utility in the election year.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

As Hydro Rates Climb, an Idea to Reduce Bills for Low-income Folks

As Hydro Rates Climb, an Idea to Reduce Bills for Low-income Folks 

Advocates pitch affordability program, but minister insists rates are modest.

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‘Most other jurisdictions in North America have bill affordability programs. We don’t.’ Bill photo via Shutterstock.

With electricity rates continuing to spiral upwards, an advocacy organization is pushing to have BC Hydro adopt measures to make bills more affordable for people surviving on low incomes.

“Most other jurisdictions in North America have bill affordability programs,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “We don’t.”

Confirmation of the latest BC Hydro rate hike came Friday when president and CEO Jessica McDonald said the Crown utility is seeking to raise rates by four per cent on April 1, consistent with a 10-year plan set out in 2013.

BC Hydro rates have gone up by 50 per cent over the past 10 years and they are scheduled to go up another 11 per cent over the next three years, Khan said.

They’ll rise even further when the $10-billion Site C dam is completed on the Peace River and customers start paying for it, she said.

Meanwhile, the provincial minimum wage and welfare rates haven’t kept up while the cost of living has become more expensive, leaving many struggling to pay their bills, Khan said.

The advocacy centre has a proposal to make bills more affordable for some 170,000 families in B.C. who live below the low-income cut-offs set by Statistics Canada, around $32,000 a year for a family of four depending on what size community they live in.

On behalf of seven anti-poverty and seniors’ groups, the centre plans to submit the proposal in April as part of BC Hydro’s ongoing rate design review in front of the B.C. Utilities Commission. Launched by the provincial government, the review’s mandate includes evaluating the current rate structures to ensure they are fair.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

As Housing Prices Soar, Finance Minister Is Well Invested

As Housing Prices Soar, Finance Minister Is Well Invested

Gov’t must be ‘careful about intervening,’ says Mike de Jong, who has a stake in several properties.

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Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s most recent financial disclosure shows he received rental income from seven investment properties. Photo: BC Gov’t Flickr.

Taking action to reduce housing prices in Vancouver could sap the equity people have built up in real estate, British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong warned last year.

The hit from anything the provincial government might do to drop real estate prices in B.C. would be particularly painful for investors like de Jong, who has a personal ownership stake in seven investment properties in Abbotsford, an hour’s drive from Vancouver.

“You’ve got to be careful about intervening, about having the state intervene to try and regulate pricing, or depress pricing,” de Jong said last May as the #Don’tHave1Million campaign drew attention to the negative effects of high house prices in the region.

“Those who are expressing a concern, I think if you really assess what they are seeking, it is a reduction in the value of homes in Vancouver and that will have consequences for a lot of families,” de Jong said.

“If property values in Vancouver were to reduce by, let us say five per cent, that could easily translate into a reduction in equity for families that own homes in Vancouver of 60, 70 or $80,000,” he said.

“All I’m saying is you’ve got to be careful about how you use the tools and levers of taxation, and you have to be clear on what your objective is.”

If de Jong sounded more sympathetic to people who already own homes than to people trying to enter the market, it could be because like them he would be personally exposed to the pain that would come with dropping prices.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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