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Monday, October 26, 2015

My response to Bill 14 regulations which treat vaping the same as smoking

Sent: Monday, October 26, 2015 3:05 PM
Subject: Consultation: Tobacco and Vapour Products Control Regulation
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your attached proposed regulations which were written without any input from the BC Vapour Alliance nor as far as we can tell without reference to any scientific or medical study.   In an email dated May 25, 2015 to myself, which I am happy to provide upon your request, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall stated that, “nicotine containing electronic delivery devices are in all likelihood far less dangerous to him/her and those in the immediate environment than are tobacco containing cigarettes.”
This view is in fact backed up by a British study which was endorsed and released by the British government that found that vaping is 94% less toxic than smoking.  As the attached Guardian article notes, many believe that vaping could signal the end of cigarette smoking in our society:
Despite these findings and the views of your own Provincial Health Officer you have decided to treat vaping exactly the same as smoking.  Yet you have offered no credible scientific or medical research to back this up.  I am very concerned that your draft regulations have more to do with the influence of big pharma than they do the safety of consumers.
Speaking of which a number of jurisdictions including the City of Calgary have recognized that it is important that consumers be able to see how to use these devices safely.  As such they have provided vaping shops with an exemption which allows these stores to demonstrate how to safely assemble, fill and use these devices.  This also makes sense as Dr. Kendall acknowledges, there are no proven health effects from breathing in second hand vapour.  Yet your regulations make no provision for this not even if vaping juice containing no nicotine is utilised.
In our communication with the BC Minister of Health we proposed that vaping and e-cigarette type devices should not be sold from gas stations and convenience stores but from dedicated retail outlets where you have to be 19 years of age or older in order to enter.  As far as I can tell your proposed regulations still allow for the sale of these devices from gas stations and convenience stores where kids can readily enter.
Perhaps most disturbing of all is that by ignoring clear scientific evidence that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking your regulations will encourage people to keep smoking tobacco rather than vaping as many consumers will erroneously conclude that, “if it was any safer the government wouldn’t be regulating it as harshly as cigarettes.”  For every smoker that concludes this, and there will be many, they will bear the burden of a much earlier death than if they had switched to vaping and you will bear the cost of treating their emphysema cancer and the like.
So far from protecting our children and consumers your proposed regulations do the opposite.  Yes it may get a few smokers to switch to Nicorette or some other medication such as Zyban and Chantix, but it will cause many more who might have switched to vaping to keep smoking because of your misleading regulations.  We therefore hope that rather than sticking to the medically and scientifically invalid position that vaping is the same as smoking you will actually engage in meaningful consultation with the BC Vapour Alliance in order to draft regulations that actually achieve an optimal outcome for consumers as opposed to just big Pharma who we are well aware of has been a generous contributor to this government:
We therefore hope that the lives of consumers as well as small business owners here in British Columbia who are providing a scientifically proven healthier alternative to smoking will take precedence over the political generosity of international pharmaceutical companies.
Michael Geoghegan
cell 250-881-0969 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Letter to CRD Mayors on Sewage Project

Dear CRD area Mayors:

As a resident within the CRD for 29 years, and presently a condo owner in Saanich, I fear for my tax bill given the on going failures and machinations with regards to sewage treatment within the CRD.

To date $70 million has been spent and we as CRD taxpayers are already being billed for this on our municipal taxes.  When I made some enquiries I was told by contacts within the CRD to brace myself for more wasted dollars and a strategy of once again trying to revive the McLoughlin Point sewage plant location.  A position echoed by Bill Beadle on CFAX yesterday who claims the money wasted to date is more like $100 million and with a total project cost of $3 billion, an amount that if accurate is simply unaffordable for area residents.

The strategy I am told by my sources within the CRD is as follows:
  1. Let the current present process fail with further red tape and delays.
  2. Keep a lot of the current process unfolding in-camera away from public and media scrutiny.
  3. Let the public falsely believe there has been a positive and supportive public consultation process pointing in a specific outcome direction.
  4. Keep certain consultants of old plan still on the payroll as long as possible and make new contract commitments in-camera.
  5. Use time running out as an excuse to salvage a hybrid of the old plan and force it back to Viewfield Rd. and therefore justify that overpriced land acquisition.
  6. Portray any refusal of Esquimalt to zone for a smaller Viewfield Rd. Treatment facility as being obstructionist and try to influence Province of British Columbia to step-in and force a rezoning on that basis of deadline expiring etc.
  7. I was also told some within the CRD want to embarrass the Premier with our Cascadia neighbours to the South and to make it look like it is all this BC Government's fault for allowing untreated sewage to flow all these years unabated.  Note the recent Seattle Times editorial on this topic:
  8. Preventing any viable alternatives to McLoughlin being put forward.  For example, Saanich council has been preventing alternative site suggestions from going to the CRD.  This includes a proposal by Vanderkerkhove on a site that is within the ALR and a proposal by MacNutt Enterprises on a site that is outside the ALR.
The key questions I have are the following:
  • Have you completely removed McLoughlin Point from consideration a sewage treatment plant location?
  • Have you developed alternative site locations to McLoughlin?  If so when will these locations be publicly announced?
  • Are you willing to consider direct submission for site locations from within Saanich given the obstructionist position Saanich council is taking?
I thank you for your due consideration of this letter and look forward to your detailed reply.


Michael Geoghegan
cell 250-881-0969
cc:  Premier Christy Clark
       Hon. Peter Fassbender

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Alberta NDP Platform Archive

The results are in on Alberta’s election and it’s official, the Alberta NDP have won a landslide majority.  Here for convenience sake are the archive links to their platform and candidate pages:

Here’s the archive:
And here is a list of some of their candidate webpages:
Cameron Westhead, Banff-Cochrane:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CFAX lays out devastating editorial of Saanich Council

On CFAX at 2:30 today Ian Jessop laid out a devastating critique of Saanich Council especially the dishonest conduct of Councillors Susan Brice and Judy Brownoff the transcript is a must read:
Here is the transcript of Ian Jessop's editorial:
Atwell Editorial
January 15, 2015
The more information members of Saanich Council release about their new mayor, Richard Atwell, the deeper they sink into the excrement of their own making.
Let’s take a look at some of the facts of this controversy and ask some very basic questions that have yet to be answered. First the issue of spyware.
In a news release yesterday, BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham points out there are two types of system monitoring of employees: overt and covert. She states, “Overt monitoring is done with the knowledge of the employees and is typically described as an organization’s acceptable use policies. Employees are notified of these policies on their first day of work, or if it’s a new policy, before monitoring takes effect.” She goes on to say, ”covert monitoring could take the form of tracking Internet use, logging keystrokes or taking screen captures at set intervals as part of ongoing monitoring.” That’s exactly the spyware that has been employed by the District of Saanich.
As the Privacy Commissioner points out, “there have been no cases brought before this Office where covert monitoring was found to be justified under privacy law.”

The City of Victoria said it does not use the program that Saanich uses, Spector 360, or any employee monitoring programs of this kind. It does have industry-standard firewalls but it does not track key strokes, search terms or where employees spend their time.
Neither Oak Bay nor Esquimalt senior managers responded to my question as to whether they use spyware.+
Members of Saanich council have been stumbling all over themselves trying to justify the installation of the spyware after the new mayor was elected. As veteran reporter Paul Wilcocks, a man of keen political insight, noted on his blog, it was a lame effort by councillors to justify it. “Weasel words and lack of clarity are warning signs in this kind of situation,“ said Wilcocks.
Here is a list of questions that have yet to answered.
Who ordered the spyware purchased?
Will Saanich release the purchase order?
Did the former Chief Administration Officer order its installation?
Why was the decision to install the spyware made after the election?
Will the municipality make public the memo ordering the installation of the spyware?
Whose computers were targeted?
Why were those computers targeted?
Mayor Atwell says 11 computers have the spyware on them. Why were these chosen?
Why only a limited number of computers?
Do members of council have spyware on their computers?
If the new Mayor did not sign the document alerting him to the spyware being installed, as alleged, doesn’t that mean he did not agree with the policy?
Why didn’t someone at Saanich Municipal Hall alert the mayor that he had not yet signed the form before giving him access to his municipal computer?
Two people can review the data captured – the Chief Administrative Officer and the Director of Corporate Services. Why would the Chief Administrative Officer want to spy on the Mayor?
Given the fact the spyware was ordered installed after former Mayor Frank Leonard lost the election, did its installation have to do with the fact that the CAO said he couldn’t work with Richard Atwell?
What is to be done with the information gathered?
What triggers an incident in which these two individuals who have access to the information can take a look at it?
Why does Saanich feel the need to use spyware when other municipalities do not? Was its firewall insufficient?
What does the spyware do that the enterprise firewall cannot do – besides spy on employees?
Last summer, there was a breach of the web services of the City of Victoria and Oak Bay. Was there a breach of Saanich’s web services?
Councillors have stumbled all over themselves in a lame attempt to justify the installation of the software; talking about what was discussed at in-camera meetings which are supposed to be secret.
Sanders stated, “The mayor raised the issue at an in-camera meeting and staff were able to explain exactly what it was. There was nothing about spying on employees.” Well Vicky, it is about spying on employees. How can you be so na├»ve to suggest that it is not?
Councillor Susan Brice is quoted as saying she can’t speak to any of Atwell’s concerns about spyware but she has total confidence in municipal equipment. What the hell does that mean; the equipment’s ability to spy?
Let’s leave the issue of the spyware and discuss Paul Murray, the former Chief Administrative Officer, who is alleged to have said before the municipal election that he couldn’t work with Richard Atwell.
The mayor of a municipality is the CEO – he or she is in charge. Any mayor will tell you that you need the confidence of Chief Administrative Officer, or City Manager, who closely works with you. That person is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the municipality while the mayor is responsible for the governance of the municipality. They’re a team and need to support each other in the important goals and objectives that council and its management team formulate. If the two of them don’t get along, one of them has to go and it’s certainly not the person elected by residents.
The City of Prince George just got rid of its city manager without the “hair on fire” response that Saanich Council has produced.
But the old guard at Saanich council doesn’t see it that way. They wanted their guy to remain because he knew was part of the entrenched group in Saanich that Richard Atwell wants to change.
Saanich Council agreed at an in-camera meeting to end the relationship with the Chief Administrative Officer but then turned around and condemned the mayor for something they agreed to. Does that make sense to you? If you didn’t agree with the mayor, then vote against him. Don’t be a hypocrite.
Council went on to complain that the $476,000 in severance is tax money that cannot be used for other initiatives of the municipality. What about the $16 million it has cost Saanich taxpayers so far in the sewage debacle that has very little, if anything, to show for it?
Councillors Judy Brownoff and Vicki Sanders never talk about that. Both are members of the sewage committee that has made some abysmal decisions over the years that have wasted millions of tax dollars. On that issue, both are conveniently silent.
As most people in this region are aware, Mayor Atwell has different views on sewage than Brownoff, Sanders and Susan Brice. None of them have ever had the guts to debate Atwell on this issue. Is Councillor Brownoff seeking revenge for having been asked to sept down from the CRD, as has been suggested by former Saanich councillor Carol Pickup?
Now let’s focus on Mayor Atwell.
My advice to him would be to drop the complaint about spyware that you announced yesterday to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. By continuing to pursue it, you just unnecessarily drag this out. Tell officials at municipal hall you want the spyware removed from your computer and to make sure it is. Bring in an outside expert of your choosing to make sure it’s gone. Without fanfare, quietly write a letter to the Privacy Commissioner asking her for her opinion on the spyware’s legality.
Secondly, it’s clearly evident that the police are targeting you; having stopped you four times since you announced your candidacy and not once in the previous seven years. The Saanich Police Association and the Saanich Firemen didn’t support you during the election because you want to include them in the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association. They don’t want to see an end to the sweetheart arrangement they had with your predecessor and his compliant council. My advice is to drop your complaint with the Integrated Road Safety Unit; it’s only going to further exacerbate your relationship with police; a relationship that appears to be beyond repair at this point.
Many successful politicians learn to handle difficult situations with stealth; without public fanfare. My advice to Mayor Atwell is to learn this skill. Learn to handle difficult situations in a quiet, authoritative manner. This will be made easier for you when you get a new Chief Administrative Officer; one you can trust and one who can cover your backside.
Finally, I would suggest you get some different advisors. You need people with keen political insight, people who have been in the trenches and know how to hang a political opponent without them knowing it. You haven’t learned that yet but you have to if you want to survive.
And to members of Saanich Council who are opposed to Richard being the new Mayor seeking change, I leave you with a great quote from Mark Twain; Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Here is the link to broadcast it is at around the half hour mark

Privacy Commissioner says Saanich isn't complying with law

Re: “Spy plot? Council says software is for security,” Jan. 13.
Recent events in Saanich have created some confusion about employee privacy in the workplace, but the law is clear.
Employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace, even when using a computer supplied by an employer. These rights were affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Cole and are enshrined in B.C.’s comprehensive privacy laws covering the public and private sector.
We all expect governments and businesses to secure their networked systems against outside intrusions, malware or other threats. But employees don’t check their privacy rights at the office door. Privacy law sets a very high threshold for the use of routine monitoring tools such as keyboard logging, workstation mirroring or tracking of personal messages.
In 2007, my office ruled on a case where a university installed spyware on an employee’s computer to track their activities. We found that data collected by the spyware didn’t meet the necessity test and therefore did not comply with privacy law.
Employee monitoring isn’t as simple as picking a software tool off the shelf. Careful consideration must be paid to what is necessary and reasonable in the circumstances. Employers must ensure that in securing their systems, the privacy rights of employees are respected. Elizabeth Denham Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia 

Respected former councilor Carol Pickup weighs in on Shenanigans at Saanich City Hall

As a former Saanich councillor I am disgusted with Saanich police, Saanich !T dept, most of the mainstream media and many of the current Saanich councillors. I was especially disgusted with the role Councillor Judy Brownoff is playing. She is seeking revenge because she was asked to step down from the CRD (and I agree that she should not have been asked to do so) infavour of Fred Haynes. I know all the players in this drama and can assure you that I believe that the former mayor and his supporters are involved. The editorial in the T/C today said it all when they pointed out the inappropriate endorsement of Frank Leonard for mayor by Saanich police and fire depts.. Employee groups should not be trying to influence the outcome of municipal elections in this way. And I totally oppose the installation of the invasive spyware either for the mayor or others in the municipality. All concerned need to get on with serving the residents of Saanich which they were elected to do. Carol Pickup

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

It's time education consumers were enabled to make informed decisions

Two years ago university tuition fees in Canada averaged about $5,366 a year and students in B.C. who took out a student loan to finance their education began their working life with a debt of nearly $27,000.

Unfortunately all too often these students receive little or no information about the demand there is for the program in which they are studying.  As a result over supply and under supply issues abound, all at tremendous waste of both student and taxpayer dollars.

So for example in 2010 1,861 new education grads were certified by the B.C. College of Teachers, with another 824 out-of-province teachers certified thanks to a then new inter-provincial agreement. That means nearly 2,700 new teachers to B.C. when only about 1,000 teachers are needed annually.

In contrast the media has reported at various times about a growing shortage of nurses here in British Columbia.  Yet when students are in high school they are not provided with up to date information about what their job prospects would be as a nurse versus as a teacher.
Similarly there is also a lack of information regarding the job and income prospects of not just those debating studying fine arts versus engineering but those considering becoming a welder versus a carpenter.

This lack of information results not only in students wasting their time and money but also in government wasting its money and finding itself with a surplus of qualified applicants in one area (education) and shortages in another (health care).  It also means that other inefficiencies go unreported.  For example in nursing it is now a two year program to become and LPN and a four year program to become an RN.

One would logically think that if an LPN wished to upgrade from an LPN to an RN there would be an abundance of programs designed to facilitate this transition when in fact there are none.  So an LPN who already has two years of education and perhaps half a dozen years of nursing experience will receive no credit for either and will instead have to start back at square one on a four year program to become an RN, as a result few LPNs become RNs.

What an incredible waste of opportunity as well as resources.  When it comes to skilled trades again there is a lack of information available to students as to how about getting their ticket, as well as a relative lack of shop classes in our public school system.

By providing education consumers with adequate information they can make better choices.  As better informed consumers, students will also help ensure that post secondary institutions do a better job of matching the supply of programs and courses with actual real world demand.

In 2013 the top ten careers were:

  1. Financial Managers and Accountants
  2. Skilled Tradespeople
  3. Software and mobile app developers
  4. Registered Nurses
  5. Psychologists, social workers and counsellors
  6. Medical Technicians
  7. Human Resource Managers
  8. Pharmacists
  9.  Audiologists, speech therapists and physiotherapists
  10. Construction Managers

At the other end of the scale there is currently perhaps no worse a career to embark on than journalism.  Not only are jobs drying up so too are the salaries.  Yet in British Columbia nearly every college, technical institute and university still offers a journalism program.  It is at this point I should mention for the record that I graduated way back in 1989 with a degree in Economics, but I digress.

The point is that you as a consumer would not take out a loan for $27,000 on a car if you had no idea about its gas mileage, performance or reliability.  Yet all too often we expect students to make choices with far too little information.  Every program should have with it information about what the employment rate is after one year, five years and ten years and what the average income level is over those same time periods.

It doesn't mean we won't have any more English lit majors, it just means we will have fewer of them struggling to pay off student loans while working as baristas.  Conversely we will likely have more students interested in becoming skilled tradepersons, construction managers and the like.  Government will have less of its money wasted training young people for jobs that no longer exists while business will thrive because supply will better fit demand in terms of the job market.

Michael Geoghegan is the Executive Director of COCTA and a government relations consultant (lobbyist) based in Victoria BC  He can often be seen providing political commentary on CTV News Channel.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Lowering speed limits causes more accidents: a letter to Victoria's Mayor and Council

Dear Mayor and Council:

I recently had the experience of driving on a four lane section of Quadra street that is now marked 40 km/h, as a result I now know where Victoria ends and Saanich begins on that section of road.

I can also report that no one was driving 40 km/h they were driving 50 or even 60 km/h (as a safe driver I was going with the flow of traffic).  A similar thing happens on Blanshard street.  No one drives 50 km/h on the north end of Blanshard they drive at 60 km/h whereas at the south end people drive 40 km/h even though the entire length of the street is posted 50 km/h.  Why because capable drivers don’t drive according to speed limits they drive according to road conditions.

I know I know its that darn pesky counter intuitive thing, “oh lower speed limits must be safer because it's just common sense,” actually it causes more accidents.  Unreasonably low speed limits result in a majority of drivers having to contend with the minority of drivers who ignore road conditions and drive according to what the little white signs tell them to resulting in more accidents,

That is why for example in Britain when certain earnest types lowered speed limits from 30 mph to 20 mph traffic accident rates increased.  This was at the same time that accident rates on the streets they left at 30 mph and 40 mph actually declined.  See the following link:
I know that you all want to do good and lowering speed limits is a great way to get that warm “I made the world a better place” feeling without having to come up with an additional line item on your operating budget.  But the fact is that you didn’t make our streets safer.  You made them more dangerous. 

I don’t always agree with your staff, but in this instance they got it right and you should have listened to them.  They noted the safest speed limits are those posted at the 85 percentile.  They recommended against lowering speed limits and far from saving lives you are actually going to cause more death and injury.

I would therefore request that you carefully track what happens with the accident rates on the streets whose speed limits you recently lowered and that if they increase (as is likely) that you revisit your decision.

To those that voted against lowering the speed limits thank you, to those that championed it please rely more on real world results and less on your “intuitive” thinking.


Michael Geoghegan

Monday, April 28, 2014

Minister Kenney vows to get tough on companies abusing temporary foreign worker program. Employers could face fraud charges and jail time.

In the wake of recent stories about Canadian workers being laid off and their jobs replaced with temporary foreign workers, Canada's Employment Minister Jason Kenney has warned that employers who abuse the program could face fraud charges and jail time.

"Obviously, in some small numbers, there are cases of abuse, and we don't tolerate those; we intend to crack down on them severely," Kenney recently stated.

"The more important thing is that we prevent abuse in the first place and that's why we've tightened up the rules, and we'll continue to do so."

He made good on his word when on April 24th, Employment Minister Jason Kenney took action by banning restaurants from accessing it.  Minister Kenney issued the moratorium mere hours after the C.D. Howe Institute released a study into the Temporary Foreign Worker program that concluded it had spurred joblessness in B.C. and Alberta, two valuable Conservative strongholds.

On the day previously, McDonald's of Canada had announced it was putting on hold its participation in the program pending a third party audit. The fast-food giant has been in hot water for hiring so many temporary foreign workers at some of its Canadian franchises most notably here in Victoria, B.C.

There has been a significant increase in the number of hotels and restaurants accessing the program even though the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program was originally designed to address shortages of skilled workers, not low skilled and entry level labour.

Don Drummond, an economist who wrote a report for the government five years ago on labour markets, said there's no hard data to back up Ottawa's insistence that a persistent skills shortage justifies the use of such workers.

"They keep saying we don't have any trades people, but in the latest data for every available construction job in Canada, there's eight unemployed construction workers. Even when you look at the data over the summer — a busy time in construction — overwhelmingly, there are unemployed people in construction as opposed to job vacancies."

Kenney, who met with Drummond last fall has acknowledged the government needs to do a better job compiling meaningful labour market data.  The minister has also hinted that he's mulling over restrictions that would make it more difficult for fast-food restaurants in urban areas to apply for temporary foreign workers amid a spate of alleged abuses of the program by restaurant owners.

Employers need to keep in mind that 2015 will be a federal election year and as such those that most egregiously abuse the TFW Program may find themselves being made an example of given a government that is eager to be seen as protecting Canada's middle class.

The political importance of the middle class here in Canada cannot be over stated.   In Canada, where there are strict campaign spending limits and both union and corporate donations have been made verbotten, politicians of all political stripes chase middle class votes and donations.
Contrast that with the United States where the absence of campaign spending limits has led to a situation in which a recent Princeton University Study concluded that the United States has become an oligarchy where government represents the interests of the wealthy rather than those of the majority.

Naturally when you have policies that favour the wealthy over those of the poor and middle class it will eventually have a real impact on a nation's income distribution.  That is why on April 22nd, the New York Times reported that America's middle class is no longer the most affluent.  That distinction now goes to Canada.

Minister Jason Kenney was quick to tweet this fact out, not only out of a sense of national pride, but in response from political attacks from both the NDP and Liberals that have called into question how Canada's middle class have been doing under the Conservatives.

The answer it would seem is, pretty good.  From 2000 until 2010 median income in the United States stagnated while in Canada it increased by 20 per cent.  The data also suggests these trends have only continued since then putting Canada's middle class solidly ahead of America's.

It is for this reason that the Harper Conservatives, while wanting to be responsive to the needs of the business community, do not want to be seen as the government that killed off your kid's chances to land an entry level job in high school or a mortgage paying job in the construction and resource sectors.

Thus any company making use of the TFW will likely be subjected to much greater scrutiny and if abuse has been found, it is more than likely they will be made an example of.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria BC you can follow him on twitter @BCLobbyist