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Monday, December 01, 2003

Hey I'm Famous!

Hey my first ever editorial cartoon! The original, which I purchased from Bob Krieger, is now framed and hanging on my office wall.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

A short treatise on political correctness

When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to cooperate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to. -- Theodore Dalrymple

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Olympics will bring gold to BC's future

Times Colonist (Victoria)

It isn't much fun being a provincial government nowadays. British Columbia is in a particularly unfortunate position. Thanks to our benign climate, we are the destination of choice for aging boomers and retired couples -- so the fastest-growing segment of our population are those aged 80 and above.

The big problem is that the average 18-year-old costs our public health-care system $800 a year, while the average 80-year-old costs our system $21,000 a year. That means that our health care system is eating up more and more of the provincial budget.

By 2007, a full 50 per cent of every provincial tax dollar spent in B.C. will be on health care and, if current trends continue, by 2021, health-care spending will consume the entire provincial budget. That means no money for education, for highway maintenance, or even a ministry of finance to collect taxes!

So what is a government to do? The only long-term solution is to open up the border and get as many young people as possible moving here. But we need to make sure the people coming here have skills and there are jobs waiting for them.

That means we need to promote B.C. to the world, and one of the most cost-effective ways to do that is through staging a high-profile international event. Expo 86 was a success, but since that time, under the NDP, B.C. attempted to tax and regulate its way to prosperity. The result was flat economic growth at a time when the rest of North America was booming.

Even though the NDP was soundly defeated two years ago it takes time for markets to catch on. Just as the Mike Harcourt government was initially able to benefit from the economic growth rate in inherited from the Socreds, the Campbell government is handicapped by the anemic economic growth rate it inherited from the NDP.

Although former premier Glen Clark's infamous "three, count 'em, three new aluminum smelters" never did materialize, he did give his blessing to the Olympic bid committee that formed under the inspired leadership of Vancouver real estate developer Jack Poole.

To the delight of almost all British Columbians and Canadians, on July 2 this year, the International Olympic Committee selected Vancouver-Whistler as the host of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Constructing the Olympic facilities, and associated projects such as the expanded Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, the RAV line and upgrading of the highway from North Vancouver to Lillooet will cost $2.7 billion and generate 23,000 construction jobs between now and the 2010 Olympics.

The impact of these new facilities will create 130,000 person years of employment over the next 20 years. The irony is that although thousands of new construction jobs will be created, it is going to be increasingly difficult to find local skilled tradespeople to fill those jobs. That is because, for some reason, in this country we have decided that it is much better to burden our children with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and a university degree of
dubious value in today's job market, than to see them prosper as skilled trades people, or self-employed business people in the increasingly lucrative skilled trades area.

So while teenagers stress out trying to gain the 90 per cent GPA that will gain them an admission to a B.C. university, $50,000 to $100,000 a year construction jobs will go begging.

As a society we actually don't need any more English literature majors serving us overpriced coffee at Starbucks. What we do need are skilled electricians, plumbers and carpenters who are able to build and maintain the facilities upon which our entire economy depends.

So again we come back to the issue of demographics and the need for us as a province and as a country to start aggressively recruiting more young people to come to B.C., not just to visit but also to work. As parents we also have an obligation to make sure we are encouraging our children to pursue careers that match their interests and abilities, and that may include a technical rather than academic post-secondary education.

So in 2010, let's invite the world and let's make room for some of them to stay. After all, when I'm in my senior years I will need those young tax-paying immigrants to pick up my medical tab.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

American psyche needs victory in battle for Baghdad

Times Colonist (Victoria)
The United States is a nation whose character has been shaped by war. The American Revolutionary War gave the original 13 colonies their independence from the Britain. The U.S. defeat at the hands of British and Canadian forces during the War of 1812 caused the United States to look in a more southerly direction for its territorial expansion.

But perhaps the war that seared the American psyche the most was the American Civil War. It was the first of the modern wars in that it brought industrial age technology to the battlefield. With it came unheard-of casualty rates where entire divisions of men were blown to pieces or mowed down in a hail of bullets.

It also brought the concept of total war where the enemy was defeated not just by fighting on the battlefield but by destroying the enemy's ability to wage war by destroying their cities, burning their crops and tearing up their railways and telegraph lines.

In addition to preserving the union and ending slavery, the Civil War left the U.S. with a profound sense of terror at the prospect of ever having to face such an internal conflict again. Almost overnight was born the jingoistic patriotism that has become such a hallmark of American society.

The war left the U.S. with no illusions regarding the horrors of industrial age warfare. It was for that reason that the U.S. stayed out of the First World War until almost the very end of it. The horror of trench warfare caused the U.S. to adopt a firmly isolationist stance when war clouds once again gathered over Europe in 1939.

All that changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. From a tactical standpoint the Sunday morning attack was a tremendous victory for Japan. Along with thousands of sailors, much of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet lay on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

But from a strategic standpoint it was disastrous. As Admiral Yamamoto predicted, all Japan had done was "awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."

The U.S. committed itself to the complete and unconditional surrender of Japan, Italy and Germany. The intention was to occupy those countries and to reshape them as democracies that would never again threaten the security of the U.S. And that is exactly what the U.S. did.

Then came the Cold War with the Soviet Union that was fought politically, economically and only occasionally militarily -- the three most notable conflicts being the Korean War which was fought to a draw, the Cuban missile crises which brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation, and the Vietnam War which brought about a humiliating defeat for the U.S.

With the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. suddenly found itself the military heavyweight champion of the world with no one else even in contention for the title. Apart from chasing Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991 and reluctantly moving in with its NATO allies to stop the genocide occurring in the Balkans, the U.S. found itself in a situation where it was at peace and feeling pretty secure.

Sure there had been some troubling incidents, like the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia; and later some nutcase Islamic organization named al-Qaeda had blown up a couple of U.S. embassies in Africa.

But the U.S. had its own homegrown crazies like Timothy McVeigh to worry about. So to the extent they were catching grief, some Americans felt it was time the U.S. pulled in its horns and started focusing more on domestic issues.
When George W. Bush was running for president, he scoffed at the previous Clinton administration's penchant for "nation building." Bush made it clear that he had little knowledge of and even less interest in international affairs. All that, of course, changed with 9/11.

It was the first time New York had ever found itself under attack and it was the first time Washington had been directly attacked since the war of 1812.
With these audacious attacks Osama bin Laden was hoping to provoke the United States to unleash its military might indiscriminately on the entire Middle East, causing millions of innocent Arabs to die. Bin Laden then expected the survivors to rise up, overthrow their leaders and install Muslim regimes much like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Instead, the U.S. showed amazing restraint. With grim determination Americans planned their attack on Afghanistan, overthrew the Taliban and put bin Laden and his merry band of sociopaths on the run. But what the U.S. now feels is a profound sense of vulnerability. Its response is a new policy of pre-emptive war.

Under this policy, any regime that is perceived to be threatening the security of the U.S. may find itself the subject of an invasion, particularly if that country lacks nuclear weapons. The first target of this new policy is Iraq.
The Battle for Baghdad will shape U.S. foreign policy for decades to come. If it is successful, the U.S. will continue to pursue an aggressive unilateralist approach to global affairs.

If the battle results in a bloody debacle then expect the United States to move to a far more isolationist and fearful position, where it brings most of its troops home and uses its nuclear arsenal to deal with on-going security threats like North Korea.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Liberals look to private sector for B.C.'s economic salvation

Victoria Times Colonist
Over the holidays readers of the Times Colonist were treated to a couple of yuletide yarns from two prominent New Democrats. The first was by former finance minister Paul Ramsey on Dec. 24 and the second was by Glen Clark's most senior and trusted political adviser, Adrian Dix, on Dec. 27.
Both sought to portray the last NDP regime as a paragon of virtue, which balanced B.C.'s budget while playing Robin Hood by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. At the same time, they portrayed the Gordon Campbell government as a grinch-like monster throwing bonbons to the wealthy in the form of tax cuts while giving the cold shoulder to everyone else, especially the poor.
Such is the fantasy world in which these New Democrats still immerse themselves. If Ramsey had stood up for his constituents when his NDP government tried to bankrupt Carrier Lumber Company perhaps there would be less demand on the food banks in Prince George.
If only Dix could understand the basic premise that the best jobs in the world and real wealth are created by the private sector, not the public sector. You would think that 10 years of regressive economic policies that culminated in B.C. being declared a have-not province in 1999 would have taught him this basic lesson.
But let's get back to the tax cut that Dix complains so bitterly about. The first thing is that during the last provincial election the Campbell Liberals campaigned on the issue of delivering a significant tax cut. British Columbians responded by giving him the largest majority government in the province's history.
To his credit Campbell delivered on his promise of a significant tax cut. He also delivered on another key election promise, to increase health-care funding. He provided an additional $1.1 billion to the Ministry of Health. Unfortunately almost half of this increase was gobbled up by wage and fee demands by doctors, nurses and other health-care workers.
In his last budget, on page 95, Ramsey himself warned that wage cost pressures from public sector employees would likely push the province into a deficit position in the following fiscal year and that is exactly what happened. Even if the Campbell government had not delivered on its promised income tax cuts and had not increased funding for health and education, the province would be facing a deficit of almost $2 billion dollars.
The NDP solution is of course to take more money out of our pockets. They believe that government can spend our money more wisely on things such as fast ferries or power projects in Pakistan while you and I might frivolously spend it on home renovations or buying a new car.
But while mega-projects like fast ferries may generate a lot of headlines, consumer spending is the mainstay of our province's economy and it is the small business sector which creates nine out of 10 new jobs.
Far from attacking the poor, the Campbell government wants to create an economic climate where private sector job growth helps people move from social assistance into full-time employment. That is why the province is providing more than $300 million in result-based job placement and training programs.
The latest survey shows that two out of three income assistance clients who have been off income assistance for six months are employed and earning four times what they would be receiving on income assistance.
For those people who have disabilities that prevent them from obtaining employment, this province provides the third-highest rates of income assistance in Canada. But what must be clearly understood is that B.C. cannot afford to have first-rate health, education and social services without having a first rate economy.
High taxes and excessive government regulation drives away investment, jobs and ultimately leads to a collapsing economy and declining government revenues. Our experience here in B.C. is proof of this.
To turn our economy around we need competitive tax and regulatory regimes, up-to-date transportation, energy and communications infrastructure, and a well-educated, healthy and motivated workforce.
With increased funding to health and education, welfare reform, tax cuts and regulatory reductions, the Campbell government is taking the necessary first steps required to return B.C. to "have province" status. But perhaps what would also benefit our province is to have an opposition that understood economics, and was prepared to offer something other than tax increases and more government spending as the solution to B.C.'s economic and fiscal woes. It's too bad Dix and Ramsey continue to ignore what their disastrous economic policies have inflicted upon the people of B.C. It's certainly going to take much longer than 18 months to undo the damage they created. In some cases, such as the relocation of corporate head offices from Vancouver to Calgary, the damage can likely never be undone.
As the architects of B.C.'s economic decline, Dix and Ramsey have nothing further to teach the people of B.C.
We have already learned our lesson. And if they do wish to see the political revival of the B.C. New Democratic Party, they are the last people that should be speaking out on the NDP's behalf.