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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top Ten Political Blunders of 2008

The recent political shenanigans in Ottawa caught most Canadians by surprise. Prime Minister Stephen Harper attempted to cripple the opposition parties by cutting off their supply of taxpayer funding and the opposition parties responded by forming a coalition to try and oust Harper from office.

Perhaps the only thing more horrifying to Canadians than the prospect of a coalition government that included the tax happy NDP and separatist Bloc Quebecois was it being led by Stephane Dion, the hapless leader of the Liberals.

After all the dust had settled Dion was dumped as Liberal leader and, as I predicted in a previous column, Michael Ignatieff was ushered in as the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

These events signal some of the top political blunders of 2008. The following is a list in no particular order of what I consider to be the top ten political blunders of 2008:

1. The Lib/NDP/BQ/Green attempt to unseat the Harper minority government and install Dion as Prime Minister.

2. The minority Harper government’s attempt to end taxpayer funding of political parties thus giving the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and even the Greens one issue they had to unite on in order to ensure their continued survival.

3. Bob Rae’s protestations against the Ignatieff’s coronation. Given his one economically disastrous turn as the NDP Premier of Ontario, the Conservatives would have had a field day with Rae leading the Liberals. Rae finally did step aside but only after most of the Liberal caucus had untied behind Ignatieff.

4. The carbon tax. Canadians can smell a tax grab a mile away. The introduction of a carbon tax here in BC has left Premier Gordon Campbell suddenly struggling to stay ahead of the BC NDP. Dion chose to make a federal carbon tax one of his main election planks thus ensuring one of the worst electoral results ever for the federal Liberals.

5. Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades and has presided over the most dramatic economic collapse of any non-communist country since World War Two. With its current cholera epidemic, Zimbabwe is a nightmare of post-colonial mismanagement and corruption.

6. Sarah Palin. Good looks notwithstanding, Palin brought to the role of Vice-Presidential Republican candidate not only a thin resume but a profound lack of intellectual curiosity and knowledge about the world thus reminding voters of why they could no longer trust the Republicans to govern.

7. Joe the Plumber. His name isn’t Joe, he isn’t a plumber, and in his last tax return he made about $42,000 working as a general labourer. But that didn’t stop Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher from grabbing his 15 minutes of fame complaining about Barack Obama’s plan to increase taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 per year. With friends like Sarah and Joe it was no wonder Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s straight talk express went off the rails.

8. Mumbai Bombings. After the bombings Pakistan stepped up its efforts to round up terrorist ring leaders rather than be on the losing side of a war with India.

9. George W. Bush’s Victory Tour. The shoe throwing incident was for many a fitting political end to one of the most incompetent Presidents to ever govern the United States of America.

10. Detroit Automakers. When you are begging for tens of billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money do not fly to Washington in three separate private jets.

Mike Geoghegan is a government relations consultant who lives in Victoria, B.C. He can be reached via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Change has come to America and not a moment too soon!

After $10 trillion dollars in debt, a badly botched and unnecessary war in Iraq, a poorly executed and necessary war in Afghanistan, the appalling incompetence in responding to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the gratuitous alienation of nearly every other country on the planet, and an economic collapse not seen since the days of the Great Depression, the reign of the worst President in America’s modern history is finally coming to an end.

When George W. Bush leaves office on January 20th he will do so with the lowest approval rating of any President in history. However it was not just the incompetence of the Bush administration that made it so horrifying it was also its mendacity. No one better epitomised this than Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Cheney was the man who, when charged with selecting George W’s running mate as Vice-President, selected himself - a very American coup. This despite the fact he had serious heart issues (and I am not referring to his profound lack of empathy) that made him unsuitable for serving as V.P.

As V.P. it was Cheney who filtered the information that President Bush received, who fabricated intelligence data and along with others in the Bush Administration ripped up the Geneva Convention by instructing the use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners. They also suspended habeas corpus allowing for the indefinite imprisonment of people without charges being laid or any sort of court trial. Last but not least they made a mockery of America’s cherished civil liberties by passing the thoroughly Orwellian Patriot Act.

Incoming President Barack Hussein Obama certainly has his work cut out for him. Fortunately President elect Obama is not only the first African American elected President, he is also one of the most intelligent men to ever be elected to such a high office. If anyone can get the US out of the economic, political, and military quagmire the Bush administration put it into, President Obama can.

The brilliantly executed Obama Presidential campaign was a triumph on many levels but perhaps nowhere was it more important than in showing that the politics of hope could trump the politics of fear. Change has come to America and not a moment too soon.

The size of Obama’s victory means that if they choose to Democrats can push ahead with ensuring universal health insurance coverage for all of its citizens. The neglected levees, bridges and other crumbling infrastructure in the United States can and must be addressed.

Public spending in these sorts of areas will enable the United States to more quickly recover from the current recession and help avert a slide into full scale economic depression.

Extricating the United States as quickly as possible from Iraq and providing enough of a troop surge in Afghanistan to stabilise that country prior to withdrawing in another few years would enable the residents of both the United States and the Middle East enjoy some sort of return to stability and normalcy by the end of Obama’s first term as President.

Finally, as the economy recovers and the troops come home from the Middle East, the re-imposition of some sort of fiscal responsibility should also allow the United States to begin recovering from its disastrous fiscal crises.

In terms of Canada the best thing Obama can do is resist any impulse by protectionists to increase the trade barriers between our two nations. Lastly he should recognize that he starts his Presidency with a tremendous amount of goodwill from Canadians and most other citizens around the world. It is my expectation that he will not lightly squander it.

Mike Geoghegan is a government relations consultant who lives in Victoria, B.C. He can be reached via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Monday, October 20, 2008

Liberal leadership changes all too predictable

As I write this column Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has announced he will step down as soon as the federal party chooses a new one. As I predicted in my last column, the Conservatives won an increased minority.

In fact if not for Newfoundland Premier Danny William’s political jihad against Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and some ill advised Conservative attacks on the cultural community which helped lend new relevancy to the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservatives could have won a majority government.

In any event the Liberals lost and lost badly, making the resignation of Dion all but inevitable. Almost as inevitable is who the next two leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada will be.

The two main contenders will be Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. Both are extremely intelligent and capable individuals. Bob Rae’s problem is that prior to becoming a Liberal MP he served for one term as the NDP Premier of Ontario and much like when Glen Clark was the NDP Premier of BC, it is not a time fondly remembered by many.
As Ontario (along with Newfoundland) is one of the few strongholds the Liberal Party has left, they are not going to risk alienating moderate voters there by electing Rae as their next federal leader.

Instead they will elect Michael Ignatieff, a descendent of Russian Aristocracy, who was born in Toronto and after becoming a history professor at UBC, was a research fellow at Cambridge, Paris and then Oxford. Then most recently and famously went on to become a Professor of Human Rights Practice at Harvard University.

When Ignatieff is elected head of the Liberals he will certainly be the most academically qualified candidate to ever seek the office of Prime Minister of Canada. That doesn’t guarantee that he will be able to win but he will almost certainly prove to be a more formidable opponent to Prime Minister Harper than Dion was.

The length of Ignatieff’s tenure will depend entirely on how well he does over the next two federal elections. The federal Liberals will likely be willing to give him one electoral mulligan as long as he increases the number of seats they hold. But if he has not been able to secure at least a minority government for the Liberals by his second election then like Dion he will resign.

That will then leave the door open for Justin Trudeau, the son of our most famous Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. In this most recent federal election Justin Trudeau was able to get elected in Papineau, a riding in Quebec.

In addition to a slavish devotion to alternating between Anglophone and Francophone candidates, the Liberal Party of Canada is desperate to scare up some of that Trudeau mystique that captivated our nation for so many years.

Justin is far too green to handle the mantle of leadership in this go around, but after a couple of more elections and who knows perhaps even a stint in cabinet should Ignatieff secure at some point a minority government, then Justin would then be seen as having sufficient experience to be a credible federal candidate.

So far Justin Trudeau has shown that he has more charm than his father and perhaps almost as much charisma. The key challenge for Justin will be demonstrating that he also has his father’s keen intelligence and toughness. If he can then don’t be surprised if 40 years after the first wave of Trudeau mania struck another wave doesn’t start building.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria, B.C. He can be contacted via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CFAX Radio

I am on CFAX Radio in Victoria, BC Canada every Thursday morning at 8:20 am,(as of March 6, 2009 it has now shifted to Fridays at 9:00 am) discussing with David Schreck and host Joe Easingwood all things political.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Domestic Shipbuilding Industry Critical to Canada’s Sovereignty

By the time many of you read this column the federal election will have happened, and in all likelihood the Harper government will have won either a stronger minority or even a majority government.

In the run up to the federal election, the Conservative government announced a $1.1 billion upgrade of our navy’s frigates. Five of these frigates will be modernized at Washington Marine Group’s Victoria Shipyards.

This is good news for British Columbia and for Washington Marine Group, which has seen potential contracts to build a new generation of BC Ferries go to a German shipyard and contracts for Canadian navy supply ships and coast guard vessels cancelled.

It is worth noting that the unionized workers at Washington Marine Group earn less than their counterparts at shipyards in Europe and there is real concern that without more domestic shipbuilding contracts these skills will be lost

As a sovereign nation it is vitally important that we maintain a domestic shipbuilding industry. As the Arctic sea ice melts it is opening up Canada’s fabled North West passage and with it jurisdictional disputes with countries such as Denmark, Russia and the United States. Thus it would be foolish in the extreme for Canada to be reliant on the European Union, the United States and/or Russia to build the ships that we will require to assert our nation’s sovereignty.

Thus it is vitally important that the 12 ship Canadian Coastguard contract be put back on the table and the work divided up equitably amongst Canada’s remaining west and east coast shipyards. The recently announced construction of a new icebreaker, to be named after former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, should also be built in Canada.

There is also the issue of the multi-role ships that were meant to replace our navy’s aging supply vessels, be able to transport armed forces equipment personnel and serve as an assault vessel which could be used as an offshore base of operations. Requiring a ship to cover off such a diverse array or roles would be like trying to design an airplane that can simultaneously be a troop transport, a bomber and a fighter. Odds are it’s going to do all three jobs poorly.

Durable naval supply ships are something Canadian shipyards have built in the past and must continue to do so. Similarly vessels capable of transporting Canadian Armed Forces personnel can also be readily constructed by our domestic shipyard workers.

Failure to proceed with this work is not only undermining our nation’s sovereignty, it is also creating a significant human resources problem for Canada’s shipyards. What happens to the apprentices and journeypersons that the Victoria shipyard and unions have been training over the past five years? Without sufficient naval contract work they will likely end up leaving the industry.

Although the frigate refit program will provide $351 million in work to the Washington Marine Group, this work does not begin until 2010. If we are to retain these workers they need construction work now. The other problem is that you cannot build or maintain a first class shipyard only doing refit work.

That is why the proposed construction of 12 new ships for the Canadian Coastguard is so vitally important. As he gets back to work after a hard fought election campaign, Prime Minister Harper needs to make this issue one of his government’s top priorities.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria, B.C. He can be contacted via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Friday, August 29, 2008

Carbon tax giving Liberals gas pains

As I write this column, families are getting ready for the Labor Day long weekend. Worried by falling housing prices and the dramatic increase in fuel costs since last year, many will be staying close to home.

Prime Minister Harper meanwhile is getting ready to hit the road and is gearing up for a fall federal election. Several of my well placed sources in Ottawa tell me that Harper will soon be pulling the plug on his minority government. If correct then it looks like Canadians will be casting their votes on or around October 15th.

Harper’s decision to go to the polls now probably has more to do with Canada’s softening economy than any sort of political momentum. When the economy takes a turn for the worse incumbent governments tend not to do well in the polls. Thus the official opposition federal Liberals would much rather fight an election sometime next year rather than this Fall.

One weakness federal Liberal Leader Stephan Dion has is his commitment to impose a new federal carbon tax on fuel. Here in B.C. we are already paying an extra 2.5 cents per liter for gas as a result of a provincial carbon tax. Given how unpopular that tax has proven to be with consumers, the federal Conservatives have been busy running attack ads against Dion’s proposed new gas tax.

Except for those British Columbians who are lucky enough to live within walking distance to work, a direct bus route, or a Skytrain station, there simply isn’t an alternative to driving their car. It is also a tax that hits the working poor much harder than the well off.

At the provincial level, for the first time in years the BC NDP has moved ahead of the Campbell Liberal government. Much of that unpopularity has been driven by B.C’s new carbon tax. With gas hovering around at $1.50 per liter the decision to impose this new tax in order to give Premier Campbell a greener image has so far backfired disastrously.

Campbell still has time to correct things. The B.C. government, to its credit, is looking at an industrial carbon emission cap and trade scheme which is a much more effective way to deal with industrial pollution. But until a viable alternative shows up (e.g. plug in gas electric hybrids and pure electric cars) then it is simply unfair to add ever more in the way of taxes to an item which is still years away from having a viable consumer alternative.

Also as consumers we already pay a plethora of gas taxes. Some, like paying for transit infrastructure, are justified. Some, like paying for the acquisition of Petrofina by Petro Canada decades ago, are not.

Voters in British Columbia are making it clear they want a fairer tax regime when it comes to fuel. Those politicians that are listening will do well in the polls, those that do not will do poorly.

Thus at both the federal and provincial an opportunity exists for both the Campbell government in Victoria and the Harper government in Ottawa to review and reduce the amount of taxes we pay for fuel.

Even with a modest reduction in federal and provincial taxes we would still likely be paying over $1.25 per liter for gas. But imagine the boost that 25 cents per liter would give to working poor and middle class families that are struggling to make ends meet and the positive effect it would have on our sagging economy, not to mention Premier Campbell and Prime Minister Harper’s re-election chances.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria, B.C. He can be contacted via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two Paths to Prosperity

Recent headlines have been bemoaning the fact that the BC Treaty Process has spent over a billion dollars with little if any in the way of tangible progress. The sad fact is that the majority of treaties here in Canada have often done little to help and often much to hinder than help the plight of many natives living here in Canada.

Here in the Okanagan Valley there are two first nations that have made remarkable progress over the past two decades. The first is the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) which has gone from poverty to prosperity under the inspired leadership of Chief Clarence Louie. The second is the Westbank First Nation (WFN) which has followed a notably different entrepreneurial path to prosperity under a several different Chiefs most notably its current Chief Robert Louie.

The OIB's land base consists of over 32,000 acres of land ranging from rich agricultural land to the only true desert lands in Canada. The Band manages businesses with annual budgets in excess of $l7 million dollars and administers its own health, social, educational and municipal services despite having a band membership of only 450 people.

OIB band members enjoy full employment, affordable housing and a range of services that are the envy of many living in the non-native community. Most of the funding for these services comes not from the federal government but from revenue generated by OIB’s many thriving business operations.

For its success Chief Clarence Louie has been widely and deservedly praised, but the true acid test of his legacy will come once he eventually retires from office. Will these state enterprises continue to prosper under less gifted leadership? Only time will tell.

The Westbank First Nation instead of following a model of band owned businesses has instead been able to encourage private investment from both the native and non-native community. The result has not only been low unemployment but a band membership that includes a significant number of multi-millionaires.

Thus rather than state enterprise the WFN has seen its success come more through individual and corporate enterprise. Another key to Westbank’s success was their ability to achieve self government without being shackled to the current dysfunctional BC Treaty making process. WFN’s self government agreement has allowed them to provide more efficient governance than the non native municipalities that surround them. This has meant that the market rate for leasable commercial land is now higher on reserve than off.

It is also worth noting that many native residential home owners saw the market value of their homes increase tenfold once Westbank’s self government agreement was ratified. The irony was that many of these same home owners had voted against the agreement as the ratification vote on it passed by the narrowest of margins.

Thus by taking two different paths to prosperity the Osoyoos Indian Band and Westbank First Nation have proven that remarkable progress for band members can be made outside of the BC Treaty process. One strong lesson that comes from Westbank’s success is that self-governance should be separated entirely from treaty making in order to give other First Nation’s the decision making tools they need in order to prosper.

The lesson that comes from the Osoyoos Indian Band’s success is that leadership matters. In both instances able and entrepreneurial governance is the key. That is why both Osoyoos and Westbank have prospered while the Penticton Indian Band, which is located between them, has not.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria, B.C. He can be contacted via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Saturday, June 21, 2008

An Inconvenient Solution

Here in British Columbia we’re an eco-sensitive bunch of folks. For many years now we’ve had a moratorium on Uranium mining and a generation ago BC Hydro’s Site C dam project was shelved in the face of public opposition. Even relatively eco friendly run of the river micro hydro projects have faced stiff opposition from a plethora of environmental groups.

But the fact is that B.C. has gone from being a net exporter to a net importer of electrical power and that means we are all soon going to be paying a lot more for electricity. Worse still without additional electrical generation capacity our province will eventually face rolling blackouts brownouts which would cause massive economic disruption.

To prevent this BC Hydro has dusted off its plans for Site C and is quietly proceeding ahead. The BC Transmission Corporation is meanwhile investing billions of dollars in significantly upgrading our province’s power transmission infrastructure. BC Hydro is also hoping that with new more energy efficient technology that British Columbians will somehow be able to reduce their electrical energy consumption by a third.

With BC’s steadily increasing population a one third reduction in electrical consumption is extremely optimistic and completely out to lunch if the much heralded era of plug in electric gas hybrid vehicles comes to be. In fact one energy executive told me that if the majority of British Columbians switched to hybrid vehicles that they needed to plug in overnight so they could run on battery power most of the time then BC would need the equivalent of 17 Site C dams to meet the additional electrical demand.

The inconvenient truth that British Columbians are going to have to come to grips with sooner or later is that the only non-fossil fuel burning energy source that can possibly meet our long term energy needs is Nuclear Power. In Europe the about face on Nuclear Power is already happening: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently stated, "We need 1,000 more nuclear power plants to lessen our addiction to oil."

Italy which is presently the only G8 country without operating nuclear power plants pays the highest electricity rates in Europe. Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi has stated, "We are going to build more nuclear power stations" and plans on making Nuclear Power the central element of increasing Italy’s energy self-sufficiency.

Canada is also building new Nuclear Power plants. On June 17th the Government of Ontario announced that two new nuclear power stations would be built near Toronto. There has also been on-going talk of building a Nuclear Power station near the Alberta tar sands so as to eliminate the need to burn natural gas in order to generate the steam needed to extract oil.

France, which since the 1970s has derived 90% of its electricity from Nuclear Power, has not had a single accident or fatality. They also pay amongst the lowest electrical rates in Europe. The United States which turned away from Nuclear Power after the incident at Three Mile Island generates 52% of its electrical power by burning coal, the mining of which kills 200 hundred Americans a years while thousands more die of the resulting air pollution.

Here in BC "nuclear" is still a dirty word but the fact is that sooner or later we are going to have to start building them here in BC. We might have to wait until the first rolling blackouts occur, but there is simply not enough in the way of Site Cs, run of the river or even wind projects that can possibly hope to meet our future energy consumption needs.

Mike Geoghegan is an economist and government relations consultant based in Victoria, BC. He can be reached via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

When it comes to influence peddling its cronyism not lobbyists that are the problem

As you likely have heard by now, Ken Dobell - a special advisor to Premier Campbell - was fined for failing to register as a lobbyist and only narrowly escaped having influence peddling charges filed against him. This scandal having resulted from Ken Dobell taking a contract from the City of Vancouver to lobby the Premier while at the same time he was being paid under contract as a Special Advisor to the Premier.

At the time Mr. Dobell did not see himself as being a lobbyist, a term he still tends to view – as do many others – as a pejorative. But he was double dipping hence his situation where, if not for the kindness of the crown, he could have been tried and in all likelihood convicted of influence peddling.

So how is it that a man of Mr. Dobell’s intelligence and influence could have exercised such shockingly poor judgment? My view is that it was simply a bad habit born from the culture of cronyism that seems at present endemic within the municipal layer of government here in British Columbia.

Unlike the provincial and federal layers of government, there is very little in the way of media scrutiny of municipal governments. Thus some of the old boy hiring practices that were done away within the provincial and federal civil service still happen to a fair extent today.

Thus instead of hiring an independent and unbiased executive search firm some municipalities decide to cheap out by simply placing an ad in various municipal publications. Some such as the Regional District of the Okanagan and Similkameen (RDOS) take the step of hiring a consulting firm which is made up of fully pensioned former municipal executives. The problem with this is that apart from a few ads, such a firm is also going to rely on their own personal network of former colleagues to find candidates.

This sort of craven cronyism creates several problems. First of all there may be a pool of talented candidates that such a consulting firm may be unaware of; secondly there may be a pool of qualified candidates that crossed swords with this consultant when he was a Chief Administrative Officer, thus they know they will be automatically excluded; and, thirdly there may be some questionable candidates who were fired from a previous municipal job who still get put forward due to their personal relationship with the consultant. This situation can create a clear perception of bias, or worse an outright conflict of interest.

Every municipality that fails to hire an independent, professional (i.e. non biased) national executive search firm is likely elevating the chances that the person they do hire may be at best mediocre and possibly may not work out and all at the expense of the taxpayer. Nowadays CAOs are paid well into the six figure range and a two year severance package is now becoming standard.

Some municipal politicians feel that taxpayers would be upset if they knew they were spending tens of thousands of dollars on finding a new CAO. To those politicians I would suggest that taxpayers will be a lot more upset when in order to cheap out at the front end, you hire the wrong person and you end up having to pay that person hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance because you failed to hire an independent and professional unbiased executive search firm.

So rather than pointing the finger at those of us, such as myself, who work as Government Relations Consultants aka lobbyists, as having somehow been the source of the malaise that led to Ken Dobell’s transgressions; the NDP and the Attorney General Wally Oppal should start paying attention to what is happening at the municipal layer of government.

Michael Geoghegan is a consultant with offices in Vancouver and Victoria BC. He can be reached via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eco-fascists of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your dignity!

I have always had a bit of a jaundiced view of David Suzuki. He is without a doubt a man of great intelligence, but there was always something about Suzuki that suggested that no matter how impressed others were of him, he always even more impressed with himself.

I have a university buddy who once wrote a book where he ended up spending quite a bit of time interviewing Suzuki. This colleague, who shall remain nameless, started out quite a fan but over time came to see him as being “an egocentric primadonna.”

Of course this friend had been impolitic enough to mention that his Grandfather had helped set up the internment camps where Canadians of Japanese descent had been imprisoned during the Second World War.

David Suzuki spent his early years in such a camp, so this bon mot of historical trivia probably went over as well as someone mentioning at a bar mitzvah that their grandfather used to be a prison guard at Auschwitz.

These internment camps are a dark and shameful period in Canadian history. Thus it makes Dr. Suzuki’s recent comments about throwing politicians in jail for not doing enough about global warming all the more shocking.

As reported by a University of Toronto student newspaper, Suzuki stated that government leaders who aren’t acting quickly enough to save the environment “should go to jail for what they’re not doing right now … What our government is not doing is a criminal act.”

This bit of eco-fascism was no mere slip of the tongue. A few weeks later at McGill University, Suzuki again equated government inaction on the environment with a criminal act and again was reported to have told students to find a legal way to throw politicians in jail for ignoring climate-change science.

It is worth keeping in mind that Suzuki is a geneticist turned broadcaster and not an expert on climate change. He apparently is no expert on the fundamental tenants of living in a democracy either.

The fact is that many people have passionate views about many things. It can be the environment, religion, politics or who their favorite hockey team is. But when people go from being passionate to fanatical that is when our rights as citizens quickly get trampled underfoot.

And while Dr. Suzuki apparently dreams of setting up prison camps for anyone who doesn’t agree with his views on global warming there are far too many Canadians whose parents or grandparents fought and died for freedom, or who came to Canada as refugees from some oppressive totalitarian hell hole to ever meekly submit to Dr. Suzuki’s dystopian vision.

Moreover in making such fanatical statements, Suzuki has not only undermined his own credibility but all those who are advocating legitimate legislative change to help reduce global warming. Perhaps it is time the good Doctor went back to counting fruit flies at the genetics labs at UBC.

Michael Geoghegan is a consultant with offices in Vancouver and Victoria BC. He can be reached via his website at www.mgcltd.ca

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hang onto your wallets here comes the carbon tax!

If you are not already wealthy, get ready for your standard of living to noticeably decline. At both the federal and provincial level governments are now readying a plethora of new carbon taxes designed to make your cost of living significantly higher.

Although we can all tut tut about global warming the fact is that we still need to heat our homes and get to and from work. CIBC recently issued a report predicting that due to market forces Canadians will soon be paying $1.50 per litre for gasoline. Anyone who has bought gas in the United States also knows that we already pay far more in taxes on gasoline than our neighbours to the south.

Which is why it makes less than perfect sense that the Government of British Columbia is now looking at slapping an additional 3 cents a litre carbon tax on every litre of gasoline you buy. Of course for those fortunate enough to live and work in downtown Vancouver or near a Skytrain station there are alternatives to driving a car to and from work. For most other British Columbians there is no alternative regardless of whether or not gas is $1.50, $2.00 or even $3.00 a litre.

If you are a single working Mom you don’t have an extra three hours a day to get your kids to and from daycare, get to work and then pick the kids up from school using public transit. You also can’t get you and your two kids in one of those so called smart cars and if you live in Prince George you need a truck or SUV to deal with winter road conditions.

Anyone using oil or natural gas already knows how expensive it is to keep your house warm and be assured it is going to get much more expensive. Now that British Columbia is a net importer of electricity, you can also expect your electricity bill to start significantly increasing as well.

Now that the move is on to use food crops to produce ethanol and bio-diesel the era of cheap food will rapidly come to an end as well. Couple all this with the already stratospheric cost of housing relative to average family incomes and it isn’t hard to foresee a future where the working poor and middle class in this province are going to experience a significant decline in their standard of living.

Service sector employers are already finding it difficult to find people who will take a job for less than $10 an hour. Unless it is a student living at home with their parents, a senior looking for supplemental pension income or a person whose spouse already makes a very good salary, no one can afford to live on such a wage in BC today.

So if people can’t afford to live on $10 an hour wages, what happens when they need $20 an hour just to get by? That is something that will significantly impact not just private sector but public sector employers as well.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant living in Victoria and Vancouver BC. He can be reached via his website at www.mgcltd.ca