Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The GoP needs to dump the crazies

The GoP needs to dump the crazies. After alienating 100% of blacks about 75% of Latinos and scaring the crap out of women and offending more than a few Libertarians like myself the GoP managed to lose this election. Now the crazies think that the solution is to give America more of what it hates, and my big fear now is that a GoP dominated congress will ensure that America defaults just to screw over the Obama administration. They don't understand the dire fiscal situation America is in, it's all just Greek to them (pun intended). That is why our own Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that the biggest threat to Canada's continued economic growth is the United States.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BC NDP win still likely in 2013

There has finally been a bit of good news for Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.  In the latest opinion polls they have gained three points while the BC NDP have lost three points.  The bad news is that still leaves the Liberals at 25% and the New Democrats at 46%.

Meanwhile the BC Conservatives who are holding steady at 19% have recently engaged in some in fighting over their leader John Cummins.  MLA John van Dongen I expect would like to be the one leading the party into the next provincial election which is scheduled for May 2013.  Whether or not that will happen will depend entirely upon a leadership review vote for Cummins that is currently happening by mail in ballot.

Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP is currently the most popular opposition leader in Canada with an approval rating of 53% while Premier Christy Clark’s approval rating is at 28%.  Interestingly enough the least popular Premier in Canada is Darrel Dexter the NDP Premier of Nova Scotia at 26%, while Canada’s most popular Premier is Saskatchewan’s free market conservative Premier Brad Wall whose approval rating is a resounding 65%

Unless she delays the election, which would serve only to give the BC Conservatives more time to get their act together and paint her as afraid to face the electorate, Premier Clark only has about seven months to turn things around.  It is likely that the spring budget will contain a number of election goodies.  In fact it is likely that a decision to put wooing the public ahead of fiscal restraint was in part responsible for the abrupt resignation of Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.

Clearly there are areas where the government can and should take action to reign in spending.  There has been a spate of stories regarding the growth in number and salaries of executives at ICBC.  Less well known is the fact that this fiscal year the BC Ministry of Health and its health authorities will spend $1.4 Billion on administration, an astounding annual increase of $303 Million since 2009/10.

In British Columbia, on average, there is one administrator for every two hospital inpatients. And BC compares poorly to other provinces in Canada. On a per capita basis, BC spends 20% more than Alberta and 24% more than Ontario on health administration. As a whole, Canada has ten times as many health administrators as some European countries. In Canada, we have one health care bureaucrat for every 1,400 citizens. In Germany, they have one for every 15,000.

Thus in British Columbia we have the farcical situation where in some hospitals like St. Paul’s there are now more administrators than patients while elsewhere new hospital rooms sit idle due to lack of funding for additional anesthesiologists, surgical nurses and the like.
Health care is an area where British Columbians are paying more than enough money to receive first rate services, but not seeing the results due to the percentage of funds that are being gobbled up by administration.  That is why surgical wait lists have continued to grow even as health care funding and the number of new hospital operating rooms has continued to increase.

In order to increase her popularity, Christy Clark is going to have to move aggressively and quickly to start dealing with these problems.  Taxpayers want to know that their hard earned tax dollars are being used wisely.  That means the new Minister of Health and former head of the BCMA Hon Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid is going to have to get serious about administrative cut backs and re-directing those dollars towards opening up the dozens of operating rooms in BC that are currently sitting idle due to lack of staff and specialists.  By doing that Premier Clark can restore her credibility as a Premier who can govern and not just as a politician who can campaign.

The last week of September will see the gathering of municipal and provincial politicians at the Union of BC Municipalities annual general meeting in Victoria, B.C.  This will be the last such gathering before a provincial election that is scheduled for May of 2013.  As such it is expected to be well attended as government MLAs hope to reclaim lost support while opposition MLAs attempt to demonstrate they are ready to govern.

It is also an opportunity for municipal governments to push for funding assistance on a variety of issues, the most important of which are infrastructure spending.  At a time when housing prices are no longer soaring, it is much more difficult for municipal governments to hide the ever larger tax bite they have been taking out of homeowners’ pockets.

Although bike lanes may be the topic de jour, the core issues of maintaining and upgrading sewer, water and road infrastructure remain critical to the day to day livability and economic success of any community.

That is why participation of all three levels of government in funding such infrastructure is so critical and why UBCM’s AGM remains British Columbia’s most important yearly political gathering.

Michael Geoghegan is a government relations consultant based in Victoria, BC

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

True Lies and 9/11

I watched True Lies the 1996 movie with Arnold Schwarznegger and Jamie Lee Curtis the other night. It was such an innocent time, it portrayed a United States of America where the intelligence community was mostly on top of terrorist plots,
 where if serious trouble arose jet fighters were but a few minutes away and where even with the detonation of a nuclear bomb on US soil Americans remained unafraid. Sadly five years later all this would be proven to be completely wrong in the aftermath of 9/11. Jet fighters took 90 minutes to appear, the intelligence community was caught with its pants down and in the face of hysteria Americans heartily embraced giving up their freedoms for the illusion of increased security.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

BC Liberals losing voters to both NDP and Conservatives

It was September of 2011 that I wrote how the rise of the BC Conservatives made the election of the NDP almost certain in 2013. However the two recent provincial by-elections in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope show that the BC Liberals are losing support to both the BC NDP and the BC Conservatives.

Much attention has been focused on Chilliwack Hope where the combined vote of the Liberals and Conservatives was greater than that of the NDP. But what some pundits are missing is the fact that between the 2009 general election and 2012 by election the percentage of people willing to vote Liberal in that riding plummeted from 53.28% to only 31.39% The BC Conservatives meanwhile increased their share of the vote from 7.10% to 25.32%

The fact the BC Liberals are losing voters both left and right is clearly made by the results in Port Moody Coquitlam. In 2009 the BC Liberals took 52.15% of the vote while in 2012 only 30.24% Meanwhile the BC NDP went from 39.8% in 2009 to 54.36% in 2012. In other words the NDP would have won this by-election regardless of whether or not the Conservatives had fielded a candidate. The BC Conservatives increased their vote from 6.59% to 15.40% showing most lost Liberal votes went NDP and not Conservative.

Besides lack of volunteers and money another thing that may have hurt the BC Conservatives in the Port Moody by-election was the name of their candidate Christine Clark. Christine is no relation to Premier Christy Clark but from 1996 to 2005 Christy was the MLA for Port Moody.

I have known both Premier Christy Clark and opposition leader Adrian Dix since we were all 18 and young politicos active in student politics. The two leaders’ styles could not be more different. Dix is a policy wonk who despite growing up in Point Grey became enamored of the NDP and worked first for Ian Waddell when he was an MP and then a young political upstart named Glen Clark; serving first as his Ministerial Assistant and the Political Chief of Staff during Glen Clark’s term as Premier.

Christy Clark is a campaigner who has always worn her political ambition on her sleeve. She grew up in a staunch Liberal household and when Gordon Wilson resurrected the BC Liberals Christy was quickly on board as a lowly research officer. She then went on in 1996 to become an opposition MLA and then from 2001 to 2005 she served in various cabinet portfolios\ including as Minister of Education.

Where Dix was loyal to a fault as Glen Clark’s political right hand man, even going so far as to forge a memo to file to help protect his boss; Christy chaffed under the leadership of BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

Christy eventually quit the BC Legislature for a failed bid to become Mayor of Vancouver and then landed on her feet as a talk show host at CKNW. Campbell after providing solid economic leadership to the province, for the better part of a decade, became tainted by the BC Rail scandal. He was finally done in by his own hubris when right after the 2009 election he imposed an HST without any consultation with the people of BC.

The fatal mistake Campbell made was in forgetting that BC had recall and referendum legislation that allowed the voters to force a referendum on the issue. So in the political backlash that ensued both Campbell and the HST were doomed.

Cue the return of Christy. She was very much an outsider who had the support of only one sitting MLA (Harry Bloy) when she was elected leader of the BC Liberals and thus Premier of BC. She even ran in Vancouver Point Grey (Campbell’s old riding) in securing her return to the BC legislature.

She was confident that her new style and new team would help BC Liberal fortunes rebound. The problem was that in restructuring her government’s political staff she made the mistake of booting out too many long time federal Conservatives and replacing them with too many federal Liberals. It was after this that the coalition began to fray in earnest.

The other mistake Christy made was in spending too much time on photo ops and media announcements and not enough time on solid governance issues. Her plan was to swoop in as the new leader of the party, quickly call a provincial general election and win a solid mandate from the people. The problem was her popularity after a brief blip upwards began to fall to the point where both the NDP and the upstart BC Conservatives are attracting voters at the expense of the BC Liberals.

Unless things change dramatically, May 2013 will see the election of a BC NDP government with the BC Liberals as the official opposition and the BC Conservatives as the loyal opposition (i.e. third place). As government the NDP will have to demonstrate that they have finally learned from past mistakes if they hope to avoid being more than another one term wonder. Significant tax increases and government regulations will merely cause moderate voters to abandon them and accelerate the rebuilding of the right wing coalition. That coalition will not be rebuilt under the name BC Liberal. Instead they will use the name BC Conservative or even an entirely new name.

It is for that reason that BC Conservative leader John Cummins is very much hoping that his party can surpass the BC Liberals in 2013 and become the official opposition. If that happens then he knows we will more than likely see the election in 2017 of the first BC Conservative majority government since 1928.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Closer Look: Jody Paterson: Your tax dollars at work

A Closer Look: Jody Paterson: Your tax dollars at work: Ah, Victoria - I'd almost forgotten what a crazy little city you are. But here's a story to remind me. The City of Victoria and an aboriginal woman who does housecleaning are headed for a court battle over the little posters she'd put up on a few telephone poles to advertise her services.

Slippery-slope arguments are big in Victoria, I do remember that. So I'm sure the City is worried that if you let one person looking for work tack up a little poster with some of those tear-off phone numbers at the bottom, pretty soon you'll have a thousand people looking for work doing the same thing. And you sure can't have that.

I don't know if the City has encountered Meaghan Walker before, but I hope they're ready for one heck of a fight. She's from the Cowichan Tribes and knows how to do battle.

Her position is that she's an aboriginal and has the right to do what she wants on aboriginal land, which is a pretty big hammer to have to use when the issue is 8x11 pieces of paper stuck on telephone poles. But it's potentially effective, as the City already knows from having had to concede the rights of aboriginal craftspeople to sell their wares along the causeway without adhering to the rules that non-aboriginal sellers are bound by.

The City loves a legal fight, whatever the costs. I've always been puzzled by why city taxpayers tolerate the costly court cases, especially when the City loses so often. But I've never lived in Victoria proper and so was always just an amused observer of whatever war was being fought.

They seemed petty and poorly considered when I lived there, and from my viewpoint here in Honduras they now just seem so very small and sad.People, there are bigger things to worry about than posters on telephone poles. Meaghan - you go, girl. [Jody]

My commentary is that this should be very interesting the unstoppable force Meaghan Walker Williams vs the immovable object the City of Victoria [Mike Geoghegan]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How The Ides of March finally made me realize why America hates Hollywood Liberals

I have been so busy with consulting work lately that blog writing and even movie watching has become a bit of a luxury for me. So it was last night that my fiance ordered up The Ides of March on Pay Per View.

As quite some time has passed since it's initial release, I feel okay including some major plot spoilers in my analysis, so feel free to stop reading if you don't want to miss out on the suspense.

The Ides of March is a movie that manages to be cynical and breathtakingly naive at the same time. Yes there is the machiavellian interplay between the political staffers played by Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. But it is in the character of Governor Mike Morris that we get to see George Clooney's wet dream of what a Democratic presidential candidate should be.

In addition to being a Catholic turned agnostic, which I know would be a big deal in the US but not really here in Canada, Morris earnestly campaigns on a variety of jaw droppingly insane ideas like outlawing all internal combustion engines in vehicles within ten years. That is a policy that even Ralph Nader might consider to be overreaching.

Then of course he tells one interviewer don't even get me started on the gun issue, which I assume means he's going to take on the gun lobby. Good luck with that, but in the context of the movie it actually might make sense given the number of farmers and ranchers who would want to shoot Morris for trying to tell them they had to ditch their pick up trucks and start moving hay bales around their property with a plug in Prius.

But of course the big kicker comes when a young hottie intern played by Evan Rachel Wood makes the moves on Ryan Gosling's character, Stephen Meyers, who up til then has regarded candidate Mike Morris as the next coming of Jesus Christ. Meyers ends up having sex with the intern then gets his panties in a bunch when he discovers that this intern has also had sex with Governor Morris.

Up till this point Morris has been such a principled (and completely non pragmatic) politician that he won't even do a deal with another candidate Senator Thompson played by Jeffrey Wright, that would secure him the democratic nomination.

The even bigger shocker comes when the intern revels she is pregnant and that *gasp* Governor Mike Morris is the daddy. Again my eyes rolled. America's puritanical obsession with who else might be getting laid comes to the fore ground. In countries like France powerful male politicians are expected to have both wives and mistresses, only in America do they see it as such a huge deal. Given that Clooney lives most of the time in his luxury villa in Italy I am sure he is well aware of this significant cultural difference.

In any event political staffer Meyers dutifully arranges to provide the money the intern needs to get an abortion (in Canada it would be freely provided) so that's a nice shot at America's lack of public health care. But then bad timing results as instead of picking her up from the clinic he gets canned by Hoffman's character.

So now it's payback time and when word reaches the nubile intern that Meyers is bent on revenge she desperately tries to reach him and for a reason that is never explained in the movie he never answers his cell phone. I'm sorry but a political operative getting fired or not, is not simply going to blow off the one person who is the political bomb he may or may not wish to set off.

Meyers confronts Governor Mike Morris and blackmails him into taking him back, firing Hoffman's character and accepting Senator Thompson's request to make him the Vice-Presidential running mate. This then locks up the nomination for the Governor. At this point I felt almost relieved at Meyers forcing some modicum of political pragmatism onto the far too idealistic and inflexible Governor Morris.

But Meyers by then has discovered to his horror that the nubile intern, assuming the worst, has killed herself and all the feelings of angst and guilt start to well up. The movie ends on a dramatic cliff hanger where the audience is supposedly left wondering, will he do the right thing and spill his guts about the whole tawdry affair or will he do the cynical thing and simply proceed along?

Perhaps I came to this movie a little jaded having seen the money Hollywood has recently been pouring into Washington to get SOPA and PIPA passed. Those are both badly flawed pieces of legislation that would essentially break the freedom of the internet and could lead to the permanent closure of such sites as Wikipedia and Youtube. It is a reminder to all those who value personal freedom that the left is just as good as the right at passing laws that seek to curtail liberty.

But getting back to the movie which Clooney directed, starred in and wrote much of the screenplay for, the cliff hanger for me fell flat. The policies advocated by Governor Mike Morris may play well amongst the wealthy lefties living in tinsel town, but would get him laughed off stage in the real world. Such a candidate would confirm the very worst fears every Republican and Independent has about the Democrats and would ensure a Republican landslide.

Then there is Meyers. He screwed up by not being there for the intern as he had promised. He screwed up by not answering his phone, he also screwed up by taking a meeting with Giamatti's character which is what got him fired in the first place. So now after successfully blackmailing Governor Morris he is now going to do the ultimate screw up and blow up the entire situation by potentially spilling the beans and revealing all?

I am sure Clooney meant this as a morality tale and how things get complicated in politics. No it's not that complicated. From a real world perspective Governor Morris who is supposed to be a leading Democratic candidate would not be running on such an extreme left platform, Clooney's political fantasies notwithstanding.

Such a candidate would take the deal with Senator Thompson in order to secure the nomination, he would not dismiss it with righteous indignation. And yeah Meyers would get fired for being such an idiot. Or in reality an idiot like him would never get to that level in the first place on such a campaign. As for the intern the problem would get handled competently and with sufficient hush money to make damn sure no one let that particular cat out of the bag.

But even if there had been a tragic suicide due to Meyer's incompetence, is his response going to be to tell all? How does committing political suicide and taking Morris et al with him serve as any sort of restorative justice? Oh because it reveals Governor Morris to be a bit of hypocrite? So what welcome to the real world where we're all hypocrites, just ask Newt Gingrich, and yes there have always been young women who are sexually attracted to older men in positions of power, and it will always be thus.

In the end The Ides of March says more about the political world George Clooney wishes existed in America rather than the one that actually does.