Clark, Christy

One other Commission of Inquiry is needed

I have no doubt BC Liberal involvement with Big Pharma is at the root of high-level government decisions to kneecap research into the safety and efficacy of more than $25 billion worth of pharmaceuticals sold each year in Canada.

Drug research conducted by the Health Ministry and agencies like Therapeutics Initiative threatened the financial interests of indulgent Christy Clark sponsors. Her government squeezed T.I. financially but solid public support for the independent effort kept Liberals from killing it. As a result, the politicians chose a different approach to discredit drug research. That led to newly appointed health minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, and her deputy minister Graham Whitmarsh, telling a press conference that misconduct by researchers had been so serious that RCMP were conducting a criminal investigation. We now know there was no police examination but less well known is that numerous ongoing drug research projects were ended.

In human and ethical terms, the health ministry scandal is immense. In financial terms, it costs the public a small sum compared to natural resource outrages. While CKNW’s Jon McComb and a few others in media are calling for an independent inquiry into the health ministry firings, there is another subject to examine. We need to follow our Albertan neighbours and do a comprehensive examination of natural resource revenues, or more accurately, their absence.

Despite making claims of a trillion dollar prosperity fund, the Clark government is ensuring resource extractors pay little or nothing. We are forced to admit, Gwyn Morgan and his friends in the mining and natural gas businesses found themselves a good one in Christy Clark. And, in 2015, it keeps getting better. For them. Not for us.

Compare the current year of proceeds from sales of natural gas rights to the year before Christy Clark took over the Premier’s office.


Yes, the government that promised a trillion dollar Prosperity Fund from gas revenues, that spends over $400 million a year on the ministry assisting resource companies and much more on subsidies to producers, that plans legislation to tie the hands of future governments considering gas taxes, has paved the road to riches for a few people. Spending 12 million tax dollars on a Bollywood extravaganza drew much notice but it was a drop in the ocean compared to benefits flowing to Christy Clark’s natural resource sponsors.

Unfortunately, it is not only gas producers that bought favours from BC Liberals. When Christy Clark enjoyed a fundraiser attended by Calgary millionaires and billionaires, a key organizer of the event was tar sands kingpin Murray Edwards. In addition to chairing Canadian Natural Resources, Edwards also controls Imperial Metals, the company infamous for the Mount Polley mine disaster. Another of Imperial’s projects is the Red Chris mine, an operation that has Alaskans unsettled. Significantly for BC taxpayers, the billion dollar northwest transmission line was needed to supply subsidized power to Red Chris.

In the April article, Takin’ Care of Business, I suggested that most people would be surprised to learn the BC Liberal Party receives more in contributions from mining companies than BC citizens earn in direct revenues from mining of metals and minerals.

JasonS, commenting at Remembering the desperate nineties suggested I use a different style of graph for illustration, a style more fitting to BC’s political landscape. His comment:

Norm I love your graphs and charts for their devastating realities. I am a blue collar kind of guy so I have ideas but not the aptitude to bring them to fruition. Since many British Columbians can only interpret government malfeasance in nautical terms (ie fast ferries) I want a tongue in cheek graph showing the many MANY Neo-Liberal transgressions, cost over runs and incompetent business practices in the form of tiny pictures of fast ferries.

BC place roof cost over runs would be 2 and a half fast ferries, whereas the new Port Mann would be 4 or more fast ferries. I’m sure it would be a good thing for the NDP to plaster posters around the next election time but I wouldn’t trust them to find their own asses with a map and a flash light. I know its not your job and if it never comes to light that’s OK. I just needed to express this idea and you were the only one I “know” that could pull it off. You don’t have to post this if you wish. But just imagine the huge list with all the little fast ferries. A huge reality check.

I love the idea. A representation of BC Hydro’s obligations to private power producers would be worth about 150 fast ferry icons.

Note: Gas sales revenues are drawn from the government’s monthly reports: CROWN PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS RIGHTS PUBLIC TENDER, ACCEPTED OFFERS

9 replies »

  1. If this isn't criminal, then the definition of criminality needs to be revised asap; before they figure out how to “give away” the rest.

    What we know, and what we have discovered through deft sleauthing by the likes of Mr. Farrell, Ms. Yuile, et al about the nature of the Liberals' tenure is abhorrant, and mocks the spirit of democracy beyond anything a fictional tome would ever dare attempt. What makes me really shudder, though, and what shapes my opinion on remaining in this politically damned province is this: WHAT DON'T WE KNOW? We've seen the tip of the iceberg regarding what they are capable of; is BC as a whole destined to be Titanic-ed by what exists beneath the surface?


  2. “The Health Ministry scandal is immense….” Absolutely! And the cost of an inquiry should not exceed say, half a dozen lawyers at whatever lawyers make – $1000/hr ? x a six hour day = $36,000 plus a hotel room for a day. Norm has posted all the questions. We just need the honest answers. Too much to ask? Probably.
    And to paraphrase Lacho, WHAT WE DON'T KNOW is likely worse than what we do know. Who knew 3 years ago that firing 8 health workers would have such damning repercussions? Time to let the roosters come home to roost.


  3. Norm, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act provides at section 71 (1) that “The minister may dispose of Crown reserves of petroleum and natural gas, oil sand, oil sand products, oil shale and oil shale products under terms the minister sees fit.”

    Now, I’m wondering about the recent changes to legislation giving the energy minister authority to enter into 25-year contracts with natural gas companies without advising the Executive Council and with immunity from Freedom of Information legislation.

    Is it possible the drastic differential you describe is the result of the minister seeing fit to dispose of the reserves in a manner that doesn’t involve the traditional tender method?


  4. These dispositions are by tender but there is shockingly little information revealed to the public by the participants. Much of the “bidding” is done by agents who work with a variety of interested parties. All gas producers share one goal, which is to reduce the amount paid to government for exploration and drilling rights and through royalties.

    In an honest system, government aims to maximize public revenues and they work to ensure there is no collusion among potential bidders.

    However, we're not governed by people who believe the public's share of resource values matters. Quite the opposite. Senior officials and politicians believe their own welfare is more important and that is better served by giving warm hugs to the people with money. Others believe the only role of government should be to facilitate transfer of public assets into private hands.

    Fazil Mihlar was not appointed Assistant Deputy Minister because he was handsome and gregarious. His views mirrored those of his new boss.



  5. It seems Fazil acquired his government duties on the same basis I was assigned my household responsibilities.

    In an attempt to obtain a basic layman’s understanding of the oil and gas rights sales, I reviewed the stats available and noted that the average price per hectare remained relatively stable regardless of the total hectares disposed annually from the years 1978 through to 2000. It then steadily increased until 2008 when it was ten times the year 2000 rate. It declined to about three times the 2000 rate in 2012, then rose in 2013 and again in 2014 to a rate seven times what it was in 2000.

    What has changed drastically since Christy Clark showed up as premier is the number of hectares available each year for auction. That number was halved the year she arrived, and the next two years saw the level drop to the lowest in the thirty-five year history I reviewed. So it seems the reason for the huge differential shown in the graphs above is the total available for sale to start with, and the subsidies subtracted from those receipts.

    That’s why I wondered whether Ms. Clark, who found Gwyn Morgan sitting in her office chair and had to sit on his knee when she arrived, might have found a way to dispose of the rights in a manner that we might not find agreeable if we learned of it.

    Given the track record of these folks, and new legislation allowing the minister to negotiate in complete secrecy concerning assets he can already legally dispose of as he sees fit, your call for some sunlight on this issue is right on the mark. Hopefully it will be real sunlight; not the light the press gaggery thinks shines from the premier’s derrière.


  6. In the last two years, Government claimed that natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars would be produced, that proven reserves would multiply by ten, that volumes extracted in the near future would grow at least five fold and the number of wells would increase by 40,000 or more.

    Yet, despite these “expectations,” industry chooses not to invest significantly to gain tenure in gas producing lands.

    This does not compute.


  7. Before the election, Liberals promised we would all get fabulously wealthy from natural gas. But, once they thought it through, they realized that result would be wrong. Being rich would simply make people unhappy. As Tom Sawyer said,

    “…being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time.

    Thank you Premier Clark. You are making sure B.C. people will have little to worry about.


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