BC Hydro

When the call screener makes life difficult

A bit out of date but this item first published in January 2015 is worth repeating. It shows something about the quality of political reporting in BC.

January 2, an unidentified caller chatted with CKNW Legislative reporter and talkshow host Sean Leslie, the spouse of a BC Liberal Government Communications Director. She is Lisa Leslie, appointed by Order in Council, who has been paid more than $250,000 total in the last three fiscal years.

It won’t surprise any regular reader that I believe the caller made valid points. Below is a graphic created with numbers from The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and B.C. Hydro. It supplements the caller’s arguments.

Perhaps British Columbia has a difficult economic environment that creates unavoidable burdens for taxpayers and consumers. The alternative is troubling. But, something that looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck may very well be an actual duck.

UPDATE to the item published January 3, 2015:

In Mostly fools, written almost three years ago, I examined work of Press Gallery member and Times Colonist writer Les Leyne. It included this:

Les Leyne’s son works as a public affairs/government relations research analyst. A free In-Sights subscription to any reader who can identify which party employs Andrew Leyne.

Of course, the columnist’s son worked for the Liberal caucus, then the Ministry of Environment and now Hill+Knowlton where he is a government lobbyist, sometimes for a pharmaceutical client. Interestingly, the Vancouver Sun’s Rob Shaw and Lori Culbert reported a fired Health Ministry researcher was evaluating the province’s anti-smoking program but Leyne wrote that the Health Ministry firings were a mystery.

That is no proof of conflict due to a family member’s interests but it raises a question about the appropriateness of disclosure.

We also know that Rebecca Scott, wife of Stephen Smart, another Press Gallery denizen, was employed by OIC appointment as a Public Affairs Officer. The CBC Ombudsman found that to be problematic.

To be fair, I know nothing of the quality of communications work performed for the Government by Ms. Leslie or Ms. Trotter (Tom Fletcher’s OIC appointed spouse). However, I see a pattern of the BC Liberal Party aligning itself financially to families of political journalists. This puts news people in positions of conflict, real or perceived. Lew, in comments below, talks about lucrative appointments “that can be rescinded at any time at the pleasure of the government.” Most families would be seriously distressed if six or seven thousand dollars of monthly income suddenly disappeared.

Some will argue that spousal income is distinct, that journalist Mr. X is not in conflict because the Government he covers pay cash to Mrs. X. However, when public administrators deal with ordinary citizens – whether for tax programs, subsidized housing, medical service premium assistance, social assistance, student loans, etc. – the determinant is always family income. Financial affairs of one spouse is deemed to be connected with the partner’s.

We should consider if a specific Liberal strategy is to use public funds to tame media members; I’ve been told that it is.

Categories: BC Hydro, CKNW, Power Generation

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24 replies »

  1. The Leslies, Smart/Scott, Baldrey/Mullens…
    How many more of these CONFLICTing yet INTERESTing relationships might there be?
    Is this BC Liberal nepotism by design?


  2. Charts show that interruptable power from BC IPPs is routinely priced way, way above markets in North America. But, the “pundits” have not noticed anything wrong.

    Evidence that silence and wilful blindness can be purchased?


  3. Sean Leslie's spouse, Lisa Leslie, has earned over $700,000 from her OIC appointment as an information officer in the Liberal Government.

    Kate Trotter, spouse of Press Gallery member Tom Fletcher, has earned over $500,000 from her OIC appointment as an information officer.

    There are no conflicts of interest of course. Each newsman is a tough critic, always holding Liberal feet to the fire.

    Note: This comment has been amended to correct a name. Thanks to North Van's Grumps for pointing to my initial mistake.


  4. The BC Clean Energy Act has some interesting stuff in it, for example Sec. 6:

    (2) The authority (BC Hydro) must achieve electricity self-sufficiency by holding,

    (a) by the year 2016 and each year after that, the rights to an amount of electricity that meets the electricity supply obligations, and

    (b) by the year 2020 and each year after that, the rights to 3 000 gigawatt hours of energy, in addition to the amount of electricity referred to in paragraph (a), and the capacity required to integrate that energy

    solely from electricity generating facilities within the Province,

    (c) assuming no more in each year than the heritage energy capability (big old dams), and

    (d) relying on Burrard Thermal for no energy and no capacity, except as authorized by regulation.

    See how this is a big gift to IPPs? There's a policy that all this new power has to come from IPPs or from the $9 billion Site C.

    And why not use Burrard Thermal, if exporting LNG is seen as ok?


  5. Well well, thanks for that Norm re Fletcher's wife. To call him a “reporter” as opposed to a shill is a travesty. He regularly does full page rants disguised as opinion and when I try to call him on it in a letter to the Ed I get reminded about column inches of space. I'll use this wee tidbit in my next one and we shall see how that goes.


  6. Answer to above question by Hugh
    Because no Liberal can slime money out of Burrard Thermal, there can be NO OTHER reasonable explanation. ANY reasonable person would KNOW that using Burrard Thermal makes the most sense, Its Built and paid for and uses gas that is here and available. A no brainer! unless of course someone wants to skim off the top of either construction {SNCLavalin?} or wants to make kickbacks by gas contracts!


  7. And what did they do to 'earn' those exorbitant amounts? I think Norm, that you meant 'were paid over…'
    Oh well, if you want the very best…….


  8. Let’s see. My spouse has a lucrative appointment that can be rescinded at any time at the pleasure of the government. Her boss is a long-time friend of the Premier, worked with the Premier at the company run by her and her husband, and worked with the Premier on her election campaign.

    My boss doesn’t care that I haven’t broken an important story in years, if ever, and in fact seems to approve of the fact that I don’t dig for the real story behind government actions and the effects those actions have on the province and its citizens. My colleagues in the press gallery don’t embarrass or outshine me by coming up with any hard-hitting analysis or criticism of government on their own. In fact some of them have spouses in the same employment situation as mine, while others take money for appearances at events sponsored by organizations that support the government. We all get along famously and have long personal relationships with each other and enjoy many mutual friends in government.

    So. Should I dust off that copy of the journalist’s creed buried in a box somewhere out in the garage and start following it? And ruin my comfortable life? Not bloody likely.


  9. Great comment.

    “My colleagues in the press gallery don’t embarrass or outshine me by coming up with any hard-hitting analysis or criticism of government on their own.”

    There is a little bit of light in the Press Gallery but I do wonder if any colleagues speak to The Tyee's Andrew MacLeod anymore.



  10. You’re right Norm. My bad for not distancing Andrew MacLeod in particular from the herd. In my defense, I’ll offer a partial quote from one of my posts to an article in the Tyee to illustrate my opinion of him:
    “Mr. Whitmarsh went along to get along in the Basi/Virk payoff, and it now appears he went along to get along in the health ministry firings. Neither action served the public interest.
    While it’s fun to watch him try to squirm off the hook, we should all be troubled by the way these folks sully our public institutions, and grateful to the Tyee and true journalists like Andrew MacLeod for exposing the facts.”


  11. Internet searches indicate the attention given to particular stories. MacLeod was the leader on the Health ministry scandal, a few others followed behind and some, Fletcher, for example, barely reported the government's difficulty. No big deal if you live in the city and have multiple sources of information but Fletcher's market is primarily small town BC. To many of the people there, the Health ministry problems were “unknown knowns.”


  12. Too bad Tom Fletcher hasn't read a real Journalist's reports who hailed from a small town:Hubert Beyer

    “When the press fails to keep its distance from politicians” Victoria Report by Hubert Beyer

    “…. At a recent Government House dinner hosted by Lieutenant-Governor Stephen Rogers for members of the press gallery, government house leader Bruce Strachan showed up. What the hell, I want to know, was a politician doing at a dinner for the press?

    I wasn't at the dinner, but I was told that Strachan referred to press gallery members as servants of the legislature. I've got news for you, Bruce. I'm nobody's servant. Not yours and not the legislature's. ….


  13. Press Gallery Servants
    Why is it that the BC Legislature budget includes in-house phone numbers being provided to the Press Gallery?

    Why isn't the Press' employers picking up that tab instead of taxpayers?

    Why, in this day and age where the RCMP and CSIS involved in the security and protection of politicians, shadow boxing against threats to the BC Legislative Precinct …. the police WOULDN'T need to go to the Judge to get a Warrant to Wire Tap inside phones as they did have to do (with great difficulty) during the lead up to the Raid on the BC Legislature. All that the Sergeant-at-Arms has to do is to review the digital files from the Press booth, to and from, the ones marked: Warning “This call is being recorded for quality-assurance purposes.”


  14. It all just gets smellier by the day.
    Your update with the “list of Press Gallery members” should be followed by a list of who employs the immediate family members of the above noted scallywags.
    As though you don't have enough to keep you busy…


  15. Andrew MacLeod's name is conspicuous by its absence from the list. He's listed on The Tyee website as The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief and its Legislative Editor.

    The implication is that he is a member, but it would seem The Tyee has not reached the credibility heights demanded by the established. Andrew MacLeod may therefore be unavailable for branding. Maybe it's more than his work that separates him from the herd.


  16. The absence of MacLeod's name and the inclusion of people who are no longer covering the Legislature suggests records are outdated and security may be neglected at government buildings. Presumably, someone with Press Gallery credentials has access privileges greater than those of regular visitors. Maybe all the Press Gallery members get is a permit to park on government lands but even that access should be carefully controlled, given the experiences elsewhere.

    It is only a year ago that a two people were charged with a terrorist plot against the B.C. legislature. That may turn out to be a construct of RCMP officers who directed and supplied vulnerable people but Zehaf-Bibeau proves risks must be minimized.


  17. The requirement for an additional 3000GWh of energy was repealed along with the requirement for BC Hydro to plan based on the lowest water year ever. So we should be thankful for small mercies. That's the good news.
    The bad news is the closure of Burrard. BC Hydro used to rely on it for planning purposes for 917MW of dependable capacity and 6000GWh of energy, although it probably could not produce that output for long. BC Hydro was told by the government to build Mica 5 and 6 (which it exempted from BCUC oversight), which will replace Burrard's dependable capacity but which will provide very little new energy. So guess where the energy that Burrard used to generate is going to come from? That's right – from IPPs. IPPs standing for “Intermittent Power at Premium Prices”.

    You might call Gordo's energy plan the gift that keeps giving, and we are the chumps that keep paying


  18. Might press gallery conflicts of interest be written or talked about in the pro-media?

    Vancouver Sun and Postmedia? Times Colonist and Glacier Media? Black Press? CKNW and the rest of the Corus/Shaw TV, radio & cable empire? CBC?

    Guess not.

    The reality of a vigilant, independent and public spirited media simply does not fit into the business plans of corporate owners.

    How long before blogs fall victim to corporate interests? The writers might be independent but the platforms and the telecommunication networks they rely upon are owned by those same media and internet giants. Their efforts to destroy net neutrality are only the beginning of efforts to control content.


  19. Last October 3rd Norm posted an article entitled “$6.2 million inducement ended BCR corruption trial.” A very important part of that story concerns the fact that the BC Liberal members on the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts voted down a motion by MLA Corrigan to have Graham Whitmarsh and David Loukidelis attend to assist with answers to some very serious questions she raised about the Basi/Virk payoff.

    One would expect that if any segment of the media hereabouts were to report on the outrageous BC Liberal action denying the pursuit of legitimate questions by this legislative committee, it would be members of the Legislative Press Gallery. Why else does the gallery exist? But they didn’t. Nor did any of the organizations employing them.

    One would also expect that with the many other troubling unanswered questions about the deal on the table besides those raised by Corrigan, members of the Legislative Press Gallery and their respective editors would have an interest in getting us the answers. They don’t. Not one of them.

    A couple of years ago I amended the title of the Brad Pitt movie “The Inglourious Basterds” to describe the Legislative Press Gallery and BC’s news media in general. I dubbed them “The Incurious Basterds.” My opinion hasn’t changed.


  20. Ok, thanks for the correction.
    So they could, instead of spending $9 billion on Site C, simply use Burrard Thermal.
    I guess not, because of CO2 emissions.
    But if LNG were exported to Asia, wouldn't some of it be used in plants similar to BT?
    The CO2 ends up in the atmosphere either way.


  21. Mr. Baldrey appeared on the Global TV news hour last night proudly waiving a 2013 e-mail that according to legendary journalist Chris Gailus “dropped into his lap.” It apparently was from the RCMP to the BC health ministry advising that disclosure of any documents regarding the firings would harm their investigation.

    Last week the Vancouver Sun published documents disclosed by the RCMP under an access to federal information request regarding that investigation. Why was the e-mail Baldrey supposedly has in his possession not disclosed by the RCMP as part of the Vancouver Sun request?

    Incidentally, a read through the documents published reveals that any action taken (and it was minimal) on the part of the RCMP was solely in response to media interest. That makes it clear why it is so important we keep on these “journalists” and demand they adhere to the principles mandated by their purported profession.


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