Gordon Clark: Eby’s ‘security concerns’ are an insult to his constituents


That seems to be the prevailing public sentiment concerning Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby and his decision to cancel a public meeting about the NDP’s despicable “school” surtax on homes over $3 million because of “safety concerns.” It’s a well-deserved denunciation, especially since Eby’s entire career, if one can call it that, has been dedicated to protesting one thing after another.

Eby and his buddies are trying to sell the notion that it was irresponsible of Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson to urge citizens to attend the event, which Eby had attempted to control by issuing a limited number tickets and framing it as a “discussion” between those opposed to the tax and its advocates.

Yeah, nice try, but politics doesn’t work like that. Citizens, especially those hurt by the NDP’s bogus “school” surtax — and all the other envy taxes the NDP hopes to employ to expropriate hard-earned property wealth from British Columbians — won’t be stage managed.

They are pissed off, and for good reason. They already pay staggering levels of tax, often from pensions, and the NDP is changing the rules on them in going after their main assets, acquired through great effort over long careers.

In claiming “safety concerns,” Eby not only comes across as disingenuous, but as a fool. Clearly, the meeting was cancelled because he didn’t want to end up on the news being berated by a large crowd of angry grey hairs. To suggest his constituents represent a “security” threat is beyond bizarre. Those folks might be angry, but the odds of some septuagenarian from Point Grey taking a swing at Eby is, well, do I really need to finish that sentence?

If Eby is truly frightened to face his almost exclusively well-educated, professional-class and retired constituents, he should find another line of work. Frankly, there’s a high chance he will have to anyway after the next election. Does he think he would have been elected last year if he’d run on bringing in these taxes?

But there is something else about Eby’s “security concerns” comment that is more sinister, reflecting an ugly habit of the NDP and others on the left (although some on the right also do it) to manipulate language for political ends with little regard for truth. We can — and should — laugh at Eby’s ridiculous security comment, but it is also a not-too-subtle defamation of his critics in implying they would resort to violence.

This happens frequently on university campuses when controversial figures such as University of Toronto psychology professor and best-selling author Jordan Peterson are invited to speak. Activists, usually from the left, threaten violence and events get cancelled for “security concerns” by cowardly university officials with a shockingly low commitment to free speech.

I’ve noticed the Horgan government frequently manipulates language. The “school tax” is clearly a wealth tax. In justifying its new and additional property taxes in ads, the NDP goes on about “foreign investors” and “speculators” in blaming — as others have more terrifyingly through history — outsider scapegoats for our pricey housing. Turns out, “foreign investors” are a relatively small part of the market (and we invited them to come and invest here) and the “speculators” are largely Canadians who have often owned B.C. properties for decades. Worse, the NDP is doing almost nothing to address the real cause — low supply.

What about the language the NDP uses in justifying its new law to kill private health care, claiming it was to “protect” British Columbians? Setting aside their disrespect for the court in bringing in the new law while in the middle of a lawsuit on the matter, the NDP is actually trying to protect the party’s biggest sacred cow — socialized medicine — not patients.

The NDP would rather have people wait in agony for months or years for joint surgery slowly rationed out by public officials than let them pay for private care that would increase the number of surgeries completed each year in a mixed medical system found everywhere else in the developed world.

How about Premier John Horgan dismissing the Kinder Morgan pipeline as in the interest of “Texas boardrooms?” I don’t know what NDP backroom bozo came up with that talking point, but the pipeline actually means thousands of jobs, billions in taxes for Canadians and lower gas prices, not to mention that many Canadians, including the pension funds millions of us rely on, are invested in the company.

NDP politicians can play word games and political spin all they want, but voters aren’t stupid, as Eby is learning. They see through it.

Gordon Clark is a columnist and editorial pages editor for The Province.


Mike Smyth: What happened to David Eby, the guy who never backed down from a fight?

David Eby is not the type of guy who backs away from a political fight or cowers at the idea of confrontation.

In fact, he wrote the book on such things. Literally.

Back in 2010, Eby wrote a training manual for “legal observers” at the Winter Olympics held that year in Vancouver.

The purpose was to ensure the Olympics did not become an event “where the homeless are displaced, free speech interfered with and citizen rights trampled,” the manual said.

The training manual encouraged observers to carry swim goggles or a scuba mask, an air-filter mask and “a damp bandana,” all to guard against police tear gas and pepper spray. It also recommended carrying a water bottle for “cleaning eyes or wounds.”

“Are you ready to join us on the front lines preserving rights and freedoms during the 2010 Olympics?” Eby asked in the manual.

Of course, that was back when Eby was the head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. He could be regularly found at the head of protest rallies as he challenged the powers of the police and the government.

But now that Eby is the attorney general and the guy in charge, he’s not as enthusiastic about those pesky protesters.

On Tuesday, Eby cancelled a town-hall meeting in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding after it became apparent protesters were planning to crash the event at the encouragement of the opposition Liberals.

In a Facebook posting, Eby postponed the meeting “until we can ensure we can hold it safely.”

The meeting was expected to focus on the NDP’s new real-estate taxes, including the new “school tax” on homes valued at more than $3 million.

The tax (which is not a school tax, as the money goes into general revenues of government) is unpopular among homeowners in Eby’s well-to-do riding.

So was the cancellation of this meeting really about “safety”? Hardly. A large portion of the protesters would have been senior citizens.

In fact, until now, the New Democrats appear to have enjoyed the political optics of this fight. The NDP’s base of supporters love taxes on the rich, and the Liberals are playing right along by siding with wealthy homeowners.

But I suspect Eby is worried about the local politics of this one, as the tax disproportionally hits voters in his own riding.

Now he has fallen short of the standard of accountability that he himself demanded back when he was B.C.’s most vocal political agitator.

“His own constituents are concerned and worried and he doesn’t want to meet with them,” said Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.

“So he’s trying to isolate himself from voters.”

I suspect the protesters will be back, especially now that they’ve successfully rattled one of the NDP’s steadiest performers.


Related Article

Statement from Andrew Wilkinson on David Eby’s cancelled townhall

Instead of listening to the concerns of his own constituents, Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby cancelled his public townhall yesterday – for the second time.

He’s a career activist with a long history of supporting demonstrations, protests and uprisings, yet according to him seniors, pensioners and families are “security risks.”

British Columbians deserve representation and accountability. They deserve to have their voice heard by their MLA.

The NDP have introduced a so-called school tax – but it’s really a tax on homeowners.

I have heard from Point Grey families who bought their home decades ago when the assessed value was a fraction of the current number. Families who worked hard and lived frugally in order to afford their home only to have the BC NDP swipe their earnings away with their new homeowner tax.

I have heard from Point Grey seniors – who rely on their lifetime of savings in retirement – watch their nest egg evaporate by the new NDP homeowner tax grab.

I encouraged David Eby’s constituents to have their voices heard at a public town hall and will continue to do so because I believe in leadership for all of BC.

I am calling upon David to reschedule his townhall meeting at one of the many large public venues available in the next ten days.

Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the BC Liberal Party

Mike Smyth: Breaking down where your gas money goes

It’s always cringe-inducing to hear Premier John Horgan plead with the federal government to do something about soaring Metro Vancouver gas prices, the highest in North America.

Horgan was at it again Monday, blaming the feds for a lack of fuel-refining capacity in B.C.

“Let’s make more (refined gasoline) here, creating more jobs here and relieving the enormous pressure on the travelling public,” he said.

Say what? He’s worried about pressure on drivers? At the same time he jacks up the carbon tax on every litre of gas sold in B.C.?


The Horgan government increased the carbon tax on April 1, and it now stands at 7.78 cents per litre. On a typical 50-litre fill-up at a gas station, you’re now paying nearly four bucks in B.C. carbon tax alone.

The carbon tax used to be “revenue neutral” meaning the government was legally required to lower other taxes to offset it.

The NDP changed the law, and now the entire carbon tax flows directly into the coffers of government with no neutral offset required.

The provincial bite at the gas pump doesn’t end with the carbon tax.

There’s also the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority fuel tax of 6.75 cents a litre. And the general B.C. Motor Fuel Tax of 1.75 cents a litre.

Then in Metro Vancouver, you have the whopping TransLink fuel tax: another 17 cents a litre, or $8.50 per fill-up.

And now Horgan wants the federal government to ease your pain? Good grief.

Of course, the federal taxman has to get his piece of the action. So you also pay the federal fuel excise tax of 10 cents a litre.

The sour cherry on top is the five-per-cent federal GST, which is charged on top of your total gas purchase, including all the other taxes.

That’s right: You pay tax on your gas taxes.

Would refining more fuel in B.C. ease prices? Sure, but publishing tycoon David Black has been trying for six years now to get his refinery project off the ground with no success.

Now Horgan says he’s in talks with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee about expanding refinery capacity south of the border.

Yes, this is the same Washington state that refines million of barrels of diluted bitumen pumped through British Columbia from Alberta via the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

No wonder Horgan says he would continue to allow 22 million tonnes of bitumen to flow through B.C. a year, at the same time he says the stuff is dangerous to the environment and human health as he fights the pipeline’s expansion.

The hypocrisy — like the price at the pump — is breathtaking.



Mike Smyth: Pipeline reality check — there’s bitumen flowing through it right now

As Premier John Horgan turns to B.C.’s highest court in his battle against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, his government is taking aim at the toxic stuff that flows through the pipe: Diluted bitumen.

Bitumen is the thick, heavy crude extracted from Alberta’s oilsands that the B.C. government says poses a dire threat to the public.

“Diluted bitumen, when released into the environment, would endanger human health, the environment and communities,” the government said in a statement Thursday. That’s why the government now proposes strict new regulations on bitumen shipments and is asking the B.C. Court of Appeal to confirm its jurisdiction to do so.

But the government says the new permitting process would only apply to “incremental volume” of bitumen from Alberta, and not to bitumen already flowing through B.C. on a daily basis.

Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain project is actually an expansion of an existing pipeline that’s been operating in B.C. for 65 years. The pipeline currently pumps an average of 60,000 barrels of bitumen a day through B.C.

I asked Horgan if there’s a possibility of a catastrophic bitumen spill happening in B.C. right now.

“Potentially, yeah,” he said.

So if the stuff is so dangerous, why is his government not taking steps to regulate all of it?

“It’s a question of fairness,” Horgan told me. “We wanted this to be forward-looking in the interest of fairness to those who are already conducting business on a regime that existed when they began their business activity.”

So “fairness” to the fossil-fuel industry is more important to Horgan than taking steps to prevent a spill that threatens human health?

Here’s another rationale for this hypocrisy: Choking off existing bitumen shipments could inflate the price of gasoline in B.C. and spark a possible trade war with the Americans. Most of the bitumen currently shipped through B.C. is sent south of the border to refineries in Washington state. Much of that refined product is then sold back to B.C. as fuel.

“Could you imagine what a conniption Gov. Jay Inslee would have if 10 per cent of his state’s oil feedstock disappeared?” asked industry analyst Dan McTeague.

Inslee is the Washington state governor who has forged a close relationship with Horgan and is touted as a possible Democratic nominee for president. We wouldn’t want to annoy him, would we? And I’m sure Horgan doesn’t want to be blamed for even higher gas prices or worse.

“They likely don’t want a NAFTA challenge,” McTeague said. “It could also cause the Loonie to drop.”

All very unpleasant consequences, so much better to focus on “incremental” bitumen shipments, and accept the current risk of a spill.

So is this fight really about protecting the environment, B.C. communities and human health? Or is it about appeasing environmental activists inside the NDP and Horgan’s governing partners in the B.C. Green party?

The strategy is clearly “death by delay” — tie the project up in court and hope Kinder Morgan gives up and cancels the whole project. The company has set a May 31 deadline to resolve the impasse with B.C., though the court case is certain to drag out beyond that date. That could trigger action by the federal government and Alberta. Both are considering putting taxpayers’ money into the pipeline to save it.

No matter what happens, it appears Alberta’s current bitumen shipments will continue to flow through B.C.




Vaughn Palmer: NDP stacking the deck in favour of proportional representation

When the New Democrats recruited four academics to vet the public consultations on electoral reform, they asked them to take a vow of silence about the government’s methods, process and findings.

“You are one of four academics invited to provide advice and would be privy to confidential information, including draft materials and related commentary,” read the formal invitation from the Ministry of the Attorney-General.

“As a condition of your participation, we ask that you agree to abstain from public comment or academic research related to the B.C. government’s survey methodology, survey results or consultation process.”

The letter went out last Nov. 3 to four political scientists with expertise in electoral reform: Maxwell Cameron from the University of B.C., Genevieve Fuji Johnson, Simon Fraser University, Jonathan Rose, Queen’s University and Peter Loewen of the University of Toronto.

The first three have spoken favourably about the need for electoral change. Only Loewen has much good to say about the status quo first-past-the-post system.

But from the outset, the quartet was presented with a bit of a fait accompli — a questionnaire about public attitudes on electoral reform drafted in advance by the government, with a tight time frame to offer comments and shape the final version.

All four wrote back over the next week or so, doing their best to shorten, clarify, correct and add balance to the initial draft. Not all of the advice was taken.

“Are you planning a citizens’ assembly?” asked Prof. Johnson, suggesting an assembly or some other form of public review would be critical to build support and understanding. “Voters have to become very familiar with the alternatives to our political system and the reasons why they are stronger. This can’t be rushed.”

Despite the caution against rushing, the New Democrats had already put the process on the fast track.

“We do not have time to do a citizens’ assembly process,” returned Neil Reimer, director of strategic initiatives in the A-G’s ministry and the lead public servant on electoral reform process. “We have been given fairly tight timelines.”

I’ll say. The date of that email — obtained by the B.C. Liberals under an access to information filing, like other documents quoted here — was Nov. 13. Two days later, Reimer got back to Johnson and her colleagues with a revised questionnaire and solicited a second round of feedback, with responses due by noon on Nov. 17.

The following week the New Democrats launched the public engagement process and the final version of the questionnaire. Included on the How We Vote website, was a carefully crafted nod to the limited role played by its four external academic advisers.

“They reviewed the questionnaire and voting system information presented on this site. They are not responsible for the website’s design or content.”

Next morning, all four received a cautionary email from Kevin Atcheson, the senior policy and legislation analyst in the Justice Services Branch.

“We understand you may receive media requests on the topic of electoral reform and your role in the review of the government’s educational material and questionnaire,” it began before acknowledging that they were, of course, free to comment on the wider referendum process and voting systems in general.

But then came a reminder of the terms on which they entered into the exercise in the first place: “As indicated in the letter requesting your participation, please refrain from commenting on the specific advice you provided and whether that advice was followed.”

Particularly the latter. Much as the New Democrats were happy to cite the four as validators, the last thing they wanted were mouthy academics critiquing the process, the questionnaire and the possible results.

Besides, as one of the quartet disclosed, “I provided some feedback on the survey, but that’s about it.” The more important role in shaping the final text of the survey was the one hinted at in another of Reimer’s emails: “Our minister’s office has also had input.”

Last week, Attorney-General David Eby ducked questions from the B.C. Liberals about the role played by the political staff in his office. Tuesday he admitted all.

“My office did guide the questionnaire,” said Eby, suggesting that his staff had no choice but to take charge because “some of the (academic) experts provided contradictory recommendations.”

Instead of letting the academics speak out publicly about where they disagreed with the NDP questionnaire and why, Eby’s ministry reminded them of the obligation to say nothing on that score. Then Eby and his staff handled the finishing touches themselves.

“So decisions have to be made in politics,” he told the house. “One of the decisions that my office made, and that I stand here accountable for, was to release the survey in the form it was released to the public for completion. I believe the survey struck the right balance.”

I’m sure he does think it struck the right balance. For in many readings of the survey, it was found to be skewed in favour of proportional representation — the outcome sought by both Eby and Premier John Horgan, who appointed Eby as the “neutral arbiter” on this process.

I further expect that when the New Democrats finally get around to setting the question or questions for the referendum, and deciding the other arbitrary rules and procedures, neutral arbiter Eby will say those strike the right balance as well.

All part of an NDP-led deck-stacking exercise that began last fall and continues to this day.