Category Archives: Public Safety

Debt is BC’s Biggest Issue

Our provincial debt is now at record levels.  In the coming weeks leading up to the election, understanding the full extent of the provincial debt, including any and all outstanding obligations, should be a primary focus of the election coverage.  ”

“Every BC resident needs to understand the connection between our provincial deficit and their own financial well being.  There is a direct correlation.”

Quite simply, the deficit is the single largest issue.  Without fixing this, we will not have funding in the provincial coffers for healthcare, education, infrastructure and other important programs.    If we are broke, we will have no options to protect the environment, educate our children and preserve our way of life.  We are seeing first hand consequences in Cyprus this month.  The utter devastation of the economy in Cyprus has resulted in private wealth being seized to pay down sovereign debt.

If we elect a government in 2013 that continues business as usual, BC will be setting a dangerous precedent by allowing special interests to mortgage our future.

As for the current budget, it would be good to also get a clarification of what assets will be sold on page 135 of the BC Budget in years 2013-2015.  These total over $700 million. As a taxpayer, I want to know what these are.

The budget also contains contradictions with other statements being given to us.  I would like to see an explanation of the projected increased in natural gas production on page 134.  The budget projects a growth in gas volume from 1461 petajoules (2011) to 2025 in 2015 (approximately 30% increase).  I am not saying it is not true, just wondering why our government is telling us the carbon tax is working while GHG’s are going up.  This needs to be explained.  BC residents are too smart to allow such a double standard.

Balanced budget legislation is worthless if not followed.   Asking why the Health funding is running a budget deficit of around $5 billion despite the BALANCED BUDGET AND MINISTERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY ACT.  This act (Statutes BC 2001, Chapter 28) received royal assent on August 16, 2001.  It clearly states in section 2

The main estimates for a fiscal year must not contain a forecast of a deficit for that fiscal year.”

The following health funding report is from page 110 of the BC budget.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 10.49.51 PM

Pay close attention to the bottom three lines.  Health care is important. If the true cost is $17, 266 million, then let’s budget that.  It is also fair to expect that the accounting for this be completely transparent so BC residents who can find ways to improve the efficiency of health care are able to help our province.  Having a budget that does not reflect reality just confuses everyone.

I’ve run business and started companies form nothing and grown them to be sold to Fortune 500’s.  This is not hard to do if everyone is transparent.  We need a change in BC on May 14.

Thoughts on the UBC Subway Rapid Transit Proposal

March 10 I attended an open house meeting with Mayor Gregor Robertson and councillor Geoff Meggs.  The meeting was filled to capacity and there were some great people in the audience.  NDP politician Mike Harcourt was there as was Constance Barnes.

Before passing any opinion on this matter, I would like to say thank you to all the citizens who gave up a few hours on their Sunday to come down and express their opinions.  This is indeed how democracy needs to work and it is great to see so many exercising their rights.  I appreciated hearing from the people for and the people against the plans.

The presentation went very well and I thought Councilor Meggs made a very eloquent and data driven presentation that would have lead anyone to the logical conclusion that the SkyTrain is needed and the best option is to tunnel under Broadway, primarily to reduce the devastation of the cut and cover techniques used on Cambie.   Based on the congestion alone, it appears we need to invest into the future.  I myself have been passed up on the 99B or very near the last person allowed on a totally packed bus.  I was surprised to find a very sizeable opposition to the project in the hall and listened to hear their concerns.

NIMBY – the Not In My Back Yard opposition is very typical and for those living right next to the projects, is justifiable.  During the construction of the Cambie street line (Canada Line), the local residents had major problems, several businesses failed and more.  I noticed some patterns of activity that I will elaborate on later.  A second set of concerns concluded that along with Skytrain we will get a lot of big box retailers displacing the local businesses.  A tangent on this is the worry that with the prosperity promised from Skytrain, the local real estate prices will continue to soar, something that does worry a lot of people in this riding.

By far the the most compelling reason against is the cost.  When asked directly, Mayor Robertson told the audience that the cost is $2.8 billion for a tunnel approach.  I took the liberty of checking the official Translink website ( I am a data geek) and found that the projected cost is actually $3.2 billion.  There are conflicting bits of information on this.  For example, this page ( http://www.translink.ca/en/Plans-and-Projects/Rapid-Transit-Projects/UBC-Line-Rapid-Transit-Study.aspx ) states the cost is $3.0 billion for the RRT version.  This page paints it at $2.8 billion ( http://ubcskytrain.wordpress.com/22points/) while the Globe and Mail pegs it at #2 billion. I also had seen another number of $3.2 billion which seems to have since been removed from the Translink website but the Vancouver Sun, of which I would believe the reporters did proper homework, reported the $3.2 billion number too at http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=4ae63f6a-c784-46da-a772-ce15cd4d8f01.  This really doesn’t matter as much as the fact that BC is now at record levels of debt.  Still, asking how we will pay for this is a very just question and one that needs to be answered honestly.  We are broke and in debt.  You cannot borrow your way out of debt.

I am running for office and one of the things I will promise you is that if elected, I will never take what I am told for granted and will do my homework.  I find it worrying that the raw data of the budget is not public and that there is a $400 million discrepancy.

So where do I stand?  This is a complex issue and here is what I would like to see.

1. Some research to understand the real cost and also the track records of those who are doing the estimates.  I would welcome an understanding of whether of not the estimates are provided by people and processes that have proven accurate or inaccurate.   If these people have been wrong in the past, we, the people , have a right to know.  One of the core policies of the BC Conservative Party is that we believe government must be transparent and accountable to the people.  We are all expected to balance our budgets in a given fiscal cycle.  Is this too much to ask of our elected officials?

2. I would like to understand the tendering process (the process by which we award the contract  and understand how many BC jobs are involved.  Are we sole sourcing it?  If we are, why and are we locking out local companies?

3. I would like to understand the options for private funding and operation to see if they are acceptable. Maybe private enterprise can help cushion the costs?  This needs a lot of work before it could be proposed but it does seem to be a valid question.

4. We, the BC Conservative Party, actually listen to people when they speak and share concerns about the potential to disrupt the character of the neighbourhood.  In particular however, the re-zoning and number of re-development applications is a separate issue.   Saying yes to SkyTrain does not equate directly to allowing big box stores to take over small family run businesses.  I also want to see a contingency fund in place to help any businesses hurt by the process.  I also want to understand why there seems to have been an acceleration in development along the corridor prior to the SkyTrain being formally approved?  On the few blocks around my house I have seen many new development signs going on and it does make me a little uneasy.

5. I would like to understand the full environmental impact.  Many people complain about the fact that our government is no where near meeting its’ 2020 GHG obligations and the SkyTrain project may actually have the capacity to help meet that target.  The Canada line, for example, carried 38 million passengers last year which is a lot less car trips.

In general, despite the high cost, it is a project I think can be beneficial to the entire corridor but there are some conditions that need to be met.  Politicians must listen to their constituents and I applaud every politician who took time to attend and listen.  I believe we have learned from Cambie and the Canada Line experience and can mitigate many of the concerns.

I remain in favor of the SkyTrain, contingent upon the concerns of residents being satisfied.  We need to reduce GHG emissions, the existing system is at capacity and the future needs to be planned for now.  For anyone who does not believe the system is at capacity, please experience boarding a 99B bus between 8-11:00 AM or 3-7 PM.

I am doing some more research on this and will post it on this blog as it becomes available.

 

Kitsilano Coast Guard Station Must Stay Open!

John Cummins, a former Member of Parliament and leader of the BC Conservative Party held a press conference yesterday and read out loud his letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging reconsideration of the decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

DNS Provisions Pulled from SOPA

I wrote some of my thoughts about SOPA down in this earlier blog post.  Now it appears that common sense has prevailed.  After a good discussion on the O’Reilly Foo Campers Alumni list, some of the participants of which were asked to get opinions, it seems that the DNS provisions of SOPA are being dropped.  This was just reported on SlashDot http://politics.slashdot.org/story/12/01/13/2222203/dns-provision-pulled-from-sopa .

The Republican Chairman Mr. Lamar Smith has historically been one of the biggest backers of the so called Stop Online Piracy Act.  CNET ran the story and claimed Mr. Smith announced that he plans to remove the Domain Name System or DNS-blocking provision.

“After consultation with industry groups across the country,” Smith said in a statement released by his office, “I feel we should remove DNS-blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the [U.S. House  Judiciary] Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision”

Read more at CNET

SOPA – Less Government Impositions of Freedom

Several people have recently asked for an opinion on the US proposed legislation to stop online piracy of intellectual property.  Rather than read the opinions of others, I decided to read the actual proposed legislation itself.  For the record, the version I read is at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c112:1:./temp/~c112UufGtF::   There are many worries about limitations on freedom of speech and costs that will be born to internet service providers (ISP’s) including potential legal actions to recover damages from those who find themselves participants in such transactions.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a lawyer, nor am I am US citizen.  I am a musician and have a vested interest in enforcement of IPR laws.

I found the bill somewhat flawed, despite what appears to be a noble attempt to correct an injustice.  I initially like this section:
“SEC. 2. SAVINGS AND SEVERABILITY CLAUSES.
(a) Savings Clauses-
 
(1) FIRST AMENDMENT- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to impose a prior restraint on free speech or the press protected under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.”
This alone alleviated many of my worries. My first issue was section 101 (23) paragraph C:
“(23) U.S.-DIRECTED SITE- The term `U.S.-directed site’ means
an Internet site or portion thereof that is used to conduct business
directed to residents of the United States, or that
<SNIP/>
(C) the Internet site or portion thereof does not
contain reasonable measures to prevent such goods and services from
being obtained in or delivered to the United States;…<SNIP/>
I am sorry but I do not believe that I should have to take measure to comply with US law.  First of all, the internet is “opt in” by default.  Anyone may take any publicly served file and re-serve it via another website.  I can reference files and there is no clear demarcation of paragraph C that ensures I am not wrongly classified as such a site.   I am also not a US citizen, I have no physical presence in the US.  Your laws do not apply to me.  Furthermore, I, like many other website hosts, have no way to prevent such goods or services from being obtained in the USA.
As far as the original question goes, there is little elaboration on the impact to ISP’s.  Section 102 C reads:
(c) Actions Based on Court Orders-
(1) SERVICE- A process server on behalf of the Attorney General, with prior approval of the court, may serve a copy of a court order issued pursuant to this section on similarly situated entities within each class described in paragraph (2). Proof of service shall be filed with the court.
DN: Inference – ISP’s do not need to take proactive action, only respond to court orders.  The problem is that there could be huge numbers of these court orders and most of the violating sites will be not on USA soil, hence out of reach of United States law.  This concerns me since each ISP must block each site via their own system as well as potentially making the sits visible again should they not be in violation anymore.
(2) REASONABLE MEASURES- After being served with a copy of an order pursuant to this subsection, the following shall apply:
(A) SERVICE PROVIDERS-
(i) IN GENERAL- A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address. Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.
DN: Filtering an IP address or domain name is very little effort but may have unintentional consequences.  For example, Apache virtual servers may share a common IP address but use virtual hosting based on the http.config file.  Such actions may block legitimate sites causing financial losses.
(ii) LIMITATIONS- A service provider shall not be required–
(I) other than as directed under this subparagraph, to modify its network, software, systems, or facilities;
(II) to take any measures with respect to domain name resolutions not performed by its own domain name server; or
DN: This means that ISP’s are not required to perform any further work in these cases?
(III) to continue to prevent access to a domain name to which access has been effectively disabled by other means.
DN: My gut feel is as follows:
– there is a problem that needs to be addressed WRT IP theft.
– in parallel, I believe there are issues with orthogonal systems such as the USPTO/WIPO and the problems cannot be adequately addressed alone via HR 3216.
– if it proceeds to become legislation, it will take a while to establish legal precedent and find where the bill in practicality does not work.
– the criminals who sell the IP of others knowingly are likely crafty enough to use revolving IP addresses or even hacked legitimate servers to complete such transactions making it virtually impossible for an effective countermeasure.
Then again, what do I know?
Duane Nickull