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Opinion  

Under funded, over worked

Over the past few days, British Columbians have been treated to a second Surrey city councillor, Brenda Locke, jumping Mayor Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition for possibly more treacherous waters, six of Surrey's largest Sikh and Hindu temples calling on Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to approve McCallum's plan to switch from the RCMP to a municipal police force and a few featuring the health employer tax as one of the causes behind the Victoria police department's budgetary woes.

Hate to let a few facts intrude on the fun, but lost in the debate is that a handful of B.C. cities were home to some of the most expensive policing in Canada in 2017 – Victoria ($510 per capita) and Whistler ($572) – and some of the lowest ratios of police officers to population – Richmond (98 per 100,000) and Burnaby (117).

According to Statistics Canada's inter-provincial comparison of policing costs, at a per capita level, B.C. was in fifth place ($334). No province west of Quebec ($325) spent less. 

B.C. has the fourth highest crime severity index (88.9) in Canada and ranks fifth in police officers per 100,000 population (186). Quebec spent nearly $10 less per capita and had a better ratio of officers (189).

It's the regional B.C. numbers that provide some interesting insight into what's taken place over the years.

There are four regions in the province that together have a combined population of 3.4 million: the Capital Regional District (CRD), Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Central Okanagan. 

Policing statistics are available for 36 of the communities in the four. Together they spent a little more than $1 billion on policing in 2017 or $309 per capita. 

But what a range: from $132 per capita in Sooke to Victoria's $510. In the nine communities surrounding Victoria, the average was $242. 

Six of the communities in the CRD are among the 25 that spent the least per capita on policing and that includes Richmond ($209).

The same pattern that existed in the CRD was evident in Metro Vancouver, where 16 communities spent an average of $264, while Vancouver was at $451.

Fraser Valley same thing: Abbotsford spent $342 and the four other communities $279. In the Central Okanagan, Kelowna forked out $283, while three others spent $137.

Call it the piggyback theory: leave the heavy lifting to the largest community in each region without fully accounting for regional criminal activity, while funding local needs based on local activity.

Take the CRD as an example. If Sooke and North Saanich spent the same per capita as Powell River, Colwood and View Royal the same as Sechelt, Sidney and Langford the same as Vernon, Oak Bay the same as Port Moody, and Saanich and Central Saanich the same as New Westminster, the CRD would be looking at about $19 million more for policing annually.

Seven of the 36 communities spent more than the 10 province average of $352 per capita. The other 29 spent an average of $255.

What's the impact of that spending on cities with some of the highest crime severity indices in B.C.?

Relying on data from Statistics Canada, Surrey would have had 864 officers if it had the same rate to population as Calgary, 929 if it had Toronto's rate. Surrey had 732.

Richmond would have had 319 if it had the same rate as London, Ontario, 372 if it had Regina's rate. Richmond had 206 and that included the 27 deployed at the Vancouver International Airport.

Looking at 76 communities across B.C., 27 had a better ratio of officers to population than Surrey, including Victoria, Prince George and Nanaimo.

Twenty had a worse ratio than Richmond, including Langford, Salmon Arm and West Kelowna.

This week, officials in Thunder Bay called on the provincial and federal governments for additional help to deal with its opioid-overdose crisis. In 2018, 44 people likely died of overdoses in that Ontario city.

According to data from the B.C. Coroners Service, there were 12 fentanyl-detected deaths in the province in 2012. By 2017, it had reached 1,223.

Meanwhile the number of police officers in Vancouver, Mission and Burnaby didn't budge in the same period. Abbotsford and West Vancouver saw their numbers drop by two a piece. Port Moody gained one. New Westminster and Victoria gained two each.

Canada fell from 69,505 to 69,027 officers and the ratio from 203 to 188 per 100,000 population.

As a result of the maladroit bungling of the file by McCallum and the budgetary self-interest of communities in the CRD, the right questions to ask are being lost in all of the noise.

Only nine communities in Canada with a population of more than 100,000 rely on the RCMP for local policing. Eight are in B.C. Happenstance or design?

The two most important questions, though: what's the best policing model for Metro Vancouver and the CRD and how do we get there?

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.



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Gender perception & reality

The transgender movement has made great strides in recent years in advancing the cause of a marginalized minority.

However, the movement’s claim to the absolute right of people to choose their gender, and have that choice legally enforced, is resulting in unfairness.

Gender dysphoria is a condition involving an anatomical male who believes he is a female in a man’s body (and the reverse for women). It affects about one-10th of one per cent of the population.
However, this condition has received much attention in recent years, and has found its way into legislation and corporate policy.

Gender self-identification involves the right of people to identify with the gender of their choice. People have a right to be gender nonconformists or to believe in gender fluidity.

The problem arises when that person, or others acting on their behalf, seeks to compel others to recognize their gender choice as fact. Just because a man thinks he’s a woman doesn’t make him a woman. Recent legislative attempts to compel others to accept belief as fact are having perverse results.

Increasing numbers of men identifying as women have entered women’s sporting competitions and dominated. This is unfair since men generally do better than women in activities involving physical strength.

Then there are cases of female-identifying men choosing to use a women’s bathroom or other private areas where women expect only other women to be present. This can be be extremely uncomfortable.

What about a man who said he felt he was a woman and demanded admission to a women’s prison? Or what about a man who says he is a woman one day (and is treated that way), but the next day says he feels like a child and demands to be treated as a child?

Harvard University now has a policy that a person can change their gender from day to day, and other people must respect those changing decisions. Yale University has tampons for sale in the men’s bathroom.

Remember Rachel Dolezal? She lived most of her life claiming to be a black person – except that her parents and all her ancestors were white. When exposed, she explained that she identified as a black person, ergo she was a black person. If a man can choose to be a woman and must be accepted as such, why can’t a person choose to belong to a different race?

Then we get to the truly bizarre: a young man who is transitioning to be a genderless alien.

Or what about ‘otherkin?’ These people believe they’re not entirely human. Society is expected to take this seriously. Our federal government could probably be persuaded to prosecute people who refuse to do so.

And if you can be whatever you want to be, what about age? A 70-year-old Dutch man says he feels like a much younger man, so he insists on being one. He wants 20 or so years lopped off his birth certificate.

Until recently, those who spoke out about the perverseness of unrestricted gender self-identification tended to be people associated with right-wing groups or causes. The best known in Canada is University of Toronto Prof. Jordan Peterson.

But now, voices from the left are saying essentially the same thing. Megan Murphy describes herself as a radical feminist and speaks out against the wrong-headedness of some of the samples I’ve listed.

This debate is far from over, of course. However, it seems that the tide may be starting to turn. Common sense might be making a bit of a comeback.

People with gender dysphoria must be treated with respect and acceptance. But, as Prof. Gad Saad of Concordia University says, “We shouldn’t change our understanding of reality to celebrate your unique personhood.”

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

– Troy Media



Long and winding road

The Journey Home Society is optimistic about Kelowna’s five-year strategy to ensure everyone who needs a home will have access to the support they need to find one. But we also understand our community is eager to see evidence that the strategy is working.

Every person, regardless of their circumstances, has the right to safe and dignified housing as well as the supports required to sustain that housing. We’ve always said the Journey Home will not be a short, direct route. It is a five-year plan that will have twists and turns on the way to achieving our goals.

In the past year, more than 140 people who were experiencing homelessness have transitioned into supportive housing. In the grand scheme, it’s a relatively small number given there are more than 500 local people on BC Housing’s waitlist for housing, more than 200 sleeping in shelters or outside, and the fact that in any given year it is estimated that 2,000 people experience homelessness in our community. But for those 140 people and their families, their Journey Home has started – and it would not have happened without this focused effort to create supportive housing.

We know we still have a long way to go.  While part of the journey includes providing supportive housing for those who need it, it also includes providing shelter spaces to keep people safe who have no support, it includes supporting efforts to increase treatment beds in Kelowna, it includes introducing peer-support models, including peer outreach to address conflicts between the homeless population, businesses, and community in partnership with business, bylaw services and police. It also includes looking at preventative measures to address the various causes of homelessness and keep people from losing their homes.

A robust process is in place to transition people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna to supportive housing but it’s important to point out that not everyone in temporary shelters will transition to supportive housing, nor will everyone moving into supportive housing be coming from a shelter. There are people who are precariously housed, people living outside, and people living in other kinds of housing that does not meet their support needs who will be considered for new supportive housing units. We work to match the individuals, whether they are youth, seniors and everything in between with the type and level of supports they need, focusing on the most vulnerable first.

In the meantime, BC Housing, Interior Health, the City of Kelowna, the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society and community agencies continue working on housing solutions. All the partners collaborating to find solutions remain committed to the Housing First philosophy, increasing the supply of supportive housing and the overall Journey Home Strategy.

It is also important to understand that many of the people moving into supportive housing do not have addiction as one of their struggles. Some have developmental disabilities, brain injuries, mental illness, or physical health concerns that prevent them from being able to work. We have homeless veterans, and people who have worked all of their lives until a catastrophic event changed it forever. Some of our homeless population have been here their whole lives, and some moved here for work opportunities, or to be closer to family.  Making assumptions about who people are and what their struggles are simply based on where they live does everyone in our community a disservice.

The Journey Home Strategy informs us that 2,000 people in our community experience homelessness at some point every year. Some are chronically homeless while a larger number flow in and out of the system based on low income or job loss or other disruptions in their lives.

Homelessness is a modern crisis tied up in mental-health issues, addiction and poverty. The issues around homelessness are complex and we must try and strike a balance that supports those without homes but also ensures a safe community for all residents and visitors. Many communities in Canada, and certainly in BC are struggling with how to do this work.

The Journey Home is a 5-year strategy. We have gotten to a place of epidemic homelessness across our country through the last 25 years. Significant new investments federally and provincially in housing strategies, poverty reduction and mental health have begun, and it will take some time to see those results locally, but they are coming because we have a plan and community support. Take the time to learn about trauma, colonialism and it’s impacts on our community members and the myriad of reasons people become homeless. Learn about resiliency, reconciliation, and what people need to heal, learn and move forward. Choose to work with us to be part of the solution.

– Gaelene Askeland is executive director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society



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Sound judgment lacking

One of the great things about not knowing exactly what it is you're looking for is the shock that can come when you do find something.

It started with some sponsored advertising content for Mother's Day by the now defunct West Coast Tap House in a May 2012 issue of the Goldstream Gazette.

The surprise, however, came in a Times Colonist article from the year before – Task force tackles Island hot spots in search of gang members – and it drove home the need for B.C. to catch up with its peers when it comes to conflict-of-interest legislation and disclosure rules for senior B.C. government employees.

The Mother's Day ad was from one of the “hot spots” the Vancouver-based Integrated Gang Task Force visited that night.

Here's how the Times Colonist reported it: “the convoy of unmarked vehicles heads out to Langford, stopping at the West Coast Tap House, which is surprisingly dead for a Saturday night.” 

Over the years, the Tap House had served as a polling station in the 2011 federal election, hosted business speed-networking events and community fundraisers. 

It also had another side not always seen by the general public and some interesting pedigree. On some nights it was a microcosm of nearly every social ill imaginable, from gangs to drugs. 

What makes the Tap House so special among the hot spots from that night? 

It's the only one that appears on the government's credit card statements. From 2008-09 to 2013-14, the government charged $10,510 at the establishment. 

It's not just the charges that stick out, it's when they started and – more importantly – when they stopped. 

The Tap House may have had some well-placed cheerleaders. One of the Tap House's co-owners was James L. James, a step-son to the former clerk of the B.C. legislature, Craig James. When the step-son was no longer in the picture, the credit card charges stopped.

It's why those pesky politically exposed person (PEP) designations that many prominent Canadians have found now apply to them may be a nuisance, but the intent is dead on. 

The United Nations Convention against Corruption notes that “the influence and control a PEP has puts them in a position to impact policy decisions, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and finances, which can make them vulnerable to corruption.” 

Other provinces act quickly at the first hint of links between public bodies and organized crime, as Quebec's pension fund – the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec – did recently.

This February, Le Journal de Montreal reported that the spouse of Martine Gaudreault, vice-president of real estate financing at Otéra Capital – a subsidiary of the Caisse – was suspected of having ties with “people related to organized crime.” 

The Caisse suspended Gaudreault and launched “an internal investigation over the allegations.” The four month, $5 million investigation led to the Caisse sacking Gaudreault and three other executives last month. 

As Michael Sabia, chief executive officer of the Caisse, said: “Every day, when I come in to work at the Caisse, I have in my head the question of the importance of our integrity." 

From shadow mortgage brokers to outright mortgage fraud to money laundering, B.C. is dealing with a host of corruption issues, in part, because for too long a few were willing to look the other way and it's time for the government to meet the 2019 standard before it's 2020.

It's the failure to require full transparency from those who have final sign-off on numerous policies impacting on these issues that leaves public officials vulnerable to outside influences, the company you keep dilemma.

There was a story recently in Business in Vancouver that included this line: "With B.C.’s economy partly supported by the proceeds of crime, the whole province could suffer financially if the B.C. government is successful at cutting the flow of dirty money into legitimate assets.” 

Let that sink in, not the suffer part, but the partly supported by reference. 

When government credit cards are used at an establishment where gang members feel at home, it's time to tighten the rules and ensure that the government knows who it is doing business with and whether those business interests intersect with policy makers, because you don't always know the price that can come with those intersecting interests.

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC



Opposition costing billions

B.C.’s politicians claim that additional pipelines could negatively impact the economy and the environment. But the truth is that opposition to pipelines is costing us jobs and is resulting in fewer hospitals and teachers, higher fuel prices and a heavier burden on taxpayers.

It would be a shame to build a hospital and then bulldoze it the day before it opens. It would be worse to repeat the scenario six times. The waste would soar into the billions.

That’s the same amount of money the Canadian government is losing because we don’t have enough pipeline capacity.

Canadian taxpayers lost more than $6.2 billion between 2013 and 2018 because we don’t get full value for our oil, based on numbers from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We’re losing another $3.6 million a day.

The federal government takes in large tax revenues from the oil industry, but when Canada can’t get full value for its oil because it doesn’t have enough pipeline capacity to access world markets, the government loses out on those production dollars.

If we look at the tally of tax revenue losses from 2013 and look forward until 2023, the number is a staggering $12.8 billion. Those billions could build six new St. Paul’s Hospitals in Vancouver, or nine new Pattullo Bridges or 270 new elementary schools. That lost tax revenue could have paid the full salaries for more than 26,000 new teachers in B.C. for 10 years.

Ottawa could even use the money to give complete federal tax exemptions to everyone in Kamloops for 17 years.

While the NDP-Green coalition government in power in Victoria has picked a fight with Alberta and has tried to block the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline, B.C. taxpayers are losing out on the federal tax revenues that would be created by getting full value for our oil on world markets instead of importing our fuel.

The lost tax tally doesn’t include the forgone benefits of thousands of high-paying jobs for Canadians who work in the energy sector.

These numbers only account for direct tax losses to the federal government. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would also add tens of millions of dollars every year for B.C. municipal governments along the route and more than $5 billion to the provincial government’s coffers over 20 years.

But the B.C. government continues to get in the way of all these benefits. What are we getting in exchange for this opposition?

We are increasing the number of rail car shipments, with an eight-fold increase in oil shipments by rail since 2012.

As Blair King, an oil spill remediation specialist, explained in his submissions to the Trans Mountain pipeline hearings, pipelines have 4.5 times fewer accidents and spills than oil-by-rail. Any kind of oil spill is bad, but rare pipeline leaks are much easier to deal with than rail accidents.

We aren’t reducing global emissions by blocking our pipelines.

Oil use is increasing around the world, so the question we should all be asking is whether the world should be using Canadian oil or products from other countries.

“If, therefore, Canadian oil comes with fewer GhG emissions than some of the alternatives, such as Venezuelan or Californian heavy crude, isn’t it time Canada started promoting its oil to the world instead of blocking it?” asks Martha Hall Findlay, former Liberal MP and president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation.

In the meantime, we are paying higher prices at the pumps.

More oil products coming from Alberta through the Trans Mountain expansion could help mitigate B.C.’s soaring gas prices, which hit $1.79 per litre in Metro Vancouver, the highest prices in North America.

B.C.’s residents are paying the price for the political opposition to pipelines. B.C.’s politicians claim that additional pipelines could negatively impact the economy and the environment. But the truth is that opposition to pipelines is costing us jobs and is resulting in fewer hospitals and teachers, higher fuel prices and a heavier burden on taxpayers.

– Franco Terrazzano and Kris Sims are directors with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.



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