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Funding of environmental organizations and political parties #4780
Back To Discussion List Written: 2017.01.16 by: Robin Tivy

Environmental organizations and political parties are organizations that try to change things. I'm opening this "editorial" discussion because over the years it is an issue that keeps coming up. I guess it's all about how democracy is supposed to work, and possible overhauls to make it work better. Within the scope of the discussion are the following types of subject:

 - Foreign influence over Environmental organizations
 - Special interest donations to political parties
 - pay to play fund raisers
 - limits on political contributions

It is a more specific discussion than Catalog of Stupid Arguments (and their answers)


#6133 - 2017.10.25 Robin Tivy - Wilkinson comes out against Electoral reform
As I predicted in my previous posting, Andrew Wilkinson has stepped up to the plate and is leading a high profile fight against electoral change. The opening lines of Vaughn Palmers article of October 20 say the following:

"The fight of our lives," candidate Andrew Wilkinson calls it, referring to the scheduled-for-fall 2018 referendum on proportional representation."

Now that you can see the pattern of Wilkinson's positions on issues, we can leave this discussion. I have opened a new discussion on the Voting System Referendum, which is the next battleground. See Voting System Referendum in BC

But before we leave this discussion, let me say a few words in defense of Andrew Wilkinson. When he was president of the BC Mountaineering Club (BCMC), as far as I know, he did a good job. He's a professional. He's not stupid. Same thing is probably true in his position as president of the BC Civil Liberties Association. And then his position as president of the BC Liberal Party.

His career is based on knowing how to represent organizations. He is a lawyer. The job of a lawyer is to advocate for his client. His job is to win the case. A professional lawyer is not supposed to decide for himself if his client is right or wrong. He is a professional.

I think Wilkinson is taking the same professional approach with his current client, the BC Liberal Party. He is listening carefully to the old guard of the party. He is articulating their position and legitimizing their stupidity with his elegant credentials as Rhodes scholar, medical doctor. Like a stamp of approval by a thinking person.

In my career, I often spoke my mind and argued opinions that were contrary to the status quo. When I worked for the Greater Vancouver Regional District, I pointed out that giving free parking to executives, while not supporting employees who use transit was contrary to the organization goal. I was not popular. Same at Canadian Airlines, where I argued that the free flights given to airline employees should be regarded as some form of income.

The term often applied to someone like me is "loose cannon on deck". A professional organization man would utter no such opinions. The only time a leader should go contrary to the old guard is if he can see that history will prove him right. Wilkinson could have done that with the argument regarding corporate funding. But he stuck to the old story too long - he failed to forsee that the jury would not buy the BC liberal story about corporate donations. But no other prominent BC Liberal did their own thinking on that issue. They all stuck to the bogus story till they went down in the election.

#6121 - 2017.09.25 Robin Tivy - Wilkinson announces he's running for BC Liberal leader, but still same nonsense
Today Andrew Wilkinson officially announced he's running for leader of the BC Liberals. The paper was filled with great things about how he used to be a doctor, understood the north, etc. And no direct mention of his stupid positions on political party funding and democracy. And as expected, the main postmedia editorials are filled with garbage about the $2.50 per vote adding up to "big money".

However all is not lost. I was pleased to find at least one sensible column in Saturdays paper by columnist Douglas Todd titled Taxpayer funding of political parties the norm in democracies. It is almost enough to restore my faith in journalists and newspapers. Even though it directly refutes the main editorial, we have to give the newspaper credit for printing it. I thought you might be willing to have a look at his column and make a note of the name "Douglas Todd". (Not to be confused with BC Liberal Todd Stone who like Wilkinson doesn't bother reading or thinking too much about actual democracy.

The BC Liberal party needs a good leader who can look forward and effectively challenge the NDP on things that really matter. Not a leader who is hitching his horses to the undemocratic idea of eliminating public funding of democracy.

I don't want to give the impression that I am singling out Wilkinson for all the criticism. So far, it seems that the whole BC Liberal party is on the same bandwagon. Group think. Other leadership hopefuls such as De Jong spew the same nonsense. And Todd Stone (not to be confused with columnist Douglas Todd) even says the BC Liberals "should not take the taxpayer subsidy", a position only possible given the huge war chest the BC Liberals have assembled from past corporate donations. And columnist Vaughan Palmer is still going along with the stupidity, using terms such as "wallowing in taxpayer largess" to refer to the public funding of democracy. It's just that Wilkinson should know better. He's supposed to be a Rhodes scholar, a lawyer and a doctor. People I've talked to say he's not that stupid, he's just doing what politicians do. I imagine it would be quite difficult for any member of the present BC Liberals to actually discuss and think about the issue.

  So here's a prediction. I predict that Wilkinson will also come out with opposition to any revision of the voting system. So far we've seen nothing on this, but it is entirely consistent with my view of the Liberal back room that they and their mouthpieces will be against it. I was at a Liberal party party years ago, and raised the issue, and all the people I talked to had only one way to analyse anything - how good is it for our party as opposed to the NDP. No reference or consideration as to what is best for democracy or how a system should work. Because it fits with the other anti-democratic ideas he spouts. Stay tuned, and quote me six months from now. I may be wrong.

#6120 - 2017.09.19 Robin Tivy - Answers for Andrew Wilkinson regarding the 2.50/vote "subsidy"
On 2017 May 9 the BC Liberal Party finally went down. And part of their demise was the issue of election financing I had been ranting about in this column (see previous postings). So here's the latest: in yesterday's budget, the NDP finally tabled the bill to end corporate and union donations, and put a $1200 per person limit on individuals. And then publicly fund all political parties to the tune of two dollars and fifty cents for every vote they get. So whoever you vote for will get 2.50. The Harper government invented the term "per vote subsidy", for this, with the expectation that the word "subsidy" would tell you how to think.

But wait! Andrew Wilkinson, grooming himself for new Liberal party leader, is not happy. He pretends he is outraged at the $2.50 "subsidy". So he's getting lots of press, which one can assume is part of his objective. But it seems nobody writing in the paper is able to take him on. Even my favorite political columnist Vaughan Palmer seems to fail to properly put things in proper perspective. So let me take a stab at it:

Everybody hates politicians. So it always sounds good to starve them out. Like wasps. But it is so transparently stupid. We may as well also oppose public financing of the actual government. Why not let the government itself be financed from corporate or personal donations?

So let me explain again. Political parties are necessary to research and communicate policy alternatives. They are part of the way government works. Offices and staff usually cost money. So where is that money supposed to come from? Up until now, in BC it mostly came from corporation and union donations. Problem was it was often linked to special interests. As I have already pointed out, Wilkinson tried to tell us that this system of funding was fine, and the real issue was only to make it a bit more transparent. Actually somebody told me transparency would have been good - like a price list! $5000 to talk to the minister about your upcoming mine, $10,000 to talk to the minister about the need for your heli ski license, $20,000 for an "order in council" to export the raw logs you just cut from some pristine valley. Pay to play.

But now corporate donations are going to end. So now Wilkinson is on about the 2.50 "subsidy". One would have to assume he thinks all funding should come entirely from private donations. Like the $1200 individual donations. Well it's an improvement. But who donates? As I've previously explained, most of every $1200 donation is reimbursed as a tax credit. (as long as you are in a high tax bracket). And that reimbursement comes from the public purse just as surely as the $2.50 that Wilkinson opposes. So we are talking about subsidies of over $600 per person, not the measly two dollars fifty. But Wilkinson fails to educate us about that.

Surprisingly enough, my favorite Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughan Palmer also fails to explain it properly. He just added up all the 2.50 payments and then called it "big money", as if it was the same as the $70,000 payment by a single lobbyist as before. So once he attached the "big money" label to it, he mumbled some stuff that turned out to be false about the Green party putting the NDP up to it.

Less surprising than Vaughan Palmer's confusion is the bogus statements from the "Canadian Taxpayers Association". (Who are funded by who?) Predictably they also go on and on about the proposed "subsidy" of $2.50/vote. That's 2.50 from any voter, rich or poor. I feel compelled to point out that $2.50 is a small fraction of $600.00 or more in tax refunds.

I'd love to have a funded voice to take on these idiots in a televised debate. What IS your plan, Mr Wilkinson? That all the money should come from private donations? Let me spell it out. If you get rid of the public financing, then the funded alternatives will be those that appeal to the upper income brackets. Especially those who can donate $1200. The alternatives that will be put before us will be those that are financed by special interests. Like the NDP and Liberal party were for years before.

I've heard that the taxpayer shouldn't have to pay to support political parties they don't agree with. Great! So the public purse should not be reimbursing the people donating to the parties either. Some fat cat donates $1200 to the BC Liberals, and over half of that comes from the taxpayer. He's really donating $600 and you and I are matching his donation. It's called leverage. All you need to play the game is to be in a high enough tax bracket to get reimbursed for most of your donation. I would think a Rhodes scholar could explain that to the people.

#1877 - 2017.03.11 Robin Tivy - Globe and Mail takes up the cause
The Globe and Mail has joined the NY Times in writing articles about the remarkable corruption in the BC Political system.

I recently had dinner at the Wolf and Hound with some long time associates (hockey) and was surprised when one of them was the BC Liberals riding president in North Vancouver. He said he didn't see anything wrong with it, and the usual stupid arguments such as "it doesn't really affect anything". And "the NDP is no better". And he had no idea why anyone could have any concern about heli-ski contracts anywhere.

I became very angry and lashed out at him for his stupidity, so much I didn't get a chance to enjoy my burger.

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, getting rid of the corporate funding of our political parties is THE issue in this election. This doesn't mean I'm a die hard NDP supporter. Both parties would be improved by getting rid of it, and the NDP says they will change it. So I'm endorsing the NDP in this election.

#1874 - 2017.01.30 Chris Ludwig - Andrew Wilkinson Turned his back on me and the BCMC
In the initial days of the conflict over the Darling Lake Trail, BC Parks and the MFLNRO, I phoned Mr. Wilkinson (Past BCMC President) and had a fairly long conversation with him (he was at home). He offered to help me and the club, remembered me, and remembered the beauty of Darling Lake and the Darling Lake Heritage Trail (having visited it himself). However, after promising to help me and the BCMC, Mr. Wilkinson immediately fell silent and disappeared after I submitted the letter he requested of me and ceased to respond to my subsequent attempts to connect, which were always courteous. After all, power is the worst drug of all. The addiction of power makes it all too tempting to stab your friends in the back and betray your ideals. Of course, Mr. Wilkinson and his party were all to willing to secretly renew Whistler Heli-Ski's tenure in the conservation zone of Garibaldi Park for another ten years in October of 2016. Whistler Heli-ski donated $50,000 to Christy Clark's 2014 election campaign. Perhaps if the BCMC were to donate $50,000 to Mr. Wilkinson's or Christy Clark's 2017 election campaign, we too would have gotten the permits to refurbish the Darling Lake Trail. If anyone wonders why I am so tough, untrusting and unforgiving of the BC Liberals in 2017, it is because I know their true nature.

#1873 - 2017.01.29 Robin Tivy - Andrew Wilkinson spews out the party line
Andrew Wilkinson was a past president of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC). I have been a member of that club since 1981. So I naturally follow his name in the newspaper as he rises higher and higher in the provincial BC Liberals. He is currently "Minister of Advanced Education" and is currently defending the BC Liberals position that there is nothing wrong with resource extraction corporations directly financing political parties that control access to those resources. He spouts the nonsense that all that matters is "transparency". With all his credentials, I would expect he should see what is wrong with that. Here's a link to a Globe and Mail article quoting him last Thursday:

NDP renews call for change to political donations.

Here's part of the article:

Premier Christy Clark was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, designated to speak on the issue, was dismissive of donation limits.

"We don't have limits in British Columbia, and that's how it has been working now for decades. It's a system that works and we believe that transparency is the issue," Mr. Wilkinson told reporters in Victoria.

Yes, Andrew, you say it's a system that works - but works for whom?

Andrew Wilkinson, Rhodes scholar, doctor, lawyer, former president of BC Civil liberties and minister of Advanced Education is one we would hope would be able to understand the issue. He should have thought through that issue years ago. Why is it that he can't see the problem? Does he not understand that when somebody is financing you, you tend to bend things in their favor? Does he not have any experience?

No, I can't imagine he's that stupid. He is just trotting out the party line. Not much of a scholar, just a party hack. So don't bother telling me about "Rhodes Scholars" and "Advanced Education" if they can't think independently.

As Dylan says in "Blowing in the Wind". How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn't see?"

#1872 - 2017.01.21 Robin Tivy - BC Premier Christie Clark cancels party stipend
Good news. It seems that the New York Times articles, and others I previously mentioned just a week ago has an effect. Today, Christie Clark announced she will "cancel" the party stipend. It has become a "distraction".

Here'the opening paragraphs from the Vancouver Sun article: Premier Christy Clark says she'll no longer take a $50,000 stipend as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party, after months of criticism that her extra salary and aggressive political fundraising tactics are unethical and inappropriate.

"It's always been a standard part of the process in British Columbia, but because it's become a real distraction, what I've asked the party to do instead is let's get rid of it," Clark said Friday after facing questions about party funding at an unrelated news conference in North Vancouver. Vancouver Sun Article

The key word in Christie's statement is "distraction". She doesn't admit it was wrong, it's only a "distraction". They don't get it. So I'd say they will change nothing about the bigger problem: the party is almost completely financed by corporations and wealthy individuals. Unless that becomes a "distraction" as well.

#1871 - 2017.01.17 Robin Tivy - Political Donations costing B.C.'s taxpayers millions
Have a look in today's Vancouver Sun. On the front page is an article written as if they had read my article yesterday about the so called "per vote" subsidy that Harper eliminated at the federal level. Here is a link to the article in today's Vancouver Sun:

Political Donations costing B.C.'s taxpayers millions

The article lays out how the program works, but fails to come up with the correct analysis. Here is what the BC Liberals say:

"Tax credits, like those provided for charitable donations, are an incentive for British Columbians from all walks of life to support a cause they believe in," said B.C. Liberal spokesperson Emile Scheffel.

"What we do not support is a system where parties would be primarily funded by public subsidies - with taxpayers footing the bill even for those parties they would never vote for."

So there's that word "subsidy" I wrote about yesterday in this column. She calls equal public funding a "subsidy", but not the huge paybacks in the form of tax credits. The tax credits only benefit people whose income is high enough to use the credits.

I also think the Green party is mistaken in going along with this inequity. Sonia Furstenau says it encourages citizens to participate directly in democracy... Yes, if you've got the money, you are encouraged to participate, but it's still no substitute for funding of political parties that is equal for all income levels.

#1870 - 2017.01.16 Robin Tivy - Eliminate the "Per vote subsidy" to deny those on low incomes any subsidy
No discussion of how to undermine environmental parties would be complete without mentioning Harper's elimination of the so called "per vote subsidy". As you might remember, when Prime Minister Jean Chretien retired, he eliminated the ability of corporations to directly fund political parties, he partially replaced it with public financing of political parties, so parties without wealthy supporters could still be financed. The system was that a political party would get $1.90 for each person that voted for them.

Harper reversed it. He called it a "subsidy" and eliminated it. This increased the power of people with money, and decreased the power of those with low incomes. The argument used against the per vote "subsidy" was that the government shouldn't have to support political parties. He convinced people that it was better to hand control back to those with more money to spend on pet projects.

So Harper eliminated the $1.90, but he left in place a much larger "subsidy" of several hundred dollars per person that is available via tax credits. Look up in your tax guide or online: For 2015, the credit is calculated as follows: 75% of the first $400, 50% on the next $350 and 33 1/3% of any contribution over $750, up to $1,275. The provincial goverments such as BC mirror the same kind of 75% credits.

So a person in a high tax bracket can donate $400 and get back $300. The $300 is paid by the taxpayers. Much higher than the minuscule 1.90 "subsidy" Harper eliminated. If you are a poor person, you get 0 credit because you don't have a high enough income to take advantage of the tax credit. For example, if you are a student and give the Green party $400, you get 0 back. You have no tax credit because your taxes aren't high enough. The government contributes nothing, you pay the whole shot.

One argument you frequently hear for getting rid of the "per vote" subsidy is that it got rid of the Bloc Quebecois. As you may remember, at one point the Bloc was the official opposition, even though the Conservatives had many more votes but were spread across the country. The proper way to deal with that problem is electoral reform. Under proportional representation (PR), the conservatives would have had many more seats than the Bloc. Furthermore, under PR, the votes of people who didn't vote for the Bloc would have counted for something, instead of being wasted. In summary, trying to "rig" the funding system is not a solution.

#1869 - 2017.01.16 Robin Tivy - How to undermine Environmental Groups: Vivian Krause
Vivian Krause has built a career from coming up with arguments that undermine the financing of environmental organizations. Before discussing her arguments, it is useful to provide some background theory.

It's about organization. In order to research and put forward an intelligent position on any environmental issue requires organization. Organization requires money. You can't do it from a cave. You may need an office. You need people to check facts. You need to eliminate extreme positions. You can't do all this with no money. And you can't do it all with volunteers. An ad-hoc collection of individuals with no organization and structure will not get anywhere, regardless of the merits of their cause. A position has to be hammered out, refined, communicated, and researched.

If you want to oppose raw log exports, pipeline proposals, or any other project, an organization is needed. The proponents of pipeline projects have vast resources to research and communicate their arguments. They can justify spending some money on it, because directly stand to benefit financially from the decision. And they finance that organization. Their paid organizers can promote concepts such as "ethical oil". They make sure that you can see full page ads showing "ordinary Canadians" talking about tanker safety. They make sure their positions are researched and communicated. They have lots of money to spread around in benefits and payoffs.

And they support talented people like Vivian Krause by attending her speaking engagements. Speaking engagements are a method of providing financial support for political causes. Why is she successful? Here is a link which gives you some background information about her.

Vivian Krause Information and Background.

She claims success in getting the Harper government to get Revenue Canada to target certain environmental organizations opposed to the tar sands.

Her "Foreign Financing Conspiracy theory" has been popular. The basic idea is that US Oil companies are financing the environmental groups opposing "our" oilsands expansion plans and pipelines. She comes forth with vast amounts of information about "payments" made to environmental organizations. But I'm a little unclear as to how the US oil companies would benefit from stopping the pipelines. The USA is an importer of oil, not an exporter competing with Canada. And those same environmental organizations are also opposing the Keystone pipeline. So it can't be to get our oil at a cheap price. Furthermore, the US oil companies are the owners

One of her accomplishments is to promote the "foreign interests conspiracy" about the financing of environmental groups. The basic idea is that wealthy U.S. interests and U.S. Oil companies are financing environmental groups to undermine our Canadian Oil companies. Here's one of her articles in the Financial post. For more than a decade, there has been a complex international effort to stymie the oil industry in Canada. It's called the Tar Sands Campaign and the main sources of funding for this campaign are the Rockefeller Brothers Fund...

See Vivian Krause: New U.S. Funding for the war on Canadian Oil.

In order to effectively argue the points you raise requires systematic research, and that costs money. Unfortunately Vivian Krause's role is to undermine the ability of any opposing organizations to raise that money. As far as I can tell, most of the money that environmental organizations have comes from well meaning individuals who will not benefit financially from the outcome. Most of the "pro" funds come from corporations and individuals who will benefit. So attacking environmental groups funding has the same effect as Harper's withdrawing the "per vote subsidy". It makes sure that people with money have more say than those with less money.

#1868 - 2017.01.16 Robin Tivy - BC "The Wild West of Canadian Political Cash - New York Times article
Yesterday, the following article appeared in the New York Times.

British Columbia: The 'Wild West' of Canadian Political Cash'.

I don't know who tipped off the reporter Dan Levin about how we run things up here. But I can imagine to someone reading the article in other parts of the country, it is as if they were reading about a banana republic.

Take raw log exports for example of what is wrong with having our political parties funded by corporate or union interests. These exports must be approved by orders in council by the cabinet. Too easy to imagine a cabinet minister sitting at a desk with two lists: on the left a list of applications for raw log export and on the right, a list of the people who financed his election.

For a given amount of logging, there is more revenue and jobs per hectare clearcut if we are also running the mills. Yet every year since 2009, the volume of raw log exports has gone up, from 2.5 million in 2009 to 7 million in 2014.

As the mills get older, they need renewal and investment. But those who control the logs make higher profit and pay higher wages if they bypass the people working in the mills and instead get the processing done elsewhere. It's hard for mill owners to justify investment in upgrading the mill when they can simply bypass the people working in the mill for a lower priced alternative in Asia. Higher profit for those in control of the logs.

Raw log exports is just one example of why corporate financing distorts the priorities of political parties. Politicans are like everybody else: You work for who signs your paycheck. So obvious in the case of Christie Clark, who DIRECTLY is paid by those donations. With the money the party gets, they can generate and propagate all sorts of bafflegab necessary to stay in power. So the BC Liberals can get away with telling people that it's a good deal that these corporations are paying their salaries. I would ask the BC Liberals this question: If its such a "good deal" for the public to have corporations paying part of her salary, and paying for her party expenses, then why not go further? Why not let the corporations directly pay the inspectors, fisheries people, etc.

Don't get me wrong. When the NDP was in power in the past they also remembered who had financed the party. Too easy to imagine a cabinet minister at a desk with two lists: on the left, the pay scale for public services, and on the right, a list of who financed the party. But the writing is on the wall, and the NDP woke up in the last election to realize that although they were financed largely by unions, the BC liberals could get even more from the corporations. So they campaigned to put an end to this nonsense. But they lost, so here we are again, the banana republic of the north.