A 2016 report by Transparency International Canada indicated nearly one-third of the 100 most valuable residential properties in Metro Vancouver were owned by shell companies.
Finally, the BC government seems to be doing something about it. On Tuesday, April 2nd, Carol James introduced legislation aimed at preventing tax evasion and money laundering. Their goal is to bring anonymous real estate owners hiding behind shell and numbered companies out of the shadows. The Landowner Transparency Act will create Canada's first public registry of property owners to compel corporations, trusts and partnerships to disclose the owners of the land.
I have two problems with what they are doing.
One, it’s far too late. The horses have left the starting gate and they are already halfway around the racetrack. There have been reports for years of up to a billion dollars a year being filtered through the BC economy. There are 25,000 empty homes in Greater Vancouver bought in some part with dirty money. The Liberals urgently needed to address this, but did not, and BC’s economy and Metro Vancouver’s real estate market has irrevocably changed as a result.
My second concern is, while it looks like the NDP are taking very necessary steps, they have a propensity to take things too far. Notice the language Carole James used when she said, “the legislation is part of the government's housing strategy to close real estate ownership loopholes and crack down on property speculation, tax evasion and money laundering.”
While she talks about closing loopholes, notice she has lumped “property speculation” in with “tax evasion” and “money laundering”. The last two activities in this sentence are illegal. The first activity is not illegal. Indeed, the BC Government has not provided any details about what they mean by “property speculation”. Do they mean to say they are going to make it illegal for people to buy property in the hopes of fixing it up and flipping it (thereby supporting the local economy)? Do they mean they will make it illegal for people to buy property with an intent to rent it out (thereby helping to create a larger rental pool)?
What do you think they mean?
Last year, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai decided to trash the neutrality rules currently protecting consumers on the internet. His proposal will reverse the Title II classification of internet providers, which allows the agency to put strict limits on their behaviour, and replace it with the old “information service” classification, which a federal court has ruled is less comprehensive, weakening any protections that might replace those currently in force.
The "new rules" will not offer any legitimate consumer protections. Companies’ terms of service and related policies are not put in place to protect consumers, they protect companies! And companies can change them anytime it suits them. Why would a company violate its own policies and get in trouble with the FTC when they can just as easily promise open internet protections in the beginning then, later on, rewrite its policies, and implement new and potentially discriminatory practices.
Let's say an internet provider is owned by a foreign interest, or say an oil company with a vested interest in killing any source of information regarding the environmental impacts it is having on the world. The question I ask is, why the hell WOULDN'T they block environmental websites from reaching the people they serve/
When you start to really think this through, you begin to realize the necessity for complete neutrality is vital for the functioning democracy. Killing the neutrality bill allows censorship on the full spectrum of conversation.
Here's the kicker! Ajit Pai served two years as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc., where he handled competition matters, regulatory issues, and counselling of business units on broadband initiatives. Just look up his online bio and you'll see it's true.
Is Verizon happy with Ajit's proposal? You bet your ass they are. Is Ajit Pai neutral? No damn way!
Look down the road into the future and see how this will erode democracy by limiting public knowledge and opinion.
Recently, Democrats Pallone, Jr. and Doyle wrote him a letter expressing their dismay that the FCC too secretive and has repeatedly advanced the interests of corporations over consumers.
"Under your leadership, the FCC has failed repeatedly to act in the public interest and placed the interest of corporations over consumers. The FCC should be working to advance the goals of public safety, consumer protection, affordable access, and connectivity across the United States. To that end, it is incumbent upon the Committee's leadership and its members to oversee the activities of the FCC."
The world watched amazed when Donald Trump pulled off a stunning election upset, defying polls that generally agreed he was not going to win. Everyone thought Hillary Clinton was destined to be the next President. After all, she had the support of the larger part of the media, the establishment, the business community… she even had the endorsement of the current President!
What we saw instead was the complete and utter repudiation of the established political system by a large, overlooked segment of America: The rural, blue collar worker.
Proven terribly wrong, the political pundits and talking heads licked their wounds and in short order started discussing the why and how of what happened. They spun plenty of theories: The fear of socialist boogeyman – the antitheses of the do-it-yourself Ayn Rand style Americanism, a strong evangelical movement with their traditional family values, the media’s unending coverage of Trump which supposedly proves airtime makes the difference… The list goes on.
I disagree with most of their theories. And, why wouldn’t I? If the political pundits where wrong in the first place, what’s changed since? Nothing.
What follows are the real reasons Trump won in my not-so-humble opinion.
The Decline of Civic Responsibility:
Only about 65% of the U.S. voting-age population voted last time around per the Census Bureau. When so much is at stake for the future of your country and so many don’t vote, that tells me a large part of the U.S. citizenry are either seriously disillusioned with their democracy, or, more likely, they are far too busy to vote. City life is a busy life!
Their rural counterparts did have time to vote, and, clearly, big media seriously underestimated their pent-up anger towards the status quo. The media’s coverage of Trump’s foibles drew the attention away from the real story – that being how so many rural Americans think their country is going in the wrong direction, and they are mad enough to throw the establishment – the rich, liberal, decadent, city dwellers – under the bus.
The Power of Really Listening
I think we can all agree that Donald Trump does not display most of the virtues of a good leader. But he does know how to do one thing well. He knows how to listen. He went out and heard the stories of the disenfranchised. When no one else could hear their voices, he got out there amongst them, spoke to them and reacted with them. He wore out plenty of shoe leather.
Trumps opponents either didn’t listen or didn’t care enough to understand their point of view. They were too far removed to comprehend how much discontent there really was. No matter how misinformed, uneducated, or wrongheaded we may think a person is, once you start to ignore and denigrate that person because of their beliefs or point of view, you cannot lead them. Steven Covey said it best: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
Barack Obama failed to connect with the rural populations. He spoke in a language they didn’t understand.
While Obama spoke about economic growth and job creation, rural Americans looked around their village and saw job loss and despair.
While Obama was talking about the global community and trade agreements, they’ve watched their plants, mills and grain silos shut down and fall into disrepair.
While Obama talked about market forces and bank bailouts, they saw neighbours losing their homes and they’ve been sweating and bleeding to make ends meet just so they can pay off their own bills and mortgages.
Trump came to their communities and reflected their anger back at them. Slick showman or not, he gave them a release valve, a way to strike a blow for the oppressed and knock the establishment on their ass.
With that much pent up anger, perhaps we need to credit Trump with helping rural Americans find a voice in a peaceful, law-abiding democratic process instead of a Hunger Games style revolution!
The Power to Stand for What You Believe
While I don’t agree with much of what Trump represents, I’d be foolish not to learn from his ability to hang on in a fight. Let’s face it; you and I would wither and die under the scorching heat of public ridicule and distain this man endured. But Trump hung in there. He stood his ground. He never gave up.
What are we willing to put everything on the line for? What do we believe so strongly, we’re willing to endure years of public ridicule?
Remember! Democracy Needs Your Voice.
Democracy is messy. Democracy is bedlam. It gives you the right to stand and speak out about what you feel is right even while I completely disagree with you and I too stand, speaking out.
No one pretends that democracy is perfect. Indeed, its greatest supporters have said just the opposite. Two years after millions died so we could live within free democracy, Winston Churchill, addressing the House of Commons in 1947 said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
Safe and secure in our own lands, sometimes it’s hard to remember most of humanity continues to labour under tyranny and oppression. Voiceless and hopeless, they die with the unrealized desire to have any kind of influence to better their world for themselves, for their community, or for their children.
If we the Free do not stand up, speak out, and take our civic responsibilities seriously, we risk the same fate.
It’s too bad that our Canadian government must try and defend the likes of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg from the death sentence. He’s a low life. I don’t mean that he’s unworthy of basic human compassion and consideration. I mean he’s chosen the low life of addition and drug dealing.
His first trafficking conviction was in 2003. He was sentenced for a large drug smuggling operation in 2012. The BC judge who sentenced him jail was ironically prophetic when he told Robert he was lucky to be living in Canada.
"Your country deserves much better from you. You are in one of the best places in the world to live," he said.
Justice Neill Brown of the BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack further commented that Schellenberg “has had his chances in the past. He is either going to cure himself of his addiction and reform himself and turn off the path that he has been on or he is not.”
At the time of his sentencing in 2012, Schellenberg's lawyer told the court he was "deeply ashamed, worried about his father and any embarrassment that he is experiencing in the community."
Well Robert, you continued to choose the low-life’s path, ran afoul of Chinese law, got yourself entangled in political machinations, and now the entire country is embarrassed it must fight for you.
But fight for you we will.
I’ve always liked Elon Musk.
The guy has vision. He wants to make a real difference in our world.
He heads up three companies with ambitious goals: SpaceX’s long-term goal is to make humans a multi-planetary species. SolarCity will bring low-cost clean energy to the masses. Tesla aims to speed the transition to a sustainable-energy economy. Any one of these would be an audacious ambition for a corporate leader, but Musk wants to be in the fast lane.
Despite the inspiring goals, I often wondered if he is a little too committed to humanity and a little too uncommitted to making company profits.
Case in point, his company Tesla. It is in deep shit.
Under Musk, Tesla has racked up 5 billion dollars of debt. The company actually lost $20,000 per vehicle last year because it costs more to build, sell, service, charge and maintain these cars than they collected in revenue. Tesla can’t make a profit on a $35,000 to $50,000 car once you account for production, distribution and maintenance costs.
Musk is also facing allegations that he lied to shareholders about production numbers, lowered safety standards and used substandard materials which puts customers in danger.
Employee Martin Tripp, who was fired from Tesla claims Musk overstated the number of Model 3s being produced each week by as much as 44%, and knowingly placed batteries with dangerous puncture holes in the cars.
Tripp could simply be stirring up trouble to exact revenge after a bitter and public fight with Musk… or maybe not. This isn’t the first time Tesla has been under federal investigation.
And now they face much stiffer competition with BMW’s i3 - a $50,000 electric car that has been leased for as little as $54/month.
Tesla also lost half their tax credit of $7,500 per car – reduced to $3,750 after they successfully delivered 200,000 cars to US buyers.
Despite all the challenges Tesla faces, the allegations, despite hemorrhaging money, despite the need to raise somewhere between $5-$10 billion in the next couple of years to stay afloat, Musk has faced many challenges before and overcome them. I was actually cheering for him. And I obviously was not alone. Despite all the controversy, Tesla’s stocks remain unaffected.
Then I learned Musk recently won the largest CEO pay package in the history of the world – 50 BILLION dollars! You read that right.
50 Billion Dollars for failing to deliver? For leading a failing company? What the hell, Musk? You just lost me.
Warren Buffet said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful." If I had purchased any stock with Tesla, I'd be fearful right now and I'd be selling it.
Even so, I completely understand if you own some stock and you don't want to sell it. I like the guy and I hope to be proven wrong. Unfortunately, 50+ years of experience studying people and business tells me I won't be wrong.
“Nobody wins in trade wars,” said Prime Minister Justice Trudeau.
That’s true. Yet the United States administration couldn’t care less. They just put into immediate effect a 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. Meanwhile, Canada is waiting until July 1st before it will retaliate and establish a tariff on steel and aluminum coming into Canada from the U.S.
Trudeau says he wants to respect the government's 30-day consultation period on its proposed $16.6-billion tariff package, retaliation for the Trump administration's decision.
With a population of less than 37 million, Canada buys more from the U.S. than Japan, Germany and Korea combined. And yet, Canada is being targeted by a ridiculous policy based on "national security".
Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen was correct when she stated, “there were no plans built into the Liberal budget to deal with an unpredictable U.S. administration. The Liberals thought there would be no impact on Canadian workers because of this unpredictability, and so they didn’t prepare for it.”
Indeed, how COULD any Canadian government prepare for an administration that seems to have lost touch with reality? U.S policy decisions are based on misinformation and an abject abandonment of economic and environmental considerations.
During question period, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer urged Trudeau to accelerate the response, but the Prime Minister says he wants to follow through on the consultations while trying to persuade the U.S. to drop the tariffs.
If you please, Prime Minister Trudeau, I suggest you remember two things:
Your stance towards the U.S. president will need to be based on strength. That is the only thing Trump ever responds to. We will not prosper if we maintain our usual politely apologetic Canadian demeanour. We need to establish a response that is the same your handshake was with the president: firm and unmovable.
You can never rely on Trump to do the right thing. He is a fragile egoist and completely out of touch with reality. Trudeau, you once expressed the opinion that Trump was a “man of his word.” It’s time to come to grips with the reality that Trump is a habitual liar who will go down as the most constitutionally, economically and environmentally erosive president in U.S. history.
Trudeau, if you really want to be seen as a defender of our national interests, it’s time to show us that you ARE that defender. You need to go into action right now!
Trump recently called for a 25 per cent tariff on imported steel and a 10 per cent tariff on imported aluminum. A tariff is simply a tax placed on imported goods. The strategy for their use is to raise the price of imported goods higher to give an edge to domestic companies that are trying to compete.
To say the response to this proposed tariff was negative is an understatement. Industries that rely on steel and aluminum to manufacture products are universally unhappy because one of the immediate side effects of an applied tariff will be increased prices and inflation. Now that American steel and aluminum companies do not have to compete with international prices, they can, and will, raise their own prices. That leads to job losses among workers of industries reliant on steel or aluminum, and to increased prices for consumers. The last major round of steel tariffs, imposed by Bush in 2002, did more harm than good to the U.S. economy, several studies later concluded.
The only smiling faces after Trump’s announcement belonged to steel and aluminum executives. They have been lobbying hard to see this kind of action for years because of concerns for loss of business to competitors that receive government subsidies and practice “dumping” in countries like China. (Dumping is when a company exports a product at a price that is lower than the price charged in the exporter’s domestic market).
Here’s Why Trump’s Decision Is Not Based on Economic Fundamentals
He must have his reasons, but they are not based on any economic fundamentals.
The steel industry currently employs around 140,000 people according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics That’s it. Fifty years ago, the industry employed a much more significant portion of the work force of over 650,000 people.
Did all these jobs go away because of international trade? No. They went away because of increased efficiencies in the industrial process.
Now look at how many people are employed in manufacturing jobs that require steel in their products who might be impacted by the rising price of steel. It’s eighty times the number – over eleven million workers.
Trump seems to have a knack for focusing his presidential power on helping a small segment of the U.S. economy. Last time, it was coal miners.
China’s unfair trade tactics has been Trump’s bugaboo and rallying call since before he started campaigning. Indeed, China has been heavily subsidizing its steel producers. During Obama’s tenure, the Commerce Department International Trade Administration applied duties of 236% to offset Chinese government subsidies of its steel producers. Even more anti-dumping duties were applied later. Since then, Chinese steel imports to the U.S. has dropped like a stone. They have not been a significant importer of steel into the U.S. for some time.
Does Trump even know this?
The Real Risk
The potential for job loss and rising prices for products containing metal isn’t the real concern. U.S. manufacturers are good at sourcing less expensive product, and a one cent increase on the cost of beer cans probably won’t be notices by consumers. The real fear is Trump’s poorly conceived plan will infuriate his allies and trade partners to a degree that could quickly lead to retaliation and trade wars. Defense Secretary James Mattis warned Trump that tariffs should be targeted ‘so as not to damage relationships with allies’, but the president didn’t bother to listen to him.
The negative impact of Trump’s tariff will be in Canada – the number one supplier of both steel and aluminum to the U.S. Last year, Canada exported about $9.3 billion CAD of aluminum and $5.5 CAD billion of steel to the U.S.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland described the idea of tariffs on Canada as absolutely unacceptable. "…Canada will take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers."
Other affected countries are already planning to retaliate by slapping tariffs on American goods, and God knows where that will end up. History shows there are few winners in an all-out trade war. The trade wars in the 1930 were absolutely disastrous. World trade fell by 66 per cent from 1929 to 1934. Exports between the U.S. and Europe also dropped by two-thirds.
Smoot-Hawley instituted the first tariffs to protect U.S. farmers, but it quickly became a political game of “if you support my tariff, I’ll support yours” until nearly 900 tariffs were put into place on a wide range of imported products.
Canada led the retaliation. Prime Minister Mackenzie King raised tariffs on U.S. exports to Canada. Then R.B. Bennett boosted them further and Canada sunk into the Depression.
It’s laughable that Trump tweeted a few hours ago that a trade war would be “easy to win.”
Sure, maybe the U.S. would win a trade war. But at what cost to both countries if we decide to once again play chicken?
George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Markets are on edge and jittery. There are very few details about the new tariffs and how they will be implemented, so it’s really the ‘what’s next’ that is worrying everyone. Trump’s ill-conceived and poorly implemented policy could undermine the entire system of North American and global trade.
The B.C. government took steps this week to make the province a little less Wild West, and more of a candidate to join the politically civilized world, despite the Liberal's desperate attempt to create a red herring.
My hat is off to Horgan and Weaver for their efforts to make sure BC policy will not be dictated by corporate or union interests.
The Liberals tried to raise a stink by pointing out taxpayers will have to pay a greater amount of money to support political parties. I give them points for trying to set up a red herring, but their plans backfired.
The largest part of OECD nations utilize direct public funding of parties including Britain, South Korea, Australia, France, Germany, the U.S., Chile and Japan. (per Douglas Todd's article in the Vancouver Sun). These countries do so in order to “strike a balance” between public and private financing and to reduce the risk that vested interests will indulge in “policy capture" - the tactic powerful donors used to skew politicians’ legislation to suit their monetary interests.
In BC, politicians have been exposed to the risk of corruption for years. You can't tell me that any politician who is facing some budget shortfalls wouldn't be tempted by the offer of big money from a corporation.
I can imagine how such a deal could easily be made. Can't you? Imagine a politician who's tapped into his own money and doesn't have enough in the war chest to see him through the election. Along comes a corporate lobbyist with a briefcase. The lobbyist opens the briefcase in front of the hapless politician and our poor boy's eyes nearly pop out of his head looking at a veritable fortune.
"Of course we'll fund you my fine fellow," says the Lobbyist. "There is only one teeny tiny string attached. No, really, it's almost nothing... Hardly even worth mentioning. All we need you to do is see it our way when anyone tries to protect the commons and cut in on our profits. YOU don't mind being our man for such a little thing, right?"
I'm sure everyone is much more sophisticated and nonchalant, but a bribe is a bribe, no matter how you dress it up as "just doing business".
My only real question is, "Why the hell did we wait so long to stop the fox from stealing our chickens!?