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Sunday, October 22, 2006

BC HYDRO AND THE MISALLOCATION OF POLITICAL POWER WITHIN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Peter Dimitrov, pacrim@axion.net; October 20, 2006

Presently the Crown owns it all, and grants most of the coal, timber, minerals, oil, gas, hydro licenses to major Corporations whose Boards of Directors really don't give two cents worth for local workers, families, and communities. Their focus is the bottom financial line and value to shareholders - especially majority shareholders. This is not new "news", this is the colonial way it has always been in BC., the municipalities and cities, and the people that reside within them, have little political power within the province vis a vis the Premier and the elite class of big business powers. This dysfunctional allocation of political power is the root cause of why the problem of BC Hydro’s sale, restructuring, and the privatizing of our river’s water to independent power producers exists.

Taking a moment, cannot we not ponder a different vision of democracy for this province, a democracy with a more equitable distribution of political power and wealth. To begin this reflection lets ask ourselves some questions?

  • Is it equitable and democratic that the Crown should own it all?

  • Is it right that the Executive Branch, primarily the Premier's office, should have all the power to say what goes down, and sold in BC?

  • Is it equitable that cities and municipalities be ‘creatures’ of the province?

  • Do we not as people residing within them, have an inalienable right to demand that ‘political power and wealth’ within the provincial political system be re-allocated in an equitable way, with checks and balances, with competing rights and jurisdictional competencies – instead of the Premier and Victoria deciding it all?

  • Is it equitable that the Provincial Crown should have virtually all the power and municipalities & cities have zip power except what petty amount is granted to them by the province?

  • Is it equitable that First Nations are cut out, as they watch their traditional lands being ravaged, while others take the jobs and benefits, and they reap the social, environmental, economic costs?

  • Why could there not be an internal constitution within BC that allocates rights and responsibilities between the capital region and other regions/cities, and First Nations?

  • Is it equitable that all resource rents, taxes, fees, etc. flow directly to a central provincial treasury with minimal flow-back to the region from whence the resource was extracted?

Imagine if there was an internal provincial constitution, not written by the Crown or its lackey bureaucrats & lawyers, but by a real constitutional constituent assembly -elected - with the sole purpose to write an internal constitution for BC, that provided for a more equitable distribution of political power and wealth between the regions, First Nations and the Centralized Crown, and moreover, transferred some of those centrally held Crown lands & resources to those regions for their control.

Then rural BC would not be a colony, more monies and jobs would stay in those regions, and rather than a huge settlement & transportation problem on the coast, urban migration might slow down, perhaps reverse itself over decades.

But such alternatives are not to be under the BC Liberals or the NDP. They both want to carry on within the same dysfunctional system, change the actors, but keep the dysfunctional, inequitable framework of power in place- of that I am 100% certain.

What a Kafkaesque joke this political set-up is, but who will join me in speaking for these other possibilities?

It is my firm belief that only by changing the allocation of political power and wealth in this province by the formation of an internal people’s constitution, can democracy, which is seriously off the rails, be hoped to be revitalized and re-tracked in this province.

16 comments:

Coyote said...

And pleased I am to post Peter's piece here. An outstanding article and very important issues. Hope you all enjoy.

Thanks Peter.

Coyote said...

"Imagine if there was an internal provincial constitution, not written by the Crown or its lackey bureaucrats & lawyers, but by a real constitutional constituent assembly -elected - with the sole purpose to write an internal constitution for BC, that provided for a more equitable distribution of political power and wealth between the regions, First Nations and the Centralized Crown, and moreover, transferred some of those centrally held Crown lands & resources to those regions for their control." Peter D. wrote.

First Peter, I think, an outstanding set of ideas you contribute to this discussion about the allocations of internal provincial powers, amongst the different functioning level of the citezenry. And about that much abused and misused concept of "democracy".

My own view has "tended" to start from the position that "provinces" might be better dispensed with all together, allowing for Quebec and First Nations territories, which are special historical cases. And instead of the current provinces of Anglo-Canada, which for their size and resources equal to many nation states, are in a near constant competitive clash with the central governance. (Trudeau tended to think that the current provinces, as well, were almost the central problem in the way of effective governance of the nation.)

My own view being that Anglo-Canada, at least, would likely be better served by smaller and a more "locally" controlled and managed system of "counties", more in line with many other parts of the world-, eliminating altogether this constantly problematic and costly "provincial level of governance.

That said, accepting that my idea, and Frank's from Tyee actually, for I have stolen some of his views on this subject as well, even accepting that provinces are likely to be with us awhile yet, even post the "transformation" :-), I think your breaking up of the provincially centralized monopoly into more locally and small regionally placed powers of governance and revenue generation, is a good one. And in case one doesn't notice that Peter's proposal, in my view, tends to lead in the same direction I advocate, of "withering away", at least, the monopoly power of "the province" as well, I will point it out to you. :-) Again, in my view.

Peter may even have failed to notice it. :-)

And which additionally, Peter's proposal, allows for society, within this new system of democracy, to finally begin to get more effectively at this issue of the longstanding abuse of First Nations' Rights. For it lends itself, I think, in this more localized power base and management system proposal, to finally securing the land and resource base control and guarantees, which in its absence, is much the cause of their poverty and relative powerlessness. It has hereto much always been under the control of "The Province", and dependent upon what sets of corporate interests they choose to carve out and alienate their aboriginal territorial, political and especially, economic interest.

I think Peter about hits this issue of structure and governance "transformation", just about dead on-, as part of an emerging realization on the part of a growing number of folks, of the need to "transform" the mechanisms and assumptions of democracy generally, and how it works, and whom it should work for, across current capitalist society generally.

"POWER TO THE PEOPLE", to use an old cliche, which always had a need to have meat put upon its bare bones. Such as Peter does here in this article.

g west said...

All good thoughts, both Peter's, Frank's and yours too brother Coyote. Certainly going to a proper constituent assembly and creating a new and more equitable provincial 'constitution' is the right thing to do.

In my view this commitment should be one of the major planks in the program of any party in the next provincial election that hopes to be considered 'progressive.'

However, I wonder how, without some change first in the 'way' the next government itself is 'elected' it will be possible to have a government that has enough power and authority to actually claim it has the mandate to make the kinds of changes necessary.

Not being a constitutional lawyer, I still wonder if the interests whose ox would be most clearly gored by a fundamental change in the rules - which have enabled the current plutocracy to thrive and prosper - would not immediately use the courts to challange any real changes in the current marching order. That is, unless there were a clearer mandate from the people themselves than just the fact that a new government has taken power.

We currently have a 'form' of recall enshrined in legislation in this province have we not? Is there also I wonder, any legislation which would provide for an 'initiative' from the people themselves which might lead to a constituent assembly being formed that would not be challenged by its detractors in the courts.

I know that some US jurisdictions have such a provision for bringing an initiative to the people in a referendum. Isn't that the legal basis upon which the previous government fashioned its referendum on Native treaty and land claims matters?

If BC does not, might it not be something which - properly promoted and introduced and with a rising tide of public interest and support bringing it to the attention of even the present government - be something that the current opposition could introduce in the next legislative session?

And which, if enough public support were marshalled behind it - could not be ignored even by the Campbell government.


Just a thought.

Coyote said...

Good observations, GWest.

I have some observations I would make, in some agreement with yourself, but I would like to hear Peter's response to your comment first, which I assume he will sooner later return here to do.

kootcoot said...

A government elected under the present system composed of people whose motive for being in government in the first place is to maximize the benefits accrued to themselves and their cronies are virtually guaranteed to have absolutely NO INTEREST in any meaningful change to the status quo.

If the province was actually run by a government that actually represented not just the "votes" but also the interests of those voters, then it would be appropriate for the province to "manage" these resources that "belong" to the people in theory only.

As a person lucky enough to have been a resident of the Kootenays for over thirty years, my view of Victoria (and the Lower Mainland as well) is that we are treated at best with benign neglect. It is more normal to be just exploited in whatever fashion is most advantageous to the Wizards of Howe Street and the Mandarins of Victoria.

Personally I would rather see some serious attention paid to the issue of "fountain pen control" than gun control. If you find this confusing maybe you never listened to Woody singing "Pretty Boy Floyd."

lynn said...

Great to read your commentary again, Peter.

Good suggestion G West, but although there are some good MLA's amongst the BCNDP, I have lost all faith in them as an Opposition...they are just not "effective" in their means of opposition. And this includes their effectiveness to bring forth the referendum idea you propose. They have relegated themselves to the box which is the legislature...and as Peter makes clear that box is no longer operating in the interests of the people. It is designed that that the Premier's executive office has more and more unseen powers. Like Martyn Brown hiding under Campbell's desk guiding all those fountain pens Kootcoot alludes to.

You know what my good Ol' Mom said in this regard... about this failure to strongly oppose..she said they just don't feel it...and I think she's right...nothing genuinely forceful in the form of Opposition will take place because their leader and too many others don't feel the urgency, the dire necessity of finding an effective response to Campbell's blatant theft of this province. They don't genuinely feel it, only on a superficial level. Otherwise you'd see them camping out en masse on the lawns of the legislature right now. But they see themselves as above that level of protest... still waiting for Godot as if time is on their side. It ain't. As Einstein said, imagination is more important than intelligence. And I see little coming from the seats of the NDP Opposition...and really that's what its going to take...genuine "new" thought backed up with unflinching action. It's the "new" and especially the "unflinching" parts that the current NDP don't get.

g west. said...

You're right of course Lynn. But, I think we need to find some way to bring the politicians to their senses and that's why I think we have to work on some alternative and effective way to bring pressure upon the only institution we have for the job.

Don't know if you've been over to BCMary's blog today but there was a story in yesterday's T/C about the Basi/virk trial - so small it was almost invisible and not even given a signature.

Can you imagine - as Alcibiades wrote on the Mair thread at Tyee - what the result would have been in the Glen Clark case?

I think the NDP is beaten down pretty badly - they got an awful shellacking(sp?) after the mp pay thing last fall and they've never recovered.

I'm not trying to make excuses for them, God knows, but they are all we've got for the moment so I think we need to find ways to help them stiffen their spine.

Bringing forward a popular demand for a constitutional assembly might just be the thing to get them back on track again.

We need something!

Coyote said...

Well, I certainly got the Pretty Boy Floyd reference, Kootkoot. :-) You couldn't have gone through my political and hootenanny experiences without not knowing to what that refers.

But Lynn about gets my view of GWests comment, in that I am inclined to agree with him that there needs for a "process" to evolve here, both, to transform "democracy" itself and the way we manage economics and politics, and elect beholden "representatives", for example-,likely, in my view, alongside a "constitutional" fight to limit provincial power, and expand municipal regional power, through their formal "ownership" of Crown land, and by expanding their own localized power to generate income revenue, determined locally, not by a distant and isolated supra-provincial state as currently.

(And a constitutional process that changes ownership and management forms, and responsibility throughout the entire economy, at least circumscribing ruling class power and expanding working class, community, and community interest power (environmentalists etc.) within our economic plant and institutions.)

It is part of that process which needs to go on, I think, to which the NDP "welfare state" view of progressive social policy for example, has in reality like the State Capitalism State of the old USSR, actually emerged to be an impediment to expanded democracy and real social, economic and political power in the hands of "The People", the ordinary citizenry.

Now, it's possible, and within the power of the NDP to change this and my attitude towards them, and I understand GWest's desire here, but I think the NDP has quite evolved to have their eye on "another prize". Which it is ever clearer to me at least, is not the "people's interest" as I have come to understand it.

Which is where we come back around to that other reality of the NDP, and much similarly the "official level" Trade Union leadership at least, where they have by degree over the postwar, come to be "co-opted" into the status quo ruling class system-, regardless of what "may" have been their best intentions. To where, like I say, both these institutions and their leadership have come to much be an impediment to further serious social change, rather than its vehicles.

Which complicates our lives and that of the larger citizenry, no doubt. But the game has been played long enough, and I have danced one too many times around this leafless old bush with these guys. And I think we need to finally face up to this, and assist "the public" generally, as much as is within our means, while they, the public, must also come to finally, how e'er long it takes, learn for themselves, that these people and their movements, certainly as constituted and motivated, are beyond all hope of redemption.

My intention anyway, and I suspect Peter's, though I don't entirely know, is to rather than trying to focus on reforming this "gang" is to simply just turn away from them, and focus on building what I call "the people's movement" that is really going to have to be, in order to change anything in a meaningful way, period.

Business as usual "elections", as we understand them within "democratic capitalism", in and of themselves, have come to mean next to nothing to me. (And I do understand "expediency" here. As vacuous a concept as it typically is, most often.)

Still, all that said, we do need a "constitutional" transformation process to come into being, parallel and hand in hand with a movement to likewise "transform" democracy itself, the way it works and the end results it produces. Meaning more real "Power to the People" needs to be the focus and the outcome here, and not twisted out of shape in some way, to mean any "party's" careerist elites serving ruling class puppet masters behind the curtain, as their real/actual ambition.

Anonymous said...

Just cruising back here during the lunch hour...some good dialogue taking place ...kudos to Liberation Voice...i like that name change personally and intend to offer some reflection on why that is a great name at a future date.

some time ago, i learned about the concept of praxis, and the need to balance the "talk"do" ratio in our lives, namely to 'walk our talk", to aspire to do as much as we talk- and I confess i need to do more.

But thinking practically, and looking towards the next BC Election, I do not think that either the BC Liberals or the NDP are willing to seriously address the inequitable distribution of political & fiscal power in the province. They both are centralist parties, with a centralist cadre, both supportive of the concepts of executive governance which concentrates jurisdictional power in the centralized Crown based in Victoria, and more particularly the Executive branch of government, the Premier, the Premier's office, and a very small group of super-powerful ministers. As we witness, this small group, no matter the party in power, have the legal power to sell , lease for perpetuity, all the common property people's assets to the corporations...the "piratization band-wagon" as I call it. Indeed the reins of governance have been captured by big business interests, as close to a reality of the definition of fascism as I have witnessed in Canada in my lifetime. So what to practically do, options, anyone ..in preparation for the next election?

1. Ought those on the left, which concept we might define, by discussion, amongst ourselvees, join the NDP and try to change, open up the party? ..i am not amongst the willing, brave or foolish to do that personally.

2. Consider whether the unequal distribution of political & fiscal power can only be remedied by 'new rules' for this our home. New rules, could mean an 'internal constitution', or perhaps a series of 'accords' covering different areas of jurisdiction.

3. In my view, and I encourage vigourous debate, why not at some point in time, the idea of "The Regional Party", a party with membership open to citizens of Canada and residents of the various regional districts, or bio-regions, or 'indigenous tribal areas' of BC...with an explicit goal to elect people to represent their region , and to seek the transfers of political and fiscal powers out of Victoria to the regions. ...thereby creating a "confederation of regions' in BC. In a sense a party dedicated to the goal of deconstructing centralized political & fiscal power in Victoria, and equitably redistributing those powers to the regions. Neither the Liberals or NDP are in particularly in favor of that. Indeed, without new rules, a new accord, call it what you will, 'internal constitution' are words perhaps we ought to avoid, but a series of accords..which cumulatively could then be joined at some future point in our provincial history, to be considered then, a constitution. etc. ..
I am not anonymous, this Is Peter Dimitrov, but thusfar...I can't seem to log in under my name. ..but all this techie stuff i assume will sort itself out :)

More practically, rather then actually forming such a party at this point in time, at least now and for the next year or so try to genuinely create a 'social movement' with common aspirations around the creation of new rules, 'accords', and some policies, .which at some point in time, could then formally if it wishes, become a registered political party....working the base/creating a base!

Anonymous said...

many 'issues' to work on---several themes that can unite us, especially the "hydro-power" bill 30 issues, 'human rights versus corporate rights"...Bill 30...whereby the Province trumps local municipalities and regional districts from trying to control independent power producers by 'zoning' - thereby undercutting local power...pisses a lot of people off/ and hydro rates are going up, up, and away..along with our control of our rivers, transmission lines, etc. May I humbly suggest...one theme to build a broad social movement, using the theme of "equality, liberty, co-operation" --(egalite, liberte, fraternite - in France) is "Together Now to Stop Piratization"

Coyote said...

Anonymous in this instance is Peter, by the by. He had some difficulty getting "signed up".

Peter Dimitrov said...

just testing to see if i can blog under my own name folks, please excuse me for doing this test.

Larry Gambone said...

Excellent article, Peter, and everyone's comments too. I don't really have much to add, you folks have really expressed much of what I am thinking as well. One thing that I have always wondered though, is why BC never had a system of counties like they do in Ontarion, NS and NB. I suppose the provincial govt. didn't like the idea of having to share power with local govts. ciao, Larry aka Anarcho

Peter Dimitrov said...

indeed, larry...i noticed the 'flag" on your post ... black & red...but perhaps more meaningfully for this age - "black&red & green & i guess pink too" - eh, ....meaning " anarchist, socialist, environmentalist, gays& lesbians' ---a hell've alliance on the left --along with 'activist labor" --and "feminists" ...to be added ...and 'indigenous peoples"...-as for ----"liberty, equality, fraternity"...reframed as "liberty, equality, co-operation" for the modern age...why not? ...we need to come together and create a common front that still respects our diversity--- and it will take time, but each step --will get as there...right now..we are quite fragmented, disorganized...but it is possible to build a multi-faceted, yet united social movement in BC to defeat both the NDP and the Liberals.

Peter Dimitrov said...

i like this coyote what you said:

"And a constitutional process that changes ownership and management forms, and responsibility throughout the entire economy, at least circumscribing ruling class power and expanding working class, community, and community interest power (environmentalists etc.) within our economic plant and institutions."

...economic democracy & political democracy must go together....it is shameful, shameful,the theft of this province...THE PIRATES AND THEIR PIRACY MUST BE STOPPED by the people united.

BC Mary said...

Just a thought here:

Consider the idea of marshalling our rag-tag forces to take on one issue at a time, rather than trying to build or rebuild a political party.

One issue like BC Hydro, for example, in which the goal is clearly understood and the troops (that's us) would have a battle plan.