Friday, August 1, 2014

Questions about the $40 a day payment for each student under 13

It is now more than 24 hours since the government announced their idea that parents of kids younger than 13 registered in public schools would eligible for $40 per day for each day the strike continues.    There is nothing on the government website saying how this will work.  

This is serious scale financial program that feels like it has been made up at the spur of the moment.   To make it work something like this work would normally take a lot of planning and testing to make sure everything works well.  Given that is was announced without any details and no way for the public to learn about it seems rather stupid.  Should the government not have made sure everything was working before announcing this?  

What I do know:

  • If you do not register for the money you will not get the money
  • You will be issued a cheque for the money sometime after the strike is over
  • Based on last year's enrollment about 314,000 kids will be eligible - the government number of 300,000 is I have no idea how they came up with that figure.
  • Given that government was about 5% low on eligible students, and this is something they could answer from their own data in minutes, means no one has given any serious thought on how this program will work.  No one is ready to implement this.   On a good day fast action by government takes a long time.
  • There are 21 school days in September
  • For each eligible child that would be $840 for September
  • If everyone claimed the money they could this would be $12,560,000 per day or $263,760,000 for September if the schools are closed for that whole time.  If the government saves $12,000,000 a day from the strike, this program could end up costing more than that per day.

What I do not know:

  • When did the government come up with this idea?   If it really was in the last week, my question becomes does the government have any sort of coherent strategy for the negotiations?
  • When will the registration system be up and online?  I think it has to be fully operational by August 25 at the latest and ideally August 18th.   That is a very short time to have this all in place.
  • In August the provincial government tends to have many key staff on holidays so it is not clear to me how it is going to roll out one of the more complex government rebate programs in less than a few weeks.  Will a bunch of senior staff have to drop everything or interrupt their holidays to get his underway?
  • Who will build this software interface and make sure it works especially when you have thousands of people all at once trying to use it?
  • How much will it cost to create this software and where will you find the competent people to create it?   This is August, this is the month people go on holidays.   I can not see any IT firm being ready to take this on right away.  Anyone the government can get will charge extra to rush the job.
  • How will the government make sure that in a rush like this everyone's privacy is protected?
  • How will the government inform the public about the program?   I assume they will have to do a direct mailing and advertising to get the message out.
  • From where in the provincial government will the money come to pay to create this system?   It has to completely ready and done well before the school year starts which means the government will have to spend 100% of the cost to set up the system even if they settle with the BCTF
  • Since the telling the public about the program and designing the system will happen at the same time, a lot of money will have to spend on promotion before
  • How will people get proof of registration within the school system?   The strike is still on and the schools have minimal staff and will likely not be able to meet any requests for proof of registrations.  Getting something at the school would be most effective but that would involve 
  • What happens if you have just moved to BC?  How do you prove registration?
  • Foster kids - who can claim the money?
  • What happens for couples with joint custody?  What if both of them claim?   
  • What happens if the system is not operating well and it takes you until September to register, can you claim all the way back to the start if it is the fault of the system?
  • How will government be able to check the birth dates of the kids?   
My prediction
  • The online registration system will not work in time and in fact the government will admit in a week or two that it is not going to be how they do it.
  • Government will spend $100,000 to $200,000 on outside IT consultants to find out it can not be done.
  • Government will spend a bunch of money on advertising the program before changing it.
  • Government will spend a bunch of money on a direct mailing before changing the program.
  • Government will change it so that everyone can claim the benefit retroactively and will see the money sometime in early 2015 if the strike ends early in the fall which means the government will likely end up being out of pocket by $560,000 per day of the strike
My guess at a timeline
This program was driven by the political end of government which means the civil service is not ready for it at all.  This means for at least a few days senior civil service staff will have to figure out how to even start
  • August 5th - Senior civil servants meet to figure out who is doing what and broadly how to make this work
  • August 6th-9th - mid level civil servants work out how the program could be made to work.
  • August 11th-13th -  Senior civil servants meet with IT companies and figure out if there is anyone that can take on the contract
  • August 11th - 15th - Civil servants prepare informational website and prepare a household mailer - many will have to come in off of holidays or work many hours of overtime
  • August 14th -15th  Government finds an IT firm to direct award the contract to, maybe.  
  • August 16th - 24th - IT company creates the interface - I know, I am dreaming on that timeline, but lets assume it is possible.  I can not even see how you could test it properly in that short a time.
  • August 19th - Household mailer is mailed
  • August 21st - 22nd - Household mailer arrives
  • August 25th - system goes live but crashes due to too many people trying to register at once
  • August 25th - 29th - Schools are flooded with parents needed proof of registration details.   Remember, since it is summer my child is not currently in school.   The existing registration details are for last year and this changes with the start of the school year.   Here in Victoria a kid in going into grade 6 is going into a new school and as a parent you are unlikely to have ever seen anything from them.   

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

LNG Proposals for the South Coast - why?

I think the economics for BC LNG is weak for the best projects, but there are at least several that I do not understand how they could possibly make any financial sense.   I do not see how some of proposed LNG projects on the south coast could be viable unless there was a local supply of gas (and yes, there is natural gas potential on the south coast)

Currently there are four proposed LNG projects on the south coast, two of them might make sense, two of them seem like pie in the sky:

Woodfibre LNG near Squamish - 2.1 mtpa
Steelhead LNG near Port Alberni - 24 mpta
Discovery LNG near Campbell River - 20 mtpa
Tilbury LNG in Delta - 3 mtpa (currently about 0.45 mtpa)
(mpta = million tons per annum)

I think people on the south coast are not at all aware that some of the LNG proposals are for this part of the province.

The Tilbury LNG plant is not lot like the first three for a number of reasons.  First, it is an existing LNG plant that is planning on expanding.   It currently produces LNG for use regionally.  FortisBC uses it to manage peak demand periods in the Lower Mainland, sell it to heavy duty customers like Vedder Transport Ltd., Arrow Transportation Systems Inc. and Denwill Enterprises and finally to provide Watson Lake with LNG to provide electrical power. The town of Inuvik in the North West Territories is also offsetting its diesel-fuel utility operations using LNG transported from Tilbury. 

Second, they have much of the infrastructure in place.  The plant is owned by FortisBC who is a producer of natural gas and owns much of the natural gas pipeline infrastructure on the coast.

The plan is  to increase the production of LNG at Tilbury by six fold and then export LNG.This project might makes sense financially and is small enough that it could operate as needed when the prices work.  Realistically this is the most likely LNG export facility we will see in BC in the next five years.

The Woodfibre LNG plant is a small scale one in terms of the global LNG business.  It seems to mainly based on the idea that they have a brownfield industrial site to work from with the old Woodfibre mill site.   As LNG plant locations go, it is good one.  It is at tidewater with a deep anchorage and the community is protected from the plant.   The problem this proposal has is sourcing LNG.

The Woodfibre LNG proposal is too small to justify a new pipeline but at the same time it could be too large for the existing pipelines.   With the Tilbury LNG expansion and increased use of natural gas in the lower mainland, is there enough capacity to provide natural gas through to this plant at Woodfibre?

The final question for Woodfibre LNG is if they can acquire the natural gas cheap enough to make a profit selling LNG in Asia.

Now we come to the two Vancouver Island proposed LNG terminals which do not make sense because they are so far from the North East natural gas fields and would require a long, expensive and new pipeline.

Discovery LNG
The project is proposed for the old Elk Falls pulp mill site.   It has a deep water anchorage, it is outside of town and it an existing heavy industrial site - all factors in its favour, but I think it has more downsides.

They would need a much larger pipeline to service the plant.   The scale of the demand would realistically require a completely new pipeline from the Peace to the Island.   I fail to see how that could be done for less than a ballpark $10 billion.   At the moment no one is even proposing a new pipeline from the North East.   It would take about five or more years to plan and get approval to build a new pipeline.   Until there is a supply of natural gas this project has no hope of moving forward.  The lack of a current pipeline proposal means there is no chance of anything before 2020 at the absolute earliest.

Even if there were  supply of gas the company behind the project, Quicksilver Resources, is much too small to be able to get the financing for the project.   The company has revenues of around $400 million per year which is roughly the value of the company based on current stock prices.   A project of this size would cost between $20 billion and $40 billion to build.  Only a major global company could possibly afford to finance this project.   More or less every major player in the LNG field has some project they are already connected to.

Location of Proposed Steelhead LNG Plant
Steelhead LNG
This project is some sort of a partnership between  Steelhead and the Huu‐ay‐aht First Nations.  The proposal is to build a greenfield LNG plant on some of the Huu‐ay‐aht First Nations land on Sarita Bay, which is about 10 kilometers up the Alberni Channel from Bamfield.

In nothing I could find is it clear what the relationship between Steelhead and Huu‐ay‐aht First Nations is.   The use of Huu‐ay‐aht First Nations land is interesting because jurisdictionally it is not in the same category as other lands.  The project benefits from having the First Nation on board but can Steelhead deliver the benefits the First Nation members are looking for?

The project suffers because this is a greenfield site.   The location is 80 kilometers from Port Alberni, the nearest location with the full infrastructure to support a major industrial site.   The road to Bamfield would have to upgraded.  There would have to be a deep sea terminal built in Sarita Bay.  The powerline would have to upgraded.   etc....   All of these add to the costs of the projects

Sarita Bay
The project is not near to any large scale natural gas pipeline.  It is hard to see how this project could go ahead without someone committing to building a large new pipeline from the North East to the South Coast.  Even then this project would still require an extra 155 kilometers of pipeline once the gas is on the Island at the Comox Valley.

I do not know enough about the company behind this proposal to know if they could finance it,  but based on what this project would cost to build I seriously doubt that it could move forward without a major global partner to finance it.   Without a secure supply of gas, which means a pipeline ready to be constructed, I am not sure what would make this project interesting to any possible partner.

A South Coast Game Changer?
The Georgia Basin with an estimated 185 billion cubic meters of natural gas
These projects suddenly look much more promising if there were a source of gas in this region.   There are possible supplies for LNG plants here on the south coast.   Could the idea be that these plants are being developed to stimulate demand for local gas?

The first possible source is coal bed methane.   We have a lot of coal deposits on the east coast of Vancouver Island and all of them should have the potential for coal bed methane.  Estimates are that there is about 30 billion cubic meters of coal bed methane on Vancouver Island

The second is natural gas under the Strait of Georgia and estimated 185 billion cubic meters of it.  That is enough natural gas to allow for the export of 44 mpta from the south coast for 32 years.  It is a large enough amount to make development of the resource worthwhile and the south coast plants much more viable.

With a local resource the cost to produce the LNG would be lower and this would make the projects much more likely to be profitable.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Average Size of BC Wild Fires is going up over 1991-2014

Another graph using the Ministry of Forests data on wild fires in BC.   I will get around to doing one that shows the 10 year running average for the size of fires.

The other graphs I have done today:

Graphs of Area Burned in BC and Annual Wild Fire Spending from 1991 to 2013

I thought these two graphs would be interesting to see

In area burned four years really stand out but I think more telling are the minimums.  the 2008 and 2012 low fire years are much higher than the lows in the 1990s.

 I have not corrected this data for inflation

The average area of forest burned in BC each year has quadrupled since the 1990s

I noticed that in BC the area burned each year seems to have been going up since the early 1990s.   I decided to graph this and here is what I got.

The graph seems to show a fairly clear upward trend.   If 2014 continues as it seems to be at the moment, the 10 year average for 2005-2014 will be in the range 110,000 hectares.  If it becomes a big year, more than 200,000 hectares, that average rises to over 114,000

The data comes from the Ministry of Forests statistics for each year from 1991 to 2013.   I can only access data back to 1991 online.  

Meanwhile at the same time the average number of fires each year has held steady.  So far we have only had 562 fires this season.  The 10 year average would suggest we will see another 1400 more fires this year.

I will do some more on the data later.   

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Crown Infringement of Aboriginal Title will not be easy

People have pointed to the fact that the government retains the right to infringe Aboriginal Title.  I think this is a misplaced hope because I think the right to infringe is only a theoretical right and a right that could ever be exercised in reality.

The Tsilhqot'in decision of the Supreme Court of Canada included the following
[77]  To justify overriding the Aboriginal title-holding group’s wishes on the basis of the broader public good, the government must show: (1) that it discharged its procedural duty to consult and accommodate, (2) that its actions were backed by a compelling and substantial objective; and (3) that the governmental action is consistent with the Crown’s fiduciary obligation to the group: Sparrow.
What is important here is to understand what the three parts of this paragraph from the judgement mean.

(1) that it discharged its procedural duty to consult and accommodate

From the judgement
[79] The degree of consultation and accommodation required lies on a spectrum as discussed in Haida.  In general, the level of consultation and accommodation required is proportionate to the strength of the claim and to the seriousness of the adverse impact the contemplated governmental action would have on the claimed right.  “A dubious or peripheral claim may attract a mere duty of notice, while a stronger claim may attract more stringent duties” (para. 37).  The required level of consultation and accommodation is greatest where title has been established.  Where consultation or accommodation is found to be inadequate, the government decision can be suspended or quashed. , 

Aboriginal Title will require the highest degree of consultation and accommodation of the government.   In many ways a the highest level of consultation is not far short of getting agreement.   If the government is headed down the path of consultation means it has already received a No from the First Nation.  

Next, how do you accommodate Aboriginal Title?  Aboriginal Title will be the single most valuable asset First Nations will have.  It means that the government has to minimize their taking of Aboriginal Title land as far as is possible, ideally not using at all.

(2) that its actions were backed by a compelling and substantial objective

What is a compelling and substantive issue?   The Supreme Court of Canada looked back to the Delgamuukw decision

from the Delgamuukw judgement
[165] In the wake of Gladstone, the range of legislative objectives that can justify the infringement of aboriginal title is fairly broad. Most of these objectives can be traced to the reconciliation of the prior occupation of North America by aboriginal peoples with the assertion of Crown sovereignty, which entails the recognition that “distinctive aboriginal societies exist within, and are a part of, a broader social, political and economic community” (at para. 73). In my opinion, the development of agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric power, the general economic development of the interior of British Columbia, protection of the environment or endangered species, the building of infrastructure and the settlement of foreign populations to support those aims, are the kinds of objectives that are consistent with this purpose and, in principle, can justify the infringement of aboriginal title.  Whether a particular measure or government act can be explained by reference to one of those objectives, however, is ultimately a question of fact that will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis
The court allows a broad range of reasons for the compelling and substantive issue that could justify the infringement.   What will be the question in court is what is meant by substantive and compelling.   A right of way for drive way is clearly not it.  

(3) that the governmental action is consistent with the Crown’s fiduciary obligation to the group: Sparrow

[85] The Crown’s fiduciary duty in the context of justification merits further discussion. The Crown’s underlying title in the land is held for the benefit of the Aboriginal group and constrained by the Crown’s fiduciary or trust obligation to the group.  This impacts the justification process in two ways.
[86] First, the Crown’s fiduciary duty means that the government must act in a way that respects the fact that Aboriginal title is a group interest that inheres in present and future generations. The beneficial interest in the land held by the Aboriginal group vests communally in the title-holding group.  This means that incursions on Aboriginal title cannot be justified if they would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.
[87] Second, the Crown’s fiduciary duty infuses an obligation of proportionality into the justification process.  Implicit in the Crown’s fiduciary duty to the Aboriginal group is the requirement that the incursion is necessary to achieve the government’s goal (rational connection); that the government go no further than necessary to achieve it (minimal impairment); and that the benefits that may be expected to flow from that goal are not outweighed by adverse effects on the Aboriginal interest (proportionality of impact).  The requirement of proportionality is inherent in the Delgamuukw process of reconciliation and was echoed in Haida’s insistence that the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate at the claims stage “is proportionate to a preliminary assessment of the strength of the case supporting the existence of the right or title, and to the seriousness of the potentially adverse effect upon the right or title claimed” (para. 39).

Note here the sentence in [85] The Crown’s underlying title in the land is held for the benefit of the Aboriginal group and constrained by the Crown’s fiduciary or trust obligation to the group.   The underlying Crown interest in the land where there is Aboriginal Title is not intended to benefit the government or the private sector.   This line alone is a huge limitation on when the government could ever infringe Aboriginal Title.

When trying to infringe Aboriginal Title land the government has to put the best interests of the First Nation ahead of almost everything else.   Effectively the government trying to infringe has to at the same time vigorously work against the infringement on behalf of the First Nation.   If the government does not succeed in protecting the Aboriginal Land have they failed in their fiduciary obligation to the First Nation?

The next line to consider is in [86] This means that incursions on Aboriginal title cannot be justified if they would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.   This dramatically limits for what reasons the government could ever infringe Aboriginal Title.  How could you justify a mine or a hydro development?

For the reasons aboive I would argue that the government right to infringe Aboriginal Title is one that will realistically never be used because the restrictions on it are too difficult to meet the test. 

2002 Vancouver Civic Election Results

I am posting the 2002 results for City of Vancouver civic elections because I have not seen any concise place with them online

Ballots Cast/Reg. Voters : 139761 / 280055
Total Votes: 137907

  1. Larry Campbell COPE 80,772
  2. Jennifer Clarke NPA 41,936
  3. Valerie Maclean VCA  7,843
  4. Raymond Chang        2,777
  5. Marc Emery      VMP  2,014

11 others            2,565
COUNCILLOR (10 to be elected)
Ballots Cast/Reg. Voters : 139761 / 280055
Total Votes: 1145519

  1. Fred Bass         COPE 70,525
  2. Jim Green         COPE 67,841
  3. David Cadman      COPE 66,805
  4. Tim Louis         COPE 66,348
  5. Time Stevenson    COPE 57,901
  6. Anne Roberts      COPE 55,685
  7. Raymond Louie     COPE 55,605
  8. Ellen Woodsworth  COPE 53,388
  9. Peter Ladner      NPA  41,755
  10. Sam Sullivan      NPA  40,372
  11. B.C. Lee          NPA  39,868
  12. Don Lee           NPA  39,225
  13. Duncan Wilson     NPA  38,692
  14. Cheryl Chang      NPA  38,633
  15. George Puil       NPA  32,318
  16. Sancy McCormick   NPA  32,042
  17. Nancy Chiavario   VCA  30,853
  18. Janet Leduc       NPA  30,432
  19. Connie Fogal     Green 30,305
  20. Richard Campbell Green 23,599
  21. Doug Warkentin   Green 20,510
  22. Art Cowie         VCA  18,535
  23. George Chow            17,849
  24. Alan Herbert      VCA  16,397
  25. Stephen Rogers    VCA  12,759
  26. Sarah Albertson   DPP  11,132
  27. Wendy Turner      VCA  10,669
  28. Constantine Bonnis VCA  9,785
  29. Brent Bazinet     VCA   8,356
  30. Scott Yee               8,053
  31. Lou Demerais      VCA   7,805
  32. Jon Ellis         VCA   7,615
  33. Ryan Millar       DPP   6,086
  34. Barney Hickey     VCA   5,121
  35. Patricia Lovick   VIP   4,787
  36. Brian Godzilla Salmi    4,631
  37. Roslyn Cassells         4,511
  38. Kelly Alm               3,793
  39. Vicky Jassal            3,698
  40. Nick Walter       VIP   3,376
  41. Ken Bergman             2,938
  42. Greg Reid               2,648
  43. Joan Rowntree           2,561
  44. Carlo Fortugno          2,043 
  45. Kyle Cunningham         1,938

PARK COMMISSIONER (7 to be elected)
Ballots Cast/Reg. Voters : 139761 / 280055
Total Votes: 735578

  1. Heather Deal             COPE 60,873
  2. Loretta Woodcock         COPE 54,955
  3. Anaita Romaniuk          COPE 53,112
  4. Lyndsay Poaps            COPE 51,571
  5. Eva Riccius              COPE 48,298
  6. Suzanne Anton             NPA  41,338
  7. Allan Degenova            NPA  41,249
  8. Dianne Ledingham          NPA  36,995
  9. Clarence Hansen           NPA  33,374
  10. Laura McDiarmid           NPA  33,069
  11. Catherine Carter         Green 32,613
  12. James Love               Green 31,392
  13. Ian Haywood-Farmer        NPA  30,146
  14. Christopher Richardson    NPA  29,875
  15. Dawn Buie                Green 28,694
  16. Scott Nelson-Braithwaite Green 25,887
  17. Kelly Wong                VCA  18,925
  18. Raymond Eng                    11,132
  19. Kristina Parusel          VCA  11,075
  20. Erik Whiteway             VCA   9,447
  21. Dave Pasin                VCA   8,949
  22. Helen Boyce                     8,725
  23. Gordon Kennedy                  6,345
  24. Matthew Sullivan                4,090
  25. Greg Edgelow                    3,399
  26. Eleanor Lena Hadley             3,362
  27. Angus Carten                    3,126
  28. Korina Houghton                 3,097
  29. A. Pepper                       2,532
  30. Douglas Weisberg                2,396
  31. Thomas Deak                     2,349
  32. Joseph Paithouski               1,828
  33. Bobus Undem                     1,360

SCHOOL TRUSTEE (9 to be elected)
Ballots Cast/Reg. Voters : 140332 / 280055
Total Votes: 917097

  1. Allen Blakey             COPE 70,455
  2. Allan Wong               COPE 65,758
  3. Jane Bouey               COPE 65,509
  4. Noel Herron              COPE 63,607
  5. Adrienne Montani         COPE 62,533
  6. Kevin Millsip            COPE 57,669
  7. John Cheng               NPA  45,984
  8. Andrea Reimer           Green 44,951
  9. Richard Lee              NPA  44,810
  10. Ken Denike               NPA  43,542
  11. Judy Johnstone          Green 41,907
  12. Bill Brown               NPA  41,492
  13. Ted Hunt                 NPA  41,137
  14. Cherie Payne             NPA  38,155
  15. Elyn Dobbs               NPA  34,776
  16. Debbie Desroches-Fulton  NPA  32,150
  17. Angelle Desroches-Rosner NPA  28,813
  18. Bill Ritchie                   9,946
  19. Brian Godzilla Salmi           7,802
  20. Tea Buechner                   7,421
  21. Ringo Taylhardat               4,240
  22. Keir Vichert                   4,098