Ronna-Rae Leonard, local NDP candidate, unjustly slammed by her political foes.

This blog post is for residents of the Comox Valley. Please SHARE! Yes it’s long, but please read it to the end. 

Below is a letter I sent to the publisher of the Comox Valley Record last week in response to a letter published in an earlier edition by Dick Clancy, a close associate of our last Conservative MP John Duncan and reputedly now associated with the Liberal campaign although, I admit, I don’t know him personally nor much about him. However, his political affiliations and his letter (see it here) don’t leave much doubt about his political leanings. To suggest that Ronna-Rae would want the residents of Maple Pool thrown out onto the streets is ludicrous and insulting in the extreme.

My letter was not published. I don’t know why, but I think it’s worth publishing myself here because I just can’t sit by and do nothing knowing Ronna-Rae and what she stands for, her integrity and commitment to social housing. I’m quite certain I know where the truth lies and it’s not in Clancy’s letter.

Here’s my letter:

To the editor, Comox Valley Record.

I read with interest the letter in your April 25th edition by Dick Clancy. He’s pretty coy is Mr. Clancy for a person who says everyone running in the election agrees that this should be a ‘transparent’ campaign. If he really believes in transparency, he should declare up front which candidate and party he supports in the election because his letter looks like an attempt to smear the NDP candidate. It looks a lot like a political hatchet job. Come on, Mr. Clancy, tell us who you’ll be voting for so we can judge your letter for what it is.

I will tell you up front that I am voting NDP in the coming provincial election. I would vote for Ronna-Rae Leonard, but I don’t live in her riding. I will be voting for Scott Fraser.

I don’t blame Mr. Clancy for being partisan, I am. I do blame him for hiding behind a call for transparency in order to suggest that Ronna-Rae Leonard would want the residents of Maple Pool thrown into the streets. That is a patently absurd accusation. I worked with Ms. Leonard on the Housing Task Force here in the Valley before its mandate expired about 4 years ago. Ronna-Rae Leonard has worked tirelessly over the years on behalf of homeless residents of the Valley.

In my opinion, it’s people like Dick Clancy and Larry Jangula who have blocked the construction of decent affordable and supportive housing in the Valley, not Ronna-Rae Leonard.

The in-camera council votes don’t tell the whole story. Frankly, I’d love to see an independent inquiry into exactly why Maple Pool continues to exist and why there hasn’t been any supportive and affordable housing built in the Valley for decades.

Roger Albert

Cumberland, BC

On May 2nd The Comox Valley Record published a letter by Fredrick Smith challenging Clancy. It was fine but somewhat off topic in my mind. It didn’t challenge to snide innuendo in Clancy’s letter about Ronna-Rae wanting to throw Maple Pool residents out on the street as evidenced by her in-camera Courtenay Council votes on a lawsuit around Maple Pool.

On May 4th, The Comox Valley Record published a letter by Irene Murray full of innuendo and attacks on Ronna-Rae, attacks which are groundless and based on political ideology. It’s true that the Housing Task Force had limited success. I know. I sat on one of its committees and was paid to write a report on what municipalities can do to encourage affordable housing in the Valley.

There are some people in the Valley who are fine with giving poor people charity (soup and mittens) but not with providing them with adequate, safe housing. Every community around us (Campbell River, Port Alberni and Nanaimo) have built affordable social housing. The Comox Valley is alone in not doing so. I can assure you that’s not Ronna-Rae’s fault.

Private Forest Companies: The New Aristocracy

So, in this neck of the woods, criticizing logging and forestry companies is like badmouthing Jesus so I will refrain from doing that. What I will say, however, may seem like finding fault with the forestry based companies and their government supporters and ‘regulators’ but it isn’t. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy with what the likes of Hancock Forest Management, TimberWest, and Island Timberlands are doing. I think that most of their logging practices are unsustainable, damage the environment, compromise watersheds and unnecessarily restrict access to forested lands. But it’s all perfectly legal. They only do what the government allows them to do. It’s not their fault.

From their websites we learn that together they own in fee simple (the same way in which you own your house and the property it sits on) some 1,500,000 acres of forest lands on Vancouver Island, mostly in the lower half of the Island but with assets all over the place. TimberWest also has harvesting rights for 700,000 cubic metres of timber per year. The Private Forest Landowners Association says that private forest lands account for only 2 percent of BC’s land mass. That’s true, but I’d like to know what percentage of Vancouver Island is private forest land. That would be more relevant to me. Even more relevant would be an indication of what percentage of forest land, not bare mountain tops or urban areas, is held privatively and how that percentage has changed over the decades.

Also according to their websites these companies are fully in compliance with all the government regulations and comply with or exceed national and global harvesting standards, something I have no doubt is entirely true.  They claim that good relations with their neighbouring communities is also a high priority as is sustainability.

That’s all fine and dandy.

I have no doubt that there are many well-intentioned people who work for the companies I note above. I actually know some of them and they’re generally good people. And I don’t really have anything to say about the fact that these companies comply with government regulations and standards. I’m sure they do.

The problem is that government regulations are so lax as to be insignificant to these companies and violations of rules and regulations often go unpunished because the government has gutted enforcement staff and doesn’t really want to prosecute forestry companies anyhow. The company websites argue that they have over 30 Acts and regulations and rules to live by, but they are somehow making the best of it and at all times and in all places operate by commonly described ‘best practices’ to maintain sustainability, environmental, wildlife and community values. If a number of recent media reports have any credence, that’s hardly the case.

I just don’t see how the public good is served by having most of the southern half of Vancouver Island owned by private companies, why governments would allow this and how we are supposed to believe what the companies say about the wonderful and sustainable ways that they cut forests down.

Forest companies are really like a new aristocracy. During the Middle Ages and beyond, aristocrats and monarchs owned and controlled great swaths of land in Europe and elsewhere allowing only limited access to the peasantry and locals. That’s what is happening here with forest companies being the new aristocrats and us being the peasants. Of course, aristocrats and monarchs didn’t want to piss off the peasants too much or they could, and did, get rather revolting. There may be a lesson here for our new aristocratic forest companies and their government cheerleaders.

Governments have given land away to private companies for decades now starting with the big giveaway by the federal government to the CPR and on Vancouver Island to Dunsmuir in the late 19th century. Social Credit, Liberal and NDP governments have all participated in the giveaway over the decades and now we are in a situation where privatization of public lands seems to have gotten to the point where there is precious little Crown Land in the mountains and valleys of southern Vancouver Island.

Governments are increasingly committed to privatization.

They privatize as many services as they can by contracting out legal, technical, medical, health care and other services without drawing too much attention to it. They privatize land too. Most privatization now happens under the public radar, incrementally and often imperceptibly. It goes largely unnoticed. Privatization removes public assets from the public domain and places them in private hands. Even regulatory enforcement is sometimes privatized or put in the hands of the affected industries by making them self-regulating.

The reality is that the public sector is shrinking in BC as are public assets which are increasingly ending up in private hands. The common good is being sacrificed more and more to the gods of profitability. Less and less control stays in the hands of the public. With regards to forest lands, the result of this is watershed damage as recently reported on the Englishman River, environmental degradation and the alienation of wealth into the hands of the few, all sanctioned and abetted by government. The Private Forest Landowners Association supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and opposes any regulation on the exportation of raw logs. It claims that there is no money in domestic value-added production for the companies it represents and log exports are the only way they make money. The TPP is aimed at gutting national sovereignty and would serve to put corporations in greater and greater control over our lives. That’s the reality no matter how much they protest otherwise. I find it extremely difficult to accept the industry argument that they are acting in the public interest and for the common good.

It’s also clear that the provincial government does not govern in the public interest. In terms of forest lands it governs for the corporations and acts to protect and enhance their private interests at every turn.

The class system is alive and well and apparently hasn’t really changed much since the Middle Ages. Oh, the ruling class looks different, but it’s really the same. The only change is that we have been convinced that we live in a democracy and that together we make the rules. Such a sad delusion.