Responding to allegations of B.C. Liberal Party website hack
For immediate release
February 6th, 2017
VICTORIA B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party issued the following statement regarding allegations that the B.C. Liberal Party website was hacked over the weekend:
“The B.C. Green Party condemns any attempt to hack or profit from the hack of a political opponent. Last week, the B.C. Liberals used leaked materials from the B.C. NDP to undermine their climate action platform announcement, and this week the B.C. Liberals’ website has apparently been hacked. This is gutter politics at its worst. It erodes trust in our democratic institutions and breeds mistrust in our systems of government. It is a net loss for the people of British Columbia. As B.C. Greens, my team and I are steadfast in our commitment to an honest, principled approach to politics that puts people at its centre, not dirty tricks and power.”
– 30 –
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is the third in our series exploring the concept of a basic income and its implications in BC. Our backgrounder provided an overview of the concept, the issues we are facing today in BC, and the potential implications of a basic income policy. Our second post investigated in more detail the current state of poverty, welfare rates and social assistance in BC. We are grateful for the high level of engagement that our series continues to receive on social media and this website, including the large number of thoughtful comments. Below we continue to engage with the common themes in the responses we’ve received. This dialogue is very important in exploring ideas and creating good policies.
Many of you have noted the current scarcity of jobs and the precarious nature of much work today. A second theme has been disagreement about the role of basic income in either disincentivizing people to join the workforce, or providing people the freedom and self-sufficiency required to achieve personal and professional goals. Finally, many of you spoke with optimism about the potential of basic income to exert a beneficial and potentially transformational effect on society as a whole. In responding to your comments and sketching what we believe are some of the key issues, here we explore the social impacts of precarious employment, the trend towards increasing automation of jobs, and the role that basic income could play in the changing world of work.
The world of work is changing, most dramatically due to technological advance, especially automation, but also due to a trend away from long-term, secure, full-time work with benefits, toward short-term, part-time, and contract-based work.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau stated recently that Canadians need to get used to “job churn”, defined as making a number of career changes in one’s life through short-term contract-based employment. Since the 2008-09 recession, the majority of jobs created have been part-time or temporary. The October 2016 Canadian Labour Force Survey highlights this trend: 44,000 net jobs were created across Canada in the month of October, but this number reflects a gain of 67,000 new part-time positions and a loss of 23,000 full-time positions. Men aged 25-54 have been hit particularly hard: full-time employment for this demographic declined by 63,000 positions over the past year, while part-time employment increased by 36,000 positions. The trend is the same in BC: 55,000 new jobs have been created since October 2015, but the majority (41,000) of these have been part-time positions.
Contract-based employment, which is often short-term, with fewer hours and without benefits, is also on the rise. Many speak of the rise of the “precariat” – a workforce that moves from job to job, taking temporary positions with no benefits and little job security. While some individuals prefer the flexibility of part-time or contract-based work, for most, it is not a choice: many are forced to take the jobs available, and suffer from insecurity and low incomes due to lower wages and fewer hours.
Some sectors are hit much harder than others by these trends: the natural resource industries, manufacturing, and education sectors, for example, have seen some of the largest increases in temporary and contract-based work in recent years. There are indications this trend will continue, with the majority of new jobs being part-time, temporary, or contract-based. This would mean significant implications for the financial security and well-being of huge numbers of people across British Columbia and beyond.
Recent years have also seen unprecedented technological advance in speed and scale, and there has been much talk recently about the impending robot revolution – when robots could increasingly replace humans in a variety of jobs, and the rate of automation outstrips the rate of job creation. We are already seeing the impact of technology on work: automated voice recognition software is already replacing many call centre workers, car assembly plants use more robots than people, and driverless cars and trucks are already significantly impacting the taxi and trucking industries.
Looking forward, a number of forecasts suggest the potential for the rapid elimination of jobs across a range of sectors: a study at the University of Oxford, for example, found that 47% of jobs in the U.S. are at “high risk” of computerization over the next two decades. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report predicts that we are entering a fourth industrial revolution that will result in the net loss of 5 million jobs across 12 leading economies over just the next 5 years. Barack Obama’s 2016 economic report predicts that jobs paying less than $20/hour face an 83% likelihood of being automated, while jobs paying between $20 and $40/hour face a 33% chance.
Some argue that predictions about the effects of automation overstate the risk: that machine-caused unemployment has been predicted before and always been misguided; that automation lowers costs and creates new jobs; and that any transition would be gradual. Yet the rate of technological advance so far has exceeded most estimates. Furthermore, many of those speaking out most loudly about the disruptive potential of technology, and the need for a basic income policy to deal with the transition, come from within the tech industry itself, and thus have the most intimate knowledge of the technology and its future potential. Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley start-up incubator, is a major proponent of basic income as a way to smooth the disruption it expects to result from technological advance, and is currently running its own basic income pilot project in California.
We are already seeing the exacerbation of inequality as a result of technological advancement, as it further concentrates wealth in the hands of the few. Automation will further exacerbate inequality, as it disproportionately impacts low and moderate paying jobs and affects some sectors more than others: jobs in transportation, manufacturing, and office and administrative support are set to be hardest hit, and soonest. Bill Morneau recently specified that truck drivers and receptionists are most likely to see their jobs disappear in the coming years: these are the second most common occupations for men and women respectively across Canada, so it goes without saying that the social ramifications of large scale job loss in these occupations would be extremely significant.
If automation results in job loss at the rate many are predicting, the outcome could be an unprecedented level of structural unemployment. In this scenario, a basic income would make the transition more humane, as the alternative is a large percentage of people living on current social support systems like employment insurance and income assistance, which, as discussed in our last post, leaves many recipients below the poverty line. If inequality continues to rise, redistribution of the significant financial benefits of the robot revolution – especially for those adversely affected – is a moral imperative.
Basic income could also lessen the psychological strain on those affected by precarious work today, and on those whose work may be made redundant by machines in the future. Among the many comments we received, a number of you spoke to the emotional cost of dealing with uncertain work and an insecure future; in our last post we also touched on the psychological hardships of living on social assistance in BC. Some advocates of basic income even view it as a necessary means to prevent social breakdown resulting from the widespread unemployment and poverty that automation would cause. Basic income could also provide an essential way to keep the economy going by giving people the financial means to continue their participation in the market even if they are unable to find new jobs.
Basic income could also help mitigate against rising unemployment levels due to automation. To adapt to a changing world of work, people need the freedom and means to do so. Basic income could enable those affected by automation or the rise in precarious work to retrain for new professions, attend or return to university, college or trade school, or take entrepreneurial risks. Many basic income advocates view this flexibility as a promising way to spur further innovation and job creation, and create benefits for society as a whole. Basic income could also form part of a more visionary response to a changing world of work: by restoring a measure of financial security and freedom, it could help people create meaningful work (paid or unpaid) and foster social connections, as well as supporting volunteering work and community engagement.
At this juncture in our history, the dream of a stable, long-term career is disappearing for many, and the strong possibility exists that automation will fundamentally alter our economy and make many careers obsolete. We therefore have the obligation to create forward-thinking policies that enable us to cope with the magnitude of changes that may be coming our way. But we also have an opportunity to do more than just cope. We have the opportunity to harness these changes and create a more equitable and sustainable society that works better for all of us.
We want to know what you think about the future of work in British Columbia. Please share your thoughts on precarious work, the threat and opportunities of automation, what work means to you, and the role you think basic income could play in a shifting economy. Thank you in advance for your comments.
This is the second post in our four-part series exploring the concept of “Basic Income”. Our first post focused on providing background information on the topic. It prompted more than 60 comments on this site and more than 450 comments on my MLA Facebook page. As a consequence, it is apparent to us that there is broad interest in the idea.
Our introduction to the concept of basic income received a huge number of thoughtful responses. Many shared their own stories about challenging periods in their lives: time spent living in poverty or on the edge of it, working in precarious or underpaid positions with uncertain futures, and struggling to raise a family or achieve personal goals in this context. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to share their feedback on the idea of a basic income, for the thoughtfulness of the comments and the support and commitment that so many showed to working towards a future that is more just and equitable for all, whether through a basic income policy or other means.
The comments showcased a number of common hopes that people hold for a basic income policy, dissatisfaction with the status quo, and concerns for the risks that a basic income could involve. In this post we will elaborate on some of the themes that we found in the responses, diving deeper into the situation we are in today.
In the responses to our backgrounder, the most widely expressed sentiment was hope in the idea that a basic income policy could end the poverty cycle, eliminate the traps that keep people in poverty throughout their lifetimes and across multiple generations, and treat those in need with greater dignity. In response, in this post we want to focus more closely on the current condition of poverty in BC and our response to it, and highlight how a basic income might offer an alternative solution.
We have already highlighted BC’s higher than average rates of poverty, with between 11-16% of adults and 16-20% of children living in poverty, depending on the measure used. Poverty disproportionately affects children and single-parent families: more than half of all children living in single-parent families were living in poverty in 2013, compared to 13% for children in couple families. Aboriginal people, recent immigrants, and people with disabilities are also more vulnerable to poverty.
Estimates of poverty levels differ according to the measure used. The low income measure, low income cut-offs, and the market-based measure are three measures commonly used in Canada.
Each of these measures result in slightly different statistics, hence the range of numbers used.
There are a myriad of programs that make up income assistance in BC, specific eligibility requirements, and a complex application process that may include interviews, home check-ins, and mandatory work search periods. In your comments, many of you spoke of the invasiveness, restrictiveness, and stigma of current income assistance programs.
Welfare rates in BC today are $610 per month for a single individual without a disability who is expected to look for work. The rates haven’t increased for nearly 10 years. Advocacy organizations estimate that a single individual on welfare has only $18 per week to spend on food; the organization Raise the Rates recently ran a challenge to illustrate the difficulty of eating on such a small budget. One individual who we spoke with recently shared his personal story of living on income assistance: he is disabled, and so receives income assistance for persons with disabilities, which totals just over $900/month. He wants to return to school to receive training and accreditation, but the strict limits on how much he can save have prevented him from doing so. He is seeking work, but to improve his prospects he needs to get more education, and the claw back of dollars earned has been a disincentive for him to seek out a low-paying job. Furthermore, the affordability crisis has affected him directly: he was evicted because the land on which he lived was being developed into condos, and his new rental unit requires almost all of his income, thus requiring him to rely on food banks for food. He calls being on income assistance “humiliating and constricting”. This individual’s story highlights a number of struggles that many face in trying to move their lives forward while on income assistance.
It’s important to note that many British Columbians living in poverty are not welfare recipients. Working poverty is a growing problem across BC: Vancouver had the second-highest rate of working poverty in the country (behind Toronto), at 8.7% in 2012, although this percentage is likely higher now given the recent affordability crisis affecting the region. The high cost of living, the low minimum wage, and the growth of precarious employment have contributed to rising levels of working poverty. The minimum wage was recently raised to $10.85/hour, whereas the estimated living wage is $20.02 in Victoria and $20.64 in metro Vancouver. The living wage is what a family needs to cover basic expenses, such as food, clothing, housing, child care, transportation, and a small savings in case of emergencies. It is calculated based on a two-parent two-child family, with both parents working full-time. The discrepancy between the minimum wage and the amount of income required to cover basic expenses leaves many families across our Province below the poverty line.
A basic income policy could offer a solution to poverty in BC, if the payments are constructed to ensure that all recipients, in different parts of the province, with different family sizes and different challenges, are able to live above the poverty line. If a basic income replaced our current income assistance programs, individuals in need would no longer have to prove themselves eligible or justify their need for assistance, through completing mandatory work searches, interviews, or home check-ins, for example. Simply falling below the income threshold would automatically qualify you. Replacing our invasive welfare system with a basic income that is framed as an automatic payment program, similar to the tax credits and payments many sections of our society receive today, could reduce significantly the stigma around receiving income assistance. This in itself could have a dramatic effect on the self-esteem and social inclusion of those in need of support.
One issue that is often brought up in discussions of basic income and poverty reduction is the issue of cost. The cost of a basic income policy is potentially significant but is hard to quantify, since it depends on a wide range of factors, including the amount paid, the eligibility requirements of recipients, and which services it will complement and which it will replace. These factors will be discussed in greater detail in a future post. However, it is essential that, in considering the question of cost, we consider the cost of maintaining the status quo, including the hidden and indirect costs to society of our current levels of poverty.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that poverty in BC costs society $8.1-$9.2 billion annually. This figure stems from the direct costs of social assistance programs to the government, as well as the adverse consequences of poverty, which have significant costs borne by society as a whole. The consequences of poverty include poor health, due to high levels of obesity, alcohol, tobacco and drug use, as well as inadequate nutrition and physical inactivity), high levels of stress and mental health problems, higher than average levels of domestic abuse, low literacy rates, poor educational performance, and high crime rates. The associated costs of these consequences show up through higher usage of public health care, increased policing needs and costs to the justice system, and lost productivity and economic activity.
As noted in our previous post, the basic income pilot project undertaken in Manitoba showed significant impacts on the healthcare system in particular: it reduced hospital visits by 8.5%. The decrease in hospital visits was attributed by researcher Evelyn Forget to the reduction of stress in low income families, which resulted in lower rates of alcohol and drug use, lower levels of domestic abuse, fewer car accidents, and lower levels of hospitalization for mental health issues.
Homelessness, which we explored in a series last winter, is inextricably linked to inadequate income for those working and receiving assistance, a lack of affordable housing, and inadequate access to support services. Homelessness has enormous costs to the BC Government, and a number of studies have found that it costs less to directly address the problem of homelessness and invest in prevention than it does to manage homelessness (see here and here, for example). A basic income could provide an integral part of ending homelessness, but it could not completely supplant other social services, such as supportive housing and mental health and addictions services.
The story of youth in transition is similar: as noted in the previous post, a recent report by the Vancouver Foundation finds that paying all youth ages 18-24 transitioning out of foster care a “basic support fund” of between $15,000-$20,000 would result in overall savings to the Provincial Government of $165-$201 million per year, due to the adverse outcomes youth in transition currently experience and their associated costs.
In your comments, many of you raised concerns specifically with the idea of paying youth a basic income without a work requirement, suggesting that doing so could undermine the development of a work ethic or discourage their entry into the work force. Given the range and magnitude of adverse outcomes that youth in transition currently experience, such a concern may not be warranted, or perhaps should not take priority over helping them avoid such outcomes by whichever means possible. Beyond youth specifically, there was a hesitation expressed by a number of commenters that a basic income would provide a strong disincentive for many people to work, and would thus undermine their sense of self-worth and identity. On the other hand, many of you expressed the mirror image of this thought: that a basic income would provide freedom from the constraints and stress that currently plague those on income assistance, allowing individuals to better their lives, go after their dreams and realize their potential. Which version of this thinking we adhere to depends to a great extent on our assumptions about what factors motivate and prevent people from working, and what gives people satisfaction and fulfillment. This issue will be further explored in our next post in this series.
We would appreciate further thoughts from you on the state of poverty and assistance in BC and whether you think a basic income could offer a solution. If you’d like to share a personal story or thoughts that you would prefer not to make public, please email us at email@example.com. In our next post, will explore the future of work, focusing on the rise of precarious employment and the effects of technological advance. We will discuss what these changes to the world of work will mean for all of us, and how a basic income policy might enable us to respond to these changes as a society.
Last week I had the honour of addressing the Union of B.C. Municipalities at their annual convention. This is a condensed version of my speech as published in the Saanich News. It highlights one of our most important policy announcements to date:
The last time I stood before you was in 2013, shortly after I was elected as the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head. Now I stand before you as the leader of the B.C. Green Party, a party that has grown dramatically over the last few years – a party that is ready and excitedly awaiting the 2017 provincial election.
Politics wasn’t originally in my career plan. I was a Canada Research Chair at the University of Victoria working in the field of climate science.
Anyone who has attended a public lecture or class that I have given on the topic of global warming will know that I boil the entire issue down to one question.
Do we the present generation owe anything to future generations in terms of the quality of the environment that we leave behind?
It’s a complex question that science cannot answer. But if we do believe that the answer is yes, then we have absolutely no choice but to take action now.
To the same classes and lectures I note that our political leaders do not have to live the long-term consequences of the decisions that they do or don’t make. Yet these very same decisions will have a profound effect on the type of world we leave behind to our children.
I tell the young adults in the audience that it is critical they participate in our democratic institutions and say, “if there are no politicians willing to tackle those problems, you should consider running yourself.”
Eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep doling out that advice if I was not willing to follow it myself.
I care deeply about my community and wanted to do what I could to better it for present and future generations.
But where do we go from here? In the shadows of the massive challenges that we face, our province needs new leadership.
Our government must start thinking about the long-term consequences of our decisions, decisions that put people, rather than vested corporate or union interests or re-election goals first and foremost.
Leaders must have the courage to be honest with British Columbians about the risks and consequences of any government decision.
We need leadership that offers a realistic and achievable vision grounded in hope and real change.
We need leadership that places the interests of the people of British Columbia – not organized union or corporate interests – first and foremost in decision-making.
As a start, political parties must stop accepting corporate and union donations.
Our political parties and their MLAs should not be reduced to puppets controlled by corporate or union masters with a firm grip on their purse strings.
The acceptance of this practice is undermining every sector in our province and I am tired of waiting for the B.C. government to do something about it.
I am tired of listening to the official opposition say they will change the system only if they form government. That’s not leadership.
Leadership means leading by example.
Effective immediately, the B.C. Green Party will no longer accept any corporate or union donations.
We are a party of the people, for the people and that will be mirrored in our funding structure.
Could this move hurt us on the eve of an election? Yes, it could. But real leadership doesn’t come from doing what is easy. It is built on doing what is right.
Last week I argued that the Leader of the Official Opposition acted in a cowardly fashion in attempting to shut down estimates of the Office of the Premier. I pointed out that it was cowardly for two reasons. First, the fact that the Leader of the Opposition would run away from an opportunity to question the Premier on a diverse array of issues is cowardly. It’s his job to do so. It certainly appears that he is afraid of challenging the Premier face to face.
If the Leader of the Opposition is afraid, that’s one thing. I was not afraid. I would have been willing to take much more than my allocated time on Thursday if extra time was available. I had prepared six longer primary questions (which would spin off into numerous smaller follow ups). I had other secondary questions that I would have loved to raise on a diverse range of topics, from housing through social services through education and so forth. And this brings me to the second reason why I think it’s cowardly.
Just because the Leader of the Opposition no longer wants to ask questions does not give him the right to go against a long standing tradition of organized time allocation and take away my right as well. The people of British Columbia deserve better leadership and better opposition.
Today in the Legislature I rose on a point of order. As you will see from my Point of Order, it is my view that the estimates of the Office of the Premier have not yet concluded due to a procedural error. Once more, the BC NDP asked the Chair to not allow me time.
The text and video of my point of my point of order are reproduced below. At the end, I once more link the Video showing proceedings that closed Premier’s estimates.
On Tuesday, May 17 the Chair provided a very thoughtful and thorough analysis in ruling against my point of order. I appreciate the work that went into it. I have reproduced the ruling at the end of this post.
A. Weaver: I rise on a point of order. This is the first time I have been able to rise on this point of order for two reasons. First, on Thursday of last week, I spent much of the day in communications with a variety of offices to determine what transpired with respect to the closing of debate on estimates for the Office of the Premier. I also only received the relevant Hansard clip on Friday.
As I’d mentioned to the Speaker’s office on Thursday last week, my office had coordinated through the Opposition House Leader’s office that I would be speaking to the Premier’s estimates. It was agreed that I would rise early Thursday morning.
Between 6:20 and 6:25 on Wednesday last week, at 292 minutes, 14 seconds of the online Hansard video on May 11, the Premier rose in estimates and stated the following: “With that, Mr. Chair, I rise to report progress and ask leave to sit again.” The Chair then said this: “Hon. members, you heard the motion. All in favour say aye.” The motion carried.
At this point, the committee had risen, and it was very clear that the Chair left his seat. There appeared to be some commotion in the chamber after the passing of this motion. Conversations went back and forth between the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Chair remained standing during these conversations. Some notes got passed around. The Clerk also stood to speak with the Premier. The Chair returned to his seat but said nothing while the Clerk was standing and speaking to the Premier.
Eventually the Chair issued a single word. “Premier,” he said. At this point the Premier is audibly heard on Hansard saying: “It’s not mine.” She’s referring to a motion written on a piece of paper that had been passed to her. The Premier then says the following: “By agreement with the opposition, I move that the committee rise and report completion of the resolution and ask leave to sit again.” After this motion passes, the Premier states this: “Are you sure that was legally done?”
In my view, there is a very clear procedural error here. The Chair at no time called the committee back to order while sitting in the chair. Since the earlier motion to rise and report progress had indeed passed, the second motion regarding completion would, in my view, be out of order, as the committee had not been called to order again. It had simply risen.
As such, it is my view that the estimates of the Office of the Premier have not yet concluded. Hon. Chair, I would kindly ask that you consider these comments and consider providing a ruling to this House at a later time. Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter.
M. Farnworth: This is not a procedural point of order. In fact, it would be classed as argument. So, hon. Chair, I respectfully ask that you rule that this is, in fact, not a point of order.
The Chair: Hon. Members, I would take the member’s point of order on advisement. Thank you.
The Chair: Before I recognize the Minister of Finance, I have a statement to make.
On Monday, May 16, at the commencement of Committee of Supply, Section B, the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head rose on a point of order regarding the conclusion of estimates of the Office of the Premier on Wednesday, May 11. I have reviewed the Votes and Proceedings, the Hansard transcript and the video of the proceedings in question.
I acknowledge the question the member raised, but I do not agree that the Committee of Supply was not properly constituted and that, therefore, it could not consider or adopt the motion regarding Vote 10, the 2016-17 estimates for the Office of the Premier.
The proceedings unfolded as follows. An initial motion was moved by the hon. Premier that the committee “rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.” The Chair put the motion to the committee, and the motion was carried. Normally, the presiding officer would leave the chair and report to the Speaker. However, that did not occur.
Although the presiding officer rose briefly, he was immediately advised that it was the will of the committee to complete consideration of the estimates of the Office of the Premier. At that point, the committee had not formally closed proceedings, nor did the Chair declare that the committee was adjourned. In addition, Office of the Premier staff remained in the Chamber, though it is required that all public servants must depart immediately upon the adjournment of Committee proceedings.
The presiding officer resumed formal proceedings and recognized the Premier, who moved the motion to report completion of the estimates for the Office of the Premier. This motion, and the motion to approve Vote 10, were duly adopted with consent of the committee had altered its original decision to report progress by unanimous agreement of all members duly present and assembled in the chamber at that time.
The Chair did not call the committee back to order, as a recess or adjournment had not been declared. There had simply been a pause in the proceedings in order to confer and clarify with committee members on the status of business. This is not an unusual practice, as presiding officers often will consult informally with members during proceedings to clarify the status of business under consideration or to coordinate matters relating to the management of parliamentary business.
While the video recording captured the informal discussions of members, pursuant to the longstanding Hansard transcript practice they were clearly not part of the formal proceedings. Further, it should be noted that during the entire proceedings, the mace remained in the lowered position, indicating that the House was in committee. In addition, the Speaker had not resumed the chair nor received a report from the committee.
In other words, at all times during the closing of the estimates of the Office of the Premier, the Committee of Supply remained constituted. The presiding officer followed the correct procedure to continue in committee and allow the will of the committee to be respected. It is immaterial that the informal discussion among members to complete the estimates occurred off the record and were recorded on video as interjections.
The Chair heard these discussions and continued to preside in Committee of Supply, rather than reporting to the Speaker. The Premier’s final motions were moved with the unanimous consent of the Members present, were deemed in order and duly passed.
Accordingly, the remainder of the proceedings and the closing of the Estimates of the Office of the Premier on May 11 were in order.
A. Weaver: I just wish to thank you for a very thoughtful and thorough analysis of my point of order, and I do appreciate the work that went into it.