Segment 1: Schrodinger’s Dumpster Fire
Ian: [00:00:00] Let’s kick it off by talking about what Shannon waters called Schrodinger’s dumpster fire.
Scott: [00:01:44] …in that it is both on fire and not on fire simultaneously,
Ian: [00:01:47] in that no one really knows how well they’re doing.
So ICBC has released a fiscal update of sorts to try to give people a sense of how well they’re doing. And the answer is complicated. I think there’ve been a lot of speculation that with fewer people on the road, there’ll be a lot fewer claims, which it turns out is true. And therefore ICBC is doing great actually.
And maybe this actually solved the fiscal woes they were in, but…
Scott: [00:02:18] unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
The, yeah, claims may be down, but so are people with insurance policies because there’s been a bunch of people who’ve canceled or scaled back the coverage they’ve had. Cause you know, they’re not driving to work every day.
Ian: [00:02:34] And it’s significant.
So digging into this report on the saving side, there’s $158 million fewer claims than would otherwise be expected. That’s pretty good amount, and that’s just over seven weeks. But on the other side of the coin, there’s $283 million less in premiums than they would have expected to take in, and then there’s not really a calculable amount, they say hundreds of millions of dollars, in investment losses that’ll kind of shake out as the market settles down.
Scott: [00:03:11] Which it ain’t showing no signs for doing.
Ian: [00:03:14] Yeah.
Scott: [00:03:14] Yeah. It’s going to be uncertain for a while. The stock market’s been oddly flat, but everything else is being a bit of a mess, and even the relative calm now is probably not going to last once how bad the idea and all that damage is really sinks in.
Ian: [00:03:30] Yeah. On the premium/revenue side, the numbers are actually quite staggering. So ICBC has seen over 103,000 people cancel their insurance, which is up 53% over a similar period in 2019. 22,000 of those cancellations were between April 22nd of May 2nd when they waived cancellation fees.
47,000 people have purchased storage policies. Those are the, you know, you can park your vehicle and as long as you don’t drive it, you’re covered. That’s up almost 200% over 2019.
There were 57,000 people who changed their rate class. 31,000 of those were going from commuter to pleasure only. So people who took their insurance and cut it right down to the minimal amount of driving.
There was a 41% decrease in the number of new insurance policies taken out. That was still 92,000 and there was a 12% decrease in renewals, which in that period was 576,000. There’s a lot of cars getting renewed.
Scott: [00:04:37] Yeah. I’m actually curious on the rate change classes, how many people have upped the right coverage from the, you know, the few people that are still going to work on a regular basis?
How many of them have switched from transit to driving if they’ve had that option?
Ian: [00:04:54] Yeah. It doesn’t break that down. I suspect it’s, based on the overall numbers, relatively insignificant, but the key factor here is a lot less money is coming in than they would have otherwise expected.
Next, on the claims side where they are saving money, they can quantify this a bit by saying, you know, they have a dial of claim number and they’re seeing half as many or 47% fewer calls to that line as they would normally. They’re seeing 46% fewer accident claims between March 15th and May 2nd versus last year. That’s each week. There are 7,100 fewer claims than there would otherwise be, and that totals up to 158 million like we said. They have seen that after the first three weeks of the pandemic.
Claims did start to rise a little bit and they do expect, kind of a returned to normal as people get back on the roads as restrictions ease.
Scott: [00:05:52] Yeah. That’s been my anecdotal observation, is that after the first couple of weeks, traffic volume started to slowly pick up.
Ian: [00:05:59] And the other thing related to that is some of the changes in behavior they mentioned a little bit later in this report, which is that a lot of the big effects of this are probably going to be short lived. And a lot of the data’s actually suggesting that. And the other side is that there’s at least anecdotal evidence that people are taking greater risks by quote, speeding, you know, big empty roads, you can go much faster and that’ll lead to more crashes, more severe injuries, and therefore more money.
Scott: [00:06:27] Yeah, that kind of makes sense because most drivers set their speed that they drive at by, you know, how safe it feels to drive at a given speed. And you have a big wide open road, regardless of what the signs say, most people tend to drive on the faster side. So speed and how the road feels to drive are pretty tightly related and if there’s no more cars that’s going to cause people to speed more.
Ian: [00:06:56] Yeah. I don’t remember if Dr Rob said it to you when he was on the show a few weeks back, but I know he said it on Facebook, which is just like for him personally, looking around at the situation, he’s like, I’m going to drive slower when I am out there because I don’t want to be a statistic and a further burden on a healthcare system that needs every bed it can handle, should the worst happen. I think he’s the exception who was thinking more long-term than the, Oh, no one else is on the road, I guess I can do 75 and downtown Vancouver.
Scott: [00:07:31] Well, you’d think there’d be at least a little bit of that. But I guess not everyone’s great at acting rationally with regard to risks,
Ian: [00:07:40] Unfortunately not. And not when we get behind the wheel.
On the investment side, they basically just point to how volatile everything has been. The biggest number I saw on there is that the negative impact over this entire year could exceed a billion dollars on all of the portfolios that ICBC holds, which is a pretty big hit.
Scott: [00:08:02] Yeah. It doesn’t actually say on the report here what they’re invested in. A billion dollars, that’s a pretty big drop.
Ian: [00:08:09] And they’re also pointing to the federal rate interest rate changes and other cuts to the interest rates that are going to affect some of their expected returns. So just less money as expected, but they won’t know those numbers until next year when they can look back and audit the financials for the year.
Scott: [00:08:29] Yeah. Most insurance companies tend to pick pretty safe investments. They’re not in the stock market. It’s much more likely to be bond markets, which are very much going to be affected with the rate cuts.
Ian: [00:08:42] And then there’s all kinds of other financial risks that are still out there.
All of the changes that were proposed are being delayed a bit, particularly the evidence act ones that were expected to produce savings. These things could also face negative turns in the courts, which would then wipe out the proposed savings there. And most interestingly, they note that there are 90,000 open claims, which total roughly $12 billion that predate many of these reforms.
And if those cases, which don’t have caps on injury payouts, if the people who were injured have their medical treatment delayed, that might end up meaning that it costs more to treat them, raising the cost of treating them, raising the total cost. So that $12 billion could balloon further as well. And that’s really hard to figure out until everyone is better
Scott: [00:09:42] and we actually know what this thing’s going to end.
Ian: [00:09:44] Exactly. On the other hand, they still point to spring 21 is when the enhanced care, not officially no fault but no fault insurance, is coming through. But yeah, otherwise not the glowing, everything is fine situation at ICBC.
Scott: [00:10:02] Just kind of what we’ve come to expect, whenever ICBC’s in the news.
Ian: [00:10:06] At least it’s not like a full dumpster fire.
It’s just like there’s a lot of unknowns. Some of it’s actually positive news, the dropping claims, but it’s kind of offset by the significantly larger drop in premiums and I wonder longer term…
Scott: [00:10:23] potential billion dollar loss on their investments.
Ian: [00:10:25] …and if longer term, a number of people do work from home more often and will be driving less, you know, that’ll be both good from fewer crushes, but also mean fewer premiums. So,
Scott: [00:10:38] Well, you’d expect it to more or less level out because the premiums are expected to cover the adjusted risk of those people driving. So in theory it should be a net zero change if people permanently shift to work from home.
Ian: [00:10:53] Yeah. I think the key takeaway here is to not expect a drop in premiums next year because ICBC suddenly saved money this year. I think the government’s going to keep trying to keep rate increases to zero, even if they have to write that down other ways. But yeah, the good news is not there that some people were hoping for.
Segment 2: Jobs
Scott: [00:11:16] Well, moving on from one set of news that’s not as good as people were hoping to another: Let’s talk about employment numbers in BC. No one was expecting it to be good news, and it is not.
So the headline number is 264,000 people lost jobs in BC during April. And there’s been approximately 400,000 total since the pandemic started.
Ian: [00:11:41] Which BC’s a population of 5 billion roughly…
Scott: [00:11:46] Yeah. Yeah. Crossed the 5 billion mark, I think about six months ago or something, a year.
Ian: [00:11:51] Yeah. So. You know, not quite a 10% of all people lost their job, which the workforce is not a hundred percent of people in the province because some are too young, some are too old, but
Scott: [00:12:03] No, the babies are not working, even before the pandemic.
Ian: [00:12:07] Yeah. My baby doesn’t have a job yet.
So, but 400,000 jobs is significant. Over 400,000 people applied for this thousand dollar emergency benefit. Beyond that, there’s data from the national labor council that the under utilization rate, which is people working less than half their usual hours, jumped from 11% in February to 37% last month. So one in three people are working far less than they usually would, which, I mean, it’s nice to relax, but it means also people are getting a lot less money than they’d otherwise be.
Scott: [00:12:42] Yeah, it’s…
Ian: [00:12:43] it’s rough out there.
Scott: [00:12:44] …those are not numbers you’d like to see at all.
Ian: [00:12:46] We are doing a little bit better than the national average. BC’s unemployment rate is at 11.45% at least for April, and that compares to a 13% national. I think part of that is we started in a slightly better place, but it’s still, you know, in the food service, hospitality, retail sectors, half of people are out of work.
Scott: [00:13:06] At least
Ian: [00:13:07] …or half of those jobs lost in those sectors.
Scott: [00:13:10] Yeah. I’ve seen stuff that says upwards of 90% in the hospitality sector have lost jobs so it really is rough for a lot of sectors out there. But there’s at least some hope with the relaxing of restrictions that that’ll start to at least turn around a bit. Now, these won’t be enough to bring back all of those jobs, not by a lot, but at least some people should be getting back to work over the next month or two as the restrictions get lifted, like we talked about last week.
Ian: [00:13:42] That said, I think there’s some valid criticism out there that the BC government still needs to do a lot more. The BC Liberals have a number of asks on how the province reopens, and I think the point that that thousand dollar emergency benefit was a onetime payment versus the CERB is looking at going for at least a few months and the federal government is putting a few other things out there.
Scott: [00:14:09] Yeah. Well they initially authorized it for four months, I believe. But that’s quite likely to be extended, I think. Cause the chances that this is only going to be a four month crisis are very slim.
Ian: [00:14:22] Yeah. And it will change and adjust as we go. But you know, people are going to be living a new normal, as they like to say, for a while. And for many that might mean less work.
Scott: [00:14:34] Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised at the BC Government does another one time benefit like they’ve done, or have a new program that kind of covers that as well to help supplement the federal system.
But it’s still going to be, I think, quite a challenge for the provincial government to manage this going forward. And there’s definitely some reasonable criticisms and stuff that could be changed about how they’ve gone about it.
Yeah, like you suggested the BC Liberals have put forward a few suggestions. It actually really goes to show how tough it is for the opposition to get any headlights. I went looking for a story to throw in our notes here and was unable to pull something up from a major news site on this, what the Liberals have put out here, which at a political level is not good for them.
But let’s jump into kind of what they’re asking for in terms of the safe reopening. So they want better clarity around the rules for opening business fall type, which is reasonable. That wasn’t included in the reopening plan last week. And part of that was they wanted to get that out sooner, rather than waiting for all the details to be finalized.
They also want to provide a single provider to advertise a single source for people seeking information on reopening, which is also really good. I’ve, in the past, tried to look some of this stuff up and you get bounced back and forth between WorkSafe and the BC CDC and the BC Government website. So also a good proposal.
They want to create a central information hub for BC businesses to find information on PPE as well as what market prices are for those so price gouging can be prevented. As well as they want to give employers refunds on the cost of PPE from the WorkSafe surplus to a maximum 30% premium. So they also want to rebate the premiums that were paid to WorkSafe under the wage- or supported by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
Ian: [00:16:42] Yeah. I went looking on the BC Liberal website to even try and find these elements. They actually are fairly prominent under their COVID-19 Comeback Plan. But I went looking through their news updates on the website, which is where I naturally go, and it has not been updated since March, early March. Sorta COVID happened and the BC Liberals stop posting to their news page, but they do have this list on the website.
They also are big on providing a holiday on PST, hotel taxes, employer health taxes.
Scott: [00:17:16] Yeah. Those were released the week before, which I think we briefly touched on it. Yeah. Perhaps in the last episode.
Yeah. There’s a bunch of stuff they push for. Now all of these are pretty reasonable, I think, and I think it reflects well on our political system here in BC, that what the opposition is putting forward is kind of sensible responses to it. It’s not trying to politicize anything and that kind of both sides of the aisle are genuinely working together on this.
Ian: [00:17:46] Yeah. I think there’s some room for reasonable disagreements around the specifics. Like around tax holidays and the amount of certain benefits or things that are, like a moratorium on red tape is a bit just like catch phrases. But making, you know, calling on BC to step up a bit more, I think it’s totally reasonable and there’s nothing in here that I’m like, this is ideological pandering at the worst. This is all stuff we ought to be taking seriously. So credit to Andrew Wilkinson.
The other thing that came out, speaking of jobs and looking forward, though it’s kind of a weird timing, but it does work in a way in that Dr. Alan Winter, who was the innovation commissioner, and his task force released their Emerging Economy Task Force Final Report, which was actually submitted in March, but was officially made public…
Scott: [00:18:44] Yeah. It was released this past week. It’s kind of a high level report, mostly. It doesn’t really dive into a lot of the specifics of what would need to be done to, I guess, embrace the emerging economy and make sure BC is well suited to it. But it, it does provide some strategic guidance for the province.
Ian: [00:19:04] I got confused for a sec cause I looked at the report itself and the date on it is actually January 2020, so it was, I guess submitted to the Minister in January. They titled it, the PDF has got the title March 2020 in it, and then it was released this week. So the slow turn of bureaucracy at play with final reports and so forth.
But anyway, digging into the report itself, there’s five major focus recommendations of this report. The first being the creation of regional innovation precincts where people can connect with likeminded innovators to explore ideas and make them come to life.
So this is the idea of using like the new St Paul’s hospital area as a center of innovation and thought to develop solutions for the community and beyond, which is a lot of buzzwordy sounding stuff, but there is some value in having similar activities in the same place.
Scott: [00:20:09] About halfway through my eyes did start to glaze over a bit because it is a little buzzword heavy.
Ian: [00:20:14] I had trouble reading it.
Scott: [00:20:15] A certain amount of that just comes from the fact that it’s a pretty high level thing. So you kind of have to have a certain amount of buzzwords in there, because otherwise it would be 20 times as long going into all those details of what’s behind each buzzword.
Ian: [00:20:28] Well and then recommendation two is the province needs to support the development of tech clusters and BC’s regions, and thankfully the report clarifies what the difference between a precinct and a cluster is.
The precincts that I just mentioned are groups of industry research and educational activities taking place in a specific location. Clusters, on the other hand, are geographically connected groups that include companies, suppliers, communities, academia, and all our governments working together in a particular field.
They still kind of sound the same to me.
Scott: [00:20:57] Yeah, they kind of do.
Ian: [00:20:59] I think the idea is precincts are a bit more concentrated and can be different activities. Versus industry clusters is you’re all working on the same idea, like AI, and you’re in a same area. Subtle difference. But the report likes them both.
And it also highlights, you know, not just sticking them all in Metro Vancouver. It does try to recommend playing to regional strengths, which I guess is the only way you can do it. You don’t want to put something in Prince George where there’s no expertise.
Scott: [00:21:33] Like for Prince George, you’d locate, I’ve forgotten the exact term for the wood technology centers located up there because they’re a major forestry center as were a bunch of companies that do, you know, engineered wood products are located in that region. So, you know, that’s the sort of thing that you’d want to focus on rather than say, AI technology, which is very Metro Vancouver centered.
Ian: [00:21:56] Yeah. The next recommendation is to focus on the strength of Clean BC and develop, you know, sustainable resource and higher value opportunities in that regard. This is something the BC Greens latched onto right away. As a reminder, this was one of those things that the confidence and supply agreement mandated that the NDP and Greens release and develop this task force and this report.
And you know, it’s not surprising to see a recommendation on sustainable renewable resources because I think most people agree that’s where the future has to go. And the question is just how do we get there?
The fourth area of recommendations are around incentivizing and protecting intellectual property. It notes that there’s some, there have been some issues with ensuring that entrepreneurs feel they’ve gotten the proper value from their inventions, and so this actually puts out a little bit more specific recommendations. For example, matching funding to small and medium enterprises to help them seek patent protections, put tax incentives on the sale of patented products, and really just help make sure that those companies that need IP protection are getting it and their product and their ideas aren’t just getting stolen, which again seems reasonable.
It’s nothing radical in terms of intellectual property. Nothing around, I don’t know, I feel like intellectual property at times is a very archaic approach. Although I get why companies that invent need it, but at other times it feels like some of it is a bit dated and helps companies, especially the well established companies, kind of just lock ideas and prevent innovation in some ways.
But there’s not much the BC Government can do because the copyright act is a federal piece of legislation.
Scott: [00:23:42] Yeah. I think there are definitely times where you could argue that patents, for example, of being given to things that are overly broad and that’s had a detrimental effect. It was definitely a discussion to be had around updating intellectual property for the 21st century. But like you said, it’s not going to come from BC.
Ian: [00:24:01] And finally, the report recommends investing in talent retention strategies, building leadership skills, making sure that entrepreneurs have the ability to, and knowledge to scale up their companies.
Yeah. It’s something you see commonly in nonprofits, startups, any company where someone who’s really good at having ideas isn’t necessarily really good at leading a hundred employees…
Scott: [00:24:25] or in Elon Musk’s case, taking a successful startup and not going overboard on Twitter…
Ian: [00:24:34] oh God
Scott: [00:24:35] to the point where it harms the company.
Ian: [00:24:37] The report also touches at the end about some of the strengths BC has and some of the other things that the provincial government can do as an innovative leader. It talks about broadening digital government, ensuring when the government is doing procurement that small and medium enterprises aren’t excluded from those, you know, intentionally or unintentionally. The need for greater innovation in health education infrastructure.
They really highlight high-speed transit throughout the province as well, and high speed internet throughout the province, which I’m super on board with. So making sure all of that gets rolled out. It’s very positive.
Scott: [00:25:19] Yeah, so overall in here, there’s 20 individual recommendations, but we won’t go through them all because they more or less fall under the umbrellas we’ve talked about. But yeah, overall, I think the report isn’t going to have anything shocking to anyone who’s thought about what the economy’s going to look like in the next 10 to 30 years. But it’s good to just collect it all in one place and have at least a blueprint, so to speak, or a broad strategic overview.
Ian: [00:25:47] I do worry that it’s almost so high level that it kind of goes, “Yeah, and what does that actually mean?” Like the specifics on intellectual property tax incentives can be implemented. There can be some discussion, and every government seems to talk about, tech clusters or innovation precincts. But actually making those happen is a bit more nebulous and…
Scott: [00:26:13] it’s a very challenging.
Ian: [00:26:15] So…
Scott: [00:26:16] the next Silicon Valley has been a trope for the past, what, 20 years and there really hasn’t been a next Silicon Valley that’s emerged.
Ian: [00:26:25] Yeah. So I guess the challenge here is, you know, we are at a very transformative period of history where we can look ahead to what the economy will look like and imagine it different. And it’s really good time to actually put the work in, into making it different. So…
Scott: [00:26:44] It would’ve been a little more interesting if this hadn’t been written pre-COVID…
Ian: [00:26:47] indeed, yeah.
Scott: [00:26:48] and they’d been able to incorporate some of the current lessons being learned in the current context.
Ian: [00:26:54] If Dr. Winter hadn’t had his term expire and had a little bit more time as Innovation Commissioner or someone had been appointed to renew them. But here we are. We have a, you know, high level buzzword heavy report that’s not disagreeable.
Scott: [00:27:10] Yeah. So this report is kind of interesting at a high level, but, well, I’m going to be really looking for as well, what’s the recovery plan for the economy post COVID and the BC Government set aside a billion dollars to start the process, but we really haven’t heard much come out of that.
Ian: [00:27:30] Yeah. I think when Carol James was announcing the job numbers, she said she has not really thought about spending that money out, or at least doesn’t have a plan to spend it yet.
Scott: [00:27:38] Yeah. And that may even have been a billion and a half, that’s not a huge amount of money to actually restart the economy. There’s going to have to be a lot more that goes into this, and it’s going to be hard to roll that out. There’s a bunch, there’ll be a few shovel ready projects, but for the most part there isn’t, you know, projects that are just ready to go that only need funding. And then there’s a lot of sectors where you just can’t necessarily, you know, put out for bid a big project and have a bunch of work generated that way.
You’re not going to restart the restaurant sector or hotels that way.
Ian: [00:28:15] No, not easily. Although I did see the, an ad on Facebook from the North Lonsdale Quay Hotel in North Vancouver already trying to say, Hey, we’re ready to host your socially distant events with small people, small numbers of people, and they have a picture of how they can lay out conference tables with like two meters between each chair. Still seems, you know, a touch risky, but I guess it’s better than the typical conference.
Scott: [00:28:44] It’s something, but it’s not going to be enough to restore that sector of the economy and that’s really not going to happen until there’s a vaccine, I think.
Ian: [00:28:54] We’re in a very different world.
Segment 3: Wet’suwet’en MOU
Well, moving on to our third segment, an agreement signed.
The memorandum of understanding between the Wet’suwet’en and Canada and British Columbia has been officially signed as of this afternoon. I don’t know the exact time, but they did it through a virtual ceremony and the agreement itself is posted on both the government’s website and I guess the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs actually put it out on Tuesday along with their own backgrounder. And so we have the details and we have, the thing is signed and they have three months to basically move forward with all of the negotiations.
There’s some interesting little tidbits within the text itself. It says there’s an immediate recognition by the provincial and federal governments of the rights and title of, are held by the houses.
Scott: [00:29:48] Yeah, there was few items in there that are six month windows, and we’ll see how well those hold up with everything else going on. Yeah more or less the contents are the same as what we discussed last week with the leak before anyone had actually seen the a MOU.
Ian: [00:30:05] I think the most interesting thing within the immediate recognition is that BC, but not Canada, the federal government, only the province has committed to quote, engage in these negotiations consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Canada obviously it doesn’t have that same act, but Canada has talked about, the federal government has talked about adopting UNDRIP into law, and I guess if it hasn’t officially been put into law, they can’t as easily say that they’re going to commit to the same thing, but I just did note that that’s the one time that BC does something that Canada doesn’t.
I don’t know that practically that will make much difference in terms of the actual approach province or the federal government will do in the negotiations.
The other bit of the immediate facts are that the provincial and federal governments agree to provide the necessary resources to the Wet’suwet’en Peoples for these negotiations. One thing that I think came up in the BC Treaty processes is that the nations were often on the hook for loans to complete the negotiations. So the Nation would have to hire a lawyer to work with the province and the federal government to try to come to a modern treaty. But then there’s almost, which then they have to pay back the federal government for that, kind of could incentivize, in some people’s view, the federal government to drag out the negotiations because then the Nation becomes further indebted to the federal government.
And so at least putting that money there does ensure that, you know, there’s an incentive on the province and federal government to move this along quicker and also just ensure that costs are kept down and it ensures they can have the resources they need.
And there will also be, the negotiations will be intensively mediated by an agreed upon mediator, which I get having a mediator, I just like the phrasing of that sentence.
Scott: [00:31:58] So, so the other interesting thing here I think is who wasn’t included in this were just the elected Chiefs. There is a sub clause in there that as part of this transfer of title and jurisdiction, that the governance structures will be clarified, but understandably the elected Chiefs have not been thrilled with this process that has pretty much sidestepped them and they’ve been asking for this to be delayed, which now that has been signed.
Ian: [00:32:26] Yeah. We talked about last week, how right after the MOU was announced that they’d come to a consensus, five elected chiefs had called for it to be postponed or delayed. They said it was too rushed the following or earlier this week.
Four of those called for further negotiations and also called for Carolyn Bennett, the federal indigenous minister, to resign because they said she’d totally disregarded them. I couldn’t figure out who those four were and which one dropped their name.
It’s worth noting as well that there are technically six elected reserves, councils within the Wet’suwet’en Territories representing the lands set aside by the federal government under the Indian Act.
The other element of it is the elected chiefs, I’m not sure, it’s kind of assumed that they’re speaking on behalf of their councils, but it could be the case that other elected council members have taken different positions, but I’m not clear on that.
There’s, even just figuring out who is on many of these councils can be tough because many websites are out of date and a lot of the reporting is surface level, which I can get because it’s very difficult to report both in a pandemic and on a community that in total is about 250 people spread over a remote part of Northwestern British Columbia, but there’s, you know, there’s extra questions kind of remaining all over the place around that. But the province has punted it to, or the provincial and federal governments have punted the question of sorting out clarity on the governance structure systems and laws to the Wet’suwet’en, and ask that they ratify it within their own processes within the next three months.
There’s also points that in terms of what is being agreed upon, you know, they list nine kind of areas plus other areas that the Wet’suwet’en talk about for deciding how jurisdiction breaks down. And they do note that some of these might be transferred exclusively to the Wet’suwet’en people, while others are shared areas of jurisdiction.
I saw one quote from one of the Hereditary Chiefs that says, you know, some are very uncontroversial, like obviously we want to share jurisdiction on highways with the province. We don’t want to control the highways through us. We want to work with the province on that. Some things might be much more complicated like water and land resources, and revenue sharing especially. So there’s going to be a lot to happen in the next three months and very difficult to do that remotely.
I scrolled through this FAQ sheet that the Hereditary Chiefs released as well, and my favorite part, I think this is primarily targeted at the Wet’suwet’en Peoples, cause it’s trying to address concerns they might have, for example, that the Hereditary Chiefs are getting a kickback for signing this, which they clarify that no, there’s no bonus for them.
But they say in question D, what did the Wet’suwet’en give up for this agreement? And they just reply absolutely nothing.
And it also has no impact, according to the Hereditary Chiefs, on Coastal Gaslink. But they say that the two other governments know that they will need to address the impact of it on the Wet’suwet’en Territories.
Scott: [00:35:49] Yeah. I think that’s kind of the big thing that’s been left hanging on this, is how what gets negotiated here will affect the pipeline. Cause in theory this is forward-looking, but there will nevertheless be repercussions on it.
Ian: [00:36:03] Yeah. Overall, I do think this is a pretty historic agreement. This is, this represents the proposed transfer of 22,000 square kilometers of land from the provincial and federal governments to what will become, in a way, a modern sovereign nation within our nation. Different than a treaty, which is very interesting as well.
It’s more of a shared governance agreement, I guess, going forward and also really tries to give life to Section 35 of the Constitution, the that Aboriginal rights and title are recognized and protected. And you know, if this can work out well after the internal clarity is found, I think it can hopefully be a template for other Nations across British Columbia to start to pursue going forward and really start to settle a lot of these outstanding questions around, you know, what does it mean for many people to live on unceded territories?
So it could be really good.
Scott: [00:37:06] The devil will be in the details and we’ll have to see what gets sorted out and how the follow up and what happens after shakes out.
Ian: [00:37:13] Indeed.
Scott: [00:37:16] Now let’s wrap up the show with a few quick takes.
So first off, the province and TransLink have come together to ensure transit doesn’t fall further behind and kind of restart and, or support TransLink to through this and reverse the planned layoffs.
So this was announced back on the eighth. So last Friday, which it was generally greeted well, although it’s not exactly clear how TransLink is going to be financially kept together. They will be resuming fare collections on June 1st so that’ll cover off some of it. But other than that, the details have not been very clear on it.
And in their press release, they make a big deal about saying how they’re going to continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems, which as far as I can tell, was the status quo before this announcement.
Ian: [00:38:09] Yeah. My reading between the lines is that the province provided a backstop for TransLink, but is still waiting for the federal government to really share in that backstop.
Scott: [00:38:18] Yeah. I think that’s the right reading is that the province has put up a bunch of money to keep TransLink afloat, but it doesn’t want to come out and publicly say so, because if they do, the federal government will say kind of what they’ve been saying already of, well, transit’s a provincial responsibility and Oh, BC looks like you’ve got this covered, we don’t have to worry about it.
Ian: [00:38:39] Yeah. And the element of the fare collections on buses, which BC transit is also going to start resuming on June 1st I think relates more to new safety measures, which are increased barriers for drivers. So they’re not at risk of people coming through the front door and just making sure that the taps can be clean.
Scott: [00:39:00] Yeah. Literal barriers in this case, in terms of putting up a Plexiglas shield, basically between the drivers and the passenger boarding area.
Ian: [00:39:08] Yeah. Cause one of the reasons they stopped fare collecting is because they said everyone has to enter through the rear door and we can’t guarantee that you will have a tappable contactless payment.
So now they’ve addressed those issues and so they’re going to resume fair collection. Like fares were always being charged for the SkyTrain because there you had to use a contactless system. You had to get a Compass card or even a single use pass Compass card, and now buses will cost you money again as well.
The other big thing the province is looking at in terms of supporting, is giving restaurants a liquor discount and expediting patio approvals. David Eby is saying that the premier is pushing him to loosen the rules to help the restaurant and pub industry get going again. There’s been a lot of talk here in Vancouver about, you know, how can we ensure restaurants can, as they start to open, do so safely, especially in terms of broader patios. Should there be drinking in parks? That’s something OneCity Vancouver is really pushing and it looks like the province is eyeing our really old liquor laws and going, how can we make them a little, you know, a little more modern. Let’s bring them into the 20th century maybe.
Scott: [00:40:29] The liquor laws were actually reformed back in I want to say 2014. It was around 2014 plus or minus a year or two under the BC Liberals. And they did a few tweaks.
But one of the things they didn’t really touch, and they absolutely should have but it’s now being rectified, is that restaurants and the hospitality sector in general has to buy at retail prices all their liquor. So you know a bottle that you buy in the liquor store, it costs the restaurant industry that’s buying them by the caseload the exact same amount, which let’s call it what it is, it was the government gouging the restaurant industry because pretty much everything else in that industry works on wholesale, where you know, you buy in bulk, you get a discount.
So that’s being changed, which is good because I mean, restaurants are, have been struggling. They’re a famously low margin sector of the economy. It’s generally difficult to get them to work financially, even in good times. So it’s just a policy that shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to implement.
Ian: [00:41:36] Yeah. And this is another situation where the BC Liberals have a number of largely reasonable suggestions around supporting the industry. You know, expediting permits, making a lot of the changes that have been temporarily made permanent. For example, like allowing restaurants to deliver alcohol. Keep making that permanent.
Scott: [00:41:58] Yeah, that’s set to expire.
Ian: [00:42:00] But you know, I’ve had alcohol delivered a few times. It’s very good.
Scott: [00:42:03] Yeah. It’s something that seems like a no brainer, but for some reason we have an outdated set of liquor laws that have prohibited that.
Ian: [00:42:13] I mean, the only thing that I think there is some, you know, grounds for debate around is the discussion of how patios get expanded. And that’s a more municipal issue as people debate, you know, the change of public space into private space.
Scott: [00:42:27] It isn’t really just a municipal issue because under the provincial laws, a provincial inspector has to visit and approve of it as well. Which seems like a bit of over-regulation, I want to say, to have to have multiple levels of government come and approve something as simple as, can you serve beer outside on your premises?
Ian: [00:42:50] Like I think the best solution I have is just for BC to move to the European model where you’re allowed to drink on the street, outside a restaurant or bar.
Like, stop, stop regulating all of it. You can have your beer on the sidewalk right outside. You still have to, you know, public drunkenness is still a crime. You can’t be a jerk. But you know, if you walk into the park with a beer you bought at the restaurant, that could be fine. And that allows you to have more social distancing while also not really getting into this, who’s responsible for the space issue.
Scott: [00:43:29] Yeah. Really falling that kinda more European approach would made a lot of sense and yeah, I always find it a little weird that we’ve made it so hard to do this, but you know, we’ll then spend thousands of dollars to fly to Europe to experience that sort of patio culture rather than just allowing it here.
So as much as it’s good, they’re easing and expediting these rules, could still probably be simplified even further.
Ian: [00:43:56] That’s why I talk about they’re only really looking at the 20th century for our liquor laws. We could go further. There’s lots of different ways we can do this, but hopefully more innovation in alcohol comes forward.
Well, as the theme of this episode seems to have been random reports that have come out. One additional, one that kind of caught my eye was this special prosecutor release around the investigations into the BC Elections Act.
A special prosecutor, David Butcher, was looking into this matter as of March 30th, 2017, and started really following the response of all of the reports way back then about how BC was the Wild West for political donations, and were all these donations being made illegally by lobbyists, by employers in their employees’ names and these kinds of things. And the ultimate conclusion of this report is that no, there’s nothing we really need to take action on. There were some irregularities, but they weren’t significant.
Scott: [00:45:06] Yeah. The RCMP investigation and their report to the special prosecutor, more or less found that there were a bunch of donations, but they more or less fall within the rules and the few that didn’t were more or less unprosecutable. There’s about 2% that were donations by registered lobbyists, and that it was mostly the case that they wouldn’t have a chance to conviction. It wasn’t generally in the public interest to bring forward any charges and that in a lot of cases, the improper employee donations were an honest misunderstanding of the donation laws rather than anything untoward happening.
Ian: [00:45:46] Yeah. The report also points to quote, structural flaws in the regulatory accounting system. You know, people looked at the database and went, I don’t know how to use that and, you know, put things in wrong or like you said, didn’t understand the law.
And they also point out in this that the amendments made when they BC NDP became government, I think in their first bill, quote, should squarely address the concerns expressed by the media and the complainants in this case.
In other words, the ban on corporate and union donations, the limits on individual donations and some of the other cleanups to the reporting system, mean we shouldn’t have to worry about this going forward. At least in the same way it’s going to be, you know, a bit disappointing to I think some of the people who are most aggravated by those reports back in the day, but I think ultimately it was more of a political fight than a criminal one.
Scott: [00:46:43] Yeah, right. Not, not every problem should be resolved with police and prosecutions, and this is one of those cases where it doesn’t seem like it should have been and it wasn’t and isn’t going to be.
Ian: [00:46:56] Yeah. I mean, the fact is that our elections laws had a ton of holes prior to 2017, people acted largely within the law.
You could disagree with the law and the law was changed. And where they didn’t follow the law, it was because of misunderstandings. And so maybe a couple of people did break the law and there could be a prosecution there, but it’s just not worth going after anymore, it seems like. And you know, I can’t really disagree with that conclusion.
Scott: [00:47:25] It seems pretty reasonable.
And finally, earlier this week, it was announced by Norges Bank, probably mispronouning it I do not know how to speak Norwegian, but the sovereign wealth fund of Norway has announced that they’re blacklisting a bunch of Canadian companies. Specifically, Cenovus Energy, Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources Limited. Oh, and Imperial Oil as well.
Ian: [00:47:51] Yeah. Some of the largest oil companies in Alberta, because they produce unacceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions. A few other companies around the world were also excluded for environmental or human rights reasons.
Scott: [00:48:07] Yeah. There’s an Egyptian power company, a Brazilian iron mining company, and a also Brazilian electric company.
Ian: [00:48:17] So this is fascinating for a host of reasons. First, the biggest irony in here is that this wealth fund exists because Norway copied Peter Lougheed’s original plan for Alberta to have a Heritage Trust Fund, a piggy bank for all the oil royalties to go into, so that they could live off that investment for years to come, that Alberta never built that up successfully.
That wealth fund is still only $10 billion in that range where it’s been for quite a while because it gets dipped into quite regularly. But Norway’s is the largest wealth fund in the world. It’s, I don’t remember seeing a recent number…
Scott: [00:49:00] it’s over a trillion dollars. U S
Ian: [00:49:01] Okay. I was going to say it was at least 500 billion.
But yeah, it’s big. It’s a lot of money.
Scott: [00:49:06] They own 1.4% of all the stocks in the world.
Ian: [00:49:10] They are built on a model developed in Alberta and are now blacklisting Alberta companies because of unethical actions. And specifically they’re blacklisting oil companies…
Scott: [00:49:24] not just the oil companies. So, they don’t list the companies in the article, but there are some firms in the cement industry, the steel industry as well, and electrical production that have been blacklisted. And this is, as a result of some reforms that were put in place, I think, four years ago now that limited the companies that they could invest in for climate and human rights reasons.
Ian: [00:49:50] Exactly. The Norwegian Government, because they still have some, you know, it’s still their money, it’s public money, said, if this is public money, we want it used for ethical purposes. And there’s debates over whether ethical investing is good or effective or you know, accomplishes what it wants. But it’s something a lot of people use.
Scott: [00:50:12] Like, I think for the average retail investor, it, I think, is probably significantly oversold, at least as a strategy to invest. But you know, when you’re 1% of the stock market, that can start to be a little different.
Ian: [00:50:30] And I think the other element of irony here is that the Kenney Government’s recent moves have been to sort of centralize public sector pension funds, including moving the teacher’s fund into AIMCO, which is the Alberta Investment Management Company, and really playing around with that more than any other province has, that to my knowledge, and doing things like really trying to incentivize them to invest in oil sands service industries and seeing all these midsize companies all over Alberta, which
Scott: [00:51:03] it’s a bad idea.
You don’t want your governments to have their hands in the pension fund too much as just a general governance rule.
Ian: [00:51:12] Because those are workers’ money and you’re basically stealing from them.
Scott: [00:51:17] Yeah. It’s the sort of thing you want the technocratic professionals to work hard at getting the best stable, safe return for everyone at. But also, it’s the case that like politicians are going to want to invest it in the local industries and that just massively correlates the risks in a way that is not good and it’s the exact opposite of a good diversification strategy.
Ian: [00:51:44] Definitely. Alberta Advantage and Progress Alberta have done a bunch of reporting on how AIMCO has, you know, thrown good money after bad, invested more than a billion dollars of pensioner’s money into risky oil and gas companies. Things have gone bad for money there. So, I’ll throw a couple of those links in, but yeah, good on Norway, even if it makes a bit of an embarrassment of Alberta.
Scott: [00:52:12] Alberta hasn’t played this smart cause in addition to messing around with their pension fund they’ve also, under this current government, really doubled down on amping up the rhetoric on this sort of thing in a way that would scare off investors concerned about climate, more than it would help rehabilitate Alberta’s image as a good place to invest. So that hasn’t been great.
And I think more fundamentally here, it’s just the fact that the market is moving in such a direction that large oil facilities just aren’t going to be the place where money is going to be going into the future. And it looks like it could be the case that it’s gonna dry up significantly over the next decade or so, and it may end up, ironically being Wall Street, not any particular government that really does the death blow to oil.