Public Eye – February 24

Budget secrets revealed — and terrible secrets emerge

  • Feb. 24, 2011 3:00 p.m.

“As we promised, given the times we are in, this can best be described as a status quo budget.” That’s what Finance Minister Colin Hansen told reporters last week upon the release of that document, which outlines the government’s spending for the coming fiscal year.

But the material accompanying that budget reveals dozen of embarrassing details the province would probably prefer the public not see. The following is a collection of some of them culled from the so-called service plans released by the government’s sundry agencies and Crown corporations.

British Columbia Securities Commission

 As politicians debate establishing a national securities regulator, recent polling suggests most British Columbians wouldn’t miss our homegrown version. A survey conducted between July 20-27, 2009 by Ipsos-Reid Corp. shows just 29 per cent are familiar with the British Columbia Securities Commission.

That poll was commissioned by the Canadian Securities Administrators investor education committee and referenced in the commission’s service plan. But the commission instead focused on another aspect of the survey: that 46 per cent of Canadian investors are aware of provincial securities regulators.

It has committed to keep that number above 45 per cent in future years.

An audit conducted by the commission suggests there is a declining lack of compliance with national standards meant to ensure the information mining companies are disclosing about mineral deposits is truthful and accurate. The commission reports a random audit of 40 British Columbia-based mining companies found just 61 per cent were compliant with those standards in fiscal 2009/10.

By comparison, that rate was 73 per cent in fiscal 2008/09 and 74 per cent in fiscal 2007/08. The standards were developed after the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. scandal in 1997.

The commission was unable to comment on the apparent decline by deadline.

British Columbia Lottery Corp.

The lottery corporation is forecasting a significant decline in public support for gambling as it continues to expand its controversial PlayNow.com online casino. According to its latest service plan, support was initially expected to increase two percentage points between fiscal 2009/10 to 2010/11 — from 61 per cent to 63 per cent. But the corporation is now predicting it will decrease to 55 per cent over the same period.

That prediction comes on the heels of PlayNow.com’s launch, which was marred by security breaches, as well as reports of questionable transactions at the province’s casinos.

BCLC will be spending $75 million to upgrade the computer system that monitors and links their slot machines and other electronic games. The corporation quietly announced it was looking for a contractor to do that work in November 2009. That procurement process is now complete, with the project being a “top corporate priority” and having the “highest level of focus.”

The lottery corporation states the cost of the upgrade “is expected to exceed $50 million.” But the province’s budget and fiscal plan is projecting the final price tag will actually be a whopping $25 million more — all in the service of ensuring the gambling industry can continue to take in big jackpots for the government.

Pacific Carbon Trust

The trust was set up in 2008, during Premier Gordon Campbell’s climate action craze, to sell British Columbia-based carbon offsets. Those offsets fund in-province projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, being purchased to compensate for an emission elsewhere. But a review of the trust’s service plans shows the Crown corporation’s offset sales targets have repeatedly been downgraded.

In 2009, the corporation budgeted that its offset revenue for fiscal 2009/10 would be $3.25 million. Then, in 2010, the income for that fiscal year was forecasted to be $1.52 million. The actual result: $913,000 — with $859,261 coming from the public sector clients and just $53,425 coming from private sector clients. In an email, a spokesperson for the trust said those targets were missed because reduced government travel meant a reduced need to buy carbon offsets. M

Sean Holman is editor of the online provincial political news journal Public Eye (publiceyeonline.com). He can be reached at editorial@publiceyeonline.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Most Read