February 19, 2017

The spin on public education funding

A new budget is coming to British Columbia on Tuesday and Christy Clark will smile, and hope that voters will smile too.

But wait a minute... All is not as Christy would have us believe. Just a few months ago we heard that "110 million extra dollars" would go "to education this year." This year meaning 2016. The idea suggested in the the remarks of MLAs and the Minister of Education himself, was that 110 million new dollars would find their way into public education in 2016 (exclusive of capital spending) over funding in 2015.

Sounded like a great deal at the time.

In truth,  Christy Clark's Liberals didn't mention that 48 million dollars of that extra money would actually go to private schools. Nor did they mention that 36 million dollars of that extra money would to to "other partners" which included public libraries. Now let's be clear: private schools are not really public education. And as nice and wonderful as public libraries might be, they aren't really public education either.

What sounded like a great addition to the funding of public education in this province in 2016, turned out to be an additional 28 million dollars. That was less than a 1% increase over the previous year, and that, in truth, was actually a cut because inflation was 1.9% at the time. Through these revelations, Christy kept smiling.

Then there's the 3 million dollars Christy Clark and her Liberals spent fighting the BCTF ~ all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. 3 million dollars of our tax dollars spent... for nothing. Maybe Christy and her Liberals should pay the 3 million back to the taxpayers of BC.

So what happens to public education on budget day 2017? What will the numbers really mean for schools and our children? Will the numbers even add up? Christy will be smiling of course.

There's an election coming and we have a chance to send a message.

Get involved. Get informed. Vote on May 9th.

And aren't we all just a wee bit tired of that dumb smile?

Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

Phở Tintin in Nanaimo

Phở places have become ubiquitous in MetroVancouver and Jeem and G. G. Blynn were pleasantly surprised when friends from the John Harris Gallery took us to one such establishment in Nanaimo.

Phở Tintin is located in a strip mall somewhere in this Vancouver Island city.  On the day of our visit the snow was piled up and much more was on its way, but not before Jim and Sherry made their escape to a more westerly locale.

The restaurant is delightfully pleasant and inviting, on the inside (on the outside, not so much). The clumsy clutter and kitschy-ness of most Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver is not present at Phở Tintin. Not at all.

And it's exceptionally clean.

On the day of our visit Phở Tintin was not busy, due to snowfall warnings, but it's normally busy through the day and especially for lunch.

Phở Tintin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

There's the usual menu with some local variations on the traditional theme, and a good number of vegetarian, or near-vegetarian dishes. The soup was hot and fragrant, though hot chili peppers were not initially provided with the sprouts.

The spring rolls were smallish to what I'm accustomed, and possibly a wee bit over cooked, but flavourful and delicious just the same.

All in all, Phở Tintin is a wonderful place, and unlike many phở  restaurants, it takes credit and debit cards for payment. We'll return if ever we can find it without our friendly guides. But then again, that's what friends are for.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

February 17, 2017

The Crow & Gate Pub in Nanaimo ~ in the snow

We've been here before. The Crow and Gate. BC's first pub. And it's almost reason enough to come to Nanaimo.

This time, there was snow, a lot of snow. But our friends from the wonderful  John Harris Gallery in Nanaimo made sure we arrived safely.

The Crow and Gate is interesting for several reasons: the lack of french fries from a delightful menu of honest pub fare is one, and the absence of any television or video screens is another. The music is muted, the service friendly and the variety of refreshment options exceptional.

There are several wood burning fireplaces which felt heavenly after the journey from Vancouver. Unfortunately, Jeem was asked to leave after he attempted to stoke the fire, but that meant an extra pint for your faithful scribe.

We should come again. And so should we all. Minus the snow next time.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

February 15, 2017

Seaside Village Cafe in Horseshoe Bay

Last week, the whole gang was off to Vancouver Island. Sherry had a reading with Theatre One in Nanaimo, Jim was planning on surfing in Tofino, and BT Mendelbaum (disbarred) and G. G. Blynn were along for the ride. As usual.

First stop is Horseshoe Bay where we await our ferry, and it's coffee time. Seeking out something better than Starbuckian is always top of mind. Here in Horseshoe Bay, the Seaside Village Cafe is a possibility.

Small and friendly, it is pretty much the opposite of the corporate coffee shops. The barista knows her customers, mainly locals, and there's a simple pleasure to be found in listening in on the conversations.

Freshly pressed juice is an option, as are the usual pastries and a few other breakie type items.

Seaside Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

The coffee was strong and comforting. As were the people around us. But the ferry ride beckons, and we were off. Perhaps in more ways than one.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

February 07, 2017

The Wealth Gap in British Columbia

Something has been happening on Canada's left coast and it isn't fair.

A small number of people in BC have become wealthier, the rising cost of living (especially of housing) and a trend towards lower wages have combined to increase the gap between the rich and poor significantly.

In fact, BC is now the most unequal province in Canada.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that the BC Liberals "decade of tax cuts" and continuing "regressive changes to the provincial tax system" helped to "exacerbate growing income inequality in BC."

At the beginning of the century the wealthiest ten percent saw their earnings "spike" while the lowest fifty percent saw their earnings drop. And this after the BC Liberals under Gordon Campbell introduced tax changes that benefited top earners.

The trend has continued under Christy Clark, indeed the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition says the income gap in BC is growing at a faster rate than most of the other provinces in Canada, noting that the "average household income of the top one percent in BC has increased by thirty-six percent since the mid-2000s." The most recent available data from Statistics Canada shows that the richest ten percent in this province own more that fifty percent of all the wealth in British Columbia.

Christy Clark, our smiling photo-opportunist premier, doesn't mention the growing polarization within the province, but her regressive tax policies continue to exacerbate the problem.

Something isn't right here.

Graphs by Press Progress. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.