Archive for November, 2009


lay off the staff!

A disturbing trend I have seen recently in emails and comments is the insinuation that staff are somehow responsible for the current debacle. They are not, and I wholeheartedly condemn any attack on any AMS Staff person whose name has been unfairly impugned in this process. They are responsible to the elected executive and Council, and because they are unable to act as agents of the AMS, they should not EVER be held directly accountable unless the commit a criminal or fraudulent act against the AMS.

I will be deleting any comment that implies that the staff of the AMS are responsible for the current mess. Particularly, no mention of Rory Green, Adrienne Smith and Kelli Seepaul will be tolerated. They were doing their jobs under the direction of the people that they reported to.

Elected people are responsible for taking the advice of the staff, and responsible for the actions that they direct the staff to do. It is their job to manage, and the buck stops at them, not any staff person, when everything goes up in flames.


all this has happened before…

There has been, over the past two days, a loud and almost violent reaction to the filing of a complaint to the UN without first seeking the approval of Council. I am somewhat shocked at the response. On any other issue at the AMS, I have gotten maybe one or two emails expressing an opinion. On this, the floodgates were open. I have even begun to get emails from people who I am unacquainted with. I have had people who’s acquaintance I made briefly years ago come up to me who were angry about the AMS.

The vicious response has been against the complaint itself, and how embarrassing this has been for UBC. This, in and of itself, is not my major bone of contention – rather, I am upset that this was done without any measure of consultation, without going through the proper AMS procedures, and without seeking the consent of Council. The striking thing is how similar this seems to previous goings on at the AMS. Like the Cylons say:

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again…

My Own Adventures with Pivot

I received a call yesterday from a Councilor who sat on Council during the time that I was VP External. It was remarked upon how this seems strikingly familiar to a motion that I brought forward near the beginning of my term. I had become very concerned about the impact of Bill C-38, An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employees Act on the ability of students (with our non fixed addresses) to cast votes in future federal elections. I wanted to join a Charter Challange to this law, sponsored by (you guessed it) Pivot Legal Society. Now, here’s where the stories diverge – instead of going behind the back of Council, authorizing the payment of legal fees to a firm that is not the AMS’s usual lawyer, and pushing ahead with what was, in retrospect, probably not a very good move, I brought this motion to Council, where it failed. Following this, I stopped working on it. That’s how things are supposed to work. You shouldn’t try and circumvent people, as was stated in the Ubyssey by one VP External Tim Chu,

because “there are certain people at AMS Council” who wouldn’t approve of filing the complaint.

This demonstrates a knowing deception of Council. The UN Complaint was a bad idea, but having bad ideas isn’t wrong in and of itself. Acting on them without a mandate from Council, or even a resolution at the executive committee, is. There were ample opportunities for the Execs in question to bring forward, and they were required to provide updates on what they were working on in updates to Council and in their Quarterly Reports. They were working without accountability, and it is unacceptable.

Pivot itself is frustrating. I contacted them late Thursday night and left an urgent message to call me back. They did not. I called again on Friday, but apparently too last to get into contact with anyone. As we move towards recall, I hope that we can get into contact with them (as a Director of the Society that has them on retainer) to more fully understand the extent of the fiasco.

The BernieGate Fiasco

On December 7th, 2004, then President Amina Rai fired then General Manager Bernie Peets and had AMS Security escort him out of the building. This touched off a firestorm of controversy that led to the reversal of the decision (as Council has the authority to decide that actions taken by the Executive Committee are not their jurisdiction, but rather Council’s) and a request for the executive to resign. Now, this is slightly different from what was done by these two executives, in that the 2004 crew actually decided something in Executive Committee, and the 2009 disaster was done without the knowledge of anyone other than the execs themselves and the staff that report to them.

This is a much higher level of misconduct, as it circumvented every single deliberative mechanism that the Society relies upon to ensure appropriate policy development. Their complaint contravened AMS policy, and violated AMS process. They embarrassed the AMS, its Students, its Council and the institution with which we are affiliated. They have decided that their opinions supersede the will of the democratically elected legislature, on this and other occasions. I cannot trust them to not do this in the future. I cannot trust them to appropriately represent the students of UBC during the Olympics. I believe they have lost the moral authority to hold office.

My Last Two Days

It’s been a frantic last couple of days. I’ve been mostly trying to finish papers whilst fighting my compulsion to check the blogs. I spoke briefly to the Georgia Strait about this issue.

One of the things that seems to be bouncing around in the Blogosphere is an idea that this whole recall thing was my idea. I would like to be perfectly clear that while I am in favour of impeachment and against the complaint to the United Nations, this was not something that I could have possibly done alone. This is not vindictive, nor is it personal. If I had my way, this wouldn’t be happening at all. I wrote the form out because I knew what had to be on it, because I know the Code – this was not Naylor driven; I’m just along for the ride. If anyone is following Council votes, you would know that I don’t have any kind of control over Council whatsoever – I just present arguments and see where things fall. My fervent (and fruitless) support of the return of Slates to the AMS should serve as evidence enough of this.

The Gathering Storm

The meeting tonight promises to be intense and emotional.

Blake and Tim have decided that it’s less important to come and be held accountable for their actions than do whatever they were planning to do beforehand. I cannot confirm this, but I heard that they will be out tripping the light fantastic at the NDP convention, making the rounds at workshops and hospitality suites. I personally think this is a feeble attempt to quorum-bust.

Mitch Wright is storming the Knoll bedecked in blue helmet and UN Flag, finally freeing the AMS from its dictatorial overlords.

AMS administration is trying to find a room big enough to accommodate everyone (at the time of writing, 339) who said they were going to be coming to the meeting. Even using the 33% Rule for Facebook, this is way more than Council Chambers can accommodate.

The Ubyssey is liveblogging. I’ll be posting sporadic updates.


who’s flying the plane?!? a terrified passenger’s thoughts on disaster

I feel deceived. I feel betrayed. I, sadly, do not feel surprised. I note the hypocrisy of a President who complained to me that someone “never follows process” and would think it acceptable to file a major complaint with the highest governing body in the world without consulting the Council to which he is responsible or informing anyone of anything. This means that consulting and retaining lawyers, paying for the legal fees of someone who is not a student, entering into negotiations with external groups

I note that the following is anecdotal, and I cannot verify it’s veracity.

At the Oversight ‘what the hell is going on’ exec meeting Thursday, when asked when this complaint was not brought forward to Council, Tim Chu stated that this was kept quiet because some on Council didn’t believe in lowering tuition.

If this is true, it alone is grounds for impeachment. This is nothing short of willful deception. As one of the Council members who Tim (allegedly) was referring to, I can tell you that I was upset.

I was upset because this was a contravention of AMS Policy, because AMS policy on tuition opposes real increases, but does not support tuition reduction. I was upset because it was a national embarrassment, with people responding from Moncton to Calgary to Newmarket. (Though I have to say I laughed at the #BlakeWBush tag.)Mostly I was upset because this was never brought to Council for approval, because THEY KNEW IT WOULDN’T PASS!

This was a willful deception of Council, and it is a point so far over the line you can’t even see it anymore. It is, in my opinion, a violation of the public trust that they entered into when they ran for office – an office that functioned within a set of rules. They chose to ignore these rules.

They chose not to bring major legal action to Council. They chose to shut the Communications Planning Group out of the preparations for a press conference. They chose to not bring this to the External Policy Committee, who is responsible for determining lobbying priorities.

What is going to happen now? Well, there will be an Emergency Council meeting Saturday at 5:00. If you have an opinion on this, please contact your Constituency Representative or another member of Council here.

I am struck by a number of questions, in addition to those I posed to the President earlier.

How many thing’s have been left by the wayside as they worked on this?

How many of their responsibilities went unfulfilled?

What other bridges will they burn before they leave office?

What else are they hiding?

If you have an opinion on this, please contact your Constituency Representative or another member of Council here.

Dear Blake: What the hell are you thinking?

Dear Blake;

  1. Why was the Communications Planning Group not copied on the Pivot Legal Press Release?
  2. What committee of Council did this go through?
  3. What motion at Council approved the filing of a complaint to the UN with the AMS name on it?
  4. What legal counsel, Pivot or (hopefully) otherwise, have we retained for this complaint, and if so, how much is this costing us?
  5. If the answers to 2 and 3 are “Nothing”, how could you possibly think that this was appropriate?
  6. Are you or one of your agents bringing the Disabilities Seat motion back to Council?
  7. If the answer to 6 is “Yes”, do you realize that the motion failed by 2/3, that 11 votes would have to swing for passage, and that bringing this forward is a recipe for both another long meeting, hurt feelings, the exploitation of students with real concerns by a politically motivated Equity Office, and crying?
  8. Are you comfortable showing this level of disrespect to Council?

I am posting these to the Tribune, and will post your response unedited.



drunk driving, Parliament, and LexisNexis: a morning mostly wasted

I was reading Geoff Costelloe’s blog, Geoff’s Place, mostly for Senate synopses (which you should all read), but I came across a post from earlier this summer that piqued my interest.  I was going to comment on it, but then (because I have been writing papers all night) I decided to have a little fun with LexisNexis, Al Franken style. As an aside, I know I sound like the biggest nerd in the world for combining ‘fun’ and ‘LexisNexis’ into the same activity. This pretty much sums that up:

Giles: “I’ll have you know that I have very, um, many relaxing hobbies.”
Buffy: “Such as?”
Giles: “Well, um…I enjoy cross-referencing.”

The charges leveled are as follows:

Can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 300 Employees and has the following statistics?

  • 30 have been accused of spousal abuse.
  • 9 have been arrested for fraud.
  • 14 have been accused of writing bad cheques.
  • 95 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses.
  • 4 have done time for assault.
  • 55 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit.
  • 12 have been arrested on drug related charges.
  • 4 have been arrested for shoplifting.
  • 16 are currently defendants in lawsuits.
  • 62 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year!

Can you guess which organization this is?


It is the 301 MP’s in the Canadian Parliament.

The same group that cranks out hundreds of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in line!

Which one did you vote for?


I would bet money that this is almost certainly false. I ran a LexisNexis search (my God, I love LexisNexis) for terms associated with this, and the only thing that came up was a reference in an Ohio newspaper that said it was taken from a newsletter on Pelee Island, ON, which itself said that it had been reprinted from the Ottawa Citizen. There is no record of it actually in the Ottawa Citizen from any period during the time when we had 301 MPs (1997-2004).

A couple of the points say ‘accused’, which is an easy way of getting out of anything. Dalton McGuinty was ‘accused’ of being “an evil reptilian kitten eater from another planet” by Ernie Eves’ campaign. Barack Obama was ‘accused’ of being a Secret Muslim Communist Fascist Black Nationalist Kenyan, and he is merely some of these things.

The phrase ‘indirectly bankrupted’ is unverifiable as well, and if they include their actions as MPs in that mix, it is almost certainly a low-ball estimate.

On a more esoteric level, being a reader of Canadian news obsessively, it seems like the media would have a fit if 62 MPs were arrested for drunk driving in the last year. They had a fit when one former MP (Rahim Jaffer) was arrested for drunk driving, and it made the news when Peter Mackay got his driver’s license suspended for speeding. In the last BC election, the speeding tickets of the Solicitor General got him kicked out of Cabinet, and the DUIs of sacrificial lamb candidates came to light. And who can forget this.

A search for “MP AND drunk driving AND arrested” for the entire period yielded only 52 results on Nexis, many of which were year in review articles that just happened to contain all the words. The actual crimes I found were:

  1. Svend Robinson and the Ring
  2. Quebec’s highest Judge stepping down over DUI charges
  3. Gordon Campbell’s DUI
  4. Rejean Lefebvre, Bloc MP, DUI

There was also an article titled “Politics and drinking; B.C. premier latest in long list of elected alcohol abusers” in the Hamilton Spectator on Jan 14, 2003, which covered some past cases, but they were nowhere near the levels suggested.

The numbers seem off to me. If only 16 MPs were being sued at any given time, I’d be VERY surprised. Lawsuits just happen – traffic accidents, people slipping in walkways, being involved peripherally in a business that has raised the ire of someone, or just being the legal lightening rod that is inherent in being a public figure.

Also, with a (then) $66,900 a year income, and further expense budgets of $34,100, I’d find it pretty hard to believe that one in six MPs would have been denied a credit card.

Finally, the similarities to an exemplar hoax on the BBC E-Hoaxes article, in which the exact same charges are leveled against members of the US Congress, makes me certain that this is fake.


western worries – Alberta, BC to doff their tuition caps?

There is a troubling wind blowing across the west. Like the Chinook, which melts the frozen prairies, this wind theatens to melt the the freeze on real tuition that exists in both BC and Alberta.

The caps – 2% in BC and 1.5% in Alberta – have kept the cost of tuititon from rising drastically during the course of a degree. These caps are good policy. If you want to see more of my thoughts on this, take a look at this, which I am delighted to have written, as it is (no joke) the lowest rated article on the Ubyssey, bottoming out at a -40, and this, which was a follow up.

However, this appears to be in jeopardy. According to the Calgary Herald, the provincial Tories, in what appears to be a concerted effort to alienate everyone, has reported that the government is “to consider lifting tuition cap“. Now, this doesn’t surprise me, as it appears that, if it is a bad decision, the Tories will make it, but I hope that the BC government shows a little more sense.

Pierre Oulette, the VP Finance of UBC, and someone whom I actually hired, is desperate to meet the funding shortfalls that are dogging the institution. The university is going to be actively lobbying the province to lift the soft cap and allow for more precipitious increases.

Across the west, the predictability of the cost of an education is being threatened. For those of you in Calgary, check out the SU’s “Recession Era Education” event. For those of you in Vancouver, I wouldn’t expect much, as the executive are apparently a bunch of war criminals.


Stirring the pot at the SLFS

As some or all of you know, the Student Legal Fund Society passed a motion to approve a grant application by the BC Civil Liberties Association. The vote was 5-2, with mine being one of the votes in favour. There is currently some controversy over whether this was or was not within the mandate of the SLFS.

First off, let’s get one thing clear, as I think that there is some confusion as to how “precedent” is being tossed around. If “precedent” refers to the actions of the board, I stand by my (in my opinion, fairly well grounded) belief that deliberative bodies cannot set precedent. No decision of any board, from Parliament down to the SLFS, is able to set precedent. These are political bodies, and their actions are based on politics. It would be courts that are guided by such decisions. The changing face of a board is going to make the behavior of a board look inconsistent, but the organization is entitled to change its mind.

My personal feeling is that the vote was a bit of a foregone conclusion, based on the composition of the board. While I have always been a defender of what would generally be characterized as a narrow interpretation of societal mandates, I do not think that that could be said of many others on the board. Spending $10000 on cameras would have been ridiculous, but I would guess that such a proposal would have passed the board as well, were it to have come to a vote. I am happy that such a total was reduced, and given the climate, it seemed prudent to support it.

The referral to litigation committee is something that presents with broader problems with the policies of the society. I feel that there is a distinction between applications for grant funding, and applications for case funding, but there are differences of opinion here that are significant and problematic, as there are merits on both sides of the argument. The projects to which the society disburses money, and the processes that such disbursements are authorized, need to be categorized and clarified. I hope to, by the end of the year, overhaul the policies of the SLFS to define how certain applications would be processed. As Prof. Ramsay said, there is an inconsistent application of such policies, and, since boards are not bound by precedent, but can be bound by internal governance documents, such regulations need to codified to ensure consistent application of rules.

Litigation committee, by name, would review litigation that the society might consider undertaking. There is not, in my mind, a way to characterize the grant application as a case that would go before the courts. Under the murky situation that existed, I feel that the board was within its rights to authorize the grant application.

The mandate of the society is to “provide advisory, legal, and financial assistance to fund, initiate and continue advocacy, lobbying and litigation to improve education and access to education at UBC and such other matters of law which set broad precedent and concern UBC Students”. This defines how the SLFS would execute its mandate (provide advisory, legal, and financial assistance to fund, initiate and continue advocacy, lobbying and litigation), and what ends those means should seek to accomplish (to improve education and access to education at UBC and such other matters of law which set broad precedent and concern UBC Students).

Going through this point by point, I read this as saying that an advisory role, which is what the KYR workshops are, and the financial assistance role, as presented in the grant of funding to the BCCLA, are both ways by which the society can fulfill its mandate. In determining whether or not this would meet the purpose of the society, I asked myself the following questions:

  1. Would this improve education?
  2. Would this improve access to education?
  3. Does this pertain to other such matters of law which set broad precedent?
  4. Does this concern UBC students?

The answer to the first two questions is an obvious “no”, and the fourth is a clear “yes”. The third is more tricky, but I believe that the current climate on campus, particularly as it pertains to the Olympics, makes a situation in which the free speech, freedom of association, right to due process, and right to be free from unwarranted search and seizure are precedent setting. The legal rights of our students are important, and clearly are “matters of law”. It is this part of the mandate from which I draw the impetus to vote in favour of such a proposal.

The actions of the police and campus security on campus are guided by trial and error. In the event that a police officer gets away with violating the legal rights of one of our students, this will establish a de facto precedent for the future actions of law enforcement and security professionals. This has been something that has been of long standing concern to many involved in the War on Fun. It is with this in mind that I approached the vote. The Olympic legacy on campus could be far more than a new arena – I am concerned that it could represent the opening of the floodgates in terms of the abuse of civil liberties on campus.

Clearly, the SLFS has a lot of work to do in terms of clarifying its procedures for funding applications, along with a whole host of other problems with its internal operations. However, without clear direction from governance documents, power would default to the board. In this case, I feel that the board acted within its mandate.


committee reform passes

Thank god.


It’s Finally Here

Committee reform is on the agenda for final approval tonight. Will post as soon as outcome is clear!

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