The BC Liberal record, part 1

The Tyee has just published the story below, which lists some of the more dubious elements of the British Columbia Liberal government’s record. I played a small part in creating it, along with David Beers and a bunch of other Tyee folks.


98 BC Liberal Falsehoods, Boondoggles and Scandals: The Campbell Era 45

Part one of 15 years of public messes, sourced and explained. If we forgot any, please remind us.

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee and Tom Barrett is a long time contributor to The Tyee and before that covered B.C. politics for the Vancouver Sun. Grateful thanks to other members of the Tyee community who assisted in compiling this list and checking its accuracy.

[Editor’s note: Pipelines? Tax cuts? A free-range organic chicken in every pot? Elections are a great time to argue about policy options. Something all voters can agree on, however, is they’d prefer their government tell the truth, spend money responsibly, and avoid embarrassing breaches of ethics or the law. In B.C., one party has been in power for 15 years, more than enough time to reveal its proclivities. As an aid to voters, therefore, The Tyee researched the BC Liberal government’s record regarding falsehoods, boondoggles and scandals. We tallied 98 items and now invite readers to suggest more.

Some definitions are in order: By falsehood we mean promises broken or assertions that proved demonstrably untrue. By boondoggle we mean significant public money lost to waste, overruns, or ill-conceived initiatives. And by scandal we mean moments when government was revealed to have seriously broken rules or caused harm either deliberately or through neglect or incompetence. So please comb our list, and if you think we’ve missed one or two BC Liberal falsehoods, boondoggles or scandals over the years, drop us a note at with the subject line: “Add this to the list.”

Today we begin with the years when Gordon Campbell was BC Liberal premier, from 2001 to 2010. Tomorrow we finish with the era of his successor Christy Clark, 2011 to now. Along the way we’ve tossed in a few sidebar items that don’t quite match any of our three categories, but did cause our eyes to roll. Do send items we may have missed. We promise to add any that fit our definitions. Next Monday we’ll then publish the entire list, spanning 2001 to today. So read closely and rack your memory. With your help we might end up topping 100.]

You can find the full story here.


Cause for hope

Thomas Vinciguerra has written a hopeful piece for the Columbia Journalism Review that looks at the unlikely Internet stardom of copy editors.

The piece features the always-sensible John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun, who got more than a million views for a video outlining his practical and progressive views on the singular “they.”

Says Mark Allen, of the American Copy Editors Society:

People are getting more information than they ever have, whether it’s in ink or electronically. People want to read, and they want to read without stumbling. And that’s where the copy editor comes in. The copy editor is the bridge who keeps the writer from tripping up.

You can find most anything online, including a million reasons to believe that most folks these days think clear writing went out with the Lindy Hop. But here – on the Internet! – is proof you don’t have to leave your readers stumbling around like a bunch of drunks in a sack race.

Shitgibbon: the saga continues

My campaign to have “shitgibbon” declared the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2017 is gaining momentum with a ground-breaking revelation in the search for the term’s origin.

Ben Zimmer reports that this delightful word was coined by the British writer David Quantick.

“I’m surprised and delighted that a word I made up in the 1980s to insult British indie rock stars has resurfaced in the context of 21st century US politics and the shitgibbon in the White House,” Quantick told Zimmer. “It’s bizarre and a very odd journey for a very silly word.”

From the irksome Mark E. Smith to a strange-haired delusionist strongman is indeed an odd journey. Let’s hope the Oxford folks are listening.

(By the way, I’m following Zimmer’s practice and dropping the hyphen from “shitgibbon.” As the Canadian Press Stylebook notes, “in North America, the tendency is to drop the hyphen as soon as a new compound becomes familiar.” I say it’s time we all got familiar with this exemplary bit of invective.)

If you can’t say anything nice . . .

. . . then you can at least be inventive.

U.S. politician Daylin Leach didn’t resort to cliché when he called President Donald Trump a “fascist, loofa-faced shit-gibbon.”

It’s early yet, but I’m hoping “shit-gibbon” becomes the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2017. Turns out the word has been applied to Trump before, notably by @MetalOllie, the Hamfisted Bun Vendor.

I have to get this mug.

A word I just learned…

… reading Roy Peter Clark’s The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing:


On more than one level the act of writing is, to use a fancy word, ludic. It’s a game. A game of language, connection, and meaning. Have some fun, for goodness’ sake.

And may I add that any book that references the Swingin’ Medallions and T.S. Eliot on the same page (p. 5, in this case) is all right by me.

Double Shot (of My Baby’s Love): The Love Song of J. Alfred Fratrock?

A word I just learned…

… reading a review by Christian Wiman in the New York Times Book Review:


Nietzsche believed that if only a Dostoyevsky had been among the apostles who followed Jesus, someone who understood the environment in which “the scum of society, nervous maladies and ‘childish’ idiocy keep a tryst,” we might have been spared centuries of ovine idiocy.

Shaun the Sheep: Not one to follow the ovine crowd.

After Several Fails, Should We Trust Election Polls?

It’s a key question, given the swarm of public opinion reports on the horizon.
By Tom Barrett

One academic cautions that election polls tend to underestimate support for the incumbent party. Photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Bonhomme by pmwebphotos Flickr.
One academic cautions that election polls tend to underestimate support for the incumbent party. Photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Bonhomme by pmwebphotos Flickr.

In recent weeks, pollsters have asked us questions about UFOs, cyberscams, the coming federal election and Metro Vancouver’s transit plebiscite. But there’s one question many of us are asking the pollsters: Why should we believe you?

The 2013 B.C. election fail did for the polling industry what the Hindenburg did for the dirigible as the last word in air safety. Since then, pollsters have been struggling to find ways to better measure what we’re thinking.

For pollsters, there’s no money in asking questions about elections and releasing the numbers to the media. They do it as a marketing tool to attract clients who want to know what people think about, say, shampoo.

Because the numbers in marketing surveys are difficult to verify, calling elections correctly is one of the few ways pollsters can show they know their stuff. Calling elections correctly, however, is becoming increasingly difficult. And bum results don’t attract clients.

University of British Columbia political science professor Richard Johnston said he understands their plight. “If I were in the firms I would almost ask myself, ‘Is it worth it to be in the prediction business?'” he said.

But if pollsters quit doing public polls, voters are left with less information, said Johnston. Voters have a valid interest in knowing how their fellow citizens are going to vote because it allows them to decide how to vote most effectively, he said. “If you can’t make sense of the polling information, then what do you do?” Continue reading

A word I just learned…

… from my wife, who was doing the New York Times Magazine acrostic.


Another wonderful archaic word. I have to agree with Michael Quinion‘s theory that this word echoes the sound of the huntsman’s horn. You can just hear Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia hollering “Tantivy!” as she rides over the fields with the Quorn.