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Posts Tagged "Palmer"

6Jun

Vaughn Palmer: ‘Illogical’ suicide pact allegation lies behind B.C. legislature resignations

by admin

VICTORIA — On the final day of the spring legislature session, Premier John Horgan paid tribute to Randy Ennis, who was retiring early from the upper echelons of the security staff.

It’s standard procedure for the premier to thank a departing public servant. Ennis had long served as deputy sergeant-at-arms and lately as acting sergeant-at-arms, with Gary Lenz placed on suspension.

But for Horgan, this one was personal because Ennis was a friend.

“Randy and I first met at the hockey rink over a cup of Tim Horton’s,” the premier told the house. “Our boys played hockey together, so we spent a lot of time complaining about the Canucks. We spent a lot of time talking about how we could make the world a better place.

“Randy is an outstanding individual,” Horgan continued. “I’m going to miss him terribly.”

There followed a display of applause from all sides of the house, albeit tinged with regret among those in the know.

Horgan claimed not to know why Ennis, who just turned 59, was leaving early.  But around the legislature, it was an open secret that Ennis was fed up with the regime of Speaker Darryl Plecas and his chief of staff, Alan Mullen.

Ennis had good reason to be incensed. Plecas had accused him of being party to a suicide pact involving an ailing member of the security staff.

The alleged suicide pact was one of 11 Plecas-authored allegations of misconduct that were examined and rejected by retired chief justice Beverley McLachlin. (She upheld four accusations against clerk of the legislature Craig James, leading to his forced retirement.)

Plecas claimed to have uncovered a plan by sergeant-at-arms Lenz and deputy Ennis to create a sheltered posting for an unnamed constable on the security staff who had a degenerative health condition.

“The Speaker also alleges that they created a plan whereby (the staffer) would commit suicide while he was still on staff so that his beneficiaries would receive insurance proceeds,” wrote McLachlin.

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada examined the documentation associated with the alleged plan and further evidence from the accusers, Plecas and Mullen, and the accused, Lenz and Ennis.

She concluded that “clearly Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis were deeply concerned over the future of the constable and wanted to find a way to help him.”

But she did not fault them for considering ways to allow the constable to work at home were his condition to deteriorate to the point where he could not carry a firearm as required by his position.

“Discussion of creating a new position so an employee can work from home does not appear on its face to be unreasonable, provided the proposed work would contribute to the business of the legislative assembly,” wrote McLachlin. “The discussions, according to Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis, related to whether (the staffer) could continue to do useful work without being able to carry a firearm. I accept this evidence.”

Nor did she accept the Plecas-Mullen version of events regarding the supposed suicide pact.

“The ‘plan’ that the Speaker says was being hatched proposed that (the staffer) would commit suicide while he was still employed and before his condition had deteriorated too far, in order to preserve his life insurance,” wrote McLachlin.

Plecas thereby insinuated that the new job was “false” — concocted for the purpose of preserving the staffer’s employment status long enough for him to kill himself.

“No one was able to explain the logic of this to me. The evidence I received was that if he was forced to go on disability status, his life insurance would have remained in place as long as he qualified for that status,” wrote McLachlin.

She instead preferred “the straightforward explanation of the incident” from Lenz and Ennis.

“They denied any talk of suicide and explained that the discussions were aimed at finding reasonable accommodation for (the staffer) by finding alternate duties when he reached the point that he could no longer use a firearm.”

She speculated, and not in a flattering way, why Plecas had gone as far as he did.

“The Speaker was deeply distrustful of Mr. Lenz, which may explain how he transformed fragments of an exploratory proposal from Mr. Lenz and Mr. Ennis into a bizarre go-forward plan involving (the staffer) committing suicide.”

She then cleared Lenz of the allegation of misconduct. She also cleared him of all the other Plecas accusations against him.

Lenz remains on suspension, pending the outcome of a police investigation.

So, Ennis was collateral damage to one of the more reckless and unproven allegations from Plecas.

Rough treatment for someone who deserved much better. Before coming to work at the legislature, Ennis served as a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, seeing duty as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, Cyprus and Haiti, and earning the military Order of Merit.

The supposed target of the non-existent suicide pact was collateral damage as well. He retired from his post on the security staff at the same time as Ennis.

Not that Plecas could be bothered to express regret over the damage done to reputations. Instead he’s been citing the shortcomings in the McLachlin report in public and bad mouthing it privately.

As for the premier, he could deliver a more sincere tribute to his departed friend by recognizing where Plecas has gone too far and by attempting to curb his excesses.

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19Nov

Vaughn Palmer: B.C. bill just delays ride hailing even more

by admin

VICTORIA — After taking every opportunity to study, consult and otherwise delay, the New Democrats finally introduced the legislation Monday for a “made-in-B.C.” version of ride hailing.

Or so they said.  On closer reading, the legislation turned out to be mainly a front for further considerations, consultations, regulatory dodges and delays.

Bill 55, the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, amends eight pieces of legislation, runs to some 46 pages and dozens of clauses, sub clauses and explanatory notes.

But the bottom line on the entire package emerged during the technical briefing when reporters tried to nail down precisely when British Columbians will enjoy the same ride-hailing services that are already in place elsewhere on the continent.

The New Democrats have suggested for some time that things should be ready in late 2019. But when reporters pressed the point, they learned maybe, maybe not. Can’t make any promises. Might be 2020.

The legislative text starts on a puckish note with the New Democrats choosing to redefine the two most common terms associated with the ride-hailing controversy.

No longer shall we refer to taxis or ride-hailing vehicles. Henceforth both are to be known as passenger-directed vehicles or PDVs.

As for the commonplace ride-hailing app, accessed on a smartphone, that is now defined in law as a transportation network service, or TNS.

With terms out of the way, the legislation moves to greatly strengthen the regulator of the aforementioned TNSs and PDVs, the Passenger Transportation Board.

“The board will expand its role in receiving applications and setting out terms and conditions of licences, including taxis, ride-hailing, and passenger-directed vehicles,” according to the briefing notes.

“The board will have authority to determine the rates charged to passengers, as well as the supply and operating area of vehicles (for) transportation network services.”

Supposedly the board will gather the necessary data on the supply of vehicles within a given operating area and be guided by considerations like “public need” and “sound economic conditions.”

But that could prove to be a lengthy, contentious and ultimately subjective determination.

Moreover, the cabinet itself will have a hand in shaping the process. The board chair and members will all be NDP appointees. Perish the thought that well-connected New Democrats would already be angling for one of those board appointments.

Plus the cabinet has reserved for itself rules of practice and procedure for the board, and to place limits on its ability to recover costs for its regulatory processes. Indeed, the legislation assigns broad-brush regulatory powers to the cabinet to be determined after the fact — setting fees, defining terms, delegating powers and specifying geographic areas and classes of vehicles.

Another undefined consideration is a special fee, to be charged per trip, to fund accessibility options for people with disabilities. At this point, the size of the charge is anyone’s guess.

From the briefing notes:  “With these legislative changes, government expects applications from ride-hailing companies wanting to enter the market will be submitted to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) by fall 2019.”

Except that there still is the not-small matter of the necessary insurance for any new ride-hailing service.

The legislation enlists the services of the Insurance Corp. of B.C. in developing such a product. But it adds little in the way of specifics, nor does it establish a hard and fast deadline for implementation.

While ICBC is said to be already working on such a product, the technical briefing shed no light on how far along it has got.

In fairness to the folks at the government-owned auto insurance company, they have some other things on their plate — like an NDP-ordered top to bottom makeover of rates, rate structures, coverage, payouts and the like.

Supposedly ICBC will have something ready on the ride-hailing front his time next year, after, natch, the usual back and forth with government and those in the business.

Once approved by ICBC, it will then have to be approved by the independent B.C. Utilities Commission, before it can be offered to any would-be operator seeking to get into the ride hailing business in B.C.

Given all those uncertainties, the New Democrats are making no promises about this thing being operational before 2020.

Still, they are thinking ahead in one respect. Tucked inside the enabling legislation is a commitment to strike a committee of the legislature in early 2022, following the next provincial election.

Its mandate: “Review these changes to make sure the government is on the right track with modern, safe taxi and ride-hailing service.”

Related

Having delayed the thing through most of their first term of government, the New Democrats are now promising to revisit it in a hoped-for second term.

All by way of reinforcing the NDP line that this ride-hailing thing needs to be approached with supreme caution.

Sure, they wasted no time launching a half-baked speculation tax and in stacking the deck in favour of electoral change.

But implementation of a service that is already in place in comparable jurisdictions all over the world?  Some things just can’t be rushed.

Hence another round of stalling and excuse making, all in the name of crafting a Made-in-B.C. solution to a problem that has already been solved pretty much everywhere else.

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