Why Did This Happen? Who's at the Controls in BC?


... Worthington Properties has been issued a set of orders from the Ministry of the Environment that require Worthington properties to carry out certain functions around spill prevention. "It also give us the ability to step in and ensure those actions are taking place" says Minister of Forests Pat Bell. He adds that Worthington properties has not paid its staff at the mill for some time, "There was an imminent risk of staff leaving and unionized workers leaving the premises and leaving it in a state that would have caused immediate risk to the environment." Bell says the owner of the mill, Dan White, says he still intends to operate the facility but doesn't have the cash flow right now. ... The Mayor of Mackenzie, Stephanie Killam says Worthington Properties has yet to pay the taxes on the property and the amount is in the $2 million dollar range. ...

B.C. unsure who will pay for pulp mill cleanup


The provincial government may have to go to Central Europe to find someone to pay the $50-million price tag for the cleanup of dangerous chemicals inside a northern B.C. pulp mill.

The owner of the company that bought the mill, Dan White of Worthington Properties, is nowhere to be found -- and the only listed director of the company is a man who resides in Slovenia.

"Nobody's happy about the situation," B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal told CTV News.

Last year, it seemed like the town of Mackenzie, B.C., would dwindle after the bankruptcy of Pope and Talbot, which operated a pulp mill near the town.

But when Alberta company Worthington Properties agreed to buy the mill in September, four months ago, it seemed like a chance to revive the town, said B.C.'s Forestry Minister, Pat Bell.

"[White] was certainly an interesting man, he said all of the right things, and made it clear that his intent was to operate the mill," said Bell, who met with White during the sale.

Instead, by January, the mill employees weren't getting receiving their paycheques, and the company had racked up $2-million in back taxes owed to the town of Mackenzie.

And when it appeared that pipes at the mill might freeze in -30 degree temperatures, risking the leak of tons of deadly chlorine dioxide over the 5,000 inhabitants of Mackenzie, the provincial government stepped in Sunday to manage the mill.

The mayor of Mackenzie said that the town had tried to contact White and Worthington, but they never returned the phone calls.

"The owners are not there you can't find them. You can phone them, you don't get any answers," said Stephanie Killam. "We haven't had any contact with them for a number of months, actually."

When CTV News tried to contact White at his listed Worthington address in Edmonton, a secretary told us that White was busy -- and that he would issue a press statement. No statement was issued.

CTV News checked several addresses in Edmonton but we were told that the company had recently left each one.

When we checked the Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench, we found that Worthington Properties had been sued by construction companies and interior designers 77 times since 2002.

White himself was convicted of money laundering in the 1990s, and also was named in court documents as the target of a RCMP undercover investigation.

And the only remaining director of Worthington Properties is now Drago N. Puskaric, who resides in Slovenia.

The leader of B.C.'s opposition says that the government should have done checks on Worthington when it bought the mill.

"Instead he walked away, left a huge environmental liability, and we could all be paying for it," said NDP Leader Carole James. "If that's the government doing its job, we're all in trouble."

But Bell said that there's no reason the government would have checked the sale. The mill's environmental permits were in order, and there were no forest licenses changing hands, he said.

"There was no role for the provincial government to take in the transfer of the asset," he said.

The province has agreed to take on responsibility for the pulp mill for 15 days.

"I don't know how in 15 days they're going to clean up those chemicals," said Carl Bernasky a union representative for the workers in Mackenzie.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat and Jon Woodward

Now if I were the employees at this mill I would be looking at ways have the mill employee owned and operated.

And if I were the Attorney General of BC I would be seeking ways to have White as well as Worthington Properties charged with Reckless Endangerment or possibly attempted Murder, as well as a miriad of environmental charges.

So, now, Mr.Campbell. How is it that your administration never seems to do any Due Diligence when dealing with these white collar criminals? I for one would really like to know?


The Campbell Administration

On the Campbell government's Olympic-sized Cost Overruns "So far" is the really scary part

Headline: Add it all up, and you'll find the Olympics is going to cost us 6 Billion (so far, anyway)
"This is taxpayers' money, our money. We don't know exactly how much is being spent.
"But by our incomplete tally and with another year to go until the Games, it's about $6,000,000,000."
- Daphne Bramham (Vancouver Sun), Jan. 23, 2009

Campbell generously spreads the costs around

"The true cost of the Games--including such crucial items as security, as well as fast-tracked highway, rapid transit and infrastructure projects--defies calculation. The provincial government insists its Olympic budget remains at $600 million. Meanwhile, it has spread other Olympic-related spending across departments in such a Byzantine fashion that even the provincial auditor general can't find the true cost."
- Ken MacQueen (Maclean's), Jan. 21, 2009

The Easter Bunny is real and the Olympics are on budget

"Olympic fires are breaking out all over the place and Premier Gordon Campbell must be praying he can snuff them all out before the most important date on his Olympic calendar.
"No, I'm not talking about Feb. 12, 2010 -- the date of the opening ceremonies at B.C. Place.
"The date Olympic-watchers in Victoria are worried about most is May 12, 2009 -- the next provincial election...
"Meanwhile, at Finance Minister Colin Hansen's office, they're going ballistic over the exploding budget for 2010 security costs. Could it officially blow the government's $600-million budget for the Olympics -- a budget nobody but the government really believes?"
- Michael Smyth (Province), Jan. 23, 2009

On Gordon Campbell's sudden boredom with the 'environment issue' The Green Shift (...out of the premier's office)

"For a guy supposedly so concerned about global warming, Mr. Campbell is quick to back what causes it, like putting more vehicles on the road and revving up Alberta's tar sands production...
"Zig: Two years ago, Mr. Campbell vowed to cut greenhouse emissions by at least a third by 2020.
"Zag: On Monday, he downgraded the status of his climate-change secretariat, moving the job out of the Premier's office."
- David Beers (Globe and Mail), Jan. 22, 2009

It turns out the environment is dirty

"The environmental thing was supposed to be a legacy issue, that, you know, he's a great premier - look how he looked after our environment, but hey, not if it gets any mud on us."
- Dennis Pilon, Political Scientist (on CBC TV), Jan. 20, 2009

No million dollar ad program now?

"Last year I received a bunch of press releases from the government all about the green shift - explaining the carbon tax, promoting other initiatives - but the information about the change to the climate action team? Well that was information buried in some background notes..."
- Heather Robinson (CBC TV), Jan. 20, 2009

No comment necessary

"It's no surprise that Gordon Campbell has put his vaunted Green Plan on the back burner. A cursory look at his time in office shows he can't keep his attention on any file for more than a month or two...Remember when he was the Education Premier (thousands of oversized classes), the Health Premier (broken-down hospitals, thousands of mentally ill people on the streets), the First Nations Premier (millions wasted on stalled treaties), the Literacy Premier (closed school libraries), the Forestry Premier (thousands of forestry jobs lost), the Law and Order Premier (raid on the legislature still not in court), the Four Golden Goodies Premier (economy in the tank) and the Olympics Premier (billions of tax dollars wasted)? He should really be known as Attention Deficit Disorder Premier, our very own Premier Butterfly who flits from flower to flower, unaware of the destruction he leaves in his wake."
- Peter Hill (letter to Vancouver Sun), Jan. 21, 2009

On Gordon Campbell's courageous ongoing battle to fight democracy
Yaawwwnnn! I'm bored of the legislature alrea

"Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberals decided that this bill needed to be rammed through the legislature in an emergency session, limiting the usual three days of discussion and debate to only one.
"The real travesty, though, was that they couldn't even be bothered to participate. Campbell himself left the legislature shortly after noon on Saturday, and by evening there were only a handful of Liberals left...
"The NDP did an excellent job of trying to hold them accountable, but Campbell and his crew didn't seem to think that they owe any of us an explanation. I feel they do."
- Kaitlin Burnett (letter to Burnaby Now), Jan. 21, 2009

Shuffling right down the hall, through the doors and out of the legislature

"The shakeup this week at the top of the public service provides a strong clue as to Premier Gordon Campbell's intentions for the coming session of the legislature.
Mindful of the central importance of deputy ministers during a legislature session, I was surprised that so many of them would be changing jobs this close to estimates debate. Then one former deputy provided the explanation.
"Why was I assuming there would be a debate on estimates?
"But of course. Election year.
"The B.C. Liberals have no intention of permitting a lengthy session of the legislature in advance of the May 12 provincial vote.
"Rather, they will follow the pattern they established before the last election in 2005. They convened the house and let it sit for 18 days, spread over five weeks. "
- Vaughn Palmer (Vancouver Sun), Jan. 23, 2009

Campbell is just upset Ontario beat him again
"When the B.C. Liberals came to power in 2001 they promised to bring in the most open and most accountable government in B.C. history. Since then, there is a growing body of critics out there who say the Liberals have been anything but open on any number of fronts...
"Earlier this month, there was an audit done by the Canadian Newspaper Association that ranked the provinces when it came to granting access to information requests - B.C. ranks second worst in the entire country, second only to Ontario."
- Keith Baldrey (Global TV), Jan. 22, 2009

On the Campbell government's abandonment of Northern B.C. Pulling up a chair and watching projects fail

"I've lived through the eager anticipation of BC Hydro's phase one call for clean power using biomass fuel such as mill residue, roadside wood waste, and 'dead' pines stands; and sat through the bitterness and disappointment after all three local projects were turned down, while the premier and his cabinet, and the two local MLA's, sat on their hands."
-Don Perdue (Burns Lake District News), Jan. 20, 2009

Trickle down economics
"Last summer the B.C. Liberals sold a record $2.7 billion in oil and gas rights in northeastern B.C. with few environmental safeguards and zero chance of reinvestment back into northern communities.
"If billions of tax dollars were permanently taken out the Lower Mainland, it would be a huge contentious issue, to put it mildly.
"Prince George and many other northern communities have all the hallmarks of Victoria sucking huge amounts of resource tax dollars out, while giving little in return."
- Mark Clements (letter to Prince George Citizen), Jan. 22, 2009

On the Campbell government's pathetic forest policy
"Wow! Seventy per cent stumpage cuts and off to the feds to ask them for handouts for workers in the forest industry. What has got into you Gordon Campbell?
"Never mind answering, I know, and so do most of the people in the forest industry. Election, that's what coming! Never mind that Campbell hasn't heard or cared about forest workers as mills closed, and contractors went broke, companies got smaller, and people exited our province during the past ten years."
- Brent Browning (letter to Cowichan News Leader), Jan. 22, 2009

Source: BCNDP Newswire and various news outlets and persons mentioned in each item.