ALL evidence to the contrary, I am an optimist.
Common sense and justice can prevail and, with a fully-informed electorate, future elections can result in ethical administrations that will place integrity and accountability at the forefront of every decision they make.
The answer as to whether or not this will be so may be signalled as several stories currently in motion play out to their respective ends.
Federally, provincially, regionally or locally based, each initiative will affect North Shore residents.
In no particular order of importance here they are: Federal #1:
In vulnerable economic times, whose interests were being considered in June 2012 when the government decided to relax the allowable spending limits for cross-border shoppers? The new limits were raised to $200 and $800 for shoppers staying in the United States for 24 hours and 48 hours or more, respectively.
The rationale escapes me because, sympathize with the shoppers or not, a Harris-Decima poll reported that of approximately four million Canadians who planned to visit the U.S., 54 per cent intended to take advantage of the new limits.
Handing a lottery win to American enterprises in the face of lost sales for Canadian small business owners and increased government deficits doesn't make any sense to me. How much has this country forfeited in trade volume and federal, provincial and gasoline tax revenues? (Clue: TransLink has some of the answers.) Federal #2:
When America catches a cold, should Canada run to the medicine cabinet?
The answer suggested by last Thursday's revelation in the New York Times is, "You bet!"
Judging by the speed with which the story hit Canada's mainstream media, we can only hope it was forcibly brought to the notice of FIPA-bound Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In brief, reporter Nicole Perlroth's Jan. 30 story revealed that Chinese hackers have persistently attacked the paper for the last four months, infiltrating its computer system and acquiring passwords for its reporters and other employees.
The premise that persuaded the Times to engage outside security experts and to notify the FBI is that the hacking commenced shortly after Oct.
25, 2012, when the paper published an in-depth online story about the fortunes of China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao.
The gentleman, it seems, was not amused.
Perlroth writes, "attacks that have been traced back to China suggest they . . . are behind a far-reaching spying campaign aimed at an expanding set of targets including corporations, government agencies, activist groups and media organizations inside the United States."
Yet, while all this was going on, Harper was readying his Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) for signature.
So if that 32-year agreement is ever signed into force, how long will it be before we feel the wrath of military-style, China-based hackers who, according to Perlroth, have been targeting Western journalists since 2008 as part of an effort to identify and intimidate their sources and contacts if they dared to criticize a Chinese action?
Federal #3/Provincial #1:
On Oct. 19, 2011, the federal government awarded what has been referred to as an $8-billion shipbuilding contract to North Vancouver-based Seaspan Marine Corporation.
Premier Christy Clark was buoyant that day as she predicted the project would provide around 4,000 jobs - a feather in the cap for her much-touted jobs plan.
Exactly one year later a press release announced that Seaspan will invest approximately $200 million to upgrade the Vancouver and Victoria shipyard infrastructure.
It is unclear whether those dollars are corporate dollars or whether they are part of the federal $8 billion. The answer is important because, if the latter is the case then we should expect the new facilities will be publicly owned assets.
Also of interest will be the breakdown of jobs and direct and indirect spin-off benefits North Vancouver and Vancouver Island communities should expect from the project.
Will the non-combat ships actually be built in British Columbia? Or are they to be largely constructed offshore for assembly in North Vancouver and Victoria? What exactly is the timeline and has it already been extended? What will be the relationship between Seaspan and SNC-Lavalin and will it involve Lavalin's Upper Lakes Group and the Davie/Daewoo shipyards?
That still-evolving story leads to another question, the answer to which is relevant to nearly every major construction project in this province - notably the Evergreen Line and BC Hydro's proposed Site C Dam - and it concerns SNC-Lavalin.
When Christy Clark won the leadership race and became our unelected premier, she chose Lavalin chairman Gwyn Morgan as one of her transition advisers. Apparently, British Columbians of the day were willing to accept the risks posed when large corporations get too close to politicians and public regulators.
But today, in view of the current investigations and charges swirling around SNC-Lavalin, surely we have a right to a statement from the premier as to the wisdom of awarding so many B.C. contracts to a corporation facing allegations of bribery of foreign officials and of mysterious dealings with the son of Libyan dictator Moammar al-Gadhafi.
That's all for now.
Next week, I'll begin with Provincial #3/Regional #1 - a comment on the Feb. 1 release of two reviews of TransLink by Shirrocca Consulting.
I am an optimist; I am an opti..