PHONY refugees on the high seas: Their stories move to the back pages of the papers, and their outrageous costs move on to the back of the taxpayer.
Remember the outcry over the MV Sun Sea - guided into Victoria in August 2010 with its cargo of 492 Tamil "refugees" - and over the similarly bogus MV Ocean Lady, 76 aboard, a year earlier? Possibly you've forgotten. No longer commanding the front pages, they lie under layers of fresh absurdities.
Canada's policy should be eminently clear and clearly stated. A few of our warships, having tracked the progress into Canadian waters of such tubs, should simply engage in sea trials in the vicinity. Which would include firing a few rounds a mile or two off the bows of the vessels if they didn't get the message.
Their captains, and the shysters who inveigle their passengers into paying huge prices for passage to this land of opportunity and fabulous social services, might then be persuaded to return from whence they came to spread the word of the inhospitable reception.
For the price of the fuel for the manoeuvre and for half a dozen shells, Canada would be rid of the smugglers and the smuggled, and the integrity of the lineup of legitimate refugees maintained. End of story.
Oh, of course, the international kindness club members would wet their pants. Canada doesn't do such insensitive things!
True. Instead we've guided the ships into safe harbour, or waited until the human cargo came ashore in unlikely places along the British Columbia coast, and detained those aboard pending further proceedings.
Having set foot on our soil, they are immediately entitled to full charter rights - a ridiculous ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. Right away, these "refugees" naturally had to be housed and fed. Restaurants were reported to be providing them with their native foods. Within six months, the Toronto Sun calculated, the taxpayers' bill for the Sun Sea passengers was $25 million. Quite a bit more than a few shells fired from our warships.
This humbug has been going on for years. In 1994, the RCMP estimated that in the first half of the year, about one in six refugee applicants had been charged with or convicted of a crime. Bitter ideological (if not racial) disputes have divided the Immigration and Refugee Board, such as when its approval rate soared from 55 to 68 per cent after appointment of a deputy chairman who had been president of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International.
Gaming the system is commonplace even in the "legitimate" channels. Only in January the tough-talking Stephen Harper government confirmed that 22 per cent of Chinese applicants for skilled employment in Canada misrepresented their credentials or experience.
To be fair, allow Brownie points for the Conservatives' attempt to put some steel into our must-be-compassionate approach to anything where the word "rights" can be injected. Surprise: All opposition parties opposed it.
Why this travesty? The vested interests are huge. The bureaucracies thrive. Almost two years after the Sun Sea's arrival, three men have been charged after a vast, costly RCMP international investigation. Recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave Thailand $12 million to combat such smuggling operations.
It's a joke, and the laugh's on the honest Canadian taxpayer.
. . .
I mentioned a while ago that West Vancouver's current budget was around $100 million. West Van's chief financial officer, Nina Leemhuis, provided the authoritative figure for the 2012 operating budget: $138,877,798. That's $15.5 million more than just two years ago.
Note well: Included are taxes collected on behalf of other agencies - the school district, Metro Vancouver, Municipal Finance Authority, B.C. Assessment Authority, and TransLink - totalling $58 million this year. A big fraction of the budget (and particularly resented in the case of TransLink).
. . .
Adept numbers-cruncher and member of the Interested Taxpayers' Action Committee Garrett Polman advises: "One of the oddities about governance in West Vancouver is that all seven members of council are on the finance committee. It would be more effective to have a small finance committee of, say, three members of council who understand financial statements and financial management."
But are there three? Just kiddin'.
. . .
Reader Christine Ballantine has some pungent opinions - among them, about Coun. Mary-Ann Booth's required abstention from debate or voting on matters regarding West Van's Grosvenor redevelopment, because her husband is a lawyer for the firm that advises Grosvenor.
Christine's view: "She ought to be docked for every debate and vote she has to miss!"
Worth serious consideration.
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At this writing, District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton - an accountant in real life - is refusing to sign on to a renewed Ottawa-Victoria RCMP contract, deadline May 31, unless the costs are clear and controllable.
Good for him.