Press Pass: A pyramid scheme, perhaps?

BUILD LIKE AN EGYPTIAN — Energy Minister Bill Bennett described a loosey-goosey approach in the past to estimating project costs at B.C. Hydro, saying in an interview last week: “Typically, they’d come out with a number, and they’ll say it could be 50 per cent higher, it could be 30 per cent lower. People, you know, glom on to that and write it down.”

NDP critic Adrian Dix reached way back in time for a comparable reference, saying: “Nobody has applied the minister’s 50-30 doctrine to capital projects since the government of Pharaoh Rameses II in 1250 BC …”

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Wikipedia notes Rameses “eternalized himself in stone” and had an obsession with building monuments. “When he built, he built on a scale unlike almost anything before … ”

There’s no reference to cost overruns on his projects.

Bennett responded with: “The only thing that that member who just asked the question had built in the 1990s was a deck up in the Okanagan,” a reference to former premier Glen Clark’s notorious sundeck.

DEFINE WINE — The legislature had a little science interlude during debate on a bill that allows for a special auction of wine store licences. The definitions say such stores can sell wine “in which the naturally occurring sugar used in the fermentation process comes from only plant products grown in B.C.”

Green MLA Andrew Weaver said it’s too broad and should specify fruit, not plants. “Under this definition, beer is actually wine, because beer comes from plant products and the starch in the beer is fermented. The starch is what produces the sugar.”

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said: “I’m sure somebody in Oak Bay-Gordon Head must have tried dandelion wine at some point.”

RECONCILE THIS — You have to give credit to Dallas Smith, he knows how to wake up a room.

The president of Nanwakolas Council was the cleanup speaker at an event to announce a new marine planning agreement for B.C.’s coast. The provincial government and 18 First Nations agreed to marine management plans that cover more than 100,000 square kilometres of coastline from Vancouver Island to Alaska.

John Rustad, minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation, introduced a series of speakers before calling on Smith to tie a bow on the proceedings.

He didn’t disappoint.

Smith dished out praise to everyone in attendance for building a “technical, bureaucratic and political relationship” that can be used to solve problems in the future.

“While there’s going to be naysayers about ‘Where’s the feds?’, there’s going to be other First Nations saying, ‘Why are you guys doing this? You shouldn’t be working with those corrupt government guys.’ We don’t have that choice in our communities anymore,” he said.

As uncomfortable laughter rippled across the room, Smith added: “I did just say that.”

Only Rustad got a bigger laugh when he wryly thanked Smith for his remarks. “It’s all good,” the minister said.

NO QUESTIONS ASKED — MLAs from outside the capital have a number of options when it comes to claiming costs for staying in Victoria during legislative sessions, and one of them is to just take $1,000 a month without submitting receipts.

That and the other options are going to be reviewed, following a meeting of the legislative assembly management committee. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the capital living allowance has become the topic of some conversation and should be reviewed before the next election.

The costs in the last fiscal year ranged from zero for a number of MLAs to $16,000 for Speaker Linda Reid.

Elsewhere, there was talk of the new security screening systems for the front entrance. The systems, which were approved in the wake of the alleged Canada Day 2013 bomb plot, will involve waits of varying degrees for visitors, starting in September.

POP QUIZ — The NDP’s David Eby and Transportation Minister Todd Stone took a break from the usual partisan rhetoric last week to rhapsodize about baseball.

Eby was questioning Stone about B.C. Pavilion Corporation, which operates B.C. Place, when he paused to recall childhood trips to see the Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium and the SkyDome in Toronto.

“Lots of fun, and one of the things that I miss being out here,” he said.

This led into a question about rumors of “pop fly testing” at B.C. Place and whether that meant Major League Baseball is coming to B.C.

Stone admitted that he shared Eby’s “obvious passion” for the sport. “I grew up with the Blue Jays as well, albeit in the Interior of British Columbia. I’ve only been to one game in Toronto, but a few more in Seattle.”

Stone then confirmed that “approximately six to eight months ago there was some pop fly testing done.” The testing exposed the need for a few modifications to the stadium. But, he insisted, “that’s all very preliminary because there aren’t actually any ongoing discussions about having a Major League Baseball team play even exhibition games inside of B.C. Place in the near future.”

— With files from Les Leyne and Lindsay Kines

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