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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: Who gets paid what to host B.C. vaccine clinics?

COVID Exclusive: Who gets paid what to host B.C. vaccine clinics?

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Bob Mackin

Three Lower Mainland sports franchises that haven’t played in front of their fans during the pandemic scored lucrative Ministry of Health contracts worth a combined $3.3 million to operate vaccination clinics, theBreaker.news has learned.

Bandits, Giants and Canucks scored Ministry of Health contracts

On March 24, Premier John Horgan announced 1,400 tourism and hospitality workers would be employed in non-medical jobs at the coronavirus mass-jab sites, but he did not provide budget details. Some of the costs were finally revealed June 4 in a government spending report obtained by theBreaker.news.

The Vancouver Canucks skated away with a $1.018 million deal for staffing the Italian Cultural Centre coronavirus vaccination clinic. 

The list of no-bid contracts let by the Ministry of Health for March shows an Aquilini-owned company, Vancouver Arena LP, was hired from March 15 to Sept. 30 for “non-clinical support services” at the clinic, under the direction and support of Vancouver Coastal Health.

“Our participation in the program has led to employment for approximately 105 part-time employees from Canucks Sports and Entertainment’s event staff who have experience with complex event and crowd flow management and who would otherwise be out of work,” said a prepared statement sent from Chris Brumwell, the club’s communications and community partnerships vice-president.

The $1.018 million, he said, is the maximum estimated wage cost for all employees over the duration of the contract, Brumwell said. 

Ironically, the Canucks’ season was marred by a coronavirus outbreak that infected most of the roster and coaching staff. It was the worst outbreak of the pandemic in North American pro sports.

The parent company of Abbotsford’s minor league basketball team was paid even more.

Canadian Basketball Ventures LP (the corporate name for the Canadian Elite Basketball League) got a contract for the same period of time worth $1,442,000 for its Fraser Valley Bandits to staff the Chilliwack Mall and the Abbotsford Agriculture Recreation Centre clinics.

Vancouver Giants senior VP Dale Saip

A CEBL lobbyist registered early this year with the stated goals of asking the NDP government about a gradual return to play and to seek funding from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The Bandits debuted in 2019, but were the runner-up in a closed-doors tournament last summer in St. Catharines, Ont.

The Vancouver Giants recently played an abbreviated Western Hockey League season behind closed doors in Kamloops. Their parent company has a $900,000 contract to run the vaccine clinic at the Langley Event Centre.

Giants senior vice-president Dale Saip told theBreaker.news that the clinic is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and employs 120 people who do “everything except putting the needle in people’s arms.”

“This is a pretty nice facility and it needs to be kept proper, too,” Saip said. “I was very impressed with the fact that they reached out to us. One thing we know how to do is run events and handle crowds, so it made a lot of sense for us to activate. Without this happening, we don’t get to play hockey in the fall.”

B.C. Pavilion Corp., the Crown corporation that operates B.C. Place Stadium and vaccine clinic venue Vancouver Convention Centre, has a $200,000 contract through July 30.

Penny Ballem (left) and Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)

Event producer Pacific Destination Services Inc. was contracted for $1.1 million through Sept. 30 to operate clinics at West Vancouver Recreation Centre, Brennan Park in Squamish and Pemberton Community Centre.

The government’s no-bid contracts list for the Ministry of Health, released a week late, does not mention contract details for seven other entities that are providing staff to the program: Air Canada, Ceres Terminals Canada, Canadian Red Cross, Pacific National Exhibition, Tourism Whistler, Vancouver International Airport and WestJet.

Meanwhile, the report shows more former executives of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics organizing committee were hired on big, no-bid contracts to work under Vancouver Coastal Health chair Penny Ballem for the vaccine rollout.

Former VANOC and Concert Properties chief financial officer John McLaughlin’s Feb. 20-April 30 contract to assist the coordination and implementation of the vaccination strategy is worth $140,000 — a rate of more than $2,000-per-day.

Former VANOC and Trans Mountain Pipeline communications executive Lizette Parsons Bell’s contract is for the same amount and time period as McLaughlin.

Lizette Parsons Bell and John McLaughlin

Ballem was a Vancouver 2010 director while she was Vancouver’s city manager. On April 29, theBreaker.news exclusively reported that Ballem received a $220,000 no-bid contract from January until October to lead the mass-vaccination program. She suddenly took over the program on Jan. 13, more than a month after Dr. Ross Brown was appointed its leader.

The Ministry of Health’s February no-bid contract report showed that Ballem hired former VANOC executives Terry Wright, Mary Conibear and Dena Coward and former city hall Olympic communications rep Marnie McGregor.

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