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HomeBusinessFormula E refund deal hits roadblock

Formula E refund deal hits roadblock


Bob Mackin

The Montreal-based promoter of the cancelled electric car race around East False Creek has rejected Vancouver city council’s proposal to refund the $500,000 deposit.

OSS Group’s Matthew Carter (LinkedIn)

During a closed door meeting last month, city council agreed to surrender the sum to One Stop Strategy Group (OSS) on the condition that it refund ticket holders, sponsors and suppliers who haven’t been paid. The proposal was announced by city hall on July 29 — the Friday of the B.C. Day long weekend and a day after the 2018-elected city council held its last scheduled meeting before the Oct. 15 civic election.

Talks broke down between city hall and OSS last week, because OSS wants to receive the money without any strings attached, rather than a mutually agreed lawyer oversee the disbursement.

“It’s impossible for us to accept it, and they knew that,” Carter said in a brief phone interview Aug. 22. “I will give you an update when I’m allowed to. All I can confirm is we have not received any of the funds.”

Said city hall spokesperson Kai-lani Rutland: “Discussions on the repayment have now stalled, which we are disappointed about, but the city remains eager to move forward if OSS reconsiders its position.”

Officially known as Canadian E-Fest, the event was scheduled for June 30-July 2 and it was to include a Nickelback concert, an environmental conference and the ABB Formula E World Championship race.

OSS failed to secure all necessary permits to use private and public land around the street racecourse, so the event was cancelled in late April. OSS lost its contract in June with U.K.-based Formula E, which did not include Vancouver in the 2023 race calendar.

Green Party Coun. Mike Wiebe and ABC Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung co-sponsored the April 2021 city council motion to bring Formula E to Vancouver.

The Jan. 26 contract between city hall and OSS, obtained under freedom of information, allowed city hall to keep the full sum.

OSS was responsible for all costs of producing the event, including city engineering and police services. It also agreed to pay overtime costs due to holding a downtown core event on Canada Day weekend — a date typically blacked-out for new major events. 

Map of the proposed route for the Vancouver Formula E race.

The agreement said the city was entitled to draw down on the deposit “at any time and from time to time” to reimburse taxpayers for any and all costs under the agreement. In the event of termination of the agreement due to the promoter’s default, the portion of the deposit intended to subsidize local musicians and as many as 20 car charging stations for community centres was non-refundable.

Had the event happened, the city would have been obliged to return any remaining balance within 180 days after the event. The parties also agreed to “maintain an open book policy towards each other” and provide each other full inspection rights to all records relating to the event. 

The contract also called for OSS to create a community benefits agreement, including affirmative action hiring and contracting, and to hire consultants to track the agreement and analyze the outcomes. In return, city hall was to receive space for a 20-foot by 20-foot booth in a space comparable with event sponsors. 

Carter said 33,000 tickets were sold to the event, but did not say how many were full price to the public versus freebies for sponsors. 

One of the ticket buyers was Spencer Thompson of Vancouver, who shelled-out $260 for a day of racing and the Nickelback concert. 

“There was no information about ticket refunds, and then I tried calling them, tweeting them, emailing them,” Thompson said. 

He found someone on LinkedIn from OSS who referred him to Carter. But Carter did not respond to five emails, so Thompson has since filed a fraud report with his credit card provider and is expecting a refund via that route. 

Thompson said when he bought the tickets in March, he took a chance on a new, up and coming event, which looked credible and had the backing of City of Vancouver at the time.

“Someone should be held responsible, and if they don’t have the money, then at least communicate that,” Thompson said. “It was ridiculous that they haven’t been.”

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