The Crown corporation that the BC Liberal Party’s campaign co-chair oversees is breaking the law to hide the contract with Premier Christy Clark’s favourite sports franchise.
On March 24, B.C. Pavilion Corporation sent theBreaker a blacked-out copy of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 27-page, Nov. 4, 2016 lease for B.C. Place Stadium.
Todd Stone, the minister responsible for PavCo, did not respond for comment.
When theBreaker applied under the freedom of information laws on Dec. 9, it explicitly reminded PavCo of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s landmark March 2015 ruling that forced PavCo to release its entire negotiated contract with the B.C. Lions.
Adjudicator Vaughan Barrett ordered disclosure of the full contract, because there was no evidence its release would harm the business interests of either PavCo or the Canadian Football League team. In his ruling, Barrett cited the words of ex-OIPC commissioner David Loukidelis from a 2009 IT contract ruling: “[The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act] should be administered with a clear presumption in favour of disclosure… Businesses that contract with government must fully appreciate that the transparency of those dealings has no comparison in fully private transactions.”
Taxpayer-owned, money-losing B.C. Place is the only suitable permanent venue in B.C. for CFL or Major League Soccer games. The Lions and Whitecaps have market monopolies from their respective leagues.
A source told theBreaker that whenever the two sides reached an impasse in negotiations, the Whitecaps would seek intervention from Clark’s office. The same source said the Whitecaps’ 2016 contract is more favourable than the previous one.
Rachel Lewis, chief operating officer of the Delaware-incorporated Whitecaps, did not respond to an interview request. A copy of the censored contract below.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation director Jordan Bateman said there is no excuse for a public-owned agency to withhold a contract from British Columbians, who paid $126 million to build the stadium in 1983 and $514 million for its renovation in 2011.
“Black is the colour, hiding is the game,” said Bateman, to the tune of the team’s ‘White is the Colour’ theme song. “The sneaking suspicion is if they don’t want to share it, chances are there’s something in it that they want to hide from the public. And what that means is probably bad news for the taxpayers who are likely on the hook for more money for this private sports enterprise.”
Bateman also said the timing is suspicious, because PavCo’s shareholders are also voters in the May 9 provincial election.
“This is typical of the games that government FOI folks are playing now, trying to drag things out past the election,” he said. “If they can punt it past May 9, that’s considered a win for them and their political masters.”
Last year, PavCo admitted to theBreaker that it spent almost $35,000 of taxpayers’ funds to hire outside lawyers in seven of its failed FOI disputes, including one over the real attendance counts for Whitecaps and Lions games. The documents that the OIPC ordered to be released proved that the Whitecaps and Lions had overstated their attendance by a combined 500,000 fans over a four-year span.
PavCo lost $4.165 million in 2015-2016 and forecast another $8.2 million in red ink for the year ended March 31, 2017. Next year’s projected deficit is $15.07 million.
Information released under a separate FOI request showed PavCo charged the Whitecaps $339,618 in fiscal 2016 rent and the Lions $219,273. Besides ticket sales, both teams rely on revenue from media contracts with TSN, which does not black-out home game telecasts in the Vancouver market.
The April 2015-released Lions contract showed the team is charged no rent on the first $9 million of net ticket sales, but it pays royalties of 10% to 20% on successive increments of $1 million.
Clark is a rabid Whitecaps’ fan and longtime friend of principal owner Greg Kerfoot, the secretive tech billionaire-cum-real estate investor. Last summer, Clark moved into a $3.7 million Dunbar house that is registered in the name of Kerfoot business associate Nevin Sangha. Clark frequently hosts Liberal campaign planning meetings at the house and Tweeted a photo of her inside the house, sporting a Lions’ jersey last fall.
Between 2005 and 2016, Kerfoot donated $80,000 to the Liberals.
In 2012, the Clark cabinet approved spending $14.5 million on the Whitecaps’ University of B.C. training centre. The government refused to publish the business case for the subsidy. At the time, Clark represented the Vancouver-Point Grey riding.
UPDATE (April 30): On April 4, OIPC ordered PavCo to provide it an unredacted copy of the contract. On April 28, OIPC informed theBreaker that it had assigned investigator Wade Raaflaub to the case.