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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: Whitecaps run to court, to keep B.C. Place Stadium contract secret from taxpayers

Exclusive: Whitecaps run to court, to keep B.C. Place Stadium contract secret from taxpayers


Bob Mackin

The Vancouver Whitecaps have failed to deliver points to begin their 2019 season. 

They also failed to deliver a copy of their agreement to play at B.C. Place Stadium to by the March 11 deadline.

Instead, the Major League Soccer club filed papers in B.C. Supreme Court, hoping to find a judge who will overturn an adjudicator’s order to pass that contract to

Whitecaps’ Bell Pitch signage in B.C. Place (Mackin)

The Whitecaps claim the adjudicator from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Erika Syrotuck, “made unreasonable errors” in the application and interpretation of the freedom of information law. 

“The commissioner’s delegate erred in concluding that the Act does not protect the interests of private organizations,” said the court filing by Whitecaps’ lawyer Joan Young of McMillan. McMillan is the Vancouver firm that sponsored the team from 2015 to 2018.

In her Jan. 25 ruling, Syrotuck noted that numerous OIPC orders and court decisions have found in favour of public disclosure of negotiated contracts between private sports and entertainment companies and public-owned venues. 

The Whitecaps have an 0-2 record in similar disputes, losing bids to block public disclosure of their actual game attendance and the amounts paid to PavCo for rent, food and beverage. PavCo, it should be noted, is named as a respondent in the Whitecaps’ petition; the Crown corporation is not opposing the OIPC order. 

This dispute kicked-off in December 2016 when sought a copy of amendments or modifications to the Whitecaps’ contract with B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Crown company that manages the stadium. In March 2017, PavCo disclosed a copy of the sponsorship addendum agreement that was almost fully censored. PavCo cited fear of economic harm and the Whitecaps claimed the document contained trade secrets. 

In late September 2017, more than two months after the NDP replaced the BC Liberals in government, PavCo released more of the contract, but kept key sections hidden.

Whitecaps’ owner Greg Kerfoot (Santa Ono, Twitter)

PavCo withheld terms about: sponsorship in return form game-day naming of the pitch; B.C. Place naming rights; how much the Whitecaps will pay PavCo under the agreement; and the current status of PavCo’s contracts with food and beverage sponsors.

The Whitecaps convinced PavCo to also keep secret the clauses about: the agreement’s expiry date; game day services; terms about naming rights; and the amount the Whitecaps will pay PavCo. 

Wrote Syrotuck in her order: “I do not agree with the Whitecaps’ assertion that a purpose of [the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act] is to protect the interests of private organizations. The purposes of FIPPA are set out in section 2 and include giving the public a right of access to records and specifying limited exceptions to the rights of access. Private organizations that contract with public bodies do so with the knowledge that public bodies are subject to FIPPA.” 

The Whitecaps’ principal owner is the reclusive Greg Kerfoot, who parlayed his software fortune into a lucrative residential and commercial real estate portfolio, including a $17.6 million, lakeside chalet in Whistler with an NHL-size hockey rink. Kerfoot, a friend of former premier Christy Clark, donated $79,875 to the BC Liberal Party between 2005 and 2016, in his own name and as the principal officer of Carrera Management Corp., Inspirit Group, and the Whitecaps. B.C. taxpayers paid for the Whitecaps’ $14 million University of B.C. training centre.

The Whitecaps did not contribute to B.C. Place’s $514 million roof and renovation project, which got fast-track priority over hospital, school and social housing capital projects.

In 2015, B.C. Place’s other anchor tenant, the B.C. Lions, complied with an OIPC order to release their contract. 

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2019 03 11 Petition – FILED by BobMackin on Scribd