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Bob Mackin 

The company operating one of the Washington State cancer clinics under contract by the B.C. government must refund millions of dollars to thousands of low income patients. 

On May 15, NDP Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced that B.C. Cancer Agency had outsourced a limited number of breast and prostate radiation treatments to two clinics in Bellingham — PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and Bellingham Radiation Oncology (BRO) at North Cascade Cancer Center —  because B.C. hospitals could not keep up with demand.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham (PeaceHealth)

PeaceHealth is headquartered in Vancouver, Wash. and operates five Western Washington hospitals. On Nov. 20, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced PeaceHealth would pay $4.2 million in direct refunds to more than 4,500 patients and up to $9.2 million to as many as 11,000 patients under a claims process. 

PeaceHealth settled, without admitting wrongdoing, after Ferguson alleged PeaceHealth broke state consumer laws “by failing to screen patients for charity care eligibility prior to attempting to collect payment, failing to meaningfully disclose the availability of charity care, and collecting payment from patients who it knew were likely charity care eligible without disclosing their eligibility.”

The B.C. Cancer contract with PeaceHealth, obtained under B.C.’s freedom of information law, calls for PeaceHealth to treat up to 50 B.C. Cancer-referred patients per week, but it does not specify Bellingham or St. Joseph.

“B.C. Cancer agrees that it will select patients with either no significant underlying health conditions or medically stable co-morbidities,” states the contract with PeaceHealth.

For BRO, the cap is 15 patients per week.

However, according to documents released by the BC United opposition, only 275 patients had completed radiation therapy in the U.S. by Nov. 10 (222 for breast cancer and 53 for prostate cancer) after 533 were deemed eligible and agreeable for treatment in the U.S. 

The “Out of Country Radiation Therapy Daily Report” said that 755 of the 1,288 patients who were screened had failed. The leading reasons for screening failure were wanting Canadian treatment (249), refusal of U.S. treatment (164) and not clinically suitable (163). Fifty-three patients had no travel documents and five were not Canadian citizens.

“An average of 12 patients a week have been treated in the United States,” said BC United leader Kevin Falcon in Question Period on Nov. 28. “It’s not even close to the over 50 patients per week that the NDP contracted with U.S. hospitals for.”

“We wanted to have that capacity, and patients in the hundreds have gone to the United States and got that treatment,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “It just shows our determination to act in every element of cancer care.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix (left) and B.C. Cancer Agency head Kim Chi (Flickr/BC Gov)

How much did B.C. Cancer agree to pay for each treatment? 

That is a secret, because the prices were censored from both contracts. 

The Ministry of Health and B.C. Cancer have not responded to questions about the contracts, including the total amounts paid so far.

Payment, however, is required in U.S. dollars within 30 working days of each invoice. 

The contracts also require the two clinics review a patient referral request on the same day a referral is made and at all times within 48 hours from the time a referral is made. 

B.C. Cancer committed to obtain consent from each patient prior to sending medical records. Both clinics agreed to ensure all physicians providing medical treatment maintain federal and state licensing and certification. They both agreed to maintain CAD$3 million commercial liability and CAD$5 million professional liability insurance and to indemnify, defend and hold harmless B.C. Cancer against any claims and judgments for liability and negligence. 

The two-year contracts will not automatically renew and either party may terminate with or without cause, and without penalty or premium, with 30-days prior written notice. If the agreement is breached and the breach remains uncured, the written notice period is 15 days. 

The clinics also agreed to comply with all applicable privacy laws and promptly notify B.C. Cancer no later than five days after discovery of any security incident or breach of unsecured personal health information. They also agreed to co-operate with B.C. Cancer and provide necessary assistance. 

The BRO contract was signed April 12 by Dr. Alexei Polishchuk, whose bio said he grew up in Vancouver, was educated at Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania and joined BRO in 2016. 

It is not unusual for a government body to claim disclosure of a contract will harm the government financially and damage a third-party’s interests. But multiple rulings by adjudicators from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) have upheld the public’s right to know and required full disclosure of contracts negotiated between private entities and public bodies. 

In 2017, the OIPC ordered Provincial Health Services Authority to release its contract with medical waste collector Stericyle. That was three years after the OIPC ordered Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to release its contract with hospital catering company Compass Group. 

Despite Dix announcing the program to send cancer patients across the border, the Ministry of Health refused to release copies of the contracts after payment of the $10 non-refundable application fees last May. 

Instead of simply transferring the requests to B.C. Cancer, it told a reporter to make new applications and pay the $10 fees again to Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), which finally released copies on Nov. 24. 

PHSA is a Ministry subsidiary that relied on the Ministry, other health authorities, government reporting entities and the Medical Services Plan for $4.2 billion of its $4.6 billion in revenue last year. 

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Bob Mackin  The company operating one of the

Bob Mackin

One of the dozens of presale condo buyers whose contract was terminated by a developer in 2019 testified Nov. 27 in B.C. Supreme Court that she cannot spend as much time taking care of her mother and aunt as she had planned. 

Angela Tsang is one of 37 plaintiffs in the breach of contract trial against Anderson Square Holdings Ltd., and its directors, Keung Sun Sunny Ho and Jia An Jeremy Liang.

Anderson Square’s Alfa in Richmond (Anderson Square)

Tsang was the first witness in the scheduled 19-day trial in Vancouver before Justice Kevin Loo. She testified that she agreed in December 2018 to pay a deposit on the $552,000 unit in the planned 15-storey Alfa (now known as Prima) at 8151 Anderson Road in Richmond city centre.

Tsang, a registered nurse, said she had discovered the project sales centre after a meal with her mother. She found the price and location were ideal, close to her mother and aunt and with parks nearby to walk her dog. 

“Given my work, it’s very chaotic, very physically demanding, and I work really long hours so I needed a really quiet place that I can unwind and keep peaceful,” Tsang said in court. “It was one of the few places that I found in that area that was affordable. Everything else that I looked at was smaller square footage, it wasn’t an open concept. It was about $150,000 more usually and it wasn’t even brand new.” 

But, in July 2019, the developer cancelled the contracts, claiming it was facing “serious and significant circumstances” beyond its control that made it no longer economical to continue. 

After the 2019 cancellation, Tsang consulted her real estate agent and a lawyer. She eventually bought in Delta, which means she must endure Massey Tunnel traffic jams and higher fuel costs to commute to work and to visit her mother and aunt.

“I lost a lot of sleep and I ended up having to change all my plans and I needed to find a place, so I ended up purchasing my new place in Delta, in May of 2020, and moved in in August of 2020,” Tsang testified.

Wes McMillan, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the court that Anderson Square made efforts in 2016 and 2017 to obtain financing from the Canadian Western Bank, the Laurentian Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and G&F Financial. But McMillan said efforts to obtain financing from those lenders ceased no later than January 2018.

By the time it decided to terminate the contracts, Anderson Square had obtained $40 million to $50 million via companies owned by Liang’s father.

“Put simply the evidence will show that the reasons given for terminating the presale contracts were at best misleading, and at worst fully untrue,” McMillan said.. 

McMillan said the defendants pointed to rising construction costs as a basis for terminating the contracts, but had paid out $16.6 million to Scott Construction under a $37.8 million fixed price contract. 

“The evidence will show that financing was not a concern,” McMillan said.

Under a separate action, Scott Construction is suing Anderson Square for $4.6 million.

In May 2022, the plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought an injunction to allow Anderson Square to complete and sell the project but prevent distribution of profits until 30 days after the final judgment of the case.

During that case, the court heard that presale purchasers had received an aggregate $1.944 million in deposit refunds in August 2021. 

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Bob Mackin One of the dozens of presale

For the week of Nov. 26, 2023:

After October 7, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust, pro-Palestine protests across North America and Europe have not only called for a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group. They have also called for the end of Israel.

Who are the organizers and who funds them?

That’s what host Bob Mackin asked Gerald Steinberg, the Jerusalem political science professor and founder of NGO Monitor.

Steinberg keeps an eye on hundreds of human rights charities, big and small, around the world, focusing on those that seek to delegitimize Israel. One of them is the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, operated by a Vancouver-based couple.

The rise of online influencers on popular social media platforms and electronic banking and cryptocurrency have made it easier for charities with political goals to raise money faster than ever. But it is also just as easy for a charity to keep its revenue and expenses secret.

“Banks are regulated, everywhere in the world, every democratic country, every country, to examine that they’re not doing things that are immoral, illegal,” Steinberg  said. “There are ethics, there are processes. In the NGO world, there is none of this.”

Listen to Bob Mackin’s interview with Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor.

Plus, headlines from the Pacific Rim and the Pacific Northwest.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

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thePodcast: Who funds anti-Israel protests in Vancouver and beyond?

For the week of Nov. 26, 2023: After

Bob Mackin

Elections BC has given the green light to the 30th recall petition in B.C. history. 

On Nov. 24, it announced proponent Gurdeep Jassal of Surrey will need signatures of at least 11,811 voters between Nov. 30 and Jan. 29 to unseat NDP Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh.

NDP MLA Rachna Singh and Seattle socialist councillor Khama Sawant (X/Singh)

The “” website includes a statement critical of Singh for allowing the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in B.C. classrooms. 

“Education Minister Rachna Singh has been approached via email and phone calls to her office by various people and organizations, but there simply has been no response,” the website states. “This isn’t acceptable. Education minister must be accountable to parents as is the intent of the education in British Columbia.”

The Recall and Initiative Act states that any registered voter can pay $50 and provide a statement of 200 words or less explaining the reasons why the MLA should be ousted. Once approved, registered canvassers must collect signatures from at least 40% of registered voters who were also registered to vote in the riding’s previous election. 

In 2020, Singh beat BC Liberal challenger Dilraj Atwal by 8,171 to 5,540 votes. 

The recall petition’s financial agent is Amrit Singh Birring, who finished sixth last year for the Surrey mayoralty, with 2,270 votes. Birring ran in 2021’s federal election for the People’s Party of Canada in Fleetwood-Port Kells. His 1,284 votes were more than 20,000 less than victorious incumbent Ken Hardie of the Liberal Party. 

Elections BC set $31,633.94 as the spending limit for both the petitioner and Singh, should she want to run a counter-campaign.

It is the third recall petition of 2023, after petitions against BC United MLA Dan Davies (Peace River-North) and NDP Premier David Eby (Vancouver-Point Grey) both failed. 

The campaign to unseat Davies received only 485 of the required 10,487 signatures in April. Eby opponents needed 16,449 signatures, but garnered only 2,737 by the March deadline.  

Recall petitions have officially failed all 29 times since the NDP government of Premier Mike Harcourt passed the direct democracy law in February 1995. 

Prince George North NDP MLA Paul Ramsey, the Minister of Education, Skills and Training, was the first recall target in 1997. The petition fell 585 signatures shy of forcing Ramsey out of of office and triggering a by-election. 

Petition organizer Pertti Harkonen cried foul after forensic accountant Ron Parks delivered a report that found Ramsey’s anti-recall campaign overspent by $3,288 and benefitted from union-funded phone canvassers. 

The 1998 petition to recall Parksville-Qualicum BC Liberal MLA Paul Reitsma needed 17,020 signatures, but ended up with 24,530. However, the official count was never completed because Reitsma resigned instead of becoming the first recalled MLA in B.C. history.

The Parksville Qualicum Beach News had caught Reitsma writing letters to the editor in praise of himself, under the pseudonym “Warren Betanko.” 

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Bob Mackin Elections BC has given the green

Bob Mackin

As the nights grow longer and colder, the B.C. government has lost track of how many people are living homeless at a rest stop off Highway 1 in Abbotsford. 

An April 25 “decision briefing note” to NDP Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming about the Bradner Rest Area said it was occupied with “15 to 20 permanent residents.”

Bradner Rest Area in 2022 (B.C. Government/FOI)

Asked about the present state of the site, Fleming’s representatives did not respond and the Ministry of Housing referred a reporter to BC Housing. 

“It’s not known the exact count of individuals at this site given that individuals are transitory,” said BC Housing spokesman Tim Chamberlin. “There are approximately 30 vehicles at the site. Currently, most individuals at this site are not interested in connecting with outreach and services.”

That briefing note, obtained under the freedom of information law, was finally disclosed on Tuesday, five months after the original request for briefing notes and reports held by Fleming and senior ministry management and highways operations officials.  

Chamberlin said outreach workers, including staff from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, visit multiple times weekly to conduct welfare checks and refer people to health care, income assistance and shelters.  

The April briefing note to Fleming was headlined “decision briefing note” and contained three options. The options are not visible and it is unclear what, if any, decision was made. The document was heavily censored because the government feared releasing information about advice and recommendations, security, intergovernmental relations and government finances.

The rest stop, opened in the early 1990s on the westbound side of the Trans-Canada, between the Mt. Lehman and 264th Street Interchanges, has 80 passenger vehicle stalls, 17 spots for commercial vehicles, buses and vehicles with trailers, 14 picnic tables and 12 bear-proof trashcans, plus heated and plumbed washrooms and a sani-dump.

“Over the last couple years, the rest area has seen an increase in overnight campers that has formed into an encampment,” said the briefing note. “Currently, the rest area is occupied with 15 to 20 permanent residents living in recreational vehicles, trailers, campers, passenger vehicles, tents, and/or wooden structures. The encampment has resulted in travellers and commercial vehicle drivers not being able to find suitable space to rest due to occupation by transient peoples.”

The briefing note said the ministry’s maintenance contractor has “on occasion refused to attend the site due to aggressive behaviour from residents.” When the rest area is cleared, the same individuals return and resume their encampment within a couple of days. 

“Additionally, the ministry has received numerous complaints regarding motorist safety, access impairment by commercial and private users, damage to infrastructure, and aggressive behaviour of the residents. The site is often littered with hazardous waste and the contractor is having difficulty keeping the site clean and ensuring that the washroom facilities are safe for users.”

Bradner Rest Area in 2022 (B.C. Government/FOI)

The Bradner Rest Area was one of four area homeless camps on government land, according to an Oct. 5, 2022 briefing note. Fifty-eight people were living near Highway 1 and Sumas Way at the Lonzo Road camp in nine motor homes, three vans, two cars and a truck, 21 tents, seven permanent structures and a tent trailer. 

“It’s understood there are few (if any) alternative locations in the Abbotsford area for the individuals to move,” the briefing note said. 

Last June, the Lonzo Road site was cleared and fenced to make way for a temporary 50-bed shelter. The Ministry of Housing budgeted $4 million for the facility, to be operated by the Lookout Housing and Health Society. Remaining residents were offered housing. 

Chamberlin said there are now more than 70 supportive units in Abbotsford and nearly 200 shelter spaces. 

A month after the documents were requested in June, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure demanded a $45 payment over and above the $10 application fee. It claimed the time to search records would be 30 minutes more than the three free hours granted under the law. The ministry also claimed it would need a full-hour to prepare the records for release. 

Over the summer, the ministry took two time extensions, one of which was approved by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, which is not legally required to consult with the applicant. 

Ideally, the government should respond with records in 30 business days or less. The freedom of information law, however, contains numerous loopholes for delays that favour the government and its desire to manage its image. 

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Bob Mackin As the nights grow longer and

Bob Mackin

Despite the four-day ceasefire deal in the Israel-Hamas war, the highest-profile protest in Ottawa since the 2022 truckers convoy is going ahead Nov. 25. 

A poster promoting bus tickets on the Palestinian Youth Movement’s Instagram group bills it as “the largest Palestinian march in Canadian history on Parliament Hill to demand an end to this genocide and a Free Palestine!”

Charlotte Kates, international coordinator for Samidoun (Instagram/Samidounvan)

“On Nov. 4 we made history in a national march on Washington, D.C. to demand a ceasefire, an end to U.S. funding to Israel and to lift the siege on Gaza. This Nov. 25, help us bring our demands to Ottawa in a national march on Parliament Hill.” 

It also includes a link to a website to send donations, in U.S. dollars, to one of its sponsors, the WESPAC Foundation in White Plains, N.Y.

At the same time as the march in Ottawa, a consortium of pro-Palestine groups in the Lower Mainland will hold what they call a “child-led” demonstration outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of those groups is the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which represents Jewish federations across Canada, wants the Canadian government to follow the lead of Israel and Germany and ban Samidoun. CIJA’s website says Samidoun is related to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Ottawa declared a terrorist organization in 2003. 

“Most disturbing to Canada’s Jewish community, Samidoun has a significant and active presence in Canada where it holds events, raises funds, runs advocacy campaigns, and organizes activities on university campuses,” said the CIJA website. “Regularly, Samidoun officials call for violence at these events.”

Samidoun held a banner-drop from the Georgia Viaduct on Oct. 8, after calling the bloody Hamas Oct. 7 invasion of Israel “heroic.” Since then, Samidoun has co-organized protests where far-left activists like Harsha Walia and Natalie Knight have spoken passionately and positively about the terrorist attack that prompted Israel to retaliate. 

More than 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 kidnapped in the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry claims more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed since the Israel Defence Forces vowed to eradicate Hamas. 

Samidoun opposes Canada’s 2002 designation of Hamas as a terrorist group. Instead of calling what happened Oct. 7 in Israel terrorism, Samidoun calls it “resistance” against the “Zionist regime.” 

Just three days after the Israeli government banned Samidoun at the end of February in 2021, Samidoun incorporated as a federal not-for-profit in Canada. Directors are Charlotte Kates of Vancouver, Dave Diewert of Surrey and Thomas Gerhard Hofland of Netherlands. The Samidoun website said it is unable to accept online donations, but seeks paper cheques via the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ) in Tucson, Arizona. Last February, AFGJ lost its credit card processor after the pro-Israel Zachor Legal Institute in Montana complained to the U.S. government. 

Kates, the international coordinator for Samidoun, is originally from New Jersey and married to Samidoun founder Khaled Barakat. They were reportedly banned from entering the European Union in 2022. Kates is a fixture at Vancouver area pro-Palestine protests. She was part of the protest mob that chased Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Vij’s restaurant on Nov. 14 and followed Trudeau to the Bagheera speakeasy in Chinatown. Kates led chants in an alley where protesters were face-to-face with a line of Vancouver Police officers. 

Gerald Steinberg (NGO Monitor)

Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University in Jerusalem, is an independent watchdog of non-governmental organizations and their financing. He said Canadians deserve to know more about Samidoun, especially at a time when foreign interference is a major concern. 

“Groups like Samidoun are not transparent,” said Steinberg, who founded NGO Monitor in 2002. “They don’t tell you where they’re getting their money from. As far as I am concerned, any organization that’s registered as a legal body, in some form or another, if they want to be able to do protests in a democratic country, should at least publish every year, a list of all their donors, and it has to be verifiable.” 

Steinberg said that NGOs exert significant influence on public opinion and lobby politicians in a variety of ways, but they operate under minimal to non-existent checks and balances. Steinberg has witnessed the fundraising and campaigning landscape evolve with technology, such as the rise of social media platforms and influencers, the ubiquity of smartphones and the proliferation of online banking, money transfers and cryptocurrency

“Banks are regulated, everywhere in the world, every democratic country, every country, to examine that they’re not doing things that are immoral, illegal,” he said. “There are ethics, there are processes. In the NGO world, there is none of this.”

Nobody from Samidoun responded to requests for copies of Samidoun’s financial and compensation reports. 

Kates was, however, a guest Nov. 12 on the DSA International Committee’s virtual forum called “From the River to the Sea: Palestinian Resistance and the Threat of Regional War.”  

Kates said on the forum that the “Palestinian resistance” — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP — must be supported because it “is on the front lines of defending humanity against fascism, is on the frontlines of defending humanity against imperialism.” 

Kates said a ceasefire in Gaza is not enough. Instead, she campaigns for the defeat of Israel and complete liberation of Palestine “from the river to the sea.” She also called the events of Oct. 7 “a response to a popular demand” to liberate Palestinian prisoners and their leaders. 

“We will not only not condemn the Palestinian resistance,” Kates stated. “But we will uphold the Palestinian resistance and call for its victory, and declare that every single one of these listings, so-called terrorist listings, must be defeated, must be removed, because these are liberation forces.”

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Bob Mackin Despite the four-day ceasefire deal in

Bob Mackin

The most-expensive ride in Playland history, to debut in 2024, is costing more than originally announced. 

Last November, PNE management said Italy’s Zamperla would design and build Canada’s fastest launch rollercoaster for $9 million.

The siting of Playland’s new rollercoaster complicated plans for the new PNE Amphitheatre, according to documents released by Vancouver city hall under freedom of information. (Mackin photos)

But when it revealed the ride’s ThunderVolt name on Wednesday, the project price tag was $16 million, a 77 percent difference. 

PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance said that the $9 million figure was the cost of purchasing the “tracking and trains of the physical coaster” in early 2021.

“We knew at the time, obviously, there’s going to be construction costs, there’s going to be theming costs, and as well as other soft and hard costs related to ultimately delivering a project of this size, scale and scope,” Ballance said. “But we didn’t know what those were going to be. We didn’t know what our theme was going to be. So we didn’t have accurate numbers.”

Ballance said the PNE’s business case for the new ride ranged from $7 million to $25 million. The $16 million budget will also include landscaping, irrigation and fencing.

Asked why the PNE did not disclose the total budget originally last year, Ballance said the PNE decided to release “the numbers as we actually knew them, rather than putting them out as we guessed at them.”

“What we’re trying to do is ensure that we’re giving as accurate numbers as possible along the way, rather than guessing back in 2021, what the construction costs, what the geotech costs, what the theming costs, because without a theme, we really didn’t feel we were able to more accurately pinpoint it,” she said.

In 2021, the PNE was struggling financially due to the pandemic. It even announced cancellation of the annual summer fair on May 5 of that year but reconsidered almost two months later and decided to go-ahead with a scaled-down version. 

The City of Vancouver-owned organization is a not-for-profit that normally relies on ticket sales, food and beverage sales, venue rentals and sponsorships at Hastings Park. In the fiscal year ended March 30, 2023, the PNE reported $17.4 million revenue from pandemic-related government grants. It finished the year with a $21.6 million surplus. 

In July, Vancouver city council revealed the budget for the new 10,000-seat PNE Amphitheatre had ballooned by 53 per cent, from $64.8 million to $103.7 million.

A staff report cited additional features, market conditions, soil remediation, an archaeological assessment and relocation of an underground pipe. 

But a project update for a meeting last February about the Hastings Park-PNE Master Plan, obtained under the freedom of information law, said the new thrill ride conflicted with the amphitheatre’s footprint. 

There were three options proposed: rotate the coaster 180 degrees, reduce amphitheatre seating or shift the amphitheatre west. The rolllercoaster was shifted just 10 metres northeast, but that caused a $1.5 million increase due to additional site servicing and piling work for the final location. 

Labour Day’s PNE Fair-closing Blue Rodeo concert was the last for the existing, 59-year-old amphitheatre. Completion of the new one is targeted for spring 2026 so that it can be the centrepiece of the city’s FIFA Fan Zone for the 2026 World Cup.

PNE chair Sarah Kirby-Yung, a member of the city council majority ABC party, did not respond for comment. 

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Bob Mackin The most-expensive ride in Playland history,

Bob Mackin 

The Abbotsford man who was once the RCMP’s top civilian intelligence expert was found guilty as charged Nov. 22 by a jury in Ontario Superior Court. 

Cameron Ortis, the former director of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre, had pleaded not guilty to four counts under the Security of Information Act and breach of trust and misuse of a computer under the Criminal Code. The 12-member panel, which began hearing the case on Oct. 2, had deliberated for two days.

Cameron Ortis

Judge Robert Maranger set Jan. 12-13 for sentencing. 

Charges against Ortis included leaking information to a Richmond man jailed in the U.S. for selling modified and encrypted BlackBerry smartphones to drug traffickers. 

Much of the trial was held behind closed doors for national security reasons. Ortis testified in his own defence, although he was limited in what he could say due to the oath of secrecy he took after joined the RCMP in 2007. 

Ortis claimed that he lured four targets onto the Tutanota encrypted email system in order to gather evidence against them for an international investigation. Three of the persons of interest were involved in transnational money laundering. Another was Richmond’s Vincent Ramos, whose clients included the Hells Angels and Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel. 

During the trial, the court heard that Ortis informed Ramos that his company, Phantom Secure, was under investigation, suggested he move his servers because police knew their locations and to adjust his financial transactions to avoid detection. 

Ramos was arrested in 2018 and sentenced in 2019 to nine years in jail in the U.S. 

Ortis’s lawyer Jon Doody told the jury during closing arguments last week that there was no evidence Ortis took money. But Crown prosecutor Judy Kliewer said he had asked Ramos for $20,000. She also said civilian Ortis was neither trained nor authorized to act in an undercover role and he kept secret the crimes that led to the charges. 

Maranger confirmed the jury’s decision, thanked the members for their service and excused them from the Ottawa courtroom. He then set the two-day sentencing hearing after refusing a request from Ortis lawyer Mark Ertel to allow Ortis to remain free on bail conditions. 

Phantom Secure mastermind Vincent Ramos

“Mr. Ortis was convicted on all six counts. Presumption of innocence is now gone, bail should be revoked and it is revoked,” Maranger said. 

Ertel argued that Ortis had already spent three years in jail where he had been strip-searched 1,200 times and x-rayed 800 times “exposing him to the risk of cancer.” 

“He was then on severe house arrest and there’s no allegation of any breach of conditions,” Ertel said. 

Ertel revealed that he would probably ask for a non-jail sentence at the January hearing. 

Crown prosecutor Judy Kliewer was obviously at the other end of the scale. She said four of the counts come with maximum 14-year sentences, breach of trust a maximum five years and unauthorized use of a computer system a maximum 10 years. 

“We will be asking for some consecutive time. As I indicated last December, we will be looking for a sentence in the range of 20 years,” Kliewer said. “I am not going to say that that is what we are seeking. It may be higher, it may be lower, but it certainly is not one of time served.”

Maranger reiterated the cancellation of Ortis’s bail, but set what he called the earliest possible sentencing date.

“I don’t want Mr. Ortis languishing at the Ottawa-;Carleton Detention Centre any longer than he needs to,” Maranger said. 

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Bob Mackin  The Abbotsford man who was once

Bob Mackin 

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke isn’t alone.

Coun. Brenda Locke (Surrey Connect)

Other local government leaders are expressing frustration with the NDP government taking away some of their power. 

On Nov. 20, Locke said lawyers hired by the city would argue in court that it is unconstitutional for Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to override the will of the 2022-elected city council and accelerate the switch from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service by replacing the police board with a single administrator.

Two Vancouver Island mayors spoke out last week against Housing Supply Act amendments that diminish municipal control and public consultation over land use decisions.  

At the Nov. 14 district council meeting, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait reacted to that day’s resignation of planning director Matthew Pawlow. Pawlow left the $145,000-a-year job to join the Ministry of Housing as the executive for the new Housing Targets Branch, which is responsible for administering the Housing Supply Act and municipal housing targets program. 

Tait, who will run in the next federal election for the NDP, conceded she was grateful someone with Pawlow’s expertise will be in the ministry “to at least show the local government challenges with the legislation that they’re adopting.”

“We need to work on this together,” Tait said. “When one order of government dictates to another, it doesn’t go well, it’s undemocratic. I have a real problem with that.”

Two days later, Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch had even more to say in a 12-minute video in defence of local government. He said Premier David Eby’s government is sacrificing democracy in favour of efficiency, by ending public hearings if a zoning application corresponds with an official community plan.

“Why would we gut all the powers of democratic accountability of local governments when we’re trying to address a housing crisis?” Murdoch asked. “I think part of this is that the province has framed this as an issue where municipalities are the bad guy, we’re the ones to blame, that all the housing problems are a result of public input being just too messy and slow.”

Municipalities are recognized by the courts as creatures of government under the 1867 Constitution Act.

In 2021, B.C. was the only province to intervene in the Ontario government’s Supreme Court of Canada case defending Premier Doug Ford’s reduction of wards in Toronto prior to the 2018 civic election. In a 5-4 split decision, the high court upheld the decision, finding it did not breach freedom of expression for candidates or voters. 

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch (Oak Bay/Vimeo)

B.C.’s filing in the case, while Eby was the attorney general, said the constitution granted provinces “plenary power over municipal institutions.”

“Subject to section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, these institutions have no independent autonomy and the province has ‘absolute and unfettered legal power to do with them as it wills’,” said the intervention.

A political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley said politicians are trying to solve 21st century problems with the 19th century constitution. 

“That constitution, created in 1867, was designed for the situation that existed at that time, the demographics that existed at that time,” said Hamish Telford. “Provinces were sparsely populated rural areas that made sense to create these entities to govern that. That’s not the world that we live in anymore.”

Under Eby’s premiership, the government decided to take strong action to increase housing supply, sparking the conflict with municipalities. “In fairness to local governments, they think they know their geography and their city makeup better than politicians and bureaucrats in Victoria,” Telford said. 

Each order of government, in a quest to fulfil its mandate, is exercising power over another with less power. 

“If local mayors are complaining about our provincial governments, Pierre Poilievre. if he becomes prime minister, said he’s going to take out an even bigger stick. Not only to force municipalities in, he’ll strip them of infrastructure funding if they don’t cooperate with him,” Telford said.

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Bob Mackin  Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke isn’t alone. [caption

Bob Mackin

The Richmond real estate and immigration lawyer, who formerly worked inside the Chinese Communist government, has been disbarred.

In a 75-page decision issued Nov. 17, and released Nov. 20, a Law Society of B.C. [LSBC] tribunal declared Hong Guo “ungovernable.”

Hong Guo

Guo was already serving a one-year suspension that began last March, after practicing under a 2017 supervision order. 

“The panel finds that the Law Society has clearly proven, on a balance of probabilities, that the respondent is ungovernable. Her [professional conduct record] is lengthy, serious and highly aggravating,” said the decision written by panel member Gillian Dougans. “She has shown little insight into the findings made against her and continues to see herself as a victim. She has taken almost no steps to educate herself on her responsibilities, to train her staff or organize her practice.”

The decision also said that Guo is quick to apologize and offer to improve, but “she has failed to adhere to the practice supervision agreement.”

LSBC discipline counsel Kenneth McEwan had told the tribunal that Guo undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity of the legal profession by failing or refusing to rehabilitate herself, despite significant LSBC intervention.

The decision recounted Guo’s decade of practice and conduct reviews, breaches of undertakings, compliance failures and administrative suspensions. It cited a concern stemming from a February 2018 Globe and Mail story about Guo working for individuals related to drug crimes, including admitted casino loan shark Paul King Jin. Guo boasted at the time to a reporter that she was “the biggest Chinese lawyer in the Chinese community. We do $600 million a year in transactions. Maybe that is why we are a target for criminal activities.”

LSBC told the panel that Guo had failed on five counts to alter her conduct, by failure to respond to LSBC inquiries, neglect of duties to report trust account transactions, misleading behaviour to a client and/or LSBC, and a lengthy history of misconduct and breaches of undertaking. 

Four hearing panels have made “wide-ranging findings of professional misconduct,” including breach of trust accounting rules, conflict of interest, misrepresentations to the LSBC, failure to supervise staff, misappropriation and mishandling of trust funds, breach of LSBC orders, breach of an undertaking to the Law Society, and knowingly making false representations tot he Law Society.”

Examples given by the LSBC include the $7.5 million theft from her trust account in April 2016 and subsequent breaches of undertakings and orders and her lack of cooperation to produce records requested about her bank account in China. 

Guo had asked for leniency and pleaded for sympathy, based on alleged racial and gender discrimination, as well as an abusive husband prior to 2016. 

“The respondent was asked if there was anything else she wanted to tell the panel about how she would be affected if she was disbarred. She said that she cares about her reputation and her dignity and that if she were to be disbarred she does not know how she would survive,” the decision said. 

Last March, a five-member LSBC review board rejected the society’s bid to strip Guo of her licence, opting instead for the 12-month ban. 

Richmond lawyer Hong Guo ran for mayor in 2018.

LSBC had found in late 2021 that Guo committed professional misconduct by misappropriation, breaching trust accounting obligations, failing to properly supervise her bookkeeper, and breaching an undertaking and a Law Society order.

Guo had alleged that bookkeeper Zixin “Jeff” Li took the $7.5 million from her firm’s trust accounts for 100 clients in 2016, laundered the cash at a casino and fled to China.

The society found that Guo had signed blank trust cheques and left them with Li before departing on a two-week vacation in March 2016. But the review board noted Guo had deposited $2.6 million of family money and $4 million from the insurance policy to repay the trust account.

Guo originally came to Canada in 1993 and studied law at the University of Windsor. She worked in the State Council in China’s central government and was called to the B.C. bar in 2009. 

In 2018, Guo finished fourth in the Richmond mayoral election after an interview with in which she denied the existence of China’s well-documented human rights abuses.

Guo was formerly represented by Craig Jones, the Thompson Rivers University law professor who became counsel to Premier David Eby in November 2022. One of her two lawyers in the 2023 matter was David Gruber, who represented Gateway Casinos during the Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering. 

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Bob Mackin The Richmond real estate and immigration