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Bob Mackin

Apparently quality of donors, not quantity, was the theme of the Nov. 1 Liberal fundraiser starring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in West Vancouver.

The clubhouse at the Gleneagles public golf course was the scene of what was billed as a night with the PM. Donors got much less than a night, because the Liberal leader and his security entourage showed up unfashionably late with less than an hour to go. Area MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones had spent much of the night waiting at the door. She keeps waiting for a cabinet post. 

A list published on the party website shows 76 names of attendees who paid between $750 and $1,500 for admission. The number of people outside protesting Trudeau’s approval of the Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish rivalled the number on the guest list.

Attendees of the Nov. 1 Liberal fundraiser with Prime Minister Trudeau included Patrisse Chan (Chan)

Mansoor Lalji, one of three brothers behind Park Royal shopping centre landlord Larco Holdings, was the most-prominent name on Trudeau’s guest list. Larco bought federal office buildings (including ones that house the RCMP and Canada Revenue Agency) in five cities for $1.7 billion under the Conservatives in 2007. In 2016, Business in Vancouver reported that Larco had ties to Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm exposed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in the Panama Papers.

Valor Invest Ltd. merchant banker Aly Nazeerali, Quark Venture CEO Karima Es Sabar, Capital Now Financial president Feisal Dedhar and Chase Realty president Farouk Verjee were listed. All of the above are followers of the Aga Khan. Trudeau was found in violation of federal ethics rules for taking a free family trip after Christmas 2016 to the wealthy Ismaili Muslim religious leader’s private island in the Bahamas.

Who else went straight to to the 19th hole?

Saree Chan, chair of the Richmond-based Canada Fei Cui International Industrial Group Ltd., and daughter Patrisse Chan.

Enbridge directors David Unruh and Michael Phelps. Mining tycoon Ross Beaty. Western Stevedoring president Brad Eshleman.

The security detail at a Nov. 1 Justin Trudeau fundraising party in West Vancouver included an RCMP cruiser from Richmond (Mackin)

D-Wave COO Warren Wall. Laura Ballance Media Group owner Laura Ballance and vice-president and Dale Steeves. Former aide to Joyce Murray and Christy Clark, ex-lobbyist Gabe Garfinkel. Garfinkel is now GM of Native Northwest crafts. Miller Thomson lawyer Jane Shackell. Lawson Lundell lawyer Nolan Hurlburt.

An interesting name on the list was Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who opposed Trudeau’s purchase of Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain Pipeline project. He was there with his partner, Melissa Louie of Morgan and Associates. Chamberlin did not respond to questions about his attendance at the fundraiser.

Trudeau once taught snowboarding on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb. Ex-owner Joe Houssian, was another supporter in attendance.

One of the last to arrive was Mary-Ann Booth, the West Vancouver district councillor whose slim 21-vote win over Mark Sager was confirmed by a judicial recount earlier in the day. Booth was accompanied by her husband, real estate lawyer John Sampson of Norton Rose Fulbright. 

Trudeau was in Vancouver earlier in the day to appear at a Vancouver Board of Trade event and for short private meetings with the new mayors of Vancouver and Surrey, Kennedy Stewart and Doug McCallum. Trudeau’s motorcade showed up more than an hour late at the golf club, owing to traffic congestion and a police incident on the Lions Gate Bridge.

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Bob Mackin Apparently quality of donors, not quantity,

Bob Mackin

Growing up in Quebec, Pierre Lemaitre dreamed of someday wearing the red serge of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. That finally came true when he graduated into the force on his birthday in 1986.

He took pride in putting on his uniform before each shift, but that all changed one fateful morning in 2007. His widow, Sheila Lemaitre, testified on Nov. 26 at a coroner’s inquest in Burnaby about the five-and-a-half year descent into depression, anger and post-traumatic stress disorder that ended in the suicide of the 55-year-old.

Pierre Lemaitre worked in detachments in Kamloops, Cranbrook, Bella Coola and Prince George before he was transferred to Langley at the same time as Sheila was sent to Richmond. A post in media relations at regional headquarters took him to the Okanagan when wildfires spread in the summer of 2003 and his first experience butting heads with the old boys’ culture. A member of the media confided in him that an RCMP member, his superior, had sexually harassed her.

Pierre Lemaitre at the Braidwood Inquiry (CBC)

“Protocol demands and Pierre’s sensibilities demand even stronger that he make a formal report about that,” Sheila Lemaitre testified. “But that meant going over his supervisor’s head, which is also something that is not done.”

That resulted in a transfer to Chilliwack. Punishment for doing the right thing, she said.

“Pierre was very stressed out over it, very upset over the way he had been treated,” she said.

The force eventually apologized, but instead of welcoming him back to headquarters, Lemaitre went to Burnaby as its spokesman. Another tour of duty at headquarters led to an early morning wake-up call on Oct. 14, 2007.

“‘Yep, they need me, I’ve gotta go to work’,” she remembered him saying. “He put on his uniform, I didn’t see that look thereafter.”

A Polish tourist who came to B.C. to visit his mother had died in an altercation after arriving at Vancouver International Airport. Lemaitre’s initial statement put the blame on the man, later identified as Robert Dziekanski, for jeopardizing the safety of the attending officers. But eyewitness video seized the day of the incident showed otherwise. Officers acted hastily with a Taser in a deadly, botched arrest.

Lemaitre was the face and voice of the RCMP in B.C. and he wanted to set the record straight. The head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, Wayne Rideout, refused.

“There started to be media reports about Pierre being an RCMP spin doctor, the RCMP liar, that really upset him,” Sheila Lemaitre said. “At one point he was almost screaming, I want it corrected, I want to tell them. He wasn’t allowed to. He was ordered not to. That really upset him from that point, it was very hard for him.”

His life was never the same, as he spiralled into depression, anxiety, anger and post-traumatic stress disorder. He was demoted and then transferred to Langley, for its traffic planning and training division. The Braidwood Inquiry in 2009 gave him hope.

“I remember him coming through the door. He said Braidwood understands, he knows how hard it was for me, he got it. There was a sense of relief. It was somewhat short-lived.”

His position was eventually relocated to E Division’s new, 2012-built headquarters in Surrey’s Green Timbers. An officer, Insp. Boucher, was showing another officer around the new complex.

“He heard this officer say, ‘oh, yeah, and that’s Pierre Lemaitre, he’s redundant’.”

Lemaitre was despondent, she said, crying on the phone. She said he should come home. He never returned to active duty.

“Pierre changed from being the most-caring, loving sweetest husband, the guy who would open all the doors for you.”

She said he felt shame for being recognized in public, as that RCMP officer from YVR, and would even run away from grocery checkouts when that happened. He became a hoarder, filling a room in the basement with hobby kits, some of them unopened, and used furniture from Craigslist. There were four sofas. 

“After YVR 2007, he got progressively angrier and more and more anxious.”

She said he started becoming abusive, throwing her on the ground and strangling her, leaving her bruised and in pain for weeks. He threw her down the stairs at their home, after she had a knee operation. She said he often spoke of a “rage in his head [that] was burning in his head and he can’t control it.”

“I could only think that If I called 9-1-1, they would take his gun, they’d take his badge and I couldn’t do that, he’d already lost so much. Honestly that’s when I thought he would commit suicide. I thought I was holding him together, with me he could survive it.”

His medication was changed approximately four weeks before his death. What was the last weekend of his life, Sheila thought he had turned a corner.

“I actually thought that he was getting better, he’d switched medication for four weeks and that last four days, he seemed to eager to do little things around the house that I had wanted him to do, I always nagged him that we should have extra water in case of emergency and he was always reticent to go out and get big bottles from Costco or wherever, laughing at me saying I was always talking about apocalypse. Living on a farm I thought this was a good thing to do.”

Robert Dziekanski (Braidwood Inquiry)

He also got fertilizer and bags of dog food. Sheila said her ability to lift is encumbered by that injury.

On July 29, 2013, Sheila remembered that Pierre was strangely quiet. He knew that Bill Bentley, one of the four arresting officers from the airport incident, was going to court for a verdict in his perjury trial. Sheila said she kept the TV news on mute, but the ticker at the bottom of the screen mentioned that day’s court appearance.

She went to pick blueberries for breakfast with their dogs, but soon realized Pierre didn’t join them outside. She returned to the house in a panic, unable to find him in any of the rooms, except the rec room, where he was hanging from an exercise machine. She desperately tried to help before calling 9-1-1.

Two ambulance paramedics testified at the inquest that they found Pierre Lemaitre on the floor. A dog leash and collar were nearby, and seven vials of medication, including anti-depressants, were on a bench. Senior paramedics took over from the first crew that arrived, but couldn’t restart his heart. As per protocol, the paramedics consulted an emergency room doctor from the nearby hospital by phone. There was nothing more they could do.

The next day, Sheila Lemaitre testified, she discovered that the coffee container Pierre had steadfastly replenished was completely empty. “Everything hit me then, he hadn’t planned on needing it. That last three, four days he had a plan, he knew what he was doing, he was making sure that I was going to be okay for a bit.”

Coroner Vincent Stancato and a five-person jury are presiding over a coroner’s inquest in Burnaby that is expected to run through Nov. 30. The task is about finding fact and making recommendations to prevent similar deaths. Too many first responders suffering extreme work-related stress have died in Canada. The Tema Conter Memorial Trust, which keeps track of public safety suicides in, shows there were 46 British Columbia first responders who died from 2015-2017.

In the gallery, an analyst from the RCMP was taking detailed notes, sitting near Walter Kosteckyj. The former RCMP officer who was the lawyer for Dziekanski’s mother, Sofia Cisoski.

“This is a thoroughly decent man who was placed into a very difficult position and unable to clear the record [about the tasering of Dziekanski at YVR] when he wanted to,” Kosteckyj said. “He asked me to send the apologies to my client, so that she would know he himself took no part in trying to mislead the public or media about the events.”

Said Kosteckyj: “I feel for his family, I’m just here to send my personal support.”

Are you in distress? Help is one phone call away. 

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Bob Mackin Growing up in Quebec, Pierre Lemaitre

Nov. 20, 2018, 11:06 a.m.

NDP Government House Leader and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth stood in the Legislature, to ask for support to immediately and indefinitely suspend the Legislature’s clerk, Craig James, and sergeant-at-arms, Gary Lenz, while under investigation.

The motion passed unanimously. Farnworth didn’t say, but he met the previous evening with the two other party house leaders and Speaker Darryl Plecas. James and Lenz were escorted from the Legislature; James said he did not know what was alleged. 

The Public Prosecution Service later said the RCMP had been investigating since the summer and, in a rare move, two special prosecutors had been secretly appointed on Oct. 1. The RCMP refused to explain why.

Sources say Plecas called in the Mounties to investigate corruption. James and Lenz’s lawyer say they deserve to be reinstated, because they have done no wrong. 

It may take weeks, months or years for the facts to be known about the latest scandal at the B.C. Legislature, an institution that is inherently secretive. Unlike government ministries and Crown corporations, the Legislature is not covered by freedom of information laws. It is forecast to spend a net $76 million this year, with relatively little oversight.

Since 2012, when the Auditor General condemned the Legislature for financial mismanagement, there have been baby steps toward better financial reporting. But, because it is still excluded from the FOI law, the people who own the “people’s house” have no legal right to know what really goes on.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, highlights of B.C.’s rich scandal history, from Fantasy Gardens to B.C. Rail, and a review of the week that was. Host Bob Mackin interviews Canada’s top expert on freedom of information, Sean Holman, a former member of the B.C. Press Gallery who is now a journalism professor in Calgary. Holman said he is not surprised that the Legislature is embroiled in controversy.

“Freedom of information laws are important because they improve the democratic manners of public officials,” Holman said. “If public officials know they are being watched, or have the potential for being watched, by the public and their representatives, in the form of activists and reporters, then the potential for wrongdoing decreases… information is the beginning of accountability. If you don’t have information, you can’t have accountability.” 

Plus headlines and commentaries.

For full coverage of Scandal at the B.C. Legislature, listen to this podcast, read what we know and learn more about the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Trouble in the "People's House"
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Nov. 20, 2018, 11:06 a.m. NDP Government House

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s Legislature is in turmoil after the stunning Nov. 20 suspension of its clerk and sergeant-at-arms related to an unspecified investigation of corruption initiated by Speaker Darryl Plecas.

Career legislative staffer Craig James and ex-Mountie Gary Lenz have not been charged, but they are on indefinite paid leave while the RCMP and two special prosecutors conduct a probe that was secret until this week.

Unlike government ministries and Crown corporations, the Legislature is excluded from the freedom of information law. The people’s house is largely a mystery to the people that own it. For that reason, said Mount Royal University journalism professor Sean Holman, it behaves in an unaccountable way.

Gary Lenz (left), ex-speaker Linda Reid and Craig James (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

“The potential for abuse is pretty significant, the potential for wrongdoing is pretty significant,” said Holman, a former B.C. press gallery member. “We have to be careful here, because we do not know exactly what these allegations are.”

The Legislature does report some of its spending in the summertime public accounts disclosure and it is subject to oversight from the all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee. The Legislature’s governing body is chaired by Plecas, with house leaders from the NDP (Mike Farnworth), BC Liberals (Mary Polak) and Greens (Sonia Furstenau), plus three backbench NDP MLAs (Garry Begg, Jagrup Brar and Janet Routledge), and another BC Liberal (Jackie Tegart). James was the clerk of the committee who was installed as the de facto CEO of the Legislature, without competition, by the BC Liberals in 2011.

In 2012, the committee came under fire in an Auditor General’s report looking at three years of the Legislature’s finances. John Doyle declared the Legislative Assembly mismanaged and LAMC “had little or no involvement in either providing governance over the Legislative Assembly’s financial and operational activities, or in this audit.”

Speaker Darryl Plecas (UFV)

For the year ended March 31, 2018, the Legislature reported $30,372,823 in supplier payments and $20,458,561 in salaries. The institution is expecting to spend a net $75.7 million this year.

The highest-paid suppliers of goods and services were on the technology side: Think Communications for $815,403; Ricoh Canada for $664,166; MYRA Systems Corp. $586,954; and Softchoice Corporation $361,753.

The list of suppliers of $25,000 or more began with 13 British Columbia numbered companies and one Alberta numbered company. There was no indication in the financial report of what they actually provided or whether the contracts were put to tender. The Clerk’s office refused to provide information when theBreaker asked last August.

The list also mentioned “severance settlements” for $540,421. Again, no information about the quantity or recipients of the settlements.

James and Lenz were far and away the highest-paid executives last year at $347,090 and $218,167 respectively. James ($51,349) and Lenz ($23,079) were also the biggest spenders on travel and meals.

The most-recent LAMC meeting was Oct. 30, in which James reported the Legislature was developing a “respectful workplace policy.” He circulated draft minutes of the closed-door finance and audit committee meetings to date.

His deputy, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, made a presentation on business continuity, and the executive financial officer, Hilary Woodward, gave a summary of major capital projects underway: HVAC replacement in the main chamber and committee rooms, front entrance accessibility ramps, earthquake readiness and resilience (including seismic motion detection lights, ambient soil vibration testing and seismic drill testing), two more electric vehicle charging stations in the MLA parking lot, bicycle repair stations, and an upgrade to the major electrical vault.

B.C. Legislature.

LAMC’s previous meeting, on Dec. 13, 2017, heard that spending rose 37.1% on information systems. Woodward said that included the centralization of constituency office expenses, including document workflow software. That three-phase project wrapped-up in April.

“We have, just in general, rising software support costs for information technology,” she said. “We also are proposing to replace our HR payroll system. It’s in excess of 15 years old, highly manual, and we’re looking to make a change there.”

James reported that the Legislature was chronically underspending.

“Year over year we always find ourselves in the position of returning money, operating funds, to the consolidated revenue fund,” he said. “I think last year at this time, we were talking in the region of $25 million or $27 million over five years, and I think we’re on track to return probably about $3 million or more this year to the consolidated revenue fund.”

James said that the inability of LAMC and the finance and audit committee to meet, because of the election and transition, hampered approvals for capital spending. He complained that the condition of the driveway was an ongoing concern. “You talk about it being an embarrassment. I can show you… I won’t reveal the letter, but this is the problem we face from day to day. This is a person who fell and tripped on the driveway — did not sue us — and required some surgery as a result. So the driveway, in our mind, is one huge priority to get fixed as soon as we possibly can.”

The B.C. Bid government procurement database shows little contracting activity since 2015, though the Legislature did award six-figure contracts for workflow and document management software ($262,850, to R.W. Matthews Agencies, dba File IT Solutions); landscaping maintenance services ($236,782, to Da Silva Garden and Landscaping); and janitorial services ($195,526.32, to Alpine Building Maintenance).

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Bob Mackin British Columbia’s Legislature is in turmoil

Bob Mackin

The federal Liberal government says it will undertake further research into birth tourism.

That, according to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s Nov. 19 response to an electronic petition initiated by Richmond activist Kerry Starchuk and sponsored by Steveston-Richmond East Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido.

Starchuk’s petition, which was supported by 10,882 people, was brought to the House of Commons on Oct. 5 by Peschisolido. It called upon the government to state it opposes birth tourism, commit public resources to determine the full extent of the practice and implement concrete measures to reduce and eliminate the practice. Under federal law, MP-endorsed electronic petitions that gain 500 or more supporters within four months are tabled in the House of Commons. 

Richmond activist Kerry Starchuk ran for city council in October and received almost 7,000 votes (Mackin)

Citizenship acquired through birth on soil has been in place since the first Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947, though it does not apply to children of anyone representing or working for a foreign government. Richmond Hospital averages one foreign birth a day and there have been cases where local mothers have been transferred to other hospitals to make way for foreign mothers. Petitioner Starchuk is also concerned with the potential future health and education costs to taxpayers.

The 354-word response said the government does not collect information on whether a woman is pregnant when entering the country, and a person cannot be deemed inadmissible or denied a visa if they are pregnant or if they may give birth in the country. But foreign nationals are required to state the purpose of their visit.

“Applicants must always be honest about the purpose of their visit. Providing false information or documents when dealing with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or Canada Border Services Agency is considered misrepresentation and has significant consequences,” said the official response.

The response quoted from 2016 Statistics Canada data that said only 300 children were born to foreign women among the 385,000 babies born in the country that year. But that data has been discredited in media reports which found public agencies do not harmonize their research and there are loopholes that prevent accurate data collection.

The Richmond News reported in June that many non-resident women who give birth at Richmond Hospital list their address as a birth house or birth hostel where they are temporarily staying. Richmond Hospital saw a jump in self-pay births from non-resident mothers from 299 in 2015-2016 to 379 a year later. Most were from China.

Richmond Hospital (Mackin)

Should the birth house operator list the address of their home business at the hospital’s registration desk, the ministry would not count the baby as a non-resident,” the newspaper reported. “Only when the true address of the mother is registered, does the birth become a non-resident in the eyes of Vital Statistics B.C.”

The immigration minister’s response said the federal government “recognizes the need to better understand the extent of this practice as well as its impacts. IRCC has commissioned research from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which also show the number of children born to non-residents who were required to pay hospital expenses to be less than 1% of total births in Canada, and will undertake further research in this regard.”

That new research was published Nov. 22 in Policy Options by Andrew Griffith and found that the number of births is at least five times greater than Statistics Canada and rising.

“The impact of this practice can no longer be described as insignificant given its effect on the integrity of citizenship and public perceptions that birth tourism is a fraudulent shortcut to obtaining citizenship,” wrote Griffith, who cited data from the Discharge Abstract Database. 

Starchuk said Hussen’s response lacks details about the government’s next steps.

“There’s no deadline, they’ve left it open-ended,” Starchuk told theBreaker. “How long are they going to take to do it?”

She was also perplexed why such a multifaceted issue attracted a response from only the immigration minister, but not the ministers of public safety (Ralph Goodale) or border security (Bill Blair).

The response also said the government is “committed to protecting the public from fraud and unethical consulting practices and protecting the integrity of Canada’s immigration and citizenship programs,” so it is undertaking a comprehensive review aimed at cracking down on unscrupulous consultants and those who exploit programs through misrepresentation.”

In 2016, Starchuk also petitioned the federal government to end birth tourism, but the December 2016 reply from then-Immigration Minister John McCallum dismissed the issue. McCallum was later appointed Canada’s ambassador to China.

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Bob Mackin The federal Liberal government says it

Bob Mackin

The lobbyist who was once B.C. Premier John Horgan’s right-hand man and the ex-chief of staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was fined $1,000 for failing to report his past as a senior bureaucrat.

Trevor Presley, an investigator with B.C.’s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, found John Heaney failed to disclose he was a former NDP government insider when he registered on Jan. 5 to lobby the B.C. NDP government on behalf of marijuana company Nuuvera Corp. and Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

John Heaney (LinkedIn)

Presley’s Oct. 10 report was released Nov. 21, after it was tabled in the Legislature.

Heaney had been the deputy minister of government communications in the administration of Premier Ujjal Dosanjh in 2000 and 2001, after working as assistant deputy minister in cabinet planning for less than a year. Heaney also held senior positions under Premier Mike Harcourt.

“At the time he filed his return he believed the term ‘former public office holder’ referred to a former holder of an elected public office,” Presley wrote.

Heaney quickly corrected the error in the 2018 filing, but ORL staff found a previous 2010-2011 registration in which Heaney had not declared he was a former public office holder.

In an April 4 response, Heaney wrote “I believe it bears repeating that this was an inadvertent and hastily corrected error that I could not have possibly benefitted from, financially or otherwise. And it bears underlining that, as was the case in 2010, I was not a practicing lobbyist making my living from that activity or experienced with the registry.”

Heaney unsuccessfully asked the registrar to cease the investigation for being minor or trivial and because it had been more than two years since he filed his first return, which put him beyond the statute of limitations.

“I am troubled by the pattern displayed by the lobbyist of not declaring himself as a former public office holder,” Presley wrote. “However when issuing this penalty, I can only consider the most recent contravention in the context of the British Columbia’s legislation. Therefore I consider a penalty of $1,000 to be appropriate in this instance.”

The report said failure to disclose past work in government undermines transparency and the public’s confidence in the registry. The law, Presley explained, is to address the public’s concern that former public office holders can benefit from insider information and influence.

Catherine Holt (LinkedIn)

Heaney quit in August 2017 from Notley’s office, but was quietly hired later that year as an aide in the Alberta finance ministry and later in the energy ministry. He was also under investigation by Alberta’s information and privacy commissioner for meddling in the freedom of information process.

In the report released Nov. 21, another former NDP insider was slapped with a $500 fine.

Like Heaney, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce president Catherine Holt failed to report her past as a senior bureaucrat in the 1990s.

In a Sept. 18 investigation report by investigator Tim Mots, Holt was found to have misreported her past in 2017 and 2018 filings. Holt immediately corrected the 2018 omission, but was unable to do the same for the 2017 registration because it had already been terminated.

Holt claimed she made an error because she believed the rule to apply only to politicians. Her lawyer unsuccessfully sought leniency.

Mots called it a minor infraction, because of the 19 years that have passed since Holt worked in the provincial government. She was an assistant deputy minister in the premier’s office.

“It is highly unlikely she had undue influence over current public office holders. It is unlikely that she has any remaining insider knowledge,” Mots wrote. “There is no perception here that the in-house lobbyist moved freely between government and lobbying enhancing her influence over the public service.”

Last December, Holt was appointed chair of the B.C. Transit board of directors by the Horgan cabinet. Holt is a former consultant to TransLink who was paid more than $266,000 when her ex-Sage Group business partner Doug Allen, another former B.C. government bureaucrat, was the TransLink CEO. 

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Bob Mackin The lobbyist who was once B.C.

Bob Mackin

The Bombshell

NDP Government House Leader Mike Farnworth, who is also Solicitor General, rose at 11:06 a.m. on Nov. 20 in the Legislature after Question Period, to interrupt the start of a committee hearing on environmental assessments.

The six-term Port Coquitlam MLA and veteran cabinet minister’s hands were trembling, as he looked down to read from a single page. An announcement of this sort had never been made in the 147-year history of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly. 

“By leave, I move: That Mr. Craig James, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and Mr. Gary Lenz, Sergeant at Arms, are placed on administrative leave with pay and benefits, effective immediately.

Mike Farnworth announcing the suspension of the B.C. Legislature clerk and sergeant-at-arms (Hansard TV).

“During the period of administrative leave, and as a consequence of an outstanding investigation, Mr. James and Mr. Lenz must not access Legislative Assembly network equipment, systems or services and must not be present within any building that is part of the Legislative Precinct as defined in section 1 of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 258.

“This resolution is subject to periodic review and modification by the Legislative Assembly.”

No one objected. The motion passed unanimously.

Farnworth had waited until both James and Lenz had left the chamber to make the announcement. He even took a walk outside the chamber, after both had left.

Premier John Horgan sat beside Farnworth, looking glum. Horgan later said outside the Legislature that he had been briefed yesterday and had spoken to Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson. He claimed to know very little about the investigation.

In the minutes after the bombshell, there was communications chaos in Victoria.

Craig James (standing left) and Gary Lenz (back to camera) minutes before their suspension was announced in the B.C. Legislature (Hansard TV)

theBreaker contacted Farnworth on his cell phone to find out more, and specifically asked if police were involved. After a pregnant pause, Farnworth declined to answer. He only repeated that the two men were on administrative leave and referred theBreaker to Attorney General David Eby. Eby subsequently referred theBreaker to the Clerk’s Office. Sage Aaron, a spokeswoman for Horgan, referred theBreaker to the Speaker’s Office.

James, carrying personal belongings, told reporters that neither he nor Lenz knew what was going on and were equally shocked. TV cameras showed him escorted out of the building. James left in a silver Buick sedan driven by Lenz.

Later, during the noon hour, an aide to Speaker Darryl Plecas, Alan Mullen announced that there was a police investigation into a criminal matter and that a special prosecutor had been appointed.

Mullen said it was unprecedented. “It’s disturbing, it’s disruptive,” he said. 

When the province’s public prosecution service issued a statement, it said there were two special prosecutors. An investigation had been active for at least two months. 

A single independent special prosecutor is appointed if an investigation or prosecution contains a significant potential for real or perceived improper influence in prosecutorial decision making. In this highly unusual case, two were appointed, because of “the potential size and scope of the investigation.”

The statement said Peter Juk, the assistant deputy attorney general, was asked by the RCMP on Sept. 28 to consider retaining a special prosecutor. David Butcher and Brock Martland were appointed Oct. 1.

Special prosecutor David Butcher

Butcher was the special prosecutor on the Quick Wins investigation, in which BC Liberal operative Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to breach of trust related to the multicultural outreach strategy under Premier Christy Clark. Butcher was also the March 2017-appointed special prosecutor on the investigation of political donations by lobbyists.

During a break in Bonney’s sentencing hearing last January, Butcher told reporters that he would be finishing his report by March. After Butcher’s new appointment was revealed Nov. 20, theBreaker asked Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel with the Public Prosecution Service, about the status of Butcher’s previous assignment. McLaughlin reiterated the original statement made March 30, 2017, which concluded: “As the matter is currently subject to an ongoing investigation, neither the Criminal Justice Branch nor Mr. Butcher will comment further or release any additional information at this time.”

“The B.C. Prosecution Service has nothing to add at this time,” McLaughlin told theBreaker.

He did not answer whether Butcher’s assignment to investigate James and Lenz had any crossover with the previous probe.

Martland, meanwhile, is a criminal defence lawyer who represented convicted Surrey Six murderer Matthew Johnston.

Martland’s practice website says his specialties include criminal investigations, prosecutions and trials, criminal appeals, violent crimes, drug offences, sexual offences and white-collar crimes. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court of Canada Justice John Major.

There is no official information about the allegations yet.

Special prosecutor Brock Martland

“The RCMP has an active investigation underway, with respect to allegations pertaining to their administrative duties, and we are not in a position to provide any other details or specifics. A thorough investigation is underway and will take the time necessary,” said Sgt. Janelle Shoihet of the RCMP E Division headquarters.

A report in the National Post on Nov. 21, which was based on unnamed sources, claimed that the RCMP investigation was about allegations of fraud and theft. 

“More details could be disclosed,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch. “It seems like the only reason not to would be if others in the Legislature are involved in the alleged wrongdoing and they are worried that those people may destroy evidence that is within the Legislature.”

Who Are They?

Craig James: As clerk of the Legislature, he is akin to the CEO.

James started his 40-year career in parliamentary institutions in 1978 in Saskatchewan. He came to B.C. in 1987 as the first Clerk of Committees. He became the acting chief electoral officer 14 years later and, in 2012, the 12th Clerk of the B.C. House.

James was the acting head of Elections BC from summer 2010 to summer 2011, including the period of the HST referendum. 

In 2012, James came under fire for his lavish travel spending, including junkets to Nairobi, Kenya (for a Commonwealth Parliamentary conference), Washington, D.C. and Phoenix. He spent $43,295 in public money between August and December 2010. Auditor General John Doyle slammed the Legislature for financial mismanagement, including missing receipts and failure to produce financial statements.

James was paid $347,090 and billed $51,349 in expenses for the year ended March 31, 2018.

Craig James (left) and Gary Lenz (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

Gary Lenz: As sergeant-at-arms of the Legislature, he is akin to the COO.

Lenz’s job put him in charge of security, operations and maintenance of the Legislative precinct. Lenz, who was raised in Manitoba, is the former detachment commander for the Sidney-North Saanich RCMP.

Lenz was paid $218,167 and expensed $23,079 last year.

Has This Happened Before?

theBreaker is endeavouring to find out if anything like this has happened in a Canadian legislature or elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Esteemed Canadian history professor and author Jack Granatstein said he was unaware of a similar incident.

Not since Dec. 28, 2003, when police carted away boxes and boxes of documents related to the BC Rail privatization investigation, had anything like this happened at the B.C. Legislature.

What next? 

Your guess is as good as any. 

Mullen described himself as a friend of Plecas’s and a former manager at Kent Institution in Agassiz, where Plecas had acted as a prison judge. Mullen said he had been hired as a $75,000 aide for Plecas in his Abbotsford constituency and in the Speaker’s Office, but lacked legal training.

After the focus shifted to Mullen, Plecas vowed to set the record straight. “You will find it interesting what I have to say this afternoon,” he told reporters on Nov. 22. “I will be making a statement.”

Plecas cancelled his statement. Instead, Mullen made another appearance when he announced former BC Liberal attorney general and former B.C. Supreme Court judge Wally Oppal would join as Plecas’s second special advisor. Oppal revealed the next day that he was behind the cancellation of Plecas’s statement and he defended Plecas as an “honourable person” with an academic background as a criminology professor.

“These things take time, there’s a very complex criminal matter going on,” Oppal said.

BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak demanded Plecas call a meeting of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. In October, the draft schedule included a Dec. 6 meeting.

A separate letter from Polak, but signed by BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, contained 11 questions about the process. Questions surround the role of Mullen, whether the Attorney General’s ministry was consulted for legal advice, and who the lawyer was that attended the Monday night meeting convened by the speaker for the house leaders to be briefed on the situation.

Polak’s letter referred to one sent by Mark Andrews of the Vancouver firm Fasken, who James and Lenz retained. Andrews heads the firm’s commercial litigation group and was the lead lawyer on BC Hydro’s successful court defence of various challenges of the Site C dam.

Andrews wrote in the Nov. 23 letter to the three party house leaders that his clients deny any wrongdoing but will cooperate with the investigation. Andrews demanded the all-party motion for their suspension be rescinded so that they can be reinstated. Andrews’s letter also said Plecas had no constitutional authority to carry out an investigation or hire a special advisor to do so.

“They are entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty,” Andrews wrote. “They are the most senior and long-serving and loyal servants of the Legislative Assembly whose reputations are in the process of being destroyed by these events.”

Suffice to say, more to come…

Watch highlights of the Nov. 20 B.C. Legislature drama below. 

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Bob Mackin The Bombshell NDP Government House Leader Mike

It’s the best time of the year for football fans. 

South of the border, NFL teams are jockeying for playoff spots and NCAA teams are jockeying for invitations to the best bowl games. 

Meanwhile, the 54th Vanier Cup is in Quebec City on Nov. 24. The 106th Grey Cup is Nov. 25 in Edmonton. 

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, John Valentine, a professor at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, offers his thoughts to host Bob Mackin about the state of the CFL versus the NFL. Valentine spoke at the North American Society of the Sociology of Sport convention in Vancouver in early November. 

Also, hear from retired B.C. Lions’ centre Angus Reid about his new book, Thank You Coach: Learning How to Live, By Being Taught How to Play. Reid, a member of the Lions’ 2006 and 2011 Grey Cup-winning squads, talks about the football and life lessons he learned from offensive line coach Dan Dorazio and head coach Wally Buono, who retired this month as the winningest coach in CFL history. 

Both Valentine and Reid weigh-in on the future of football, a storied game facing waning interest in Canada’s major markets amid shifting demographics and ongoing concern over concussions. 

“It’s the greatest team sport because it has the most people participating for one common goal, where everybody is bringing what they can to the table,” Reid said. “We need this sport. It’s a great teaching tool, but we do always have to make sure we are improving it and making sure we are doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible.”

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentaries. 

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theBreaker.news Podcast: It's big game season
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It's the best time of the year

Bob Mackin

Parq Vancouver, the casino and hotel complex beside B.C. Place Stadium, lost $108.5 million for the first nine months of 2018.

That, according to the third quarter report of Dundee Corporation, the Toronto investment firm that is partnered with Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming in the year-old resort.

(Parq)

“The initial ramp up of operations has been slower than anticipated due to a number of factors, including the regulatory cost and business impact of new anti-money laundering regulations applicable to casinos in British Columbia, which were implemented in December 2017,” said the Nov. 14-issued report.

Of the $108.5 million loss, $17.7 million was on operations. The rest of the deficit was from deferred taxes, interest and foreign exchange.

Parq needed a $33.4 million infusion in March to meet construction, interest and hedging payment deadlines. On Sept. 30, an unnamed industry investor funded an additional $20 million into the project in the form of a promissory note.

Dundee CEO Jonathan Goodman told analysts in a Nov. 15 conference call that the disappointing financial performance is a “very frustrating situation,” but Dundee is actively seeking solutions.

“We’re working towards, hopefully, getting a financial restructuring there,” Goodman said. “With that financial restructuring we’ll bring in a new group as a partner in the resort that has significant experience in the hotel and food and beverage side. We’ve identified a number of cost savings which can be very accretive.”

Parq made global headlines in early November when Toronto rapper Drake was refused service. Parq management denied Drake’s claim that he was racially profiled and blamed the incident on new provincial anti-money laundering measures.

Ex-BCLC VP Susan Dolinski (BCLC)

Parq’s $2.84 million in lease payments for 2017-18 were forwarded to the Musqueam Indian Band, under an accommodation agreement with B.C. Pavilion Corp. The casino is operated in partnership with B.C. Lottery Corp. Parq also includes two Marriott luxury hotels with 517 rooms, a 60,000 square foot conference centre, spa, five restaurants, three lounges and a 1,069-spot parkade.

Meanwhile, BCLC’s vice-president of communications and social responsibility, Susan Dolinski, has departed.

Dolinski was paid $243,063 during the last fiscal year and filed claims for $34,642 in expenses. Dolinski was employed by the Crown corporation for more than 11 years. The reason for the split has not been disclosed, but sources say it was not amicable. 

In an email, spokeswoman Sarah Morris confirmed Dolinski is no longer with BCLC and that her role is currently vacant. Morris would not comment on whether Dolinski received severance. “Remuneration information is publicly reported each fall in BCLC’s Financial Information Act report,” Morris said. “BCLC cannot provide you with the additional information you seek due to privacy rules under [the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act].”

Graham Ramsay (LinkedIn)

One of B.C. Place Stadium’s original employees has also departed. Senior director of business development Graham Ramsay left at the end of October. Ramsay started as a part-time team captain in 1983 when the stadium opened. Last year, he was paid $154,632 plus $19,741 in expenses.

Although we normally don’t discuss personnel matters, we have stated to our staff and suppliers that Graham Ramsay has recently retired after more than 35 years service with PavCo, B.C. Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre and we wish Graham all the best in his retirement,” read a statement from PavCo spokeswoman Laura Ballance.

Ramsay’s LinkedIn profile does not say he is retired. Instead, it says he is an “experienced business director, specializing in venue/event management, public policy and communications.”

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Bob Mackin Parq Vancouver, the casino and hotel

Bob Mackin

They’re building a court under Canada Place’s iconic five sails, for the first major sporting event at the Vancouver Convention Centre since Canada beat Brazil in a February 1990 Davis Cup tennis American zone quarterfinal.

The reason is the inaugural TCL Vancouver Showcase, a Nov. 18-24 NCAA Division 1 basketball men’s and women’s tournament.

“It checks every box,” said University of Washington Huskies head coach Mike Hopkins. “Challenging tournament, incredible city, close to home.”

University of Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins (UW)

The Huskies and Santa Clara Broncos, Hall of Famer Steve Nash’s alma mater, will be the first to tip-off in the temporary, 3,100-seat arena on Nov. 18 at 5 p.m., followed by Texas A&M Aggies and Minnesota Golden Gophers at 7:30 p.m.

Hopkins is preparing for his second season with the Dawgs, after a 21-13 overall record last year. He turned around a program that struggled at 9-22 in 2016-17. The Huskies were ranked 24th in the USA Today preseason coaches poll.

“We just keep reinforcing it’s just a number, the only thing that matters is what happens inside the lines,” Hopkins said. “You’ve got to be able to prove yourself with really good play. Being able to go up there and play in Vancouver in a quality tournament gives you the opportunity to show people if you’re a top 25 team or not.”

Hopkins came to Seattle after 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse to Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim. As a player, Hopkins starred for the Orange where one of his teammates was Lawrence Moten, a future Vancouver Grizzlies draft pick.   

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw (UND)

“Anybody that you talk about in the NBA, they loved going to Vancouver and Seattle. They said they were great sports cities, great NBA environments. When you have that, you’d love to see teams in those cities,” Hopkins said. “Maybe in the next four to five years, maybe we see NBA basketball come back to both Vancouver and Seattle.”

With the Key Arena renovation getting city hall’s green light, Seattle is first in line. For now, Vancouver has the chance to be the home of the top, early season college hoops meet. The teams entered hope Vancouver is their first stop on the road to the men’s Final Four in Minneapolis and women’s Final Four in Tampa.

“I don’t think there’s any other place in the country you’re going to see this kind of talent,” said Muffet McGraw, head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the defending women’s national champion. “We like to challenge ourselves and play outside the conference, and see what the best teams look like because you don’t want to wait until you get to the NCAA tournament. This is a mini-NCAA tournament here, it’s going to be great basketball.”

McGraw is entering her 32nd season as a coach with a career .777 winning percentage. Her team’s national championship last Easter Sunday came 17 years to the day after her first. Guard Arike Ogunbowale clinched the title with a basket at the buzzer.

Langley’s Louise Forsyth (Gonzaga/Instagram)

The Vancouver Showcase will be a homecoming for Gonzaga Bulldogs’ sophomore guard Louise Forsyth of Langley. Forsyth was a member of the Brookswood secondary team that won three straight AAA B.C. titles.

Her coach, Lisa Fortier, is eager to see Forsyth perform in front of friends and family.

“It’s fun for a coach to watch a player get excited, they play a little extra, they want it a little bit more, playing in their hometown,” said Fortier, whose Spokane, Wash.-based squad went 27-6 last season.

Forsyth played in 13 games last season, including three of the last five regular season games. Fortier is particularly impressed with Forsyth’s work ethic.

“A lot of people will get in the gym and do their position work at one pace, and once you get into the game situation, you’re naturally set up and then you can’t make crisp passes, crisp reads, you can’t make shots because you’re going that much faster,” Fortier said. “That’s not something she struggles with at all, because she practices at full-speed all the time which we love about her. She’s as well conditioned an athlete as we’ve ever had.”

Vancouver Showcase doubleheader tickets are $32 to $213.

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Bob Mackin They’re building a court under Canada