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The Vision Vancouver era at city hall is over. What will the Kennedy Stewart era bring?

The former Burnaby South NDP MP will be sworn-in the 40th mayor in City of Vancouver history on Nov. 5 and has a big job ahead of him to deal with homelessness, the opioid crisis and a city hall needing a transparency and accountability overhaul. An overhaul that outgoing Mayor Gregor Robertson promised in 2008, but didn’t deliver.

In an exclusive interview near his False Creek North home, Stewart told Podcast host Bob Mackin that a lobbyist registry would be one of his first priorities. 

“If we do it at the City of Vancouver then other municipalities might follow suit,” Stewart said. “It was my first promise, launching my campaign. I am already keen. It’s an easy first thing I can deliver to the city.”

Stewart, who won the Oct. 20 civic election with less than 1,000 votes over the NPA’s Ken Sim, said his advantage is being an independent. But it also means negotiating with the five NPA councillors, three Greens and one each from OneCity and COPE to find consensus and to avoid political deadlock. 

Also on this special edition of Podcast, an encore presentation of Gregor Robertson in his own words and ResearchCo pollster Mario Canseco offers his take on the legacy of Robertson and Vision. Plus commentaries.

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The Vision Vancouver era at city hall

Bob Mackin

The sign on the stage said Legacy Celebration.

But it was really the Vision Vancouver farewell party.

With only one candidate elected in the Oct. 20 election (Allan Wong to school board) and the retiring Mayor Gregor Robertson (an organic juiceman  beyond his best before date) passing the chain of office to Kennedy Stewart on Nov. 5, hundreds of Visionistas gathered at the Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street on Nov. 2. A bittersweet soiree for a party that self-destructed.

Gregor Robertson (left) and Mike Magee (Mackin)

A small cluster of bicycles was parked outside by the purple-lit tented entrance. Food trucks were parked inside, with a concert-style stage at the opposite end.   

It was a who’s who of the NDP/Liberal coalition, the COPE splinter group that drifted to the right. It was COPE stalwart Tim Louis that famously called Vision the “NPA, only with bike lanes.”

Michael Davis, the former NPA president who defected to Vision in the 2014 election was there. So was Bob Ransford, the NPA strategist who joined Vision during 2011’s campaign. Peter Ladner, the NPA councillor who lost to Robertson for the mayoralty in 2008, was featured in a retrospective video.

Also in attendance: Lobbyist Bill “No to Proportional Representation” Tieleman and NDP Advanced Education Minister Melanie “Don’t Know Proportional Representation” Mark; Stratcom pollster Bob Penner; Duncan Wlodarczak, the ex-Vision staffer who joined developer Onni as chief of staff; lobbyist and ex-Vision strategist Marcella Munro; ex-Vision and BC Liberals social media strategist Diamond Isinger (who recently quit the Prime Minister’s Office to join the B.C. Council of Forest Industries); columnist Sandy Garossino of the Vision organ National Observer; Reliance Properties president and Urban Development Institute chair Jon Stovell; Janice MacKenzie, the former city clerk who oversaw the 2014 civic election; Mike Magee, Robertson’s ex-chief of staff, was seen, sitting in the shadows, on the opposite side of the room from where Kevin Quinlan, his protege and current chief of staff, was standing; University of B.C. professor and Offsetters carbon credits salesman James Tansey; and PR agent Lesli Boldt.

Two videos by Hogan Millar Media, the Vision and BC Liberal ad agency, were exhibited. The first, heavy on comments from Robertson. The second, riddled with testimonials from folks that benefitted from Vision decisions.

David Suzuki called Robertson “goddamn handsome…”

Marcella Munro (left) and Michael Davis (Mackin)

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau: “You might deserve a break, but I’m confident your hard work will continue.”

Premier John Horgan: “He did a spectacular job, in holding fast to his principles and values despite the naysayers that come and go. He stuck with it. He did a tremendous job.”

Billionaire Jimmy Pattison: “In my opinion he has been a good mayor for Vancouver the last 10 years and certainly has raised the image of our city to a place that it’s never been before.”

Former police chief Jim Chu, now a vice-president with the Aquilini family: “The city is much safer because of your contributions.”

Longtime Vision bagman and Hollyhock honcho Joel Solomon: “The world needs politicians like you.”

Hootsuite boss Ryan Holmes, whose company worked on Vision campaigns and scored a lease in a city-owned building: “You’ve set an amazing foundation for the city.”

Then it was time for the man himself, who ad libbed his speech and feigned being uncomfortable in front of the adoring crowd. “First and foremost this is not about me, OK? This is about all of us.”

Then he took credit for leading the “most progressive government elected for the longest time in a major Canadian city.”

Clockwise, from left: Jim Pattison, Joel Solomon, David Suzuki, Ryan Holmes, Justin Trudeau and Jim Chu. (Vision Vancouver)

“Those 10,000 City of Vancouver staff owe us incredible gratitude,” he said. “We owe them incredible gratitude as well, we give them the jobs as taxpayers. They do an incredible job.”

Robertson implored supporters to “lift up the most vulnerable in our city, and stop the opioid epidemic and get people housed…

“We have so much going for us, so much wealth and privilege,” he said, also urging supporters to care for the planet.

“I just encourage you all to dig a little deeper going forward, keep the pressure on the new mayor and council to be even better, delivering more for this community. Let’s take it to the next level.”

Then Robertson, and Vision veterans Raymond Louie, Heather Deal, Patti Bacchus, Tim Stevenson, George Chow, were piped off the stage by a Seaforth soldier in a kilt.

The faithful began to leave. Some turned left toward the supercar sales showrooms on Burrard, passing by the 39 Brigade tank/Afghanistan war monument, where a man was found dead of an apparent overdose on a Friday evening in July.

Others turned right, walking past the Molson Brewery, now owned by luxury condo specialist Concord Pacific, and onward over the Burrard Bridge. The bridge that Vision gave a vehicle lane to cyclists before finally heeding engineers’ advice to reinforce the aging structure. 

Underneath the bridge, some of the city’s homeless.

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Bob Mackin The sign on the stage

Bob Mackin

The Gibsons town councillor who withdrew his mayoral candidacy after nominations closed has been charged with impaired driving.

The Sunshine Coast RCMP issued a news release in early afternoon Nov. 2, announcing that Silas David White had been charged Oct. 24 with impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm and care of control of a motor vehicle with blood alcohol over the legal limit, causing an accident resulting in bodily harm.

The news release does not explain why there was a delay in telling the public that a local politician had been charged.

The RCMP statement says that emergency crews attended a single-vehicle crash scene on Sept. 16 at 10:55 p.m. on Gower Point Road near 12th Street in Gibsons. There were three occupants of the vehicle who were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver was taken into custody under suspicion of impaired driving.

White’s first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 21 in Sechelt Provincial Court. 

White, a book publisher, was elected to Gibsons council in 2014 and was appointed the town’s director on the Sunshine Coast Regional District board.

White announced his run for the mayoralty in July and was the only candidate for mayor when nominations closed Sept. 14. But he withdrew two days after the crash. At the time, White blamed the effects of a concussion from a July 1 cycling crash.

“Like many concussions, it did not seem serious at first, but as time went on, severe after-effects and other stress emerged,” according to White’s withdrawal statement. “My doctor has told me I should take a complete break from stressful activities to permit healing.”

In the statement, White said that he did not originally heed his doctor’s advice, “which only caused my condition to worsen and has led to a compounding series of problems and poor judgment.”

Minutes for the Gibsons town council meeting of Sept. 18 show that White was present. White announced his withdrawal on Sept. 18. Nominations were reopened Sept. 19-24. White was absent from the Oct. 2 and 16 meetings, however.

Bill Beamish was elected the new mayor of Gibsons in a landslide on Oct. 20.

Contacted by phone on Nov. 2, White mentioned the concussion and told theBreaker that he was working on a statement with this lawyer. “I don’t think I could handle an interview,” he said.

In the Nov. 2 statement, White called the last four months “an unimaginably dark time in my life.” 

White claimed in the new statement that he could not talk about the crash “for a number of reasons, including protecting the privacy of others involved.” 

“I am extremely grateful for the Gibsons and District Volunteer Fire Department and other first responders who attended the scene,” the statement reads. “I had not been charged with anything at that time, but the accident clearly illustrated to me and my loved ones that my judgment that evening was severely compromised by my brain injury. I felt I owed it to myself, my family and my community to concentrate on my ongoing recovery and medical treatment, and eventually face the consequences of the accident, as a private citizen rather than pressing on as a public official. This is also why shortly thereafter, I withdrew my name from the mayoral election.”

The statement said he received a court summons Nov. 1. “I have engaged legal counsel and hope to have these charges resolved as quickly as possible.”

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Bob Mackin The Gibsons town councillor who withdrew

Bob Mackin

Just two days after Minister Melanie Mark’s embarrassing admission that she is clueless about proportional representation, help arrived in her office.

An Oct. 29 NDP cabinet order announced Mike Eso’s appointment to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training through the end of February. Eso is the top B.C. Government and Service Employees Union official on Vancouver Island and president of the Victoria Labour Council.

Melanie Mark (left) at her 2016 swearing-in with Mike Eso (right). (Berson)

A representative of Mark’s ministry, who refused to allow his name to be published, said longtime NDP supporter Eso was seconded and will be paid up to $49,000.

“He will be providing additional capacity in the minister’s office as the government continues to work to deliver on its mandate,” according to a prepared statement. “His focus will be on coordination of cross-government priorities, and policy development and implementation.”

Eso is listed as a donor of $156,810 to the NDP, mainly through his VLC role.

During a proportional representation Yes campaign photo op in her Mount Pleasant riding on Oct. 27, Mark told reporters from Global BC and CBC  that “I do have a degree in political science, but I’m not an expert in electoral representation.” Mark, who is the minister responsible for universities and colleges, was unable to explain the choices British Columbians face in the mail-in referendum through Nov. 30.

BCGEU’s Component 7 includes locals that represent workers at the B.C. Institute of Technology and Justice Institute of B.C., both institutions that are regulated and funded by Mark’s ministry.

Mark’s office directory shows Liam Iliffe is her senior ministerial assistant, Michael Snoddon her ministerial assistant and Christina Rzepa her executive assistant. She also has an administrative coordinator and administrative assistant.

Iliffe’s wife, Sheena McConnell, is Premier John Horgan’s press secretary. Snoddon is one of B.C.’s two representatives on the NDP’s federal executive. Rzepa is a cellist and president of the Vancouver Mount Pleasant riding association.

Lecia Stewart (left) and Layne Clark (The Stewart Group)

Meanwhile, the daughter of ex-Premier Glen Clark is now working for a transit infrastructure lobbyist.

Layne Clark spent almost a year as Horgan’s director of liaison and coordination. She quit in July to join The Stewart Group, a company headed by Lecia Stewart, the ex-journalist and B.C. Transit bureaucrat who Glen Clark picked in 1997 to oversee what became SkyTrain’s Millennium Line.

Stewart was fired with a $402,000 golden parachute in 2001 after Gordon Campbell led the BC Liberals into power. The Stewart Group describes itself as a “boutique consulting firm offering strategic advisory services in transportation, with a particular focus on urban rail projects.” It specializes in “bid and pursuit strategies, procurement support, and advocacy development.”

Stewart was involved in the SNC-Lavalin-involved bid to build the $2.1 billion Ottawa Confederation Line LRT extension. Her firm also held six-figure contracts with City of Edmonton and City of Surrey’s LRT offices.

In 2013, she scored an $80,000 no-bid TransLink contract to consult on the agency’s regional transportation and long-term funding plan.

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Bob Mackin Just two days after Minister Melanie

Bob Mackin

Add Vancouver developer Rob Macdonald to the anti-proportional representation campaign.

Macdonald says in a two-page commentary making the rounds that Canada is blessed with the first past the post system of elections and British Columbia would be foolish to switch.

“We could actually have a situation where the Saltspring Island Nut Job Party holds the balance of controlling power in our government, and we should ask ourselves if that is a prospect that is appealing,” Macdonald wrote.

Macdonald was the biggest backer of No Proportional Representation B.C. Society director Suzanne Anton when she ran for mayor in 2011. He donated a whopping $900,000 to the NPA campaign.

Developer Rob Macdonald

Macdonald has not responded to theBreaker. The commentary sent to Macdonald’s business associates urges them to pass it on and to vote against electoral reform in the NDP government’s mail-in referendum.

Macdonald’s note said PR breeds bigger government deficits, debts, taxes and “more pigs at the public trough.” Smaller, fringe parties would get pet projects and pay-offs to join a coalition.

“Do we really want to operate like Italy or Greece which are dysfunctional basket cases?”

Macdonald wrote that PR wouldn’t improve the country. Governments are known immediately after a first past the post election. Under PR, coalitions can take weeks and months to form. Under first past the post, he wrote, local people are directly elected. Under PR, those who would normally be unelectable could get into government on party lists submitted by party bosses. 

Ultimately, Macdonald says the debate is really between the pursuit of power and good government. PR would create “a tyranny of a minority of people that could never win a majority government on their own and that we would probably not consider hiring to run a peanut stand.”

The left wing, he said, believes that PR would allow “them and their fringy friends to implant B.C. with their socialist agenda forevermore.”

“The leftists of this province are selling (PR) like it is the best thing since sliced bread, but as my father would say — they are selling us a big bucket of shit while trying to get us to believe it is tasty beef stew with black bean sauce.”

Boosters of proportional representation argue that the winner of a B.C. election tends to get all the power with only 40% of the popular vote. 

Ballots are being delivered province-wide. The mail-in referendum runs through Nov. 30.

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Bob Mackin Add Vancouver developer Rob Macdonald to

Bob Mackin

Like a ski jumper, Whistler’s potential to host two sports for the 2026 Winter Olympics is up in the air.

But it could come crashing down Oct. 31 in spectacular fashion, like Vinko Bogataj, the Yugoslav “agony of defeat” athlete from ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Calgary city council’s 2026 Winter Olympics bid exploration committee voted 14-0 on Oct. 30 to ask the Oct. 31 city council meeting to cancel the Nov. 13 plebiscite and take all steps to wind-up the committee and the Calgary 2026 bid corporation. Ten votes are needed at city council to pull 1988-host Calgary out of the 2026 contest. Other 2026 bidders are Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and Stockholm, Sweden.

Calgary’s McMahon Stadium in 1988 (Canadian Olympic Committee)

In September, when the vote was scheduled, Calgary officials estimated the Games would cost $5.2 billion, if awarded by International Olympic Committee next year. But the federal and Alberta governments, and the city of Calgary and town of Canmore failed to negotiate a $3 billion cost-sharing formula.

Ottawa pledged $1.5 billion and the Alberta government capped its offer at $700 million. Unlike Vancouver 2010, however, the Alberta government is refusing to cover cost-overruns for Calgary 2026. Fewer cities are lining-up to host Summer or Winter Olympics, because of rising costs and uncertain legacies. 

“The clock has run out, and I think it’s time that we move on,” said committee chair Coun. Evan Woolley. “It’s not as if council doesn’t have an abundance of other issues to deal with, the economy, our struggling downtown and business community, community safety and vibrancy, transportation and transit, to name a few.”

The draft hosting plan proposed ski jumping and nordic combined be in the Callaghan Valley’s Whistler Olympic Park, a legacy of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Calgary 2026 estimated it would save $50 million to use the Whistler facilities instead of rebuilding the Calgary 1988 venues.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said in an interview that “it is disappointing, but it’s not surprising.”

“I knew that there were discussions back and forth amongst the three levels of government, to the funding each group was going to be chipping in,”she told theBreaker. “I knew that there was controversy about who said what.”

Whistler’s outgoing mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden (RMOW)

Wilhelm-Morden, whose term ends next week, said that Whistler officials had remained in touch with the bid committee, but there had been no news on costs for Whistler.

“We were waiting for the plebiscite and the outcome of the plebiscite,” she said. “We haven’t wasted a lot of energy or time at our end, thankfully.”

UPDATE (Oct. 31): Calgary city council voted 8-7 against the motion, enabling the Nov. 13 plebiscite to proceed. Calgary 2026 convinced the federal and Alberta governments to continue negotiating a cost-sharing agreement based on a revised budget.

However, the office of B.C.’s minister responsible for sport told theBreaker that there have been no talks about the plan to host events in the Callaghan Valley. 

“So far, we have not been involved in the drafting of the Calgary 2026 bid and to date have not been formally approached by the bid organizers,” according to a statement attributed to Minister Lisa Beare. “If we are formally approached, we will look forward learning more about this proposal – especially how it might benefit British Columbians.

“We would also need to carefully consider any potential costs or risks to the province. We’re working for the people of B.C., and any decision on events like this will be made with their best interests in mind.”

Calgary’s Sept. 12 plan estimated 155 athletes and 104 team officials, for a total 259, would be accommodated in Whistler. The nordic venue would need “minor” renovations, including upgrades to the ski jump in-run and refrigeration, cross-country ski trails and utilities. The rest of the nordic sports would be held closer to Calgary, in Canmore.

Transportation and security considerations would extend well beyond Whistler, however. Vancouver International Airport is identified in the book as “first port of entry for many accredited clients,” which includes athletes, officials, sponsors and media. A retail store for Games products would be in “Whistler/Vancouver,” as would a ticket box office.

British Columbia’s auditor general never did a post-2010 Games audit, but media outlets have long estimated it cost between $7 billion and $8 billion to stage and host the 2010 Games, including the Canada Line rapid transit and Sea-to-Sky Highway improvement.

Financial records and board minutes remain hidden from the public at the Vancouver Archives, as per the agreement between VANOC and City of Vancouver. Not until 2025 is the public scheduled to finally get a chance to peek at organizing committee board minutes, to learn more about the costs and complexities of the Olympics held in the wake of the Great Recession.

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Bob Mackin Like a ski jumper, Whistler’s potential

Bob Mackin

Two reports published in the same week by think tanks in separate hemispheres both warn of China’s increasing influence in democratic countries.

In the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s “Hard Edge of Sharp Power: Understanding China’s Influence Operations Abroad,” J. Michael Cole wrote that China’s soft power campaign under president-for-life Xi Jinping has given way to sharp power, because spending on media, partnerships, academic outreach and the cultural industry have not borne fruit.

Macdonald-Laurier Institute research on China’s influence.

“Given its inability to project a friendly face, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has had to increase its reliance on other, less overt ways of promoting Chinese interests internationally,” said Taipei-based security analyst Cole in the Oct. 25 report. “The term sharp power describes what had hitherto been referred to as political warfare or influence operations. Sharp power encapsulates a strategy by autocratic regimes that ‘pierces, penetrates, or perforates the political and information environments in the targeted countries’.”

The report comes more than two weeks after revelations about a pro-Beijing expats association in Richmond that offered a $20 “transportation subsidy” on WeChat for its members to vote on a list of recommended candidates in the Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver civic elections. Richmond RCMP said on the eve of the Oct. 20 elections that it had insufficient evidence to recommend charges, but the investigation is ongoing.

Cole wrote that the CCP uses co-optation, bribery, incentivization, disinformation, censorship, and propaganda to further its international strategies.

“Examples include Beijing’s influence over multiple Chinese diaspora community associations abroad, its cultivation of current and former politicians in Australia, Canada and elsewhere, and efforts to censor books and publications critical of Chinese regime internationally.”

Cole’s report recommended, among other things, revising laws to ensure government officials are not co-opted by foreign agents. Retired government officials should be banned from working for foreign entities linked to authoritarian regimes for a minimum two years after leaving office.

He also said law enforcement and intelligence agencies need closer cooperation and government should expand outreach to educate the public on political warfare. “Improve outreach to Chinese communities, both for reassurance purposes and to benefit from their knowledge.”

The report also said it should be made more difficult for authoritarian regimes and their proxies to sue journalists and academics for defamation, and there should be beefed-up safeguards to stop wrongful dismissals or editors and journalists in Chinese-language media.

Cole cited CCP pressure on media abroad that led to the firing of Global Chinese Press editor Lei Jin after he tried to publish an obituary about Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and Helen Wang, Chinese Canadian Post editor, for publishing a piece critical of Liberal Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan after complaints from the Chinese consulate and pro-Beijing groups.

In 2016, Global Chinese Press also canceled a column by Gao Bingchen after he criticized Foreign Minister Wang Yi over his berating of a Canadian journalist who asked Wang a question about human rights during a visit to Ottawa,” Cole wrote. “Officials seeking to ingratiate themselves with Chinese authorities or to secure lucrative deals have also been complicit in the silencing of media coverage.”

Cole also mentioned ex-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s 2015 denial of access to Canadian media at three events with the party secretary of Jiangsu province, Luo Zhijun, during a Toronto visit.

Australian researcher Alex Joske

“We are only in the beginning phase of understanding the nature and scope of China’s sharp power challenge. Simply put, we have failed to pay enough attention to China over the years, or believed, as many did, that engagement would eventually turn the regime into a more liberal, if not democratic, partner in global affairs. Developments in China under Xi Jinping have put an end to such hopes. If we are to fashion the right response to that problem, we must first better understand China and the CCP. We can no longer afford to regard it as a distant phenomenon.”China 

Meanwhile, Alex Joske’s Oct. 30-published Picking flowers, making honey: The Chinese military’s collaboration with foreign universities” report said approximately 300 Chinese military scientists have been sent to Canada to collaborate with universities since 2007. A total of 2,500 linked to the People’s Liberation Army have been sent to various countries.

China has sent PLA scientists abroad who specialize in nuclear and chemical weapons, tank technology and aerodynamics. University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and McGill University are among the 10 most-active collaborators with China, as measured by peer-reviewed publications from 2006 to 2017.

“Helping a rival military develop its expertise and technology isn’t in the national interest, yet it’s not clear that Western universities and governments are fully aware of this phenomenon,” wrote Australian Strategic Policy Institute researcher Joske. “Some universities have failed to respond to legitimate security concerns in their engagement with China. Current policies by governments and universities have not fully addressed issues like the transfer of knowledge and technology through collaboration with the PLA. Clear government policy towards universities working with the PLA is also lacking.

Joske recommended governments limit technology transfer, better scrutinize visa applications from Chinese military scientists and enact new laws targeting military end users.

Governments should also consider increasing funding to strategic science and technology fields, while actively limiting problematic foreign investment in those fields,” he wrote. “Universities must recognize the risks of such collaboration and seek to learn the extent and nature of their collaboration with the PLA by actively working with government, civil society and security professionals.”

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Bob Mackin Two reports published in the same

Kerry Starchuk is afraid her hometown is coming apart because of a widening cultural and economic divide.

For eight years, she has campaigned for English language on signs in Richmond, where more than 60% of residents are ethnic Chinese. She is also behind a petition to the House of Commons seeking an end to birth tourism.

She felt she was being ignored by city council, so she decided to run in the Oct. 20 civic election. Knocking on doors, waving signs and appearing at all-candidates meetings became her life for a month.

“I actually took it to the next level so the politicians at city hall were going to take me more seriously,” said Starchuk in an interview with host Bob Mackin on this week’s edition of Podcast

Starchuk didn’t win, but she did get the issues that she cares about discussed by candidates of all stripes at all-candidates meetings. She ended up with the support of almost 7,000 voters.

“I encourage other people to get involved. We had 30 people that ran for city council, that’s a lot. And if all those 30 people meet outside… and we form some citizen group and then empower those people to be part of the solutions. If we’re just going to rely on the eight people [on city council], it might not be enough for Richmond.”

Listen to the full interview with Starchuk. Also, hear Chinese community activist Meena Wong’s thoughts on the low voter turnout. Elections across the province averaged a 36% participation rate.

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Kerry Starchuk is afraid her hometown is

Bob Mackin

Tom Armour is waiting for the call that will help change his life. 

If he lived in Alberta, Armour would have already had deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to treat Parkinson’s Disease. But, because he’s a British Columbian, the wait continues.

“It’s very frustrating that nothing has happened since I was diagnosed and waited for surgery,” said Fort Langley’s Armour in an interview.

The degenerative disease causes a loss of control of movements, body and emotions. But a deep brain stimulation implant can treat those symptoms and vastly improve the quality of life.

Armour was diagnosed eight years ago when he was 58. He sold his steel erection business, Armour Installations, to focus on his health. It took over three years for him to see neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Honey, B.C.’s only trained and funded DBS specialist. It will be two years this December since he was deemed a suitable candidate for the complicated surgery.

Brain stimulation device for patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation surgery (Parkinson B.C.)

By comparison, Alberta has two qualified neurosurgeons and a six-month wait list. Ontario’s wait list is two-to-three months.

Honey does approximately 40 of the surgeries a year. Honey-trained Dr. Zurab Ivanishvili at Royal Columbian Hospital is ready to go, but awaits funding. The Parkinson Society British Columbia wants at least two more surgeons recruited for B.C., a reciprocal agreement with Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario to send B.C. patients there and new technology and techniques to reduce the surgery time 

The society set-up a petition that has nearly 5,000 supporters. Because it is an electronic petition, it will not be admissible in the Legislature, but it can still be sent to Health Minister Adrian Dix’s office. The petition website shows BC Liberal MLA Tom Shypitka with patient Terry Hume, who demonstrates the value of DBS, before and after activating the pacemaker-like stimulator.

In Question Period on Oct. 25, BC Liberal opposition members Norm Letnick and Greg Kyllo challenged Dix to accelerate access to DBS. Dix admitted the B.C. government is falling short.

“There are, in fact — and have been over the last four or five years — significant and growing wait times for DBS interventions, and it’s very important,” Dix said. “A lot of us in our families and a lot of us as constituents know people who are dealing with Parkinson’s disease. It’s a very serious situation, and DBS, for many of them, is helpful. In fact, the range of people that it can help has increased over that time. In this year, we’ve increased the number of interventions scheduled by 50 percent. That number will not be adequate, I think, to reduce the wait times, but it makes the situation better than it was before. It’s gone from 23 interventions to 36 interventions this year.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix (Hansard)

Dix said it puts the health care system in jeopardy if only one person in B.C. can perform the surgery. “The health authorities, both Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health, are working on that issue right now… We’re working on the issue of expanding access to those surgeries now, and we’ll have more to report in the near future.”

Armour said DBS can benefit the government in the long run, through fewer visits to hospitals and by helping Parkinson’s patients remain productive.

“It can save them a fortune,” Armour said. “The cost of doing the surgery and the followup, I could keep working another 10 years. That’s going to more than pay for it.”

This is not the first uphill battle for Parkinson’s patients with the B.C. government.

In February 2017, the BC Liberal government finally relented and announced it would fund Duodopa, the trade name for the levodopa/carbidopa intestinal gel (LCIG) to treat people with the most severe symptoms.

Documents obtained by theBreaker showed how Health Minister Terry Lake, assistant deputy minister Barbara Walman, drug intelligence executive director Eric Lun and special authority director Susan Bouma thwarted efforts to fund about 10 patients needing the $60,000-a-year drug.

“Given the fiscal pressures affecting PharmaCare and the broader health system, the program has limited capacity to expand coverage for new benefits and must be very selective in that regard,” Lun wrote to Jean Blake, the CEO of Parkinson Society B.C. on May 9, 2016. “Due to the extremely high cost of this product, coverage requests are not being considered, including exceptional cases.”

Dr. Martin McKeown, the UBC Chair in Parkinson’s Research, wrote to Bouma in June 2016, a year after writing to Lun on the same topic. “If our patient were a resident of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec or Yukon, my patient would successfully gain public reimbursement for LCIG.”

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Bob Mackin Tom Armour is waiting for

Bob Mackin

The end of Vision Vancouver’s decade-long majority on city council, and the lack of a majority party on the Oct. 20-elected city council, signals the end of a secret government.

It doesn’t mean an end to government secrecy. Governments will always try to keep secrets and reporters will do their best to expose them.

But the secret government at 12th and Cambie is over.

Vancouverites should rejoice.

Vancouver city council met most of the time in front of the public, as city council or one of the standing committees. Sometimes it declared it would meet in camera, behind closed doors. But calendars for Mayor Gregor Robertson, his chief of staff Kevin Quinlan and their correspondence confirm there were other meetings. For the Vision Vancouver caucus only.

Gregor Robertson and city council at the 2008 swearing-in ceremony (Joshua Berson)

Councillors from other parties were not invited. You were not invited. What went on at these meetings is mostly a mystery.

When theBreaker asked for minutes and agendas for a series of caucus meetings held in 2017, the city’s freedom of information office said no records existed.

“The Mayor’s Office confirms there are no agendas or minutes for the caucus meetings held. It was also confirmed that there are no meeting notes,” said the response letter from city hall last November. “The caucus meetings are only verbal party updates and verbal discussions regarding regional, provincial and federal issues as well as upcoming events.”

Messages contained in Robertson’s secret Gmail account, discovered by theBreaker, indicate otherwise. The Vision Vancouver caucus meetings were also incubators for policy later adopted by the Vision council members, who rarely showed dissent in public meetings.

For instance, a May 22, 2016 email from Coun. Heather Deal to Robertson and Quinlan about a public art motion said: “Once you have signed off I will send it to caucus. It has to go to clerk before caucus on Tuesday.”

In the opinion of a prominent British Columbia municipal affairs lawyer, Vision Vancouver was breaking the law by running a secret government.

“If they are caucusing, they have a problem,” said Raymond Young in a September 2015 Vancouver Sun story. “That’s a council meeting.”

Young’s presentation to the 2015 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on the laws surrounding open meetings said that a meeting includes any deliberation involving a quorum of members of a governing body to discuss any public business or policy over which they have control.

In Vancouver, where there are 10 councillors and the mayor, the quorum is six — Robertson plus Heather Deal, Kerry Jang, Raymond Louie, Andrea Reimer and Tim Stevenson. (The number was seven before Geoff Meggs quit council to become Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff in July 2017; it will soon be zero after the only remaining incumbent, Deal, lost.)

The Vancouver Charter’s section 165.1 is under the heading “General rule that meetings must be open to the public.” A council cannot meet behind closed doors, except to discuss land transactions, labour relations and legal matters. Even then, the council must publicize the meeting and state the legal basis for the closure. The names of all persons in attendance must be kept.

“Our citizens are entitled to more than a result,” said Young’s presentation. “They are entitled not only to know what government decides, but to observe how and why every decision is reached.”

A 2007 case about the City of London, Ont. said open meeting laws “imbue municipal governments with a robust democratic legitimacy.”

“The democratic legitimacy of municipal decisions does not spring solely from periodic elections, but also from a decision-making process that is transparent, accessible to the public, and mandated by law,” read the verdict. “When a municipal government improperly acts with secrecy, this undermines the democratic legitimacy of its decision, and such decisions, even when intra vires [within authority], are less worthy of deference.”

British Columbia’s Ombudsperson published a 2012 report called Open Meetings: Best Practices Guide for Local Governments. The decision to close a meeting, it said, must not be made hastily or without careful consideration of the principles and values of municipal laws. It also said local governments should record minutes for closed meetings, at least in as much detail as open meetings.

“Minutes should include a detailed description of the discussion, any specific documents considered, any motions, resolutions or votes, and any directions issued,” the report recommended. “This will not only provide a reference for attendees, but, when the minutes are eventually released, will inform members of the public and reassure them that the matter was properly discussed in a closed meeting and that procedural requirements were satisfied.”

Vision Vancouver did not follow the Ombudsperson’s advice. Nor did it live up to Robertson’s Dec. 8, 2008 swearing-in speech.

“When the city uses your money, you have a right to know where it’s being spent, and what it’s being used for. When leaders fall short of that standard, public confidence is shaken,” Robertson said. “I will not let you down on making city hall more open and accountable.”

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner told theBreaker in January that it was powerless to act, because there is no duty to document law.

Horgan has not delivered on a duty to document promise that was contained in the party’s 2017 election platform.

A platform that was developed with input from Meggs.

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Deal Caucus Email by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The end of Vision Vancouver’s decade-long