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Bob Mackin

One of the candidates who attended a political fundraiser at a pro-Beijing society’s clubhouse in Richmond said no money changed hands at the event.

Richmond Community Coalition’s Chak Au, who is seeking a third term on city council in Saturday’s civic election, called the Aug. 26 ceremony at the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society a “photo op.”

Incumbent Richmond Coun. Chak Au at the Wen Zhou Friendship Society’s Aug. 26 ceremony (Wenzhouren.ca)

“We were told that they raised $26,000 altogether, by their individual members,” Au said in an interview at Richmond city hall on Oct. 16. “That was basically a photo op. They just asked us to say a few words about what they thought about the upcoming election and what we want to do if we become successful.”

Au was joined at the ceremony by Richmond mayoral candidate Hong Guo, city council candidates Melissa Zhang (RCC) and Peter Liu (Richmond First), plus Coalition Vancouver’s mayoral candidate Wai Young and council candidate Jason Xie, Vision Vancouver council candidate Wei Qiao Zhang, and Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. James Wang. The society’s website said it started the fundraising campaign on July 1. 

Au was the only one of the above candidates that has agreed to an interview. Au said he was not told how the money would be allotted among the candidates and that he is not involved in accepting RCC donations. That is the duty of the party’s financial agent, Aman Janjua, he said. 

“I did not know how much or who donated to the campaign. But there’s no individual money coming to me and I have not received any cheques whatsoever from them or any of their members,” Au said.

theBreaker reached Janjua, a senior manager at KPMG, for comment late in the afternoon on Oct. 16 and subsequently sent him a list of questions about the society’s donation and whether any of its directors had donated as individuals. He has yet to respond.

Au said later by text message that the financial agent confirmed to Elections BC “that no donations have come to RCC from Wenzhou Society, as under the new government regulations it is illegal.”

“I’ve always understood that non-profit societies are not supposed to donate, that is always the law,” Au said during the earlier interview. “So I think in the past we have received corporate donations, but I know the law has changed, it’s only individuals [allowed to donate].”

The society has not responded to email from theBreaker. There is no answer on the society’s phone numbers. theBreaker has visited the clubhouse twice, but nobody has answered the door. 

The same society’s WeChat account sparked an RCMP investigation into vote-buying, after it published a list of recommended candidates, including Au, and offered a $20 “transportation subsidy.” The controversy prompted Au’s slate, the Richmond Community Coalition, to call on Chinese activist groups to “respectfully stop lobbying Chinese voters to mark their ballots only for Chinese candidates.”

“It’s one thing that people want to get involved, we should encourage that,” Au said. “It’s another thing that they have to follow the rules and understand the rules.”

Campaign signs outside the Wen Zhou Friendship Society near Aberdeen Centre (Mackin)

The society is officially registered in B.C. as Wen Zhou Friendship Society. It was dissolved for failure to file a report on July 22, but restored on Oct. 5. The directors are You Zhao Feng, Zheng Ke Long and Zhu Jian Guo of Vancouver and Zhang Guan Hui of Richmond.

You is also a director of the Canada Wenzhou Business Association, which was registered to “pool the wisdom and strength of immigrants from Wenzhou; To establish an investment platform; and To promote economic exchanges between Canada and China.” Pan Miaofei is a $400,000 donor to the society and was on the board until May 2017. The society’s website said he attended the August donation ceremony.

Au said he had met You and Pan in social occasions, but does not have intimate knowledge of the society. Pan hosted a private fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at one of his local mansions in 2016. In October 2017, his heritage Shaughnessy mansion suffered a fire that was ruled an arson. Nobody has been charged.

“They’re one of the hundreds of associations that we have contact with. I don’t know the persons at the association deeply,” Au said. “It is quite common in the Chinese community they have the kinsmen’s association plus a business association and sometimes it’s overlapping in terms of directorship.”

U.S., Australian and Canadian authorities have cautioned about Chinese government attempts to influence local government elections through pro-Beijing business and expat organizations in a coordinated program overseen by the Communist Party of China’s United Front Work Department.

“Yes, I’ve read about those stories, but I don’t know how true they are and personally I’m not connected or being influenced,” Au said.

Su Bo, the vice-minister of United Front, attended the Vancouver-hosted 9th Conference of the World Guangdong Community Federation last May, according to documents released to theBreaker under freedom of information. The event highlighted the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s massive, multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure-building program that extends to Africa and Europe.

Incumbent Chak Au (Mackin)

Au said he attended the conference to promote Richmond as a destination for overseas Chinese to invest and do business. “[Mayor] Malcolm [Brodie] and I were invited to the event. It was really to promote Richmond, rather than the other way around.”

Au is a family therapist who came to Canada from Hong Kong in 1988. He said that “we cannot directly influence China,” but said he is proud of Canadian values of human rights and democracy.

Asked if he would acknowledge China has human rights problems, he said that “every society has their own problems; Canada is not perfect.”

“Look at our record on the First Nations. Working towards common understanding and reconciliation is important,” he said.

Guo, who is aiming to defeat incumbent Brodie, told theBreaker on Oct. 2 that China has no human rights problem and that reporters enjoy freedom of speech, contrary to the reams of evidence gathered over decades by Human Rights Now, Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Asked for his opinion of Guo, Au said “voters have to make their own judgment.”

Richmond candidates have a lot on their minds, from the proliferation of mansions on farmland and birth tourism to a lack of English on signage, high land values and money laundering at River Rock casino. Au said he is saddened because this election is the “most-unpleasant” he has encountered.

“I’ve seen my community be more divided or polarized, and this is exactly what I don’t want to see happen,” he said.

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Bob Mackin One of the candidates who attended

Bob Mackin

B.C.’s biggest municipal workers union is offering to reimburse members who take time-off to campaign for left-wing candidates in Vancouver’s Oct. 20 civic election, just as it did during the 2014 election.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis says this is further evidence the NDP B.C. government botched campaign finance reform that was supposed to ban unions and corporations from stuffing big money into political campaigns.

CUPE 15’s Bankiner (CUPE)

“Everyone — unions and business groups and property developers — knows very well what the spirit of the law was meant to be and they should be rising to the spirit of the law, not plummeting to the letter of the law,” said IntegrityBC’s Travis.

An Oct. 15 memo marked “urgent” on the CUPE Local 15 website and email from secretary-treasurer Sally Bankiner offered to help members book-off from their regular full-time positions.

CUPE BC is working with locals and the Vancouver and District Labour Council to engage voters in the fast approaching city election for mayor, city council, school board and park board,” Bankiner wrote. “For progressive labour friendly candidates to get elected we need members to help get the word out.”

CUPE Local 15’s website says it has 6,000 members with 19 employers in Metro Vancouver, including Vancouver municipal, education and community workers. The memo did not mention any names of candidates, but VDLC has already endorsed former Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart’s bid for mayor with a slate of candidates from the OneCity, COPE, Vancouver Greens and Vision Vancouver parties for other positions.

CUPE B.C. is a registered third-party election sponsor, but Local 15 is not. Third-party sponsor organizations can spend $150,000 province-wide.

Bankiner’s memo said work will involve calling fellow CUPE members, knocking on doors, helping with office tasks or organizing and motivating volunteers.

“Training will be provided, so even with no previous campaign experience any Local 15 member will be able to provide vital help to this effort. CUPE BC will be reimbursing Local 15 for your wages and benefits for all days you are booked off to provide assistance,” Bankiner wrote. “This is a great opportunity to be involved in an exciting, positive campaign to make Vancouver a better place to live and work.”

Bankiner was not available for immediate comment.

Travis said the confusion causes public cynicism.

“They should not be searching for loopholes when they know very well what the intent was and it is regrettable that they chose not to follow the intent and the spirit of the law,” he said. “It is hoped that the government, after Oct. 20, will finally recognize it is time to overhaul B.C.’s election legislation from top-to-bottom and get it right before we go into any other election cycle.”

In 2016, Local 15 scored a 7% wage hike for its contract through 2019. The deal covered almost 4,000 workers who perform inside work for the city and park board, Ray-Cam Cooperative Association and Britannia Community Services Society. 

During the 2014 civic election, this reporter revealed how CUPE Local 1004, the city’s outside workers union, spent its $70,000 political action fund. The funds were matched by the union’s B.C. and national headquarters. It sparked allegations of conflict of interest from the NPA and an unsuccessful court petition to remove Gregor Robertson and Geoff Meggs from public office. Vision Vancouver launched a defamation lawsuit against the NPA in the dying days of the 2014 campaign, which was later settled out of court. 

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Bob Mackin B.C.’s biggest municipal workers union

Bob Mackin

A British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case against a Mandarin-only Richmond strata council has been cancelled after the complainant reached a confidential settlement with the council.

The hearing for Andreas and Dorte Kargut and others had been scheduled to run Oct. 15-19 and Oct. 22-25. They were alleging racial discrimination against the strata council. 

“The parties have resolved all outstanding issues,” read a statement from Rose Keith, the Karguts’ lawyer. “The parties will not be disclosing the details of the settlement.”

“We reached a last-minute settlement,” Dorte Kargut told theBreaker. “We are bound by confidentially and non-disparagement. We are looking forward to healing as a family and moving forward.”

Andreas Kargut went public in late 2015 about the Wellington Court strata council shunning those who could speak only English. His complaint, originally on behalf of nine owners at Wellington Court, alleged that the strata council and then-president Ed Mao discriminated against the owners on the basis of their race, by holding strata meetings in Mandarin and allowing the use of proxy voters. 

Karguts leave Richmond, summer 2017 (Facebook)

In its submissions to the tribunal, the strata council denied the discrimination allegations. It said it was “more efficient” to do business in Mandarin, the language that all strata council members and a majority of townhouse owners could speak. 

Mao resigned shortly after the complaint. Kargut and his family moved in summer 2017 to Vernon.

A preliminary decision last December that allowed the case to proceed noted the dilemma that neither the Strata Property Act nor the Bylaws specify in what language the meeting must be held or the minutes be kept. Before 2014, Wellington Court meetings were held in English only and minutes kept in English. But in successive annual general meetings, Mandarin-speaking owners were voted to council, many by proxy holders.

In a Dec. 13, 2017 written decision, tribunal member Walter Rilkoff rejected the Wellington Court strata council’s application to dismiss the action, and said that the policy to conduct business in Mandarin effectively turned the strata council into a “closed shop.” 

“Realistically [it is] not open to non‐Mandarin speakers who wish to be part of the governance of the strata,” Rilkoff wrote. “In turn that can have the longer‐term effect of closing off living in the strata to the majority of people who do not speak Mandarin.”

Rilkoff noted the threshold is low for a discrimination complaint to proceed to a hearing. The complainant need only show that the supporting evidence is not conjecture or speculation.

“This is not a decision that this complaint will succeed. Rather it is that on a preliminary basis, and on the basis of the information before me, I am unable to determine that it has no reasonable prospect of success.”

Rilkoff wrote that a stated purpose of the Human Rights Code is to foster a society in British Columbia in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of this province.

“A situation where owners who do not speak a foreign language, but speak one of Canada’s official languages and the lingua franca of this province, are precluded from full participation in the governance of their homes, is not likely to be found to eliminate barriers, but to erect them,” Rilkoff wrote. “Where that distinction is based on what may be appear to be racial or ethnic divisions, the situation may be found to violate the Code.”

The decision said complaints are usually made by a minority or marginalized group, which may have suffered historical discrimination. Discrimination by the minority against members of the majority group, Rilkoff wrote, “is no more acceptable just because that group has obtained a majority in a particular enclave. Within the universe of the strata, the Kargut group may well be a minority.”

A majority of owners are Mandarin speakers, the decision said, but “Wellington Court is not, and cannot be, a closed community open only to people of one ethnic group. Any owner is free to sell their unit to anyone and anyone is entitled to purchase a unit. That buyer in turn is entitled to meaningfully participate in the strata’s governance.

“By the same token, a majority of the owners are Mandarin speakers, although it may be only a few who do not have a facility with English. In those circumstances, it may be unlikely that the complainant group could obtain a remedy, even if wholly successful, that provides for all strata council meetings to be conducted in English only. The Strata may be under an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to the Mandarin speakers.”

In summer 2017, Kargut told theBreaker that he made the difficult decision to accept a job transfer and to move his family to Vernon because Wellington Court “was no longer a home, it was just a place where we lived.” He said there was harmony at the townhouse complex, until proxy votes were used to systematically replace English-speaking owners on strata council with those who spoke Mandarin. 

In an interview after the tribunal’s preliminary decision last year, Kargut said that he “couldn’t keep up the fight, pay the costs of the fight and still live in Richmond, have a mortgage, and also have to deal with the stress of a bunch of people that put a lot of effort into showing that we were unwanted around any of them.” He said it had cost his group $45,000 in legal fees so far. 

The strata council, Kargut said, “shot itself in the foot” by not resolving at the 2016 annual general meeting to translate all council meetings to English. A date for a hearing has not been set and Kargut expects it could take months to happen. 

“The future of our official languages is at stake, every Canadian would have an interest at stake here.”

Andreas Kargut had launched a GoFundMe campaign in June 2016 and raised $9,150 of its $85,000 goal. In an update on the page, before the settlement, he wrote:

This has been an extremely difficult journey and a very humbling experience. We were not only victims of alleged discrimination, but we were also at the mercy of lawyers who have the right to fight back and challenge every effort for us to make it to the end. We have lost three years of our lives due to this. In the end we found Wellington Court to be an unsafe place for our family to live.

We sold our place and moved to Vernon in July of 2017 in order to get away from it all and continued our fight for our right to use one of Canada’s official languages. We lived in harmony for over 10 years with all of our neighbours. Literally overnight official language was no longer good enough for them. Rather than joining us on the strata council team and asking for translation they took over and made Wellington Court an unfriendly place for people that did not speak Mandarin.”

Kargut wrote that his lawyer made an unsuccessful attempt at a settlement in July and that it has cost more than $60,000 in legal fees as of Oct. 1. He estimated the seven-day hearing would cost another $50,000. If everyone who has been on our GoFundMe page could just contribute $8.00 we may have enough to help us fight this as it has put us into financial hardship.”

He also wrote that his group is comprised of Canadians of German, Hong Kong, Colombian, Ukrainian, British and Malaysian heritage.

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Bob Mackin A British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal

There are 71 candidates running for 10 city council seats in Vancouver’s Oct. 20 general election. Almost 10% of them are on this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast.

Hear the “elevator pitches” for your vote by: independent Justin Caudwell, Coalition Vancouver’s Glen Chernen, independent Hamdy El-Rayes, Vancouver Greens’ Pete Fry, NPA’s Colleen Hardwick, ProVancouver’s Rohana Rezel and COPE’s Anne Roberts. 

Host Bob Mackin asked each one of them why they deserve your vote and what they will do to advance the cause of open government, should they be elected. 

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below or go to iTunes and subscribe

Have you missed an edition of theBreaker.news Podcast? Go to the archive.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Vancouver council candidates make their elevator pitches for your vote
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There are 71 candidates running for 10

Bob Mackin

One of two men acquitted of planning the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history was seen at a campaign event for Tom Gill’s Surrey First mayoral bid.

Now Gill’s party is trying to distance itself from Ripudaman Singh Malik.

Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were found not guilty in 2005 of the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people.

Malik at a Gill campaign event (Twitter)

Twitter user @JaswinderGrew41 published a photo and video on Oct. 7 of a Surrey First event, where Malik was seen seated among more than 100 people in a banquet room, listening to Gill.

theBreaker also obtained a copy of WhatsApp message that appears to have originated from Malik, encouraging attendance at a Sept. 1 meeting in the Khalsa School in Newton. Read the message: “To support Tom Gill for Mayar (sic) & slate for council…. please attend.”

Gill did not respond to theBreaker, but campaign spokesman Norman Stowe of the Pace Group did.

“[Gill] attends a dozen different events every day that are organized by individuals and community groups across the city,” Stowe said. “It would be impossible for him to personally know everyone who might attend and he was not aware of Mr Malik’s attendance at any particular event.”

Did Malik donate to the Surrey First campaign?

While we’re confident we have not had a campaign contribution from Mr. Malik we have asked our finance folks to go through everything to be sure,” Stowe said. “They will be back to me on Monday.”

Gregor Robertson with Malik in 2010 (Anton)

It is not the first time that Malik’s attendance at a political event has caused a stir.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson was photographed in 2010 smiling near Malik at the Khalsa School in Vancouver by NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton. Robertson said he was there for the school opening and did not shake Malik’s hand.

In 2011, Vancouver South Conservative Wai Young was invited to the Khalsa School, where Malik endorsed her bid to unseat Ujjal Dosanjh to teachers and parents.

Young later said that she had been invited by the principal and would have not attended had she known Malik was present or involved with the school.

Young is running for Vancouver mayor under the Coalition Vancouver banner.

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Bob Mackin One of two men acquitted of

Bob Mackin

Most of the contenders for Vancouver city hall in the Oct. 20 election have voluntarily published names of their monetary supporters.

But it is a different story in Surrey, where the RCMP is investigating allegations of vote-buying.

The Tom Gill-led Surrey First is refusing to release its list of donations before election day.

McCallum (left), Gill and Hayne are battling for the Surrey mayoralty.

Our donor list is not complete, because the election has not yet happened,” the party’s financial agent Gord Schoberg told theBreaker. “We will be pleased to provide our donor list within the required 90 days from election day.”

Surrey First held a golf tournament fundraiser earlier this year, featuring outgoing mayor Linda Hepner. A $25,000 donation bought four seats at Hepner’s table.

Doug McCallum was the Surrey mayor from 1996 to 2005 and is aiming for a comeback with the Safe Surrey Coalition. McCallum not respond to theBreaker’s email or calls to his mobile phone.

We’re not releasing our lists, but we’re happy to discuss issues facing the electorate any time,” said Laura Ballance, spokeswoman for ex-Surrey First Coun. Bruce Hayne. Hayne is running for mayor under the new Integrity Now umbrella.

Surrey First raised almost $1.07 million in 2014, the last unregulated municipal general election in B.C. Major donors included Surrey Firefighters Association ($32,564.01), SVH Management Ltd. ($27,250), Bosa Properties ($21,500), Bhupinder Singh Ajuta and Malkiat Sandhu’s 0939000 B.C. Ltd. ($20,000), and B&B Contracting ($16,500).

Ex-premier poses for selfie with a McCallum supporter.

McCallum lost in 2014 to Surrey First’s Linda Hepner. He reported raising $258,486.94. His campaign relied heavily on donations from Bob Cheema-owned companies Bill’s Development ($58,500) and Popular Group Investment ($21,000). Cheema was the developer behind the proposed South Surrey Gateway casino that was rejected on a 5-4 city council vote in 2013. Then-mayor Dianne Watts, a McCallum foe, cast the tiebreaking vote. 

Surrey RCMP is investigating after the anti-crime Wake Up Surrey group complained on Sept. 28, alleging fraudulent use of absentee ballots and vote-buying. The detachment opened a tip line for the case, 604-599-7848.

On Oct. 12, the Mounties said detectives have found no evidence of a link to any candidate or party with mail-in ballot fraud. It also said there is no indication that anybody has induced or intimidated voters to provide personal information or to vote for a specific candidate.

Two persons of interest have been interviewed, but further investigation is required on whether to recommend charges under the Criminal Code or Local Government Act, the Surrey RCMP said. 

Meanwhile, photos circulated on social media appear to show ex-BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark at a McCallum fundraiser. One photograph shows her with real estate agent Kam Pawar and four other men.

“How do we look happy canadians at [Jack] Hundial, [Brenda] Locke and Our future Mayor McCallum team for…” says part of a message under a photograph of Clark with a Surrey insurance agent.

Clark is now an advisor at the Bennett Jones law firm and member of the Shaw Communications board of directors. Locke is a former BC Liberal MLA who was in caucus with Clark from 2001 to 2005. Hundial retired from the RCMP after 25 years in 2017 and is now an investigator with BC Hydro. 

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Bob Mackin Most of the contenders for Vancouver

UPDATED: Oct. 12

Bob Mackin

Richmond RCMP’s serious crimes unit revealed Oct. 12 that it is investigating allegations of vote-buying via WeChat.

Vancouver city hall has called the Vancouver Police to do the same. 

The Richmond News reported Oct. 11 that City of Richmond began investigating after the Canada Wenzhou Friendship

Wenzhou expats WeChat group is under investigation for alleged vote-buying.

Society WeChat group offered a $20 “transportation subsidy” incentive for Chinese-Canadians to vote between Oct. 6 and 20. The message on the Chinese social media platform provided a list of recommended candidates, mainly in Richmond. The newspaper said the association withdrew its offer earlier this week when it learned offering incentives to vote was illegal.

The WeChat message recommended voting Hong Guo for mayor of Richmond, and Richmond First’s Peter Liu, and Richmond Community Coalition’s Chak Au and Melissa Zhang for city council. In an Oct. 2 interview with theBreaker, real estate and immigration lawyer Guo contradicted evidence and said  that China is not a human rights abuser.

A translation for theBreaker showed the WeChat message also recommended voting for Burnaby Citizens’ Association Coun. James Wang, Vancouver mayoral candidates Fred Harding of Vancouver 1st or Wai Young of Coalition Vancouver, and city council candidates Wei Qiao Zhang of Vision Vancouver and Jason Xie of Coalition Vancouver.

In a news release, Vancouver city hall said that it is investigating in conjunction with civic officials in Richmond and Burnaby. Section 123 of the Vancouver Charter bans offering money or rewards for voting. Penalties include fines up to $10,000, up to two years jail or a ban on holding public office for up to seven years. 

The City of Vancouver is aware of messages circulating on WeChat from the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society that appear to offer money in exchange for voting in Richmond, Burnaby, and Vancouver. Wenzhou is a port city of 9 million, south of Shanghai, in China’s Zhejiang province. 

The Wenzhou Chamber of Commerce held a ceremony where the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society donated $26,000 to eight candidates on Aug. 26 in Richmond that was attended by Xie, Young, Guo, Zhang, Liu and Wang. The ex-president of the Wenzhou Association of Canada, Miaofei Pan, also attended the event. Pan famously hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a 2016 private Liberal fundraiser.

Richmond candidates Hong Guo, Chak Au and Peter Liu in the front row with Vision Vancouver’s Wei Qiao Zhang at the Aug. 26 fundraiser. (Wenzhouren.ca)

In October 2017, Pan’s $14 million Angus Drive mansion in Shaughnessy was severely damaged by an arson fire. No one has been charged. Vancouver city hall did, however, charge Pan under the heritage maintenance bylaw for failing to protect the house after the fire.

Vision’s Zhang has not immediately responded for comment. Coalition Vancouver did not make Wai Young or Jason Xie available for an interview.

Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act states campaign donations can only be made by individuals who are a resident of B.C. and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Watson said Elections BC is aware of the society’s fundraising event. “They will be taken into consideration during our compliance review of the financing reports for all of the candidates in question,” Watson said.

A Coalition Vancouver ad on WeChat shows Wai Young at the pro-Beijing Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations meeting at the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Association’s Richmond clubhouse on Sept. 22. Young was accompanied by Coalition Vancouver candidates Morning Li and James Lin (city council) and Ying Zhou, Sophia Woo and Ken Denike (school board). 

Coalition Vancouver campaign manager Neil McIver said the party would fully cooperate with police.

We didn’t direct them or communicate with them outside of presenting to them as potential supporters — just like all Chinese candidates from all parties did,” McIver said. “It’s an outside group who likely didn’t know what they were doing was improper under Elections BC rules.”

Wai Young and Coalition Vancouver candidates on Sept. 22 at the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society in Richmond (Coalition Vancouver/WeChat)

McIver said that if they donated to Coalition Vancouver or its candidates, the donation would be returned.

Harding told theBreaker that he was flattered by the endorsement on WeChat, but distanced his campaign from the cash offer.

“Let me say this: I’ve got a lot of people I’ve spoken to, probably 20,000 Chinese people in the last three months. Are any of them from Wenzhou? Probably. I’ve never heard of it. If they’re just suggesting I’m someone they support, that’s different than suggesting I’m somehow complicit,” Harding said.

“We don’t recommend people do this, we don’t need this to help us, we don’t need to induce people to help get them to vote for us. We’ve got solid, solid support in the Chinese community. We will win without having to resort to any measures that are concerning or underhanded.”

According to the society’s website, “two mysterious guests” came to the Wenzhou society’s Mid-Autumn Festival tea party on Sept. 23. 

“Chinese famous singer Zhang Mi and her husband, Fred [Harding], who is preparing to run for the mayor of Vancouver in October. Fu Aide made an impromptu speech at the scene and hoped that everyone would vote for him. Zhang Mi sang a few well-known Chinese songs for everyone, winning a burst of applause from the folks.”

Most Vancouver civic parties and mainstream mayoral candidates have disclosed unofficial lists of donors. Their audited returns are due to Elections BC three months after election day.

Harding said it is unlikely that Vancouver 1st will reveal its monetary supporters before Oct. 20. 

“I don’t know if we’ll do it before election day, we’ll certainly comply with the Election Act. We’ve got nothing to hide about our donors, of course. We’ve done well, despite the stringent financial laws.”

Vancouver 1st’s marketing effort to Chinese voters has included promoting ex-police officer Harding’s marriage to Chinese singer-model Zhang Mi and featuring his resemblance to Barack Obama.

Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st)

Candidates in the Oct. 20 local government elections are scrambling to find individuals to donate after the NDP government banned corporations and unions from writing donation cheques. Parties like Vancouver 1st and Coalition Vancouver have targeted Chinese voters and candidates. One-in-five Metro Vancouverites is ethnic Chinese.

However, governments in the United States and Australia have warned that the Chinese government is seeking to influence local government elections via Beijing-loyal business and cultural associations. 

Research for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, released Aug. 24, said the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department “seeks to co-opt ethnic Chinese individuals and communities living outside China while a number of other key affiliated organizations guided by China’s broader United Front strategy conduct influence operations targeting foreign actors and states.”

The report cited the work of author Clive Hamilton, a public ethics professor at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales. The report said Australian security authorities estimate at least 10 recent state and local government candidates were connected to Chinese intelligence agencies. 

“United Front activities in Australia have involved political donations, influence operations targeting high-ranking politicians, and harassment of members of the Chinese-Australian community,” the report said. 

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UPDATED: Oct. 12 Bob Mackin Richmond RCMP's serious crimes

Bob Mackin

Hector Bremner, the Yes Vancouver party’s candidate for mayor on Oct. 20, is well-known for once being an aide to former Deputy Premier Rich Coleman. Background interviews with current and former BC Liberal insiders, and documents obtained by theBreaker, show that Bremner was a member of Christy Clark’s leadership campaign team in 2011.

Bremner, who ran the Touch Marketing consultancy at the time, was an organizer for Clark in Burnaby and New Westminster ridings. On the eve of the Feb. 26, 2011 party election to replace Premier Gordon Campbell, Bremner was one of three recipients of two email messages from Harry Bloy, the Burnaby-Lougheed MLA and Clark’s only supporter inside the BC Liberal caucus.

BC Liberal MLA Harry Bloy (left) and Hector Bremner at Bloy’s February 2011 fundraiser. (Flickr)

At 11:55 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2011, Bloy emailed Bremner at his Touch address, BC Liberal director of field operations Mark Robertson on his BC Liberal address and ex-Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt.

Bloy forwarded to Bremner, Mayencourt and Robertson what he had received 10 minutes earlier from one of his connections: a list of 77 personal identification numbers, with assurance that more were on the way.

Bloy’s email also included this short message: “Use different lines. Virginia, Filipino Community? Thanks, harry”.

Virginia was a reference to Bremner’s wife. As for the PIN numbers, the party sent the unique codes to every party member, so that they could cast a vote for a new party leader by phone or Internet.

At 5:50 p.m. on the same day, Bloy received a second batch of 22 PIN numbers, and forwarded them seven minutes later to Bremner, Mayencourt and Robertson. The subject line read “Fwd: pin # for CC E-Day.”

The two emails contained a total of 99 PIN numbers.

The messages do not indicate what Bremner, Mayencourt and Robertson did next.

The handling of PIN numbers for the 2011 leadership election was a surprise element of the investigation by Special Prosecutor David Butcher and the RCMP. Butcher was appointed in September 2013 after then-NDP leader Adrian Dix complained to authorities about possible violations of the Election Act.

During a hearing at Vancouver Provincial Court before Judge David St. Pierre in January of this year, Butcher confirmed that he found evidence of voting irregularities in the leadership contest that resulted in Clark’s victory over Kevin Falcon by a 340-point margin. 

Clark’s third-ballot win was by a score of 4,420 to 4,080 points under the regionally-weighted, preferential ballot system.

Butcher told the court that the BC Liberal leadership election rules in 2011 did not prohibit proxy voting, so Bloy used his connections “and his connections’ connections,” Butcher said, to amass PIN numbers.

“Those connections gathered blocks of PINs which were supplied to Mr. Bloy, who provided them to other Clark supporters, who entered them online — block voting in a proxy process,” Butcher explained. “The Liberal Party has acknowledged difficulties with this process and it has adopted a different system [for the 2018 leadership election]… and, prudently, they sought advice from the RCMP about how to improve the integrity of the process.”

After becoming premier, Clark appointed Bloy as the Minister of Social Development in her first cabinet. Later in 2011, she transferred Bloy to Minister of State for Multiculturalism. Clark also named runner-up Falcon as deputy premier and finance minister. He eventually quit in summer 2012 to join Anthem Properties as a vice-president.

Falcon broke his silence after Butcher’s court revelation when he admitted to StarMetro reporter David Ball that he was not surprised.

“What you see here really speaks to a lack of transparency and integrity in the process that is highly problematic. The stakes were so high, and the premiership was in play,” Falcon said. “My team felt very upset as they were seeing irregularities, but there was no way I was going to make allegations to anyone without hard evidence. I’m not going to be a poor loser.”

Questions persist

The reason for Butcher’s appearance in court was the sentencing hearing for BC Liberal operative and ex-government communications director Brian Bonney. Bonney had pleaded guilty to breach of trust on Oct. 12, 2017, for his role in the ethnic vote-pandering scandal, also known as “Quick Wins.” St. Pierre sentenced Bonney to a nine-month conditional sentence, to be served at his home in Burnaby. A trial had been scheduled to run from Oct. 16, 2017 to Feb. 22, 2018. Butcher was planning to call dozens of witnesses from inside the BC Liberals.

In court, Butcher said that “the RCMP conducted a lengthy and challenging investigation into the case,” but most of the significant evidence came from email.

Clark (left) and Bremner, during the 2013 election campaign (Twitter)

“Most of the key witnesses from the Liberal party caucus and ministerial staff lawyered-up,” he said. “Two former cabinet ministers, Harry Bloy and John Yap, did not, under the advice of counsel, ever provide statements to the RCMP.”

A person familiar with the case told theBreaker that Bremner did not consent to an interview. Butcher did not return a phone call. 

Bremner did not respond to multiple interview requests for this story. An email request to Bremner was also copied to Bremner’s lawyer, James Hatton, and campaign manager, Mark Marissen. Hatton was appointed in early 2013 to BC Hydro’s board by Clark, who is Marissen’s ex-wife.

theBreaker wanted to ask Bremner about his involvement with Clark’s campaign, whether he had any contact with Butcher or RCMP detectives, and whether he offered any assistance to their investigation.

Comment was also sought from Clark, Bloy, Mayencourt and Robertson. None responded.

After the leadership campaign, Bremner worked as a poll captain during Clark’s May 2011 Vancouver-Point Grey by-election win over the NDP’s David Eby.

Virginia Bremner became the receptionist at the Premier’s Vancouver Office in June 2011 and worked for Clark until July 2017, when the NDP formed government under Premier John Horgan.

Hector Bremner unsuccessfully ran for the BC Liberals in the New Westminster riding in 2013. He placed a distant second to Judy Darcy of the NDP. He was elected to Vancouver city council for the NPA in October 2017’s by-election, but the party board rejected his bid to become the mayoral nominee earlier this year. He started his own party, Yes Vancouver, for the Oct. 20 civic election. Bremner is awaiting the result of a conflict of interest investigation under city hall’s code of conduct.

His bio, on both the Yes Vancouver party website and the city council website, makes no mention of working on Clark’s political campaigns. It does say Bremner was appointed in 2013 to work in the international trade ministry (under Minister Teresa Wat) and that he later worked for the ministers of tourism and small business (Naomi Yamamoto) and natural gas development and housing (Coleman).

Bremner left the BC Liberal government at the end of January 2015 to join the Pace Group, the Vancouver public relations and government relations firm that, coincidentally, worked on Falcon’s 2011 leadership campaign.

When he joined Pace, Bremner registered to lobby the BC Liberal government for Steelhead LNG. His rival for the 2017 NPA by-election nomination, Coalition Vancouver city council candidate Glen Chernen, complained to the registrar of lobbyists. The $2,000 fine assessed to Bremner in February for not disclosing his former employment under Coleman was overturned on a technicality in August.

“As a father and a husband, Hector Bremner strives to lead by example and never shy away from doing what is right,” his bio states.

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Bob Mackin Hector Bremner, the Yes Vancouver party’s

Advance voting is underway this week for the Oct. 20 local government elections across British Columbia. 

Hong Guo

In Richmond, history will be made. Malcolm Brodie, first elected in 2001, is aiming to become the municipality’s longest-serving mayor. His main challenger, Hong Guo, wants to become Richmond’s  first female and first Chinese-born mayor. Guo, however, is facing a Law Society of B.C. professional misconduct hearing and a $13 million lawsuit over a collapsed real estate bill.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, hear highlights of host Bob Mackin’s Oct. 2 interview with Guo. Guo’s platform includes a promise to forge closer ties between Richmond and China. The Vancouver suburb is already 60% ethnic Chinese, home to the Vancouver International Airport and a thriving hub for import/export business.

In an interview, real estate and immigration lawyer Guo made jaw-dropping statements that contradict the findings of international media and non-governmental organizations, such as “China has lots of freedom of speech” and “there is no human rights abuse in China.”

David Chen (ProVancouver)

Also on this edition, hear Mackin interview David Chen, the candidate for mayor of Vancouver with the new ProVancouver party.

Chen is a financial planner with degrees in psychology and a background that includes scuba diving, HAM radio and forklift driving. ProVancouver wants a new citywide plan that ends spot rezoning and ends foreign presales of condominiums. Chen wants a new citywide plan. Vancouver has become an unaffordable city with too many empty houses and empty retail storefronts, too little affordable housing and too little transparency at city hall.

“As a person born and raised in Vancouver, I don’t have any other home,” Chen said. “I’ve watched it change, not in very good ways.”

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Will Richmond elect a mayor who is oblivious to China's human rights abuse?
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Advance voting is underway this week for