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Bob Mackin

The Toronto firm that included the name of a Vision Vancouver supporter’s baby in a September opinion poll is working on a followup.

Mainstreet Research’s brief, Oct. 3 robocall, obtained by theBreaker, did not include questions about issues, like the one a month earlier. Instead, it asked about support for mainstream mayoral candidates Hector Bremner, David Chen, Connie Fogal, Fred Harding, Ken Sim, Kennedy Stewart, Shauna Sylvester and Wai Young.

It also asked “if the election were to be held today, which municipal party will you support in the city council elections?” Listed, in order of appearance, were:  IDEA Vancouver, Green Party of Vancouver, NPA, OneCity, ProVancouver, Vancouver 1st, Yes Vancouver, another party or undecided.

The list of parties omitted COPE, Vision Vancouver and Coalition Vancouver. The last name of IDEA mayoral candidate Connie Fogal, the widow of Harry Rankin, was mispronounced as “FAY-gul.”

Mainstreet president Quito Maggi said by email that, to his knowledge, Fogal’s name had been pronounced correctly.

If you can point me to the COPE mayoral candidate, we would be happy to add them to our poll,” he also wrote.

COPE’s Patrick Condon left the race in July after suffering a stroke. theBreaker noted that the Greens and OneCity, other parties without mayoral candidates, were in the list. “I will ensure that all non-mayoral parties are excluded as per your advice,” Maggi wrote.

Mainstreet’s Sept. 4-5 poll surveyed 862 residents with a plus/minus 3.34% margin of error, 19 times out of 20. It found Stewart (14.4%) led Bremner (7.4%) and Sim (7.5%), but a whopping 41.8% of respondents were undecided and 1.1% chose Maya Richards, who theBreaker determined to be the baby of Vision Vancouver supporter Rory Richards, after the poll was published. That poll omitted COPE and OneCity from the party questions and Vancouver 1st’s Fred Harding from the mayoralty questions. 

Mainstreet is aiming for a comeback in 2018 after wrongly predicting, in polls for Postmedia, that Naheed Nenshi would lose the Calgary mayoralty in 2017. 

Vancouverites will elect a new mayor and city council on Oct. 20.

Listen to part of the Oct. 3 Mainstreet Research robocall. Note: demographic questions and answers were cut for brevity and privacy.

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Bob Mackin The Toronto firm that included the

Bob Mackin

Originally published Aug. 23; UPDATED Oct. 4, with surveillance video

Two Mercedes sedans crashed into separate Surrey structures in the just over eight hours earlier this week.

In an Aug. 22 news release, Surrey RCMP said a speeding black Mercedes that fled from a police officer around 6:15 p.m. on Aug. 20 crashed into a house in the 12700 block of 67A Avenue. Two males escaped from the vehicle. One of them was arrested with the help of the dog squad. Police continue to seek the second suspect.

Meanwhile, theBreaker has learned that a white Mercedes sedan crashed into an escalator at Gateway SkyTrain station, shortly after the driver evaded police around 2:20 a.m.

A Mercedes like this crashed into a Surrey SkyTrain station Aug. 21.

Had it happened a few hours earlier, when the station was open, there could have been several casualties.

Surrey RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Elenore Sturko said an officer tried to pull over a suspicious 2014 Mercedes CLS6 sedan, but the vehicle failed to stop. Sturko said the officer did not try to pursue the vehicle.

“A short time later police received a report that the same vehicle had collided into the Gateway SkyTrain entrance,” Sturko said. “The vehicle was unoccupied when police arrived at the collision.  No suspects have been arrested. The investigation is ongoing.”

Sturko said a review of any available video and witness statements will be part of the investigation, but she declined to release any images and had no suspect description available. Anyone with information is asked to call Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8744.

TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drews refused to comment on the incident and referred theBreaker to the Surrey RCMP.

In this era of heightened security around transit stations, why is there no barrier at Gateway to keep cars out?

“Stations are designed according to all applicable safety codes and guidelines,” Drews said. “All unexpected safety incidents and accidents are investigated and reviewed to determine causes and possible mitigation measures. Operational or physical changes that enhance safety are then considered and implemented as part of our capital and operating processes.”

WATCH surveillance footage, obtained under freedom of information.

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Bob Mackin Originally published Aug. 23; UPDATED Oct.

Bob Mackin

Elections BC is reviewing a complaint from a candidate for Mayor of Victoria, who believes a rival is behind a blackmail attempt.

Michael Geoghegan said he received an email early Sept. 28 from someone named Tim Stone, under the subject “5 steps to a cleaner Victoria election campaign.”

Geoghegan (CFAX)

The email proposed a “4-for-1 deal” and urged Geoghegan to remove a blog post alleging mayoral candidate Stephen Hammond of the NewCouncil slate paid for certain social media advertising critical of Geoghegan. It called Geoghegan’s claims false and easy to demonstrate.

Just two days earlier, Geoghegan had complained to the Law Society of B.C., alleging that Hammond, a non-practising lawyer, had paid an alleged fraudster to attack the Geoghegan campaign on Facebook.

The Stone email offered to suppress social media mentions and live debate questions about comments Geoghegan made in the early 2000s about NDP politician Jenny Kwan and former BC Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk. It also offered to hold back audio of Geoghegan describing his wife’s breast size on CFAX and limit the vandalism and destruction of Geoghegan’s election signs “as best we can.”

“No obligation here, just suggestions,” the email concluded. “We see movement on your part, you’ll see immediate movement on our part.”

Geoghegan complained to the Victoria Police Department and Elections BC. Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said the complaint is under review.

“We follow up on any complaint we receive regarding potential violations of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act,” Watson said. “LECFA does not contain provisions regarding threats and abuse from rival candidates. We refer such complaints to the police or the RCMP.”

Hammond (CFAX)

In an email to theBreaker, Hammond called Geoghegan’s allegations ridiculous, baseless and false.

“We do not engage with people making preposterous claims and urge Victoria residents to refrain from giving any attention to such false statements,” he said. “These are Donald Trump-like tactics. I am spending all my time going door to door with the voters of Victoria and will continue to do so. People are looking for positive change and our team is offering that positive change.”

Geoghegan, a lobbyist, explained that he had sympathized with Basi and Virk, who were fired and charged with taking bribes from Omnitrax, a bidder in the BC Rail privatization. CN eventually bought the company in 2004. Basi and Virk maintained their innocence until a 2010 plea bargain that included payment for their $6 million legal bills and ended a B.C. Supreme Court trial that would have brought BC Liberal politicians to the witness stand.

Geoghegan was fired from his job as head of the B.C. Construction Association for making comments about Kwan on CFAX radio in 2003. He said that her gender and ethnicity were key to her career. “If she’d been a white male she would have been an also-ran a long time ago,” he said at the time.

Geoghegan said he was going through a messy divorce and had been overprescribed medication. He apologized and Kwan accepted.

As for the quip about his wife’s breast size, he said it would already be public from his appearance on Adam Stirling’s CFAX radio show.

During an Oct. 2 debate hosted by CFAX, mayoral candidate Bruce McGuigan pointed out several websites that favour Hammond and NewCouncil, calling the strategy a “gross distortion of democracy.”

“There is a campaign of slander going on, there are all kinds of sock puppets, and false Facebook accounts in a campaign of aggressive well coordinated and apparently well-trained bullying of anybody who raises a point,” said McGuigan, a sociology professor. “If anybody actually successfully raises a point against NewCouncil or Stephen Hammond, that post is taken down and sometimes the whole string is taken down so that it can’t be forwarded to anybody else. I’m concerned that there has been an utter failure on the part of Stephen Hammond and new council to stand up and honourably say this is not appropriate and I’m concerned that somebody that can’t do that, can’t be mayor.”

“As far as the websites,” Hammond replied. “I’ve gotta tell you if other people are choosing on their own right to be slamming other candidates and not me, I can’t help that. I don’t even spend time, I’m at the doors.”

Election day is Oct. 20. Lisa Helps is the incumbent mayor.

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Bob Mackin Elections BC is reviewing a complaint

Bob Mackin

The real estate and immigration lawyer who wants to beat incumbent Malcolm Brodie and become Richmond’s first ethnic Chinese mayor on Oct. 20 said in an interview that there is no human rights abuse in China and that her native country is misunderstood.

theBreaker asked Hong Guo after the Oct. 2 all candidates meeting at Richmond Seniors Centre about her desire to foster closer ties between Richmond and China, despite international concerns over human rights abuse in China where there is no free press.

“I don’t think so, I do not agree,” Guo said. “I think China has lots of freedom of speech.”

Richmond lawyer Hong Guo announced her run for Mayor of Richmond last June.

theBreaker pointed out that journalists have been jailed in China. 

“I don’t believe it,” she said. “I know so many people in China, and I have never heard about this. You have never been in China, I guess. That’s why I want to be a bridge, there is so much misunderstanding, there is lots of misunderstanding.”

Despite evidence contradicting Guo, she said “99.9%” of people will agree with her. She said major international outlets with foreign correspondents in China, such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, “don’t really understand Chinese policy or situation.”

“You go to China to stay there for five years and you will find it out. You are wrong. Yes. You are very much wrong,” she said.

“The Chinese media in China, they have very much freedom, to talk and to criticize and to make suggestions.” 

Guo is facing severe challenges to her candidacy after a professional misconduct citation from the Law Society of B.C. and for being a defendant in a $13 million lawsuit about a collapsed real estate deal. None of the allegations has been proven and Guo denies wrongdoing.

theBreaker continued to ask Guo about her knowledge of recent human rights issues about China.

Q: “So Amnesty International is all wrong, Human Rights Watch is all wrong… they’re all wrong?”

Guo: “Yes sir, if they’re saying so, they are wrong.”

Q: “What about Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Prize winner?”

Guo: “I don’t know, OK, so I think we’re a little bit too far from…”

Q: “The Nobel Prize winner from China who eventually died, his wife got out recently, went to Germany?”

Guo: “It’s a lie. It’s not fact. Yeah, give us the fact, because we are lawyers and we need evidence, we don’t really want to talk…”

Q: “What about Ai Weiwei, the artist.

Guo: “I don’t know, I have no idea about this.”

Q: “The famous artist, co-designer of the Bird’s Nest…”

Guo: “I’m not aware of this. I’m not aware of this…

Q: “You haven’t heard of Ai Weiwei the artist?

Guo: “I have never heard about this.”

Q: “You haven’t heard of the Nobel Prize winner, the artist? Do you read any western media here in Canada, the Globe and Mail, the National Post? They do have coverage of China.”

Guo: “Yes.”

Q: “I’m asking these questions because you want to build bridges between Richmond and China…. I’m asking about your knowledge of human rights abuses of China.”

Guo: “There is no human rights abuse in China, OK.”

Q: “Do you know what’s happening right now in Xinjiang, the re-education camps?”

Guo: “What do you know, and how can you know? Did you visit that camp? Then go to visit and then see by your eyes. Because I have so many friends, business partners and relatives, they are in China, they are there every day, they know better than you, they know better than CBC, they know better than the New York Times. They do.”

Q: “Why do you think that? You told me on the phone when I interviewed you that you’re not doing work with the Chinese government …

Guo:“It’s over… I think that’s the end.”

Guo’s handlers, including business partner Wolfgang Richter and Sutton real estate agent Peter Schellenberg, removed her from the building and blocked this reporter from following for the purpose of asking more questions about her business.

In late 2017, the Committee to Project Journalists said there were 262 journalists jailed around the world. The 41 in Chinese prisons were second only to the 73 incarcerated in Turkey.

Jiang Yefei’s cartoon criticizing China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping for favouring the country’s wealthy over the poor.

In July, the CPJ reported that a Sichuan provincial court sentenced freelance political cartoonist Jiang Yefei to six-and-a-half years in prison after a secret trial for “inciting subversion of state power,” and “illegally crossing a national border.” Jiang had fled to Thailand in 2008 after facing harassment from Chinese authorities for criticizing the government’s response to the Sichuan earthquake. An estimated 69,000 people died, many in earthquake-prone buildings that collapsed.

Amnesty International’s annual report said 10 journalists from the website, which reports on protests in China, were in prison at the end of 2017: Wang Jing, Zhang Jixin, Li Min, Sun Enwei, Li Chunhua, Wei Wenyuan, Xiao Jianfang, Li Zhaoxiu, Chen Mingyan and Wang Shurong. The website’s co-founder, Huang Qi, was accused of “leaking state secrets” and finally allowed to meet his lawyer eight months after he was detained.

Blogger Lu Yuyu, who documented protests in China, was sentenced to four years in jail in August for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” 

Human Rights Watch said foreign governments did little to push back against China’s worsening rights record while president Xi Jinping became more powerful.

HRW reported that authorities charged Liu Feiyue, founder of the website Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, with “leaking state secrets” and “inciting subversion of state power.” Liu could face life in jail if convicted.

Note: Bob Mackin has traveled extensively in China. In 2008, he covered the Beijing Olympics for Sun Media. His most-recent visit was early 2015.

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Bob Mackin The real estate and immigration lawyer

Bob Mackin

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge ordered the father of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy born in Richmond to a birth tourist to return the child to his mother in China, according to an oral verdict published Oct. 1

Justice Andrew Mayer ruled Aug. 23 in favour of the mother, TV host Manli Kong, after the child’s father had taken the Nov. 9, 2015-born child to Canada in late 2017 without Kong’s consent.

Both parents are unmarried citizens of the People’s Republic of China. The father, Tae Song, however, is a businessman who owns bottled water-related companies in China and Canada and has permanent resident status in Canada.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

Kong came to Canada in September 2015 on a visitor’s visa to give birth to the boy. When the boy was six months old, he was returned to China where he lived with Kong and his grandparents in Beijing and part of the time with Song and his family, in Tianjin.

The judge found Beijing was the boy’s place of habitual residence prior to and after his removal from to Canada on Dec. 13, 2017. He was satisfied the boy was wrongfully removed from China by Song and remained wrongfully retained in B.C. He ordered Song to return the boy to Kong in Richmond or in Vancouver within 24 hours of the court order and that Song pay Kong expenses incurred as a result of the wrongful removal.

“In my view, the evidence establishes quite clearly that [the boy’s] place of habitual residence was China and in particular with his mother and grandparents in his mother’s home in Beijing,” Mayer said. “Although [the boy] was born in British Columbia, both parents admit that this was part of a birth‑tourism arrangement, which does not suggest that it was their intention for him to remain in British Columbia permanently after his birth. Place of citizenship and place of habitual residence are not the same thing.”

Mayer said Canadian law did not give him jurisdiction over parenting arrangements in China, but encouraged the parents to remain joint guardians and to not remove the boy from China without the other parent’s consent. He also recommended Kong have the final say in parenting responsibilities and to be the primary caregiver, but Song should be allowed reasonable parenting time and generous WeChat and/or FaceTime parenting time. “I am hopeful that the parties will either seek to come to an enforceable agreement in China, or elsewhere, or alternatively that the parties will seek recourse before the Chinese courts for a legal determination on issues of parenting time, guardianship and contact with [the boy].”

Mayer was not satisfied the parents agreed to terms for the boy’s travel to Canada, other than for a brief visit from December 2017 to the end of Chinese New Year in February 2018. Mayer also dismissed Song’s allegations of sexual abuse and parental negligence as “significantly exaggerated.”

Song alleged that in June 2016, the boy’s buttocks were photographed with stickers that Kong said were placed by an eight-year-old niece. In January 2017, Kong’s sister shot a video of a paper covering and exposing the boy’s penis. “This piece of paper had Chinese characters drawn on it, which included a pun written in Mandarin concerning the similar pronunciation of rooster and penis in Mandarin,” Mayer said. “I hope I have got that correct. That is the essence of it.”

The boy suffered superficial burns to his chest in January 2017 with hot water from a thermos that he had pulled off a table while Song and Kong were both present.

“The [allegations] are ill-conceived, and they are not supported by the evidence,” Mayer concluded. “They are hurtful and in my view unnecessary. An allegation of sexual assault by one parent against another is a very serious matter, and again, in my view the evidence falls well, well short of establishing such abuse.”

Evidence in the three-day court hearing included text message exchanges between the parents. 

“The opportunities of the world exist in China,” Kong wrote in one message to Song. “Therefore he must be familiar with China and understand everything about China. It is okay for him to live in Canada for a while when he is young in order to establish the framework for English thinking.”

Wrote Song: “The child will benefit from living in Vancouver, which is our consensus. After you return to China we can agree upon fixed time for video chat. Due to the time difference I guess most of the time it will be your nighttime, and if you are with your lover and cannot have video chat, please notify us in advance and do not ignore the child’s video call, which will hurt him. Tell your mother to take her time receiving treatment recovering in Beijing. The child will not be there [British Columbia] for long.”

Richmond city council candidate Kerry Starchuk (Twitter)

Canada and the U.S. are the only G7 nations that give automatic citizenship to a child born to foreign citizens. At its August policy convention, the opposition Conservative Party passed a non-binding motion to end birth tourism, unless one of the parents is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Richmond city council candidate Kerry Starchuk initiated a petition earlier this year that is ultimately aimed at banning birth tourism. The petition, sponsored by Richmond-Steveston Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido, drew support of 10,882 people and awaits tabling in the Houses of Commons. Electronic petitions must attract at least 500 digital signatories to be considered by the House of Commons.

“”The practice of ‘Birth Tourism’ can be very costly to taxpayers, since it can be used to gain access to Canada’s publicly subsidized post-secondary education system and to take advantage of Canada’s public healthcare system and generous social security programs, all without having to contribute much to the funding of these systems and programs,” said the Starchuk petition’s preamble. “Canadian citizens and permanent residents have been displaced by foreign nationals at local hospitals, thereby requiring Canadian citizens and permanent residents to seek medical attention at other facilities. Underground and unregulated ‘for profit’ businesses have developed both in Canada and ‘countries of origin’ to facilitate the practice of ‘Birth Tourism.”

During the year ended March 31, 2018, 474 babies were born at Richmond Hospital to foreign mothers, mainly from China. By comparison, Canadian mothers gave birth to 1,671 babies at the hospital. In 2016, B.C.’s health ministry had evidence of 26 so-called “baby houses” in the Lower Mainland, which cater to mothers visiting Canada to give birth.

Vancouver Coastal Health is suing a Chinese mother for an unpaid bill from a complicated pregnancy. The bill is worth more than $1 million, including interest. 

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Bob Mackin A British Columbia Supreme Court judge

Bob Mackin

The code of conduct investigation into Yes Vancouver mayoral candidate Hector Bremner is two weeks overdue.

City hall-hired lawyer Henry Wood did not respond to theBreaker’s query about the status of his conflict of interest investigation, which began May 7. He is out of office until Oct. 8. 

But, in an Aug. 1 letter, Wood wrote that, subject to the timing of Bremner’s responses, he would endeavour to finish the investigation and present his findings by mid-September.

The letter was sent to Mayor Gregor Robertson, deputy city manager Paul Mochrie, the complainants — Justin Fung of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers and ProVancouver city council candidate Raza Mirza — and Bremner and his lawyer James Hatton.

Lawyer Henry Wood

Said city hall spokeswoman Ellie Lambert: “The timing of the election is not a factor in the delivery of the report. Mr. Wood will deliver the report when he has completed his investigation but that process is not yet complete. The city does not have an updated timing for delivery of the report.”

Bremner was elected to city council for the NPA in October 2017’s by-election. He continued to be a full-time vice-president at the Pace Group public relations and lobbying firm after he was sworn-in.

Wood is deciding whether Bremner’s participation in city council agenda items about West Point Grey densification, Northeast False Creek development and liquor sales in grocery stores constitutes conflict of interest. The code of conduct says that a conflict exists “when an individual is, or could be, influenced, or appear to be influenced, by a personal interest, financial (pecuniary) or otherwise, when carrying out their public duty. Personal interest can include direct or indirect pecuniary interest, bias, pre-judgment, close mindedness or undue influence.”

Bremner left the BC Liberal government as a ministerial aide at the end of January 2015 to join the Pace Group, where he registered to lobby the BC Liberal government for Steelhead LNG. His mayoral candidacy disclosure form says his only source of income is now from city council. He originally wanted to run for mayor under the NPA banner, but the board rejected his candidacy.

Hector Bremner

Bremner did not respond for comment. In his Yes Vancouver party platform, on a page headlined #LetsFixHousing timeline, it says: “April 2018: two anti-housing activists, supporting a rival for the mayoral nomination, file frivolous ‘conflict of interest’ complaints with the city.”

“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.

Glen Chernen, who was his rival for the NPA by-election nomination in 2017, complained to the registrar of lobbyists about Bremner’s Steelhead LNG registration. Bremner was originally fined $2,000 last February for not disclosing his former employment under Deputy Premier Rich Coleman. The decision was overturned in August on a technicality. Registrar Michael McEvoy issued an extraordinary open letter to Attorney General David Eby, asking the government to close the loophole that allows former public office holders to avoid disclosing work for a cabinet minister who was still in office when they left government.

The outcome of the Bremner case, McEvoy said, represented “the very mischief the legislation was designed to eliminate, the potential for undue influence and the use of insider knowledge in lobbying.”

Opponents criticized Bremner for a billboard and Facebook ad campaign that the Globe and Mail reported was paid-for by developer Peter Wall. StarMetro reported that former BC Liberal caucus worker Micah Haince acted as the media buyer. Haince did not respond to queries from theBreaker. Bremner pleaded ignorance about who was behind the campaign, which ended before the Sept. 22 start of the campaign period.

Election day is Oct. 20.

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Bob Mackin The code of conduct investigation into

The Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe put Canada at a dismal number 55 in their annual ranking of countries with effective freedom of information laws. The home and native land fell six spots from last year. The system is clearly broken.  

The poll was released during Right to Know Week 2018. In Vancouver, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association hosted its Info Summit, where journalism professor and transparency advocate Sean Holman delivered an urgent warning in his Sept. 27 keynote speech. 

Information, Holman said, “does not appear to be able to purchase the kind of citizen and consumer control that we thought it would and should,” because of the rise of partisanship, the permanent campaign and the influence of special interests. Governments and corporations are using sophisticated surveillance, storage and information retrieval technologies. They are exerting their power through propaganda and advertising that, Holman said, “poisons the public square, choking off debate and dissent.”

“We should not simply be advocating for transparency, it means we should be advocating for the value of information. We need to do more to teach our children to use that information to make the reasoned and empathetic decisions that our society is supposed to be based on.”

On this edition of Podcast, listen to part of Holman’s Sept. 27 keynote speech, which includes pop culture references, quotes from academics and politicians and Holman’s own astute observations. 

Also: commentaries and headlines from around the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest.

Click below or go to iTunes and subscribe.

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Advocating for the value of information

The Centre for Law and Democracy and

Bob Mackin

What does a lame duck mayor do after breaking his promise to end street homelessness and opting instead to promote Vancouver as an urban resort for China’s richest? 

Take valuable time away from the deadly opioid overdose crisis in order to pretend to be a comedian, of course!

That is what Mayor Gregor Robertson did four months ago for his take on the Channel 4 (U.K.) and CBS (U.S.) reality TV show, Undercover Boss.

theBreaker noticed an hour-long, May 18 “Undercover Boss Planning Meeting” in chief of staff Kevin Quinlan’s calendar when it was finally disclosed in August. The FOI office said there were no records, so theBreaker applied for the video on Sept. 6. A copy of the video was posted internally on Sept. 27 for civic employees and leaked to theBreaker.

Robertson began the video by proclaiming that he was “back east in Halifax at a Big City Mayors’ meeting” (which took place May 31) and could not attend the annual awards to recognize bureaucrats (like the 43-person communications department, which received the city manager’s award). 

Robertson donned a hardhat and fake moustache, and called himself “Robert Gregorson, Undercover Mayor.”

Funny. The pseudonym sounds like his secret Gmail account that was recently discovered by theBreaker:

In the cringe-worthy video, he pretends to work in parking enforcement, VPD canine unit, permits and licensing, engineering and temporary modular housing.

The engineering segment shows Robertson lowering a concrete pipe bearing “Mayor Gregor Robertson 2008-2018” in graffiti. In the permits and licensing segment, with general manager Kay Krishna, he purports to rubber stamp, sight unseen, a stack of blueprints, after Krishna asks “you know anything about affordable housing?”

Vancouver elects a new mayor on Oct. 20. Robertson will be the ex-mayor, by sometime in early November, with a $29,000 bonus that he voted for himself. 

Watch for yourself.

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Bob Mackin What does a lame duck mayor

Bob Mackin

If he is elected Mayor of Vancouver on Oct. 20, the target of an anonymous Facebook smear campaign says that he would strike a privacy task force to protect personal information and try to end anonymous campaigning.

NPA leader Ken Sim made the announcement Sept. 25 when he unveiled the party’s transparency and accountability platform.

“I’m extremely concerned, as I know you are, about the influence of anonymous advertising and secret money on our political process,” Sim said. “That’s why I will commission an independent, third party review of the current election financing and advertising rules, including the role of anonymous groups, with the goal of taking anonymous advertising out of Vancouver politics.”

NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim

A Facebook page called “Vancouver Deserves Better than Ken Sim” appeared Sept. 14 and made allegations against Sim, without providing any proof. The anonymous operator of the page did not respond to theBreaker. Facebook removed the page within two days, citing a breach of its spam policy. While the page was up, a former NPA board member suggested Yes Vancouver mayoral candidate Hector Bremner was responsible. Bremner, a city councillor whose NPA bid for the party’s mayoral nomination was rejected, did not respond to theBreaker. Among the questions for Bremner was whether he would condemn the approach taken by that particular Facebook page.

“I was warned about this before I decided to run for office,” Sim said. “I have a clean record and I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done. There’s probably going to be more mudslinging but it’s not going to be coming from us. We’re going to run our campaign based on facts, if people sling mud and they make stuff up, we can’t stop them. Were going to focus on winning a campaign.”

The Globe and Mail reported that developer Peter Wall, who has previously backed  the BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver with big donations, spent $85,000 through the Bennett Jones law firm on a secret billboard campaign promoting Bremner and his Yes Vancouver party. StarMetro reported that MNH Strategies was contracted to execute the campaign. The company’s principal is Micah Haince, who worked in the BC Liberal government caucus office under Bremner supporter Lorne Mayencourt. The B.C. phone number on the MNH website was no longer in service and a call to the Ottawa number and an email to the company was not returned. theBreaker wanted to know whether MNH was also involved in the anti-Sim Facebook page.

The controversy prompted rival Coalition Vancouver mayoral candidate Wai Young to call for a police investigation. Elections BC regulates paid advertising during the Sept. 22-Oct. 20 election period, and the Wall-funded campaign was gone before the official campaign period.

Sim said he is also concerned about complaints by NPA members who have received fundraising email from Bremner’s Yes Vancouver party without their consent. Several members have contacted theBreaker, believing there may be a breach of the B.C. Personal Information Privacy Act.

NPA campaign manager Wendy Hartley had previously told theBreaker that the party believes the only list Bremner may have accessed was the one for the 2017 by-election campaign. She said the party asked Bremner’s campaign manager in late May to cease and desist from using any NPA membership list information. Hartley said anyone who has concerns has been encouraged to complain to anti-spam authorities, such as the CRTC.

“They are not authorized to use any of this personal information,” Hartley said. “They advised us that they were only contacting people with whom they had a prior existing relationship.”

Nobody from Yes Vancouver has responded for comment.

Bremner at the Sept. 17 BIV/Courier debate.

“It’s very clear that there are other organizations breaching a bunch of rules and I don’t think that’s right,” Sim said. “People have a right to have their privacy protected. We can only carry ourselves accordingly, we can’t stop people from behaving badly. But we can point it out.”

Sim also said a majority NPA city council would establish a civic lobbyist registry and whistleblower protection, though details were not released. The announcement was timed for Right to Know Week. Sim said the NPA would also “end the process of an overly secretive city hall where reporters are unwelcome… by making transparency and disclosure the default response to all inquiries; exceptions will be made only when necessary, rather than at every possible turn.”

The NDP government has not enacted the promised Duty to Document law, which would ban the unauthorized deletion or destruction of government records. That means city hall records created under the outgoing Vision Vancouver regime since 2008 are in jeopardy of disappearing before a new mayor and council are elected. 

“They have a duty to all Vancouverites not to do that, so stop destroying stuff if you are and follow the law,” said Sim, who has promised a full audit of city hall finances.

In a 2016 compliance audit, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham found Vancouver city hall, under Vision Vancouver’s watch, routinely violated basic duties of the province’s freedom of information law and tended to discriminate against media requesters.

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s former chief of staff, Mike Magee, mass-deleted his email and used his consulting company’s email account to conduct civic business. Robertson was recently found by theBreaker to be using a Gmail account to conduct civic business, despite Denham’s warning to stop using private email accounts for public business.

When Robertson led Vision Vancouver to its first victory in 2008, he promised to restore transparency and accountability to city hall. “I will not let you down,” he said, in his first swearing-in speech. 

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Bob Mackin If he is elected Mayor of

The political battleground that Facebook has become is harmful to democracy.

That is according to the Victoria, B.C. whistleblower whose revelations of widespread data misuse shook the social media giant earlier this year.

Christopher Wylie told Extraordinary Future 2018 investment conference in Vancouver on Sept. 19 that Facebook’s claim to be a community is an illusion.  

Wylie, the former research director for military contractor SCL Group, talked about how the company morphed into an election campaign business and how social media has been weaponized against voters.

He sat down with Blake Corbet, the managing director of PI Financial Corp., at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Listen to part of their candid conversation on this edition of Podcast. 

Also: commentaries and headlines from around the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest.

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Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Facebook whistleblower comes home to B.C.

The political battleground that Facebook has become