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Bob Mackin

The Vision Vancouver-majority city council decided to sell land earmarked for non-profit housing to a luxury tower developer at a fraction of the appraised value, theBreaker has learned.

Pinnacle International bought 601 Beach Crescent in November 2016 for $20 million, which was higher than the $8.1 million property assessment. But, documents obtained by CityHallWatch via freedom of information and provided to theBreaker, show that the land beside the north end of the Granville Bridge was appraised at $90 million to $160 million, depending on how high and dense a tower could be built on the site.

Pinnacle International paid $20 million in 2016 for 601 Beach Crescent. Artist’s rendering of proposed 52-storey tower (right).

In May of this year, Pinnacle revealed its plan to build a 52-storey tower near Westbank’s Vancouver House. The Pinnacle tower, designed by Shanghai’s JYOM International, would be 535 feet, compared to the 493-foot Vancouver House. Pinnacle must also build 152 affordable housing units, worth $44.5 million.

City hall spokeswoman Ellie Lambert said the sale was structured with rezoning in mind. She called the $20 million paid a “base purchase price… but this is not the final overall price.”

“The appraisal estimations were based on two scenarios which were created to provide estimated market value on rezoning and inform the evaluation of the bids,” Lambert said in a prepared statement. “Until the developer rezones the lands and square footage is confirmed, we will not know the final sales price but we anticipate that it may well be at the higher end of the appraisal estimates.”

Nobody from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office responded to theBreaker.

The appraisal, conducted for city hall by CWPC Property Consultants, contemplated a 425-foot or 42-storey tower, totalling 390,937 square feet or a 500-foot or 50-storey tower with 567,000 square feet. If the property is not developed in the first five years, city hall has the option to buy it back for the purchase price.

In a Nov. 21, 2016 news release, city hall said it received four offers and deemed the Pinnacle proposal “the best overall value.” But the news release made no mention of the appraisal.

The deal calls for Pinnacle to pay an extra $365 per additional buildable square foot above the current zoning. Pinnacle would owe $73 million to $127.75 million if the city approves another 200,0000 to 350,000 square feet above its current 186,641 square feet zoning. The triangular property had been zoned for a 17-storey tower, six-storey low-rise and a four-to-five storey low-rise. In its August 2016, court filings against city hall, Concord Pacific claimed city hall was breaching the original October 1999 sale agreement that included a promise for the land to be “used exclusively for charitable public purposes through development as non-profit housing units and that its designation would be maintained.”

The 2016 land sale notice.

NPA Coun. George Affleck said Pinnacle got the upper hand. He said the city should be making long-term leases with developers or developing land itself.

“I don’t think we should be selling city property, there are better ways to use city property than sell it,” Affleck said. “It hurts our long-term viability.”

Pinnacle president Michael De Cotiis did not respond to an email query.

The Elections BC database shows no significant donations to Vision Vancouver from Pinnacle, which is a separate company from major donors Rossano De Cotiis’s Onni and Donato De Cotiis’s Amacon Management Services.

The appraisal estimated a 15% profit, or almost $77 million, for the developer from a 50-storey tower with 567,000 square feet.

“It is our opinion that a developer would want to participate more in the profit in the second scenario as opposed to sharing the lift with the City of Vancouver for achieving the higher density,” said the CWPC report.

The Pinnacle land is less than a kilometre south of the controversial Brenhill land swap that is the subject of an RCMP investigation.

City hall traded the $15 million-valued 508 Helmcken to Brenhill Developments for 1099 Richards, worth $8.4 million. Brenhill built a new social housing project at 1099, with a $39 million B.C. Housing loan, to replace the one at 508 where Brenhill is building a luxury tower that overlooks Emery Barnes Park.

In 2016, three years after it was rezoned, Helmcken was worth $90.2 million.

Glen Chernen, the Coalition Vancouver city council candidate who complained to the RCMP about the Brenhill land swap, calls the Pinnacle deal “just another giveaway of our prime city-owned lands.”

“These were non-competitive back door deals,” Chernen said. “They seem to have been given away at a discount of as much as 75%.”

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Bob Mackin The Vision Vancouver-majority city council decided

Bob Mackin

Was it a clever, trick question or another mistake from the polling company that blew last year’s Calgary election prediction?

The Mainstreet Research robocall poll on the Vancouver election asked about support for mayoral candidates, including one named Maya Richards. Mainstreet reported Sept. 9 that 1.1% of the 862 respondents were most likely to vote for Richards, while 2.6% considered themselves decided or leaning toward Richards.

Who is this candidate?

The infant daughter of Vision Vancouver supporter Rory Richards.

In a satirical, April 29 Facebook post, Rory Richards wrote under the headline “Vancouver’s Youngest Mayoral Candidate Emerges.”

Rory Richards’ satirical Facebook post.

Maya Richards announced her Mayoral candidacy in Vancouver’s highly anticipated municipal election.

‘lt’s time for a change.’ Richards told a packed room of supporters at a Chinatown fundraiser on Sunday. And she wasn’t referring to her diaper.

From Tories to treehuggers, granola lovers to gas guzzlers, Richards feels that she is the unity candidate the city needs to heal the deep partisan lines that have kept Vancouver divided.

‘Whether you’re a whiny 1%’er or a crybaby communist – I speak your language and share your sense of entitlement.’ Richards told supporters. ‘But the tantrums stop here. We must unite for a better Vancouver.’

When pressed on policy she dodged questions about her platform, but insiders close to Richards say that it will likely be liberal on Cheerios and tough on broccoli.

However, Richards did reveal that a core focus of her campaign will be tackling affordable housing. She says that between her child tax benefit and salary as a professional matzah ball, she struggles to make her crib rent and stroller payments.

And like many babies in the city, attending daycare in the future is a pipe dream. She says adults are taking up valuable daycare stock, making it impossible for babies like her to get into the market.’

‘The adult daycare at City Hall has got to end.’ says Richards. ‘It’s time to grow up and make room for real babies.’

Minimum age to run for public office in British Columbia is 18, which means Richards cannot really be included on the 2018 ballot to decide a replacement for Gregor Robertson. 

Mainstreet president Quito Maggi has not immediately responded for comment.

The inclusion of Maya Richards is reminiscent of U.S. opinion polls in 2015 and 2016 that included a presidential candidate by the name of Deez Nuts. The satirical candidate was actually Iowa teenager Brady Olson, who wouldn’t have met the minimum age of 35 to be sworn-in as president. 

That was not the only oddity in the Mainstreet survey.

theBreaker obtained a recording of the poll on Sept. 5. The questionnaire omitted left-wing parties COPE and OneCity. Same for Fred Harding, the mayoral candidate for Vancouver 1st.

Mainstreet Research

The Greens were the fourth party listed in the two questions about party preference, but they were not included in the results.

Maggi claimed in a news release that he wanted to see the relationship between some of the mayoral candidates and their parties. Greens and COPE will be included next time.

Among decided and leaning voters, independent Kennedy Stewart led with support from 23.3% of respondents, followed by the Yes party’s Bremner (13.6%) and NPA’s Ken Sim (12.4%). Vision Vancouver’s Ian Campbell, who quit the race on Sept. 10, was fourth at 9%.

On the two questions corresponding with Bremner’s campaign, almost as many people (35.2%) supported as opposed (34.7%) Bremner’s proposal for a 50% speculation tax on homes sold unimproved within two years and 43.1% disagreed that the mayor must have city hall experience. Rookie Bremner is the only candidate with Vancouver city council experience, albeit only 10 months after winning last fall’s by-election. 

The Sept. 4-5 poll sampled 862 adults 18 years and older living in Vancouver. However, theBreaker learned that not all contacted on mobile phones and landlines were eligible to vote in City of Vancouver. The company said the survey was not sponsored by a third party, and it had a plus or minus 3.34%, 19 times out of 20,  margin of error.

Mainstreet apologized profusely for conducting three polls for Postmedia that incorrectly predicted challenger Bill Smith would knock-off incumbent Naheed Nenshi in last fall’s Calgary civic election.

Listen to the Mainstreet Sept. 5 robocall poll. Click below. 

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Bob Mackin Was it a clever, trick question

University of British Columbia urban planning professor Patrick Condon was preparing to run as COPE’s mayoral candidate, until he was hit by a stroke in July. His doctor told him to take it easy, but he is doing whatever he can to support the party’s candidates and add his voice to the discourse.

Listen to this edition of Podcast to hear Condon tell host Bob Mackin the latest on his recovery and about his thoughts on the two big issues in this fall’s campaign: housing and transportation. 

On housing: “Adding more supply hasn’t really done anything to mitigate prices; an increase in supply in the City of Vancouver has exceeded population growth.” 

On rapid transit: “We’ve chosen a different and wrong direction… Every time we hear about [the Broadway Subway], it costs more money. The original cost was $3 billion to get it all the way to UBC. Then they said it’s going to cost $2 billion just to get to Arbutus… it’s $2.8 billion, now.”

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: Condon confronts supply sophistry and spendy SkyTrain

University of British Columbia urban planning

Bob Mackin

The real estate and immigration lawyer who wants to topple incumbent Malcolm Brodie and become Richmond’s first Chinese-born mayor is facing professional misconduct allegations from the Law Society of British Columbia.

In an exclusive interview with theBreaker, Hong Guo said she has not decided whether she will continue her campaign for the Oct. 20 civic election. She has until Sept. 14 to register for the ballot. 

“I don’t know, because it is difficult for me to explain this so-called citation,” Guo said on Sept. 8. “It is too difficult for me to explain that, although it is nonsense, although the hearing is not done yet, there is no result. It’s going to take a while to clear your name.”

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

The lengthy, Sept. 4-issued citation accuses Guo of breach of accounting rules, failure to supervise/improper delegation, misappropriation/improper withdrawal, breach of undertaking to the Law Society, and breach of a Law Society order.

The allegations are unproven. Guo will face a hearing before a disciplinary panel on a date to be announced, some time after the election. If misconduct is proven, Guo could face reprimand, a maximum $50,000 fine, conditions or restrictions on her practice, a suspension, or expulsion from the legal profession.

“I expected politics could be dirty,” she said. “I am just a lawyer, I am a businessperson, so I don’t know how to play tricks and I don’t really know what tricks could be. But anyway, I believe, at the end, everything will be clear.”

Guo said she wants more details about the allegations against her, than what appears on the Law Society of B.C.’s website. She believes it all stems from the $7.5 million that went missing from her law firm’s trust accounts in early 2016. She accused two former employees of theft who she said laundered the money through B.C. casinos and took it to China. She claimed the Law Society, RCMP and her bank let her down, so she pursued the two ex-employees by herself in China until they were arrested in August 2017 in Zhuhai, a city near gambling haven Macau. Guo said she sold her share of a company that holds an investment property on 15th Avenue in Surrey to help repay the stolen funds.

“I paid every penny of the shortage, that I am a victim of this theft matter,” she said.

In April of this year, Guo filed a lawsuit against CIBC, seeking $6.6 million because she alleges the bank was wilfully blind or reckless for failing to prevent former bookkeeper Zixin Li (aka Jeff Li) and ex-receptionist Qian “Danica” Pan from misappropriating funds from a trust account.

The detailed accusations in the Law Society’s citation claim:

Will Hong Guo remain in the race?

  • Guo breached Law Society accounting rules between January 2014 and April 2016 by failing to retain bank statements, cancelled cheques and bank deposit slips from trust accounts and she allegedly failed to report certain trust accounts were short and bank accounts overdrawn.
  • She gave a non-lawyer one or more of 112 pre-signed blank trust cheques, and permitted a non-lawyer to issue one or more of 90 trust cheques drawn on a trust account totalling $44.7 million without proper supervision.
  • She failed to properly supervise bookkeeper Li, improperly delegating trust accounting responsibilities to him or both during the first quarter of 2016, “thereby facilitating the misappropriation” of $7.5 million from a trust account.
  • She misappropriated or improperly withdrew a total $7.9 million of client trust funds from April 2016 to June 2016, when trust accounting records were not current. There was a combined shortage of almost $650,000 from the accounts, the Law Society claims. 

The Law Society also alleges Guo breached an April 19, 2016 undertaking by failing to immediately open a new trust account for new client matters, by depositing $196.6 million into a trust account related to 165 new client matters and that she withdrew $7.27 million in trust funds with as many as 30 cheques that had not been signed by a second signatory. The Law Society also says she breached an interim order, made by three of its benchers, by depositing $24.4 million and making an $80,000 payment to a client affected by a shortage in a trust account without the society’s knowledge or consent.

“It’s not right,” Guo said of the claims against her in the citation. “It’s twisted. It’s not truthful.”

Guo is a 14-year resident of Richmond with a law degree from Ontario’s University of Windsor. She was called to the B.C. bar in 2009. She said she is concerned about traffic congestion, public safety, affordable housing and job and education opportunities for youth. Her campaign logo is a stylized bridge, which symbolizes her advocacy for a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel and for strengthening cultural ties between Richmond and China.

Guo said she originally decided to challenge Brodie, a lawyer who has been Richmond’s mayor since 2001, because “I just cannot sit there anymore as resident of Richmond, as a mother, as a lawyer, I just don’t think we can just sit there and to wait. We need to do something.”

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Bob Mackin The real estate and immigration lawyer

Bob Mackin

In only their fifth season, the Vancouver Whitecaps reached their peak on this day in 1979, when they defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands to claim the North American Soccer League’s Soccer Bowl championship.

It was the weekend after they outlasted the heavily favoured New York Cosmos in a dramatic tiebreaker.

Where were you on this day?

I was watching the ABC telecast with third grade friends at home in North Vancouver’s Carisbrooke neighbourhood.

The next day, I was at the newly built Robson Square, on the back of the stage, when the team returned from New York with the trophy. Who could forget captain John Craven and goalkeepker Phil “Lofty” Parkes with the trophy, which had separated from its base? Or Carl Valentine in a cowboy hat, clutching a pen for autographs in one hand and a stubby bottle of Labatt Blue in another? Or Mayor Jack Volrich, who drew some of the loudest cheers for promising to build the team a new stadium?

To commemorate the 39th anniversary, I invite you to watch the entire match below.

Watch closely and answer these skill-testing questions:

  1. How many miles apart, according to play-by-play man Jim McKay, are Vancouver and Tampa?
  2. Which Whitecap’s surname was misspelled on his jersey?
  3. Which Whitecap’s number was blue on his back?
  4. Who accepted the ceremonial kickoff from Pele and the Soccer Bowl trophy from Henry Kissinger?
  5. Who was the Vancouverite that starred with the Rowdies?
  6. What is in the Lenarduzzi family basement?
  7. What does Bob Lenarduzzi play in the off-season?
  8. Who is the “most famous soccer fan in America”?
  9. Which Whitecaps “left the field” as Rowdies?

The first three people to correctly answer all nine questions in the comments section below will each receive a copy of a Whitecaps program from the 1984 NASL season.

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Bob Mackin In only their fifth season, the

Bob Mackin

Toronto-headquartered Mainstreet Research, which is still recovering from its Calgary election debacle last fall, is gathering data about the Oct. 20 Vancouver election for what it called “Discussions Canada.”

The client was not revealed on the eight-minute automated poll on Sept. 5, which was notable for what was included and what was omitted. Listen to the recording below.  

The company led-off with questions about federal and B.C. party and leader voting preferences, then got down to business, asking about the most important issue in the civic election. Choices were, in order of appearance: housing crisis, Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, provincial housing speculation tax, downtown revitalization, property taxes, traffic congestion, safe streets, bicycle lanes, homelessness or another issue.

A Mainstreet Research poll asks about support for Justin Trudeau and Hector Bremner. (Twitter)

Choices for mayoral candidates were listed in alphabetical order (Hector Bremner, Ian Campbell, David Chen, Ken Sim, Kennedy Stewart, Shauna Sylvester, Wai Young), with a twist at the end. Instead of Fred Harding of Vancouver 1st, Maya Richards was named.

Then there were questions about voting for Bremner versus Sim and Sim versus Stewart. The obligatory support or oppose the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion question was followed with whether the city has a role in stopping it.

Back to the big issue, housing, and whether to support or oppose the following: modular housing for the homeless; provincial government speculation tax; empty homes tax; building more housing to lower housing prices; and the “final issue,” a 50% speculation tax on homes sold unimproved within two years.

The latter is one of the first planks of Bremner’s campaign, revealed Sept. 4 on the Yes party’s Facebook page under the heading: “Made-in-Vancouver Speculation Tax.” 

“Yes Vancouver will begin to work with the province to introduce a true speculation tax for the city of Vancouver, taxing 50% of profits on the sale of unimproved residential housing, within 24 months of gaining ownership, including pre-sale assignments prior to ownership,” Bremner wrote.

Then, another question in Bremner’s ballpark: “Do you agree or disagree the mayor must have city hall experience?”

Bremner took advantage of low voter turnout and a left-wing split to win a seat on city council in a by-election last October. Nobody else has Vancouver city hall experience. Only Stewart and Young have been elected to public office, but as Members of Parliament.

Hot-button housing questions about banning foreign buyers or taxing them and charging them more, and preference for planning and zoning options, including whether to allow duplexes and townhomes in all neighbourhoods; 40 storey high-rise buildings downtown, 10-storey buildings near downtown, four-storey buildings in an outer ring and leave 10% single family remaining; or reduce density.

Mainstreet blew its predictions for the Calgary 2017 election.

Finally, the listener was asked whether he or she supports or leans towards, in order of appearance: Yes, Vision, NPA, Greens, Pro Vancouver, Vancouver 1st, Coalition Vancouver or undecided. Oddly, neither the left-wing COPE nor OneCity were included in the list.

And, the kicker, “How would you rate the performance of Gregor Robertson as mayor over the last term?”

Mainstreet conducted three polls for Postmedia, the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald publisher, in 2017 that incorrectly predicted Bill Smith would defeat two-term incumbent Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Last December, Mainstreet said it conducted an internal investigation that concluded the errors were neither intentional nor malicious. It missed contacting young voters “because they were harder to reach.”

The review also found shortcomings in robocall polling, known technically as interactive voice response.

“Although Mainstreet still believes it is viable with some adjustments detailed in [the internal review] report, declining response rates and a growing youth demographic that are harder to reach, mean that IVR is not the future of polling,” said a letter on the Mainstreet website from president Quito Maggi. “In addition to implementing the short-term recommendations of the report, Mainstreet is actively working on next-generation polling technology and continuing to strive to improve in every way.”

Listen to the Mainstreet Research Vancouver civic election robocall below. 

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Bob Mackin Toronto-headquartered Mainstreet Research, which is still

Bob Mackin

The latest entrant in the race to unseat Lisa Helps as mayor of Victoria in the Oct. 20 civic election is a lobbyist who wants to push the pause button on bike lanes, but press fast forward on affordable housing.

Michael Geoghegan, 52, will announce his campaign on Sept. 5 in the shadow of the Parliament Buildings, where he came to work as a ministerial aide in the Mike Harcourt NDP government in the early 1990s. Since 1996, Geoghegan has lobbied municipal, provincial and the federal officials on behalf of a variety of clients, including the Council of Construction Trades Associations, Electrical Contractors Association of B.C., and Mortgage Brokers Association of B.C. He was asked why the public should trust a lobbyist to run city hall. 

“If you want to build more housing you pretty much need to vote for the guy who has got the connections to the housing sector to deliver that. For the rest of them it’s just a talking point, it’s not reality,” Geoghegan told theBreaker.

Michael Geoghegan

“You can bet I will be using all those connections with one clear objective: increase the supply of affordable and low income housing. It’s not about me giving favours to X, Y and Z, it’s how can I increase the inventory.”

Geoghegan said that, if elected, he would quit his lobbying business and be a full-time mayor. He is open to the concept of a municipal lobbyist registry, like the ones that he applied to federally and provincially.

“Everyone is going to be treated with fairness, my number one loyalty is to the young couple who is looking for somewhere to live to raise a family, my loyalty is to the working person who can’t afford a place to live and needs a place to rent. That’s my number one loyalty.”

Geoghegan said the application process for residential housing needs to be streamlined to lessen delays and costs faced by developers. He points to Victoria suburb Langford as an example of less red tape and quicker approvals.

He fears that, without those changes, Victoria will become more like parts of Vancouver, “where you have neighbourhoods and entire runs of houses absent for most months of the year. Meanwhile we’re going to have parks full of people in tents and in campers on side streets. That’s a pretty dystopian, third world kind of city that I certainly wouldn’t want to live in. But that’s where we’re headed.”

Geoghegan also points to the downtown Victoria bike lane network, which has doubled in price to $14.5 million under Helps and could wind-up being more than $20 million. Geoghegan said he cycles to his Monday morning show on CFAX radio, but said dedicated routes should be relocated to secondary streets. He is taking aim at a planned bike lane down Wharf Street that would impede traffic going to and from the Harbour Air seaplane terminal. Floatplanes are integral to the business of government between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria, he said.

Helps made national news in August for ramming through the removal from city hall of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue with little public input. Geoghegan said he wants to take the 1982 work of sculptor John Dann out of storage and display it on the grounds of the Empress Hotel, Legislature or Beacon Hill Park because the good, bad and ugly of B.C.’s past should not be forgotten. “We need to own our history,” he said.

“We didn’t have a statue of him at city hall in terms of celebrating any of the things he did wrong, it was simply noting the interesting historical fact that for one of his terms in office he actually, technically was the MP from Victoria while he was the Prime Minister in Ottawa. We should relocate that statue and, maybe, to put it in its proper context, maybe we should have a statue of [Port Alberni-born] Kim Campbell there. She was also a Prime Minister from British Columbia. B.C. has a somewhat tenuous relationship in terms of electing prime ministers. John Turner was briefly Prime Minister of Canada as well.”

Geoghegan has served on the Langford planning and zoning committee and finished fourth in last fall’s Saanich city council by-election.

His platform also includes a free annual pass to city recreational facilities for children 18 and under, improving street light timing to enable better flow of vehicles, and a one-time fee for business licences to replace annual renewals.

Geoghegan and five others are vying to defeat Helps, who was elected in 2014. Candidates have until Sept. 14 to file papers with city hall. 

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Bob Mackin The latest entrant in the

Bob Mackin

A man was violently arrested Sept. 1 while jubilant, smart-phone-toting Vancouver Whitecaps fans were heading out of B.C. Place Stadium after the victory over San Jose.

Video clips posted to the VWFC Fans and Supporters group on Facebook by Zach Copland, obtained by theBreaker, show a Vancouver Police officer dealing briefly with a male near a door on level two. A B.C. Place security guard was also on-scene. She briefly attempted to stop a person from shooting video of the incident. Several workers with security contractor Genesis were also nearby.

The video shows the police officer throwing the male to the floor, face down, and restraining his hands.

VPD spokesman Const. Jason Doucette said that a police officer came across a security staffer speaking with a man outside an exit door near sections 202-203. The security guard was trying to explain the stadium’s no-re-entry policy. “The man did not want to hear about the policy and continued to insist he had to get back in to meet up with his group,” Doucette told theBreaker.

The police officer took over to reiterate the stadium policy and, Doucette said, tried to call the man’s group to arrange a meeting place. The man refused to listen, Doucette said.

He was cautioned at least three times that he had to leave the area because he was not allowed back in. Again, the man refused to comply so our officer took him by the arm to usher his away from the exit. The man began to actively resist the officer and was eventually arrested with the assistance of additional officers for breach of the peace,” Doucette said. “A taser was displayed by the lone officer during the confrontation, but he did not have to deploy it and no one was injured.”

The 36-year-old man was released a short time later at the stadium. Charges are not being recommended at this time.

On the Facebook group, a person who claimed to recognize the man said he was seen in the Curva Collective section earlier in the evening and was observed to be neither drunk nor belligerent. Another said he saw the person put his hand in the police officer’s face.

B.C. Place has deferred comment to the Vancouver Police. 

Doucette said the goal is to not have to use physical force and that most times speaking with a person will de-escalate a situation peacefully. “We will use only as much force necessary to gain control of a subject,” he said.

UPDATE (Sept. 20): theBreaker sought a copy of the incident report and related surveillance video under the freedom of information law. However, PavCo responded Sept. 19 to say that it is withholding those records because “there is an active and ongoing investigation by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.” PavCo fears disclosing the footage at this time would compromise that investigation, but it vowed to revisit the decision after the investigation is concluded.  

OPCC director of operations and strategic initiatives Andrea Spindler refused to comment. 

Warning: video contains profanity.

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Bob Mackin A man was violently arrested Sept.

Schools open this week for 650,000 Kindergarten to Grade 12 students across British Columbia.

School board hopefuls around the province will also begin putting pencil to paper, because the filing window to run in the Oct. 20 municipal elections opens Sept. 4-14.

Norm Farrell is one of those running for office. Farrell has analyzed and criticized provincial issues, particularly BC Hydro, on his blog for the last decade. Now the semi-retired accountant is vying for a seat on North Vancouver School board.

“I guess I got to the point where I felt like I wanted to contribute in a slightly different way,” Farrell told Podcast host Bob Mackin. 

Farrell has seven grandchildren at schools in North Vancouver and he is particularly interested in services for special needs children. He also shares his letter grade on B.C.’s NDP government, after its first year in power. 

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: Back to school, back to the polls

Schools open this week for 650,000 Kindergarten

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s debate over switching to proportional representation from first-past-the-post is about to get “mucho” interesting.

That is because a darling of the NDP’s biggest 2017 backer, the United Steelworkers union, has gone home to Mexico to take one of the 32 senate seats appointed by party leaders based on their party’s share of popular vote.

Out of Canadian exile and into the Mexican senate.

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, 74, was on the list of at-large nominees submitted by the July 1 presidential election winner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the left-wing National Regeneration Movement (Morena).

El Universal newspaper reported Aug. 22 that Gomez’s lawyer, Marco Antonio del Toro,  was traveling to Canada on Aug. 23 to bring “Napito” back home. “After many years, Mr. Napoleon will sleep and eat in his country. And of course, he will have immunity,” reported El Universal. Del Toro did not respond to theBreaker.

On Aug. 27, Gomez Tweeted his photograph in Mexico City, holding his identification badge and certificate, under the words “Senador de Mexico.” 

On Aug. 29, El Diario reported that Gomez had arrived to begin his six-year term “to help reconstruct the country and fight against corruption.” His comments were brief,  because he planned a news conference for later in the week.  

Gomez fled to Vancouver in 2006. He led the Los Mineros union in exile after being accused by Mexican authorities of embezzling US$55 million from union members. He has maintained he is innocent. AltoNivel’s report on Gomez’s return noted that Canada has “increased its presence and exploitation in Mexican mines in recent years.” 

Morena nominated Gomez on Feb. 18, the eve of the 12th anniversary of an explosion at a coal mine that killed 65 workers in Coahuila. 

Leo Gerard (left), Napoleon Gomez Urrutia and Len McCluskey (Facebook)

Several Mexican media outlets reported in early May that Gomez renounced his Canadian citizenship, which he gained in 2014. That was also the year that a Mexican court deemed the charges against him unconstitutional and cancelled an extradition application. But efforts continued to compensate miners. 

On May 9, Mexico’s Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (JCFA) ordered Gomez’s Los Mineros to pay US$55 million to the workers affected by the 2005 trust dissolution. The tribunal made a similar ruling at the end of February. 

Oxford-educated Gomez succeeded his father as the union’s leader in 2000, but never worked in a mine. In 2013, the year before he became a Canadian citizen, Gomez published his memoir, Collapse of Dignity: The Story of a Mining Tragedy and the Fight against Greed and Corruption in Mexico. The foreword was written by USW boss and B.C. NDP backer Leo Gerard. Gomez blamed mining giant Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government for “industrial homicide.” 

El Universal reported that 89 miners have died in Coahuila since the 2006 disaster. From 2008 to the third quarter of 2016, 311 miners died on the job in Mexico, according to government statistics obtained by the newspaper.

Elections BC’s database shows seven Gomez donations to the NDP, from 2009 to 2017, totalling $2,680.

Last September, Jerry Dias, president of Canada’s Unifor union, spoke at a Mexico City labour convention where he called on the Mexican government to let Gomez return safely. 

British Columbias vote on electoral reform in a mail-in ballot from Oct. 22 to Nov. 30. The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, a BC Liberal ally that represents non-union construction companies, failed in its bid for the B.C. Supreme Court to pause the vote on constitutional grounds. 

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Bob Mackin British Columbia’s debate over switching to