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One of the free-with-admission, 2018 additions to the Pacific National Exhibition Fair is the as-seen-on-TV, Middle Ages extreme sport: jousting. 

Bob Mackin interviewed Knights of Valour captain Shane Adams about Full Contact Jousting, the live version of his History TV hit show Full Metal Jousting. 

“We want the people in the audience to sit there and not think that they could do this,” Adams told theBreaker. “We want the people in the audience to go ‘that’s amazing and I would never do it’!” 

Watch the interview below and check out Full Contact Jousting at the PNE Fair, daily at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. through Labour Day. 

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One of the free-with-admission, 2018 additions to

Bob Mackin

A month after a three-alarm fire, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services has not determined the cause of the blaze that engulfed an empty house for sale at 2250 Southwest Marine Drive. 

All that remained of the house at 2250 S.W. Marine Drive after the July 29 fire. (Bob Mackin)

Spokesman Jonathan Gormick told theBreaker that the July 29 incident in posh southern Kerrisdale is “considered suspicious, and is still under investigation.”

The property was assessed at $4.66 million last year and that is also the asking price for the listing by Sutton Group West Coast Realty’s Naomi Wang. 

“Great opportunity to own this 110 x 243 foot, large estate lot,” said Wang’s advertisement. “Exceptional water and island views. Beautiful Southwest Gulf Islands views overlooking Marine Drive Golf Course. Build your 10, 000 + sf mansion dream house! A lot of potential. Inside the catchment area of top ranking Magee Secondary, Kerrisdale Elementary Schools. Minutes away from UBC, Maple Grove Park, McLeery Golf Course and Richmond.”

Real estate agent Naomi Wang had listed 2250 Southwest Marine Drive for $4.6 million before the July 29 fire. (Bob Mackin)

Richmond is the home of the property’s registered owner Sihan Guo, whose No. 4 Road house is in the name of Yu Kuan Wang.

Reached by phone the day after the fire, agent Wang was oblivious.

“A fire? I didn’t know. That house is not liveable, nobody lives there,” Wang said. 

“I didn’t know that happened. I don’t know. I will let my seller know, they are on vacation, I think.”

The property two doors to the east, at 2230 Southwest Marine Drive, is behind a fence, boarded up and coloured by graffiti. The $6.03 million, wild blackberry framed property is registered to Cheng Yu Li and Jian Ying Zhang who are connected to an $8.2 million property on White Rock’s Marine Drive.

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Bob Mackin A month after a three-alarm fire,

The hair is greying, grey or gone. Not all the original bandmembers remain road warriors. Subs included able musicians half their age.

The six-pack of acts that hit the pop charts in the 1980s delivered a spunky and economical performance on the Lost 80s Live tour’s Aug. 26 stop at the Pacific National Exhibition Fair’s amphitheatre. Sets were heavy on the hits and B-sides kept to a minimum. The odd cover song thrown-in for good measure. They all lived up to a primary rule of showbiz: leave them wanting more. 

The tour returns to the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 3 at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, which features Naked Eyes instead of Men Without Hats. It wraps up Sept. 30 in North Carolina. –Bob Mackin

The only touring member of the original A Flock of Seagulls, singer/keyboardist Mike Score, ended Lost 80s Live at the PNE Fair with “I Ran.” (Mackin)

Men Without Hats’ Ivan Doroschuk opened with “Safety Dance.” The leader of the Montreal band now lives in Victoria and his guitarist is DOA collaborator Sho Murray. (Mackin)

 

Wang Chung’s Nick Feldman (left) and Cutting Crew’s Gareth Moulton played the band’s hits “Let’s Go,” “Dance Hall Days,” and Everybody Have Fun Tonight” that originally featured Jack Hues. (Mackin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valerie White and John Smith of Portland “I Can’t Wait” hitmaker Nu Shooz kicked-off Lost 80s Live at the PNE Fair. They played in Vancouver for the first time since 1986. (Mackin)

Clive Farrington (left) and Andrew Mann from When In Rome U.K. fulfilled their promise at Lost 80s Live. (Mackin)

Animotion’s Astrid Plane and former Vancouverite Bill Wadhams. (Mackin)

 

 

 

 

 

The hair is greying, grey or gone.

For 30 years, Dan Russell informed and entertained British Columbia sports fans on his nightly Sports Talk radio show. The longest-running show of its type on Canadian radio began in October 1984 on CJOR. Along the way, Russell’s show originated from CKWX, CFMI, CKNW, MyCityRadio and CISL. 

With a nod to Vin Scully, Russell signed-on every night with his familiar “pleasant good evening” and gave listeners a sportscast, commentary, live interviews and an open line to call-in and discuss the scores and the stories. This was before sports radio and sports TV exploded, before the Internet, before social media. 

Dan Russell was inducted Aug. 25 by the Vancouver Canadians to the Nat Bailey Stadium Broadcast and Journalism Hall of Fame.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, host Bob Mackin catches up with Dan to discuss his memories, including the early days of the Vancouver Canadians, the rise and fall of the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Vancouver Canucks’ 1994 quest for the Stanley Cup.

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Catching up with Sports Talk's Dan Russell
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For 30 years, Dan Russell informed and

Bob Mackin

Who is behind the Vancouverites for Affordable Housing group on Facebook?

Who made the anonymous ads targeting Vision Vancouver and independent candidate for mayor Kennedy Stewart?

The operator has not responded to theBreaker and Facebook refused to disclose the name of whoever is using the variation of mayoral candidate Hector Bremner’s “let’s fix housing” slogan.

Likewise, Bremner did not respond to theBreaker.

Logo for anonymous Vancouver election-related Facebook page

The Facebook group is already drawing the ire of some concerned citizens. 

“Who is behind this group please?” wrote Elvira Lount. “What exactly is your solution for affordable housing? You just don’t start a page without any explanation! And one of your first posts is an anti-union one against Kennedy Stewart. Fake site perhaps? Report to Facebook everyone.”

Added Peter Nicholas Pallett: “Since you don’t identify what candidate/party/special interest group this page is aligned with you’re pretty much chickenshits with zero credibility.”

A Facebook public relations representative, who did not want his name published, referred theBreaker to Elections BC. The agency’s Andrew Watson, however, said there is nothing that can be done for now.

The section of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act that requires political advertising to contain identification of the advertiser is not in effect until the local elections campaign period runs from Sept. 22 until the Oct. 20 election day. Even then, it will not cover all types of election advertising.

“During the campaign period, third party election advertisers must register with our office and include their name and contact information on all advertising,” said Watson. “Free social media posts and pages are not subject to these rules, though paid ads are.”

The Facebook representative said Facebook is not introducing any B.C.-specific security measures for the Oct. 20 municipal elections. The company is focusing on the Quebec and New Brunswick provincial elections, instead. On Aug. 21, Facebook’s head of public policy for Canada, Kevin Chan, held a conference call with reporters about those provincial elections.

According to his speaking notes, Chan told reporters that Facebook used a report by the Communications Security Establishment as a basis for several new measures, because the report warned that account hacking and misinformation were the biggest potential cyberthreats to the 2019 federal election.

Last fall, Canada was Facebook’s first market for a new function to identify advertising content as such, but there is no requirement yet for the advertiser’s identity to be visible to the reader. Facebook is, however, rolling out identification of those behind political advertising in the U.S., where advertisers must provide the company with government issued photo identification and verify where they live in the U.S.

“We believe people should be able to easily understand why they’re seeing ads, who paid for them, and what other ads that advertiser is running,” said Chan’s notes.

In June, it launched a third-party fact checking by Agence France-Presse. Chan claims there are 20,000 people reviewing reports of bad content and bad actors around the clock, in 50 languages.

“You can never fully ‘solve’ a security problem,” Chan said. “Threat actors will constantly find new ways to cause harm; but our goal is to make it much, much harder for these actors to operate across our platforms.”

The company also released a new “cyber hygiene” guide and training program for Canadian political parties and candidates, and it opened a cyber security hotline for political parties.

theBreaker asked the Facebook representative Aug. 22 for an interview with Chan, about B.C.’s upcoming municipal elections. The representative said that Chan was not available, because of parental leave.

The same CSE report that Facebook cited said municipal elections are “likely to come under increasing threat from nation-states and hacktivists.”

“In particular, we know that certain nation-states have core interests that can be affected by Canadian policies related to natural resources, which are often made at the provincial/territorial level. In addition, Canada has provincial/territorial and municipal leaders that have made policies and statements garnering national and international attention. Hacktivists may begin to view sub-national elections, political parties and politicians, and the media as worthy targets.”

In June 2010, Canadian Security Intelligence Service head Richard Fadden told CBC that municipal politicians in B.C. were under the influence of a foreign government. He did not name the country, but strongly hinted that it was China. 

A CSIS report from May 2018 said China’s “dominance strategy appears relentless and irresistible,” noting its aggressive diplomacy and insistence on asymmetrical trade.

What does Hector Bremner know about the anonymous Facebook page?

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.

United Front organizations groom members to participate in politics in target countries, both as candidates for election and as staff in important positions,” said the report. “The Australian Security Intelligence Organization has reportedly estimated at least 10 recent Australian state and local government political candidates are 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.”

A federal committee report in June, probing the involvement of Victoria-based AggregateIQ in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, recommended that the Government of Canada “urgently act” to subject political activities to privacy laws, as they are already in British Columbia. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner began an investigation last September, after complaints arising from the 2017 provincial election. The scope of that investigation was expanded when whistleblower Christopher Wylie made international headlines in March about Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ activities in the U.K. and U.S.

“The scandal has brought to light issues relating to mass data harvesting, the use of data for nefarious purposes, and the threats and challenges these questionable methods can create for democracies around the world,” said the report by the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee. “The evidence that the committee has heard so far gives rise to grave concerns that the Canadian democratic and electoral process is similarly vulnerable to improper acquisition and manipulation of personal data.”

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Bob Mackin Who is behind the Vancouverites

Bob Mackin

The new casino and hotel complex beside B.C. Place Stadium is struggling as its first anniversary approaches.

The second quarter report to shareholders by Dundee Corporation, which holds 35% of the company that operates Parq, said the so-called urban resort lost a whopping $80.8 million during the first six months of 2018.

“The initial ramp up of operations has been slower than anticipated due to a number of factors, including the regulatory cost and business impact of new anti-money laundering regulations applicable to casinos in British Columbia, which were implemented in December 2017,” said the June 30 report.

Grand opening of Parq Vancouver (Parq)

Dundee previously reported a $37.5 million loss for the first quarter of 2018. Dundee blamed the costs of operating the resort on a fully open basis for the first time, training and supervisory expenses and marketing costs to promote the Sept. 29, 2017 launch. The relocated and rebranded Edgewater Casino and two Marriott hotels were not fully operational until January. 

Dundee also reported $26.6 million in foreign exchange losses at Parq, compared to gains of $17.4 million in the first quarter of 2017.

“Initial operations also bore the cost of negotiations that ultimately resulted in amendments to the collective bargaining agreement between Parq Vancouver and its resort workers [represented by Unifor local 3000],” the company said.

In a Feb. 22 news release, Unifor boasted the Parq workers had achieved the best wage scale in the B.C. casino industry. All gaming floor and beverage service returned to unionized positions and the contract included wage increases of up to an average 27.5% in year one, with pay raises of no less than 2% in the next two years.

In an Aug. 15 conference call with stock analysts, Dundee executive chairman Jonathan Goodman said hotel occupancy levels have increased as expected during prime tourist season, but he mentioned that food and beverage venues need some retooling and repositioning. 

Clearly, an adjustment period is ongoing as the industry adapts to these new [anti-money laundering] rules, but longer term remain bullish on the prospects for the gaming business and the industry in B.C., as a whole,” Goodman said. “Nevertheless, we have chosen to be cautious and adjust the carrying value of our investments in Parq.”

The report also said Parq may require additional cash injections from equity partners in order to fund shortfalls. In March, two of the existing partners put another $33.4 million into the project in order to meet construction, interest and hedging payment deadlines. Dundee’s share was $17.4 million. Parq has 600 slot machines and 75 gambling tables, 517 hotel rooms, 60,000 square feet of conference facilities, five restaurants, three lounges, a spa and 1,069-space underground parkade.

“There can be no assurance that Parq Vancouver will have access to revised financing on more favourable terms or at all, or that the corporation and its equity partners will have access to the necessary capital to fund any shortfalls. The corporation continues to carefully monitor its investment in Parq Vancouver.”

Goodman said Dundee is actively seeking ways to restructure the debt and improve Parq operations. Discussion with prospective capital partners is at an “advanced stage” and an update is expected in the second half of 2018, he said. 

Attorney General David Eby, who is the minister responsible for casinos, did not respond for comment. While he was the opposition critic, Eby was skeptical about the viability of casino operator Paragon Gaming. 

Paragon had said in 2011 that the project, which includes two Marriott hotels, would cost $450 million. It finally opened for more than $600 million, in time for China’s National Day Golden Week, when an influx of visitors was expected. Dundee’s report said the project’s total capitalization was nearly $957 million, of which Dundee invested $141.8 million.

BCLC pumped $32.5 million in subsidies into the B.C. Place casino’s underground parkade. The funds came from a facilities development commission scheme created under the NDP in 1997 and amended in 2006 under the BC Liberals to stimulate casino renovation and expansion. In 2001, the BC Liberals won the election on a platform that included a broken promise to not expand gambling. 

The BC Liberal government picked Paragon in late June 2009 to develop and lease the property. A director of Paragon’s Canadian subsidiary, then-ICBC chair Richard Turner, donated $50,000 to the BC Liberals through his TitanStar Holdings company the month before the decision. Turner joined the board of the Paragon subsidiary that bought Edgewater out of bankruptcy in mid-2006, six months after he quit as BCLC chair. For the first three years, $8.5 million of the $9 million in lease payments go to the Musqueam Indian Band after a deal negotiated by Jessica McDonald in 2012.

Meanwhile, in an Aug. 14 call with analysts, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. CEO Rod Baker reported a $5.6 million year-over-year decline in revenue for the quarter ended June 30. He blamed the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union strike at Hard Rock Casino, where gambling revenue fell $4.2 million compared to the same period in 2017. Labour peace was reached and the Coquitlam casino returned to full operation in late July.

Overall, GCG reported $109.3 million net earnings for the first half of 2018, up from $45.3 million a year earlier, driven by expansion in Ontario. Table hold is consistent with 2017, except for River Rock, which has been “negatively impacted by the new source of funds procedures introduced by B.C. Lottery Corp. in January.”

During the call, Baker said there had been no impact on River Rock from the opening of Parq.

“I think there wasn’t a honeymoon period from our perspective because we didn’t see an impact,” Baker said.

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Bob Mackin The new casino and hotel complex

The 108th edition of the Pacific National Exhibition Fair is on now, until Labour Day. 

The Fair at Hastings Park in East Vancouver has always been about the past, present and future of British Columbia. 

Inside the Rollerland building is the free-with-admission Popnology exhibit. A traveling show about how science fiction became science fact. 

It features robotics, drones, driverless cars and the evolution of the smartphone. You can experience virtual reality and watch 3-D printing happen before your eyes. 

theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin toured Popnology with Troy Carlson, the head of the company that put it all together. Carlson’s Popnology highlight is the DeLorean from Back to the Future. 

Someday, maybe, we’ll be riding a hoverboard to the PNE. 

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 theBreaker.news Podcast? Go to the archive.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Popnology featured at 2018's PNE Fair
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The 108th edition of the Pacific National

Bob Mackin

The West End penthouse where Vancouver mayoral candidate Hector Bremner held a fundraising party on Aug. 1 is for sale.

Assessed last year at $9.238 million, suite 3101 at Emerald West on Jervis Street was listed last week for $20.5 million by agents John Zhou, Fan Yang and Morning Yu of LeHomes Realty First, the former Marpole office of New Coast Realty.

The five-bedroom, eight-bathroom, 8,570 square foot penthouse on two storeys boasts 1,500 square feet of open and enclosed terraces and a 360-degree view of the city, from English Bay to the North Shore mountains.

BID Group chair Brian Fehr was named to the Order of B.C. (Facebook)

Property records show it is registered to Rally Management Services Ltd. at a Vanderhoof post office box. Company director Brian Fehr is also the chairman of Prince George-based construction and materials company BID Group.

Bremner, a failed BC Liberal candidate and former aide to ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman, is a full-time vice-president at lobbying and public relations company Pace Group and a part-time city councillor elected last fall under the NPA banner. Bremner started his own party after the NPA board rejected his bid for the party’s mayoral nomination following conflict of interest allegations related to his lobbying. Critics accuse him of being too friendly with developers who are seeking fast-track approval to build more condos. 

Bremner sold tickets to raise funds for his fledgling Yes Vancouver party at $50 each for an event that was billed “Let’s Give Them the Pink Slip.” Guests sipped, nibbled and watched Sweden’s Unique Pyrotechnic compete in the Celebration of Light fireworks festival. Earlier on Aug. 1, the Registrar of Lobbyists revealed that Bremner has been fined $2,000 for failing to disclose his job in the BC Liberal government. But the penalty was overturned on a technicality.

I am not really political and don’t talk much about it, but Hector is a longtime friend who I am always willing to support,” Fehr said in an email to theBreaker.

Just before B.C. Day weekend, Fehr was named to the 2018 class of the Order of B.C.

A profile in the Prince George Daily News said Fehr built a billion-dollar company with 1,800 employees in North America, despite having only a Grade 12 education and overcoming an alcohol and drug addiction in his late 30s. He supports the Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community and is a director of the Northern Interior Health Board.

Fehr will receive the Order of B.C. with 13 others on Sept. 20 at Government House in Victoria.

The Elections BC database says Fehr donated $157,985 to the BC Liberals since 2005, including $30,000 to Andrew Wilkinson’s winning leadership campaign. In 2012, Fehr donated $58,500 to the NDP.

In 2013, the National Post reported that Fehr had proposed additional private investment to keep the BC Liberal government’s troubled Wood Innovation and Design Centre project alive in Prince George. Area MLA and Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Pat Bell, however, reneged on a promise to include Fehr’s company on the shortlist to build the so-called plyscraper. Then-Premier Christy Clark claimed civil servants, not politicians, were involved in procurement.

But, in an interview with then-media commentator Alex G. Tsakumis, Fehr said that he had met in 2012 with Clark to discuss the project. 

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Bob Mackin The West End penthouse where Vancouver

Bob Mackin

B.C. Lottery Corporation sent four senior managers to China’s gambling haven for a convention in May, while under a cloud of controversy from the casino money laundering scandal.

Vice-president of casinos Brad Desmarais was supposed to join them on the junket to Macau, but a BCLC covering letter said his travel plans were cancelled for unforeseen circumstances outside of his control.

BCLC marketing director Charlene Nielson visited the Stanley Ho-owned cornerstone of the Macau casino industry (Instagram)

Together, Charlene Nielson (marketing and product management), Garth Pieper (casino operations), Jerry Williamson (gaming facilities and development) and Darren Jang (casino product management) spent $18,913.93 on flights, ferries, accommodation, meals and per diems for the May 9 to 20 junket, according to records released to theBreaker under freedom of information.

BCLC was stuck with $1,570.94 in non-refundable hotel fees after Desmarais cancelled his trip.

Desmarais wrote a March 19 memo to CEO Jim Lightbody seeking approval for the entourage to attend Global Gaming Expo Asia, aka G2E Asia, to “explore opportunities to adopt/improve a culturally appropriate gambling/entertainment player experience in appropriate facilities as well as supporting the casino long term growth strategy.”

BCLC and its casino operating partners have been criticized for already offering a player experience that caters heavily toward Asian “whale” gamblers, some of whom have used B.C. casinos to launder money. Anti-money laundering expert Peter German’s June-released, Dirty Money report said that Metro Vancouver is a key hub for transnational money laundering that is linked to the real estate business and illicit drug trade. On May 25, RCMP arrested Dan Bui Shun Jin, who has Australian and Chinese citizenship, in the hotel at River Rock Casino Resort. He is alleged to have laundered $855 million through casinos in Australia, is under investigation in Macau and was sought by U.S. authorities for fraud in Nevada.

The Desmarais memo said G2E Asia is one of the largest gambling conventions in the world “and showcases technologies and innovative approaches not necessarily available in North America.” 

Clockwise, from upper left: BCLCs Williamson, Nielson, Pieper and Jang LinkedIn)

The BCLC entourage planned to meet with service providers and share experiences and strategies, and to learn about a variety of topics, such as chip tracking, use of casino cheques, use of currency and associated controls, innovative signage and integrated entertainment strategies. They were also scheduled to tour four major casino properties in the former Portuguese colony and attend an all-day workshop on innovation and the future of the casino industry with Ernst and Young’s global gaming team.

The convention, organized by a Shenzhen, China, company, featured keynote speakers Lawrence Ho, chair of Melco Resorts and Entertainment, and Paulo Martins Chan, the director of gaming inspection and coordination for the Macau Special Administrative Region government.

Ho is the Canadian-raised son of Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho.

In 2017, Desmarais, Lightbody and BCLC security vice-president Robert Kroeker attended the G2E conference. They spent almost $16,000 on flights, hotels and meals, according to records obtained by theBreaker.

theBreaker was first to report that criminology professor John Langdale warned an Australian police intelligence conference last November about the “Vancouver model” of money laundering. Langdale told the conference that the “Vancouver model” involved transnational drug trafficking and capital flight from China, gambling in B.C. casinos and investment in Canadian real estate. Key to the scheme are criminals in B.C.’s Chinese sister province Guangdong, and nearby Hong Kong and Macau.

Lightbody is on vacation until late August. Sarah Morris in the BCLC media office said by email that BCLC staff “bring new learnings and business connections back to B.C. to improve further the gambling and entertainment experience for players.”

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18-076 Record – G2E Asia 2018 .pdf by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin B.C. Lottery Corporation sent four senior

Bob Mackin

A Vancouver travel agent says the closure of China tour wholesaler Sinorama Holidays Inc. could be the biggest failure in the Canadian travel industry since the fall of 2001.

“I haven’t seen anything like this on the vacation side since Canada 3000 [Holidays],” said Travel Best Bets CEO Claire Newell. “A lot of those people won’t get their money back, they may have saved up for years, and don’t have the room on their credit card or money in the bank.”

In late July, Quebec’s consumer protection authority placed Sinorama’s operation there under trusteeship. It voluntarily ceased operations in Ontario on Aug. 8, the same day that Consumer Protection British Columbia froze the bank accounts and suspended the licence of its Richmond operation, which shared an office building with a currency exchange business on Westminster Highway, east of No. 3 Road.

A letter to chief operating officer Xiwang Wang said Sinorama did not have enough working capital to operate as a travel agency. Sinorama Corp., which is traded in the U.S. on the loosely regulated Pink Sheets bulletin board, reported a $9 million working capital deficit for 2018’s first quarter.

Martine Jing Wenjia, CEO of Sinorama (YouTube)

“We believe that travellers may be at risk of not getting the travel they paid for,” said the CPBC website. CPBC recommended travellers confirm their bookings have been paid for, contact their credit card and/or insurance companies, and get copies of contracts, receipts, itineraries and proof of payment.

Newell said it is another reminder to never pay for travel by cash. Those who paid on credit cards can make claims and authorities in B.C., Ontario and Quebec have funds to help compensate travellers left high and dry.

Newell said Sinorama had been offering bargains on tour packages to China while spending heavily on national advertising in Canada.

“This deal was thousands of dollars cheaper than I could come close to and my price is priced with fair, but lower, margins,” she said.

Indeed, the company’s financial reports show advertising expenditures had skyrocketed from almost $1.45 million in 2015 to $6.43 million last year. At the same time, it was cutting prices.

“The 5.6% reduction in revenue-per-customer reported for Asian tours in 2017 reflected our efforts to expand volume by offering very competitive prices,” said a Sinorama financial disclosure. “These reductions in price were the result of a calculated decision to promote the Sinorama brand as a location for better service and lower prices than that offered by competitive travel agencies.”

Sinorama grossed $98.3 million but reported a net $571,447 loss in 2017, which was lower than the $5.6 million lost in 2016. Asian tours accounted for 77% of the business. It said it sold packages to 37,281 customers in 2017, up 32% from 2016.

There was no answer at the company’s offices in Montreal, Markham, Ont., or Richmond on Aug. 13.

Sinorama Corp. was originally founded in 2005. It incorporated in 2016 in Florida and had a complex ownership structure.

The Sinorama Tours Ltd. holding company was organized in June 2015 in tax haven Samoa and includes Vacances Sinorama Inc. of Quebec and Sinorama Voyages of France.

Sinorama Tours owns two-thirds of Vacances Sinorama through Simon Qian Voyages, a wholly owned subsidiary, and 51% of Sinorama Voyages. The other one-third of Vacances Sinorama is owned by Sinorama chairman Qian Hong, who is married to Sinorama CEO Martine Jing Wenjia. Minority shareholders of Sinorama Voyages are Yang Ming (39%) and Zhao Hongxi (10%), the chief financial officer of Sinorama. Zhao was the highest-paid executive in 2017 at $71,446.

Jing owned 54.33% of the parent company and 131 shareholders owned the rest. The company reported employing 167 people at year-end.

Through the first quarter of 2018, Sinorama had already spent $2.6 million on advertising, but reported a $2.7 million net loss on $15.9 million revenue.

“The primary factors affecting our working capital deficit at March 31, 2018 include customer deposits of $38,388,443 representing prepayment by customers of tours they have booked, partially offset by our prepayment and deferred expense asset totalling $20,820,412, mostly representing our prepayment to vendors for those tours,” said the quarterly report. “Customer deposits exceeded our prepayments because we generally require customers to deposit the full cost of a trip some time in advance of departure, but our vendors do not require us to pay in full until the customer disembarks from the tour.”

Its main vendors were Flash Travel, Sinorama International Travel, Hubei Sinorama, Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruise Co., Ltd. and Chongqing New Century.

Sinorama trades under the SNNN symbol and shares closed at 87 cents on Aug. 13, up from 33 cents last week. 

  • Did you, or someone you know, book with Sinorama? Did you work for Sinorama? Are you a supplier to Sinorama? Contact theBreaker

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Bob Mackin A Vancouver travel agent says the