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Bob Mackin

The North Vancouver townhouse owner embroiled in a dispute with her strata council and civic officials for operating an illegal hostel is also active in the Liberal Party of Canada. 

North Vancouver riding association chair Derrick Johnstone confirmed that Emily Yu is a member and the party is considering what, if anything, to do. 

“We are aware of the strata’s concerns and are consulting the B.C. office of the Liberal Party of Canada for guidance with respect to the rules pertaining to membership within an Electoral District Association,” Johnstone said. “That is all I am in a position to say at this time.”

North Vancouver townhouse hosteler Emily Yu (LinkedIn)

In May, Yu became a volunteer policy chair for the riding association and attended a donor appreciation event hosted by Navdeep Bains, the Innovation, Science and Economic Development minister, at the Eaglequest Coyote Creek Golf Club in Surrey.

She told theBreaker that Johnstone gave her an opportunity to resign, but she rejected the offer. “[The strata council dispute] has nothing to do with my political life,” she said.

Nobody from the office of Fisheries and Oceans minister Jonathan Wilkinson, the North Vancouver Liberal MP, has responded to theBreaker.

According to City of North Vancouver estimates from 2016, Yu’s $804,600, three-bedroom townhouse in The Beeches complex near North Vancouver city hall grosses an estimated $71,000 to $213,000 a year, not including cleaning revenue. In 2017, bylaw officers ordered her to cease and desist offering tourist accommodation. 

“Normally, the city is not concerned with a resident’s revenue,” said a report to city council from bylaw manager Guy Gusdal from March 2016. “However, in this situation staff raise the revenue issue because the revenue being generated at the expense of the quality of life of the other residents in Ms. Yu’s townhouse complex and at the expense of the safety of the public staying in her townhouse.” 

The Civil Resolution Tribunal agreed with the strata council in a decision last September. The tribunal’s vice-chair Shelley Lopez ordered Yu to pay more than $6,000 in fines, comply with the strata bylaws and stop operating her townhouse as an AirBnB unit or for any other short-term rental scheme under six months. 

Yu denies she has broken any law with her Oasis Hostel. “I offered this service 11 years before the strata changed the rule [in 2016]. According to the grandfathering clause, I am entitled to continue to do what I do and it is unreasonable for the strata to ask a fine from me.”

Yu’s LinkedIn profile says she was a financial advisor with CF Canada Financial Group from May 2011 to May 2012. 

Yu worked with Portfolio Strategies Corporation from 2012 to 2015 and is facing a public hearing with the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada, Nov. 12-14 at the B.C. Securities Commission. MFDA opened disciplinary proceedings against Yu over allegations of unauthorized discretionary trading and pre-signed account forms, falsifying client initials and signature, and making a false statement to the MFDA. Yu denies the allegations. 

“After the hearing is finished, my previous employer will owe me lots of money,” Yu said. “They accused me, they stole my business, they stole my commission.”

The hearing notice says Yu was registered in Alberta from April 2012 to December 2012 and in B.C. from April 2012 to December 2015, but worked in Vancouver.

The MFDA panel can issue a reprimand, suspend, revoke or prohibit someone from conducting securities-related business or issue fines. 

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Bob Mackin The North Vancouver townhouse owner embroiled

You could call it a NAFTA success story.

On July 22, Canada beat host Mexico 13-7 to win the world junior championship of American football in Mexico City’s Olympic Stadium, before almost 33,000 people.

Bowen Island, B.C. broadcaster Jim Mullin was there. 

Mullin is the voice of university and amateur football in Canada and called the play-by-play for Krown Countdown U on CBCSports.ca.

Football is a game in flux, dealing with challenges like demographic shifts in major cities and brain injuries suffered by players past and present. The game does have a future on the international scene, where the International Federation of American Football oversees four-down and flag tournaments. In a feature interview with host Bob Mackin, Mullin talks about gridiron in Mexico. 

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

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You could call it a NAFTA success

Bob Mackin

The NDP and Vision Vancouver consulting firm behind the failed TransLink tax plebiscite is involved in the Yes campaign for this fall’s proportional representation referendum.

But nobody from Strategic Communications or Vote PR BC wanted to talk about it.

Stratcom boss Bob Penner and a Vision campaign sign (Penner)

Vote PR BC is receiving $500,000 in public funds from Elections BC for the campaign. It can raise up to $200,000 more in donations from individuals. Spending is capped at $700,000. The same subsidy and same rules apply to the No B.C. Proportional Representation Society.

The robocall, telephone town hall and polling specialist that is also known as Stratcom was paid $1,056,153 by TransLink for voter contact on the losing Yes campaign in the transit expansion plebiscite in 2015.

Last week, a robocall survey about proportional representation was conducted by a company calling itself Strategic Research, aka Stratresearch. Nobody from the toll-free hotline or email address on the robocall recording or Stratresearch website responded to theBreaker.

Stratcom CEO Bob Penner did not respond to an interview request. theBreaker asked Stratcom president Matt Smith about his company’s involvement in the Vote PR BC campaign and whether Stratresearch is owned by or otherwise affiliated with Stratcom.

A Stratcom toll-free number is recycled by the Yes campaign in the B.C. proportional representation referendum.

“We don’t comment publicly on our work,” said an email from Smith, who is based at the Toronto Stratcom office.

The phone number listed on the privacy page of Vote PR BC’s website was previously used by Stratcom when it conducted a vote for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in early 2017. 

theBreaker also wanted to know who commissioned the Stratresearch robocall survey.

Vote PR BC’s Maria Dobrinskaya and Lesli Boldt did not respond to questions about the survey or Vote PR BC’s relationship with Stratcom and Stratresearch.

Dobrinskaya and Boldt are veterans of Vision Vancouver and NDP campaigns. The Boldt Communications office was once co-located with Stratcom and Vision Vancouver in a building owned by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.

Antony Hodgson is the president of the Make Every Vote Count Society and Fair Voting BC. The University of B.C. professor responded, but did not deny his campaign’s use of Stratcom or that it commissioned the survey by Stratresearch.

“We are using the services of a number of firms and contractors over the course of the campaign – from designers to Internet service providers,” Hodgson wrote in an email. “As a matter of course, we don’t make a practice of talking about the mechanics of our campaign, though, of course, we will be filing all required documents and disclosures in due course.”

Make Every Vote Count’s Dobrinskaya (left), Boldt and Hodgson (Twitter)

Hodgson did not respond to follow-up questions. Fair Voting BC’s website states the group supports “improvements in operating practices of elected bodies aimed at making government more representative, inclusive, transparent and accountable…”

Stratcom is on the NDP government’s preferred suppliers’ list for polling assignments. Robb Gibbs, the assistant deputy minister of government communications, denied his office commissioned the survey by Stratresearch.

Stratcom’s early investors included Vision Vancouver bagman Joel Solomon and Working Enterprises. 

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission fined Stratcom $10,000 in 2013 after the company made unsolicited phone calls using an auto-dialling device in January 2012 without providing the name and address of the person on whose behalf the call was made in the messages.

During the 2015 federal election, The Province found Stratcom was paying Punjabi-speakers $13-an-hour to make phone calls on behalf of the NDP, instead of the $17 rate offered to English speaking applicants. After the newspaper found out, Penner pledged to pay the Punjabi speakers the same rate as English speakers. 

Coincidentally, NDP-aligned lobbyist Bill Tieleman rents office space from Stratcom. Tieleman, one of the three co-founders of the No B.C. Proportional Representation Society, told theBreaker that the No campaign is looking for office space for the fall. 

“Strategic Communications has absolutely nothing to do with our No campaign, directly or indirectly, nor its subsidiaries, goods or services, nor from any employee or contractor of the firm,” Tieleman said. 

The referendum campaign period began July 1. Mail-in voting on whether to change from first-past-the-post provincial elections in B.C. runs from Oct. 22 to Nov. 30.

  • Click the player below to listen to the Stratresearch robocall survey. 

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Bob Mackin The NDP and Vision Vancouver consulting

Bob Mackin

The payroll for Vancouver city hall’s communications department was $2.58 million last year and it is forecast to reach $3.28 million by the end 2018, according to figures obtained by theBreaker under the freedom of information law. 

In June, the 43-person communications department, which ultimately reports to city manager Sadhu Johnston, was named the recipient of the city manager’s award for “an individual or team whose ongoing commitment and consistent delivery of exceptional service has won the respect and appreciation of the entire [corporate leadership team].” 

Rena Kendall-Craden (CPRS)

theBreaker subsequently applied for a copy of the individual payments made in 2017 and the pay rates for 2018. 

The documents show department head Rena Kendall-Craden was the highest-paid in 2017 at $168,609. Her salary increases to $171,044 this year. 

Associate director Gail Pickard ($116,173) and public engagement director Amanda Gibbs ($103,000) were last year’s other six-figure spinners. Communications managers Kira Hutchinson, Neal Wells and Megan Fitzgerald are slated to join the six-figure club in 2018. 

Fourteen people in the department were paid over the $80,000 threshold last year. In 2018, 18 staffers are to be paid $80,000 and up. 

Under NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan in 2006, communications cost taxpayers $631,110. In 2009, the first full year of Gregor Robertson’s mayoralty and Vision Vancouver’s majority control of city hall, there were nine people in corporate communications. By 2013, the city was paying $1.6 million to 33 people in the department. 

Johnston said he was unavailable for an interview because of council meetings on July 25. By email, he was asked to justify the spending amid tax increases and cost pressures for social services and policing.

“Virtually all work at the city is supported by communications,” Johnston wrote. “From separated sewer projects to big planning projects, budget and capital plans to Japanese beetles, overdose deaths to public art. And the public want to know about it. We have significant challenges in staying in touch with citizens asking for more service, more engagement and more information, not less.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s chief of staff Kevin Quinlan did not respond to theBreaker

NPA Coun. George Affleck, who is also not running for re-election, has often criticized city hall communications spending and called for an external review to cut waste. 

“This is representative of [Vision Vancouver] style of governance, the mayor’s style of management: Spend, spend, spend,” Affleck said. “On Oct. 20, the voters of this city, I hope, will choose a council and mayor that are more frugal and cost efficient.” 

Johnston said the department currently employs 22 full-timers and 16 temporary and casual staff, which doesn’t include staff hired or assigned directly to capital projects or other departments, such as Park Board.

In 2011, when Penny Ballem was city manager, city hall bureaucrats were barred from speaking to reporters, after they had been free to do so for decades. Reporters were required to contact the communications department first. Interviews with staff became rare. That was eased after Mayor Gregor Robertson won re-election in 2014 and Ballem designated select department heads to receive media calls. 

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2018-323res by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The payroll for Vancouver city hall’s

Bob Mackin 

The agency that keeps track of land in British Columbia quietly made it harder to access information about who owns real estate in the province. 

In a July 9 news release — ironically headlined “LTSA Releases Enhancements for myLTSA Service” — the B.C. Land Title and Survey Authority announced title search previews no longer show full names of persons or corporations for free. Instead, only the first two letters of a last name and first initial or the first two letters of a company name are visible under the “first owner name on title” column. 

“It came to my attention a few weeks ago now that that particular function wasn’t being used as much or was being increasingly used for reasons other than confirming buying the right title,” Craig Johnston, LTSA’s Director of Land Titles, said in an interview. “We want to still maintain a balance so customers don’t guess what title they’re buying.”

Craig Johnston (LTSA)

Hence, the abbreviations.

The fee per search is $9.45 plus a minimum $1.50 fee per transaction on the myLTSA website, plus sales taxes. The transaction fee is not charged for in-person searches at an LTSA office, such as Sixth and Cunningham in New Westminster. In some jurisdictions in the United States, such as Whatcom County in Washington and Maricopa County in Arizona, there is no charge to search property databases that contain the names of owners.

Since electronic access was introduced a couple of decades ago, the first name on title was visible without charge, to keep customers from guessing wrong and then asking for refunds. Johnston said the decision to hide the full names was his, under his duty to interpret the Land Title Act, without input by the board or the government. 

“The intent under the statute is if you need that part of the title, you should buy it. Otherwise there would be a provision under the act where you could get the owner name for free,” he said.

B.C. Assessment Authority doesn’t offer free access to land owner names on its website, but its database is free to search at one of its offices. That, however, requires a trip during business hours Monday to Friday to a place like 2925 Virtual Way in Vancouver. 

Mike Larsen, the president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, criticized LTSA for “nickel and diming” and making the process “a little bit more difficult, a little bit more opaque.” The first owner name on title was available for free for so long and useful for journalists making initial inquiries for research, he said..

“I’m always frustrated when things that are previously available become closed off to access to information,” said Larsen. “There seems to be a bureaucratic capacity issue: we can do this, we have the authority, and so we’d like to.”

In 2004, Premier Gordon Campbell announced LTSA would assume the provincial land title and survey system as an “independent, not-for-profit authority.” It regulates and operates the land title and survey systems for the province, which appoints two of the 11 board members. 

It now costs to see the first owner name on title for a prominent $78.8 million Point Grey mansion. (LTSA)

LTSA reported $8.58 million net income on $43.01 million revenue for the year ended March 31, 2018. A third of its revenue was from information products and 16% from fees for electronic processing of transactions through the myLTSA electronic portal. The company is forecasting a nearly 10% drop in revenue for 2019 to $38.7 million, based on increased salaries and benefits for new technical and business development staff and the B.C. Real Estate Association’s forecast of an 8.6% decrease in unit sales.

The NDP government is working on a beneficial ownership registry. It published a white paper in June about the proposed Land Ownership Transparency Act and is seeking public feedback through Aug. 19. 

BC FIPA’s Mike Larsen.

Corporations, trustees and partners will be required to report the beneficial owners of properties. The measure is aimed at cracking down on tax evasion, fraud and money laundering via nominees and numbered companies. LTSA would be the operator of the registry, but the fees have not been determined. The government, taxing authority, police force, financial sector regulator and a prescribed person or entity would be excused from paying fees. The latter class has not been defined.

Neither finance minister Carole James nor attorney general David Eby responded to theBreaker. But Sonja Zoeller in the finance communications office sent a prepared statement. 

“The proposed registry would include public access to the name, nationality and city or country of residence of beneficial owners. This information will end hidden ownership and help tackle tax evasion in real estate. One of the purposes of the public consultation is to look at the appropriate application of fees and we’re looking forward to feedback on that question as part of the consultation process.”

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Bob Mackin  The agency that keeps track of

Vancouver will have a new mayor in a dozen weeks, but the race is still wide open.

As ResearchCo pollster Mario Canseco tells Bob Mackin on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, “We still have a lot of confusion, the number one candidate continues to be ‘I don’t know’.” 

Canseco’s latest poll does show that Kennedy Stewart, the independent NDP MP from Burnaby (25%), is neck-and-neck among decided voters with Ken Sim of the NPA (26%). This, from a poll of 400 Vancouver residents July 13-16. 

Vision Vancouver’s Ian Campbell, the North Vancouver import, has 20% support. But he does not have the Vancouver and District Labour Council endorsement, which went to Stewart. A shocking development, after VDLC backed Mayor Gregor Robertson in 2014. Meanwhile, Patrick Condon of COPE left the race for health reasons. 

Of respondents, 35% said they were undecided and a whopping 63% say they don’t have enough information on candidates and parties. Listen to the full interview for more of Canseco’s analysis. 

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

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Vancouver will have a new mayor in

Bob Mackin

When TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond finally released the new, inflated costs for the Broadway subway and Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail projects at the end of April, he refused to reveal the latest estimate for the delayed Surrey-Langley line.  

Even though Desmond and his team at TransLink’s Sapperton headquarters had in their possession a July 2017 report by veteran SkyTrain cost estimator Anthony Steadman. 

“At this time we haven’t done any business case, so like with these other projects until we really have a very detailed business case, it’s a number, it’s a ballpark figure,” Desmond said on April 30 when theBreaker pressed for the numbers. “We have to do a considerable amount of additional work, so there is a number back there but it’s not what I would consider particularly accurate.”

Sany Zein (left) and Kevin Desmond on April 30, when they refused to disclose the new Surrey-Langley cost estimates. (Mackin)

TransLink changed its tune this week and released a report to theBreaker under the freedom of information law that includes separate estimates for an LRT line and SkyTrain line to connect Surrey and Langley. 

Steadman estimated the cost of an LRT project beginning work in 2022 would be $1,949,248,444 — $700 million more than the $1.22 billion figure put in front of voters before they rejected funding TransLink’s expansion in the 2015 plebiscite.

If the project goes ahead in 2022 with SkyTrain technology, it would be another billion at $2,914,798,721.

The LRT scenario contemplates 13.264 km of in-street guideway and 2.967 km of elevated guideway, using 19 articulated low floor LRT vehicles, each 40 metres long with a capacity for 250 passengers. The report identifies nine stations at King George, 140th St., .152nd St., 160th St., 166th St., 68th Ave., 64th Ave., 192nd St. (Willowbrook Exchange) and Langley Terminus. 

A long list of 15 costs are excluded from the LRT scenario, such as: financing costs beyond the construction period; re-routing of existing transit services, either temporarily or permanently; street works beyond the transit routes; physical barriers at LRT street crossings; park and ride facilities; bus loops (other than street facilities at Willowbrook Mall and the Langley Terminus); work to the existing Serpentine River Bridge; operating costs; and GST.

A SkyTrain line from King George Station to Langley Centre would have eight elevated stations and a 15.737 km guideway. The report said it would require 55 vehicles, equivalent to fourth generation SkyTrain vehicles slated for the Expo and Millennium lines. 

On April 30, Desmond and vice-president Sany Zein unveiled new cost estimates for the Broadway subway and Surrey-Newtown-Guildford LRT. They are now $2.83 billion and $1.65 billion, respectively — up from the 2015 estimates of $1.98 billion and $920 million. Desmond and Zein cited the rising costs of real estate, labour, materials and equipment for the huge increases. 

For more than two years, theBreaker had sought the cost estimate updates, yet TransLink and the provincial government consistently denied FOI requests or censored the costs from documents that were released. Likewise, none of the officials would comment, even though the TransLink Mayors’ Council had been briefed on the numbers behind closed doors.

On June 28, the Mayors’ Council and TransLink board of directors approved a plan to build the Broadway and Surrey-Newton-Guildford projects. TransLink has $2.01 billion in federal commitments and $2.55 billion from Victoria. The remaining $2.71 billion for phase two of TransLink expansion is coming from fare increases and higher taxes on property, fuel, parking and condo development.

All of this, after the NDP government stepped-in and took over the $1.3 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement project from TransLink. 

It is par for the course, according to the research of a prominent academic.

Bent Flyvberg, a business professor at Oxford University, has analyzed megaprojects around the world. “Overruns up to 50% in real terms are common, and over 50% overruns are not uncommon,” his research has found. 

In his Iron Law of Megaprojects, Flyvberg says they are “over budget, over time, under benefits, over and over again.”

Why? Because architects want visually pleasing products and engineers are excited by building the longest-fastest-tallest. Politicians have a tendency to want monuments that benefit themselves and their cause. Business people and trade unions want revenue and jobs.

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Surrey-Langley LRT FOI Release 2018-282.pdf by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin When TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond finally

Bob Mackin 

The British Columbia government’s Consumer Protection B.C. office accepts complaints about taxis, which are forwarded to the Passenger Transportation Branch (PTB) for investigation. The Taxi Bill of Rights states that taxi drivers are supposed to obey all laws and protect any passenger’s health or safety. 

But incident reports obtained by theBreaker show that taxi passengers who complained about dangerous driving and sexual harassment late last year and early this year got little, if any, justice. 

There were no penalties assessed by the PTB for such complaints handled during the first quarter of 2018 because the office deemed the complaints about dangerous driving and passenger safety beyond its scope and jurisdiction. The documents, released under the freedom of information law, show that the office tended to refer complaints to taxi companies for explanation or to deal in-house discipline.  

In one case, a passenger who complained about a dangerous MacLure’s driver on Dec. 17, 2017 was “educated” by PTB about a loophole in the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. Taxi drivers traveling under 70 kilometres per hour are allowed by law to drive without wearing a seatbelt. 

Yellow Cab arriving at the Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver (Mackin)

“The seat belt was latched and he was sitting on it to prevent it from beeping,” said the complaint. “The taxi driver repeatedly picked up his cell phone and scrolled through it. It was only when I demanded that he put away his cell phone that he did. Distracted driving in the rain is unacceptable. The driver repeatedly ignored the warning system installed on his vehicle to alert when he was following too closely. The taxi driver did not help me with my bags upon arrival at the airport, probably because I asked him to put his phone away.”

A contrite statement from the driver claimed he had been driving under 70 km-h and was using his phone hands free, but would be “more cautious to provide better customer service.”

The fine for not wearing a seatbelt is normally $167; it is $386 for emailing or texting while driving. ICBC calls seatbelts the “single most effective protective device in your vehicle” and its website says that at just 55 km-h, a person not wearing a seatbelt in a crash has the same experience as falling from a three-storey building. 

A passenger complained that a Vancouver Taxi driver was “like a maniac with aggressive speeding” during a Nov. 13 trip from Parq casino. The driver was allegedly crossing lines and driving in the centre of the road. “[The driver] went off on a tangent about Europeans and their treatment of immigrants to Canada.” 

The passenger demanded to be dropped-off four kilometres before the destination, but PTB determined there was no violation of its rules and regulations.  

A passenger complained about a Jan. 14 afternoon ride in a Yellow Cab on Knight Street and Clark Drive, between 10th and 20th avenues. 

“The taxi driver was driving within two metres of cars’ bumpers and erratically weaving in and out of lanes. The taxi driver was honking from time to time at different drivers. The taxi driver cut off a large cement truck, then sharply cut in front of me ,with approximately half a car length of space available. I had to slam on my brakes and swerve to avoid crashing into the taxi’s left rear door. I almost hit the median at 15th Ave. We were all traveling just over 60 km-h.” 

Another complaint about so-called driving ability from Jan. 26 was lodged by a passenger of a Yellow Cab at the intersection of Bute and Hastings. “Rather than waiting for the car ahead to turn, the taxi swerved into the oncoming traffic lane and went through the intersection,” said the complaint.

The notes say that Yellow Cab general manager Carolyn Bauer would “review with the driver,” but the allegation was determined not to violate PTB rules and regulations. 

A pedestrian crossing a street complained about a Jan. 24 incident, alleging that a pet dog was nearly run over by a Yellow Cab.

“I looked at him and said “what the hell?” He gave me the middle finger.” 

The notes say that Bauer “reminded him of road safety and the image of Yellow Cab.” 

A passenger of a Delta Sunshine Taxi on Dec. 14 complained about improper route and sexual harassment during a trip from Surrey to the Villa Grand Casino in Burnaby. 

“I was unfamiliar with his chosen route and [the taxi driver] began asking me how much I liked to have sex, and began telling me that he liked to have sex four or five times a day,” the complaint said. “I felt unsafe and vulnerable and I am honestly not sure I could take another taxi alone.” 

The complaint was substantiated, a refund given and the driver disciplined by the company. The company agreed to refund the fare and suspend the driver for seven days.

Another similar incident happened a month later, on Jan. 14, involving Black Top Cabs, at 4 a.m. 

The driver allegedly pulled over without the taxi light on to pick up a woman who had been waiting for a cab. “He started driving and said he picked me up because I was pretty,” read the complaint. “He proceeded to ask if I would like to get food (I believe he expected me to be drunk and easily persuaded) and continued making comments about my appearance. I remained polite, declined and asked to be taken [censored].” 

The driver allegedly later said “he would like to come sleep at my apartment, and I said no can I please pay. He said I did not have to pay full price, I tipped so I paid the full amount and quickly got out of the taxi.” 

The company told PTB that it had suspended the driver until he was back and available for questioning. 

Thin ice

A spectator who attended the National Figure Skating Championships complained about hundreds of spectators being stranded without taxi service at the University of B.C.’s Thunderbird Arena during the Jan. 8-14 meet. 

The complainant said taxi company dispatchers told spectators that “all of the cabs in the city were being sent to the stadium.” But, on Jan. 12, only five cabs came within a span of 90 minutes. Many of the spectators were visitors from Ontario and Quebec staying downtown. “Hundreds were left stranded in the pouring rain during this time.”  

“Public transportation is a limited option to people with mobility issues and senior citizens who do not know the city and are accustomed to reliable taxi service,” the complaint said. “Definitely a black mark on the city and worth serious consideration for any future events that attract national and international attendance.”

The PTB considered the complaint “unsubstantiated” and took no action. 

Trevena (left) and Horgan tout toll free B.C., but not free information in B.C. (BC Gov)

In one case, a passenger used the Yellow Cabs’ app on Nov. 21 to reserve a drive to Vancouver International Airport the next morning. The driver mistakenly showed up 15 minutes after the reservation was made.

“I tried to explain to him that I reserved the cab for the following morning. He yelled at me saying I’m stupid and should learn to use the technology. I said your company should learn how to create a proper app and train their staff about customer service.” 

The person deleted the Yellow Cab app, and called Black Top instead. 

“The province should not be protecting this inferior public service,” the complaint said. “It’s like protecting the coal industry. It makes no sense.” 

PTB did not investigate, but referred the complaint to Yellow Cabs, and said it may request the outcome of the investigation. 

At a July 19 news conference, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said a bill is in the works for the fall sitting of the Legislature to include “consumer safety and enforcement.” 

B.C. is the last major jurisdiction in North America where ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft are not permitted. Those services could finally arrive in fall 2019. In the meantime, the B.C. government said the taxi cartel would be in-line for another 500 licences, 300 of which are earmarked for the Lower Mainland. 

  • Have you had a bad experience in a British Columbia taxi and your complaint isn’t being taken seriously by the government or a certain taxi company? Contact theBreaker. 

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TRA 2018 82576 PTB Complaints by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin  The British Columbia government's Consumer Protection

Bob Mackin

The road outside a Quadra Island house owned by the NDP minister of transportation and infrastructure is getting a fresh coat of blacktop next month.  

Claire Trevena’s ministry published an invitation to tender for 32.6 lane kilometres of asphalt resurfacing, on Heriot Bay Road between West Road and Animal Farm Road. West Road leads to the terminal for the Quadra Island to Cortes Island ferry. Deadline for bids is July 24. 

Quadra Island’s transportation minister Claire Trevena (left) with Premier John Horgan and Melanie Mark (BC Gov)

The tender document also includes pulverizing and seal coating on Cape Mudge Road, Cedar Drive, Spruce Place, Alder Place, Arbutus Road, Hope Spring Road and Thompson Road. 

Third-term North Island NDP MLA Trevena’s public disclosure statement, filed last November, indicates that her assets include Quadra Island and Victoria residential properties. It shows the address for an investment property on Heriot Bay Road. The nearly half-acre property near Drew Harbour was assessed at $296,000 in 2017 and contains a four-bedroom, one-bathroom house. 

Trevena did not respond to theBreaker’s request for an interview. 

The upgrades to the road that Trevena plies to and from the ferry dock on Quadra Island are small potatoes compared to some of B.C.’s biggest transportation projects, like the Social Credit Party’s Coquihalla Highway, NDP’s Millennium Line and Island Highway, the BC Liberals’ Port Mann Bridge and South Fraser Perimeter Road and the NDP’s decision to end tolls on the Port Mann, cancel the Massey Tunnel replacement and build a new Pattullo Bridge. Decisions about those major projects were strategically skewed to government-held ridings and swing ridings. 

But Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said that a minister in 2018 should want to be above suspicion when it comes to what is and what is not getting paved in the province.

“I would hope the ministry of transportation has, in fact, created a list of priorities of road paving projects across the province based on need, rather than the party holding the seat or the minister’s direction. Because it is a fundamental issue that goes to public safety as the priority,” Travis said. 

Quadra Island has a year-round population of approximately 2,700 and is a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River. Trevena has won more than 11,000 votes in each election since 2009, but fell below 50% support in 2017.

Quadra Island’s Heriot Bay (QuadraIsland.com)

In a July 2017 Vancouver Sun interview, the former BBC and CBC journalist was asked about her position on so-called blacktop politics. 

“My view on construction and road construction is making sure that we have a safe highway system that works for everyone in the province. There are vast areas of the province that need a lot of work,” Trevena said. “I think that infrastructure should not be political. I think it is the fabric of our province, it’s what keeps our province together.”

Trevena’s representatives sent a prepared statement, saying that the project was approved in early June for safety and to extend the life of the road. 

“The project includes crack sealing and seal coating approximately 24.5 km of asphalt along Hope Springs Road, Thompson Road, Heriot Bay Road, Cape Mudge Road, Sutil Road, Cedar Drive, Alder Road, Arbutus Road and Spruce Place,” said the statement. “Crews will also overlay approximately 7.6 km of pavement along Heriot Bay Road. Ministry staff have had ongoing discussions about the project with local stakeholders and residents.”

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Bob Mackin The road outside a Quadra Island

Bob Mackin

A memo from city manager Sadhu Johnston announces that the general manager of Vancouver’s real estate and facilities department is moving to one of the city’s most powerful development companies. 

Bill Aujla is quitting at the end of August to become vice-president of real estate at Aquilini Investment Group, which owns Rogers Arena and is a partner with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh first nations in several projects to redevelop public land. Aujla will finish work in time for his Aug. 13 vacation, according to the memo. 

Bill Aujla (City of Vancouver)

Recruitment begins immediately, but director of strategic operations planning Lisa Prescott will be Aujla’s interim replacement. Prescott was formerly the manager of recreation at the Park Board. Gil Kelley, the general manager of planning, will take over community amenity negotiations. 

“Bill leaves his department in a very strong position for the future and we sincerely thank him for his contribution and leadership during his tenure as GM,” Johnston’s memo said. “We’ll all really miss Bill and we wish him a successful future as he progresses his career.”

Aujla, who was paid more than $296,000 last year, oversaw the controversial Olympic Village and led negotiations for the city to buy the Arbutus Corridor from the Canadian Pacific Railway.  

Aujla is the second top official from City of Vancouver to join the family-owned company that runs the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena. In 2015, Vancouver Police Department chief Jim Chu retired and joined Aquilini as the vice-president of special projects and partnerships. Chu was appointed to the TransLink board of directors. 

Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said Aujla’s departure is yet another reason why there should be a mandatory two-year cooling-off period for bureaucrats leaving a government job, to discourage moving so easily from the regulator to the regulated.

“It certainly adds to public cynicism prior to the election about the close relationship between city hall and property developers,” Travis said. “It’s why cooling-off periods were created for senior employees. We shouldn’t have a revolving door.”

Aquilini was a major donor to Vision Vancouver and, in 2014, bought the 67 unsold condos in the two waterfront towers at the Olympic Village for $91 million. 

Last year, Vision Vancouver operations director Duncan Wlodarczak left city hall’s ruling party to become chief of staff for developer Onni. The party’s former executive director, Stepan Vdovine, is the director of business development for Amacon. Former deputy city manager Brent MacGregor retired and became a consultant for B.C. Pavilion Corporation, to help develop what became the Parq Casino, which opened last year.

More to come…

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Bob Mackin A memo from city manager Sadhu