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Bob Mackin

Rich Coleman’s bid for the mayoralty of Surrey has finished before it really began. 

A source told theBreaker that the ex-Deputy Premier’s campaign team disbanded July 16. Coleman had been chomping at the bit to throw his hat in the ring for the Oct. 20 vote, but the clouds of negative headlines from the casino money laundering scandal weren’t going away.

The longtime Langley MLA became the most-powerful man in the BC Liberals when Christy Clark succeeded Gordon Campbell in 2011. Opposition life was not as glamorous, so he was looking for new challenges since the NDP was sworn-in on July 18, 2017. 

Coleman (Mackin)

A source described the latest round of polling as “dismal.” Senior BC Liberals told Coleman he had too much baggage and ought not make it worse for himself and the party by running for the the top job in B.C.’s second-biggest city. 

Coleman has been the target of widespread criticism since the June 27 release of Peter German’s report on money laundering in B.C. casinos. It only intensified with last week’s sensational interview that retired RCMP officer Fred Pinnock gave to Global TV. 

Jordan Bateman, who was acting as an advisor to Coleman, denied that polling was a factor and said that feedback remained positive.

“It was still his race to lose,” Bateman said. “The Peter German stuff had not diminished his lead. He was weighing out whether he had the energy to go through another messy race in Surrey.”

Bateman said 63-year-old Coleman is remaining an MLA, but pondering his future as a politician. “He’s kinda coming to the point of view that he might be finishing up his career in politics, we’ll wait and see. His family wanted him around more, and decided to take a pass on Surrey.” (Bateman, a former Langley Township councillor, also denied he is pondering a run for office.)

Pinnock, who is romantically linked to the 2017-defeated North Vancouver BC Liberal Naomi Yamamoto, had spoken at length with Sean Holman after Coleman disbanded the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team in 2009. 

The squad that Pinnock commanded warned that organized crime had infiltrated B.C. casinos. Coleman, the solicitor general and minister in charge of gambling promotion and regulation, pulled the plug anyway. 

Pinnock told reporter John Hua “fault lies at the feet of the BC Liberals while they were in government and senior management of the RCMP in this province.” 

Coleman’s team included his longtime associate, lobbyist Patrick Kinsella. Kinsella was the mastermind behind Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark campaigns who, more recently, became a key advisor to outgoing Surrey First Mayor Linda Hepner. A source told theBreaker that Kinsella has also been involved in Surrey First Coun. Tom Gill’s mayoral campaign. 

That wouldn’t be the first time that Kinsella worked both sides of the street. Evidence emerged from the B.C. Supreme Court trial of ex-BC Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk that Kinsella had been working for both BC Rail and its eventual buyer, CN Rail. 

Meanwhile, more drama in Surrey.

Coun. Barb Steele became the second incumbent to quit Surrey First. She will run for an eighth term alongside Coun. Bruce Hayne. Hayne quit the ruling party in June, citing integrity issues. 

“I joined Surrey First because I believed in the work, the values and the vision of my friend and colleague Dianne Watts,” Steele said in a prepared statement. “This is no longer the party that represents the ideals we began with, and in good conscience I can’t be part of it.”

And, if that is not enough, Doug McCallum wants to make a comeback as mayor.

McCallum was mayor from 1996 to 2005. He lost in 2014 by 20,000 votes to Watts’s succcessor, Hepner. 

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Bob Mackin Rich Coleman’s bid for the mayoralty

The Khatsahlano Street Party, Vancouver’s largest annual free music festival, took over 10 blocks on West 4th Avenue for 10 hours on July 7. 

Music and food of all sorts. Shopkeepers selling their wares. One of them, Grant McDonagh, is proprietor of the legendary Zulu Records and the curator of the live music program at the promotion for the Kitsilano West 4th Avenue Business Association.

Zulu is billed as a “record store and community centre, since 1981.” While the big chains have come and gone, fiercely independent Zulu has remained. In a feature interview, McDonagh tells host Bob Mackin about adapting to the changing city and its changing business environment. What never changes, however, is the love of good music and the creative, entrepreneurial spirit on West 4th. 

Listen to highlights of the Khatsahlano Street Party, featuring Malcolm Jack, Jasper Sloan Yip and Slow, which played its biggest local show since its epic Expo 86 implosion. 

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Positively West 4th Avenue
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The Khatsahlano Street Party, Vancouver's largest annual

Bob Mackin

The head of an Aquilini-backed company that wants to build a pipeline across Northern British Columbia was shocked when theBreaker delivered the news to him, that he had lost almost a million Twitter followers. 

Calvin Helin, the Tsimshian first nation lawyer and author who chairs Eagle Spirit Energy, boasted 1.7 million followers last November. That made him one of the most-followed people in Canada who is not a federal politician, athlete or entertainer. 

On July 11, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on his feed that: “This week we’ll be removing locked Twitter accounts (locked when we detect suspicious changes in behavior) from follower counts across profiles globally. The number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.”

Approximately 70 million fake accounts have been purged so far.

In January, the New York Times exposed how so-called social media influencers were buying followers in bulk. The proliferation of fake accounts is severely hampering Twitter’s attempts to sell advertising to major clients.

A Financial Post story last November described Helin as an “indigenous thought leader with 1.7 million Twitter followers.” On Friday, theBreaker noticed that Helin had lost more than half of his followers, to 797,673. Helin initially disputed the number, saying that he had 1.64 million when he checked earlier in the day. 

By comparison, Donald Trump lost 340,000 followers in the purge. Others affected include Justin Bieber (2.7 million), Oprah Winfrey (1.4 million) and Twitter (7.7 million).

“I’ve had this for a long time (since April 2010), I have a verified account,” Helin said in a phone interview. “I’ve been writing books for a long, long time and involved in social media for a long time and I follow lots of people and I just assumed lots of people were following me, I get lots of followers all the time.”

Asked if he had ever bought followers, to reach the 1.7 million level last year, Helin said no. 

“I don’t know if my account could be hacked or why that would happen,” he said. “Don’t know anything about it.” 

theBreaker also asked whether Helin had anyone manage his account for him. “I can’t remember, I just use it as a tool. I don’t pay any attention to it otherwise.” 

Eagle Spirit Energy is working on an application to build a $16 billion medium crude oil pipeline from Bruderheim, Alta. to Grassy Point in Northern B.C. or Hyder, Alaska for export. 

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Bob Mackin The head of an Aquilini-backed company

Bob Mackin

The revolving door swings again at beleaguered BC Liberal Party headquarters. 

The opposition party has its fourth executive director in less than 13 months after Katy Merrifield’s departure. 

A stunning move. Merrifield was on the job only five months after managing the victorious leadership campaign of Andrew Wilkinson over presumed frontrunner Dianne Watts. Merrifield did not respond for comment on July 10. Neither did party spokeswoman Meghan Pritchard. Wilkinson confirmed the departure on July 11, calling it a resignation.

Sources tell theBreaker that was not so. The party’s sluggish fundraising in the post-big money era was a major issue and Wilkinson was not a happy camper.

Clockwise, from upper left: Miller, Scheffel, Chalmers and Merrifield (Twitter/Facebook)

Fundraising efforts have been focused around the anti-David Eby campaign on Vancouver’s Westside and West Vancouver, along with the anti-proportional representation campaign across the province.

The party website lists four events this summer, ranging from $25 Wilkinson appearances in Quesnel and Coquitlam to a $160 John Yap dinner at a Richmond Chinese restaurant. It won’t get any easier, because candidates for the Oct. 20 municipal elections are out with cap-in-hand. One of them could be Rich Coleman, who may run for mayor of Surrey.

The party is still without a membership chair after the sudden resignation of former Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold, who was charged in March with sexual assault. 

Merrifield, who spent 18 months as Christy Clark’s communications director in 2016-2017, took over when Emile Scheffel ended his eight-month run as the replacement for Laura Miller. Scheffel joined Kinder Morgan pipeline contractor Kiewit as its communications manager for Western Canada. 

Miller ran the party’s heavily criticized, unsuccessful 2017 election campaign while she was facing breach of trust charges in Ontario. She was eventually acquitted in a case that saw her former boss in the Ontario Liberal government, David Livingston, jailed four months over the gas plants email purge and hard drive-deletion case. 

The party has no full-time replacement yet for Merrifield. Wilkinson’s deputy chief of staff, Jen Chalmers, will act as the interim executive director. 

Merrifield’s departure comes in a week when the party remains under fire for the casino money laundering scandal and a new report by the Auditor General on government surplus land sales, which focused on the bulk discount given party donor Wesbild for parcels on Burke Mountain in Coquitlam in 2014.

Under Wilkinson, the Liberals scored points late in the spring session of the Legislature when they revealed NDP ministers and mandarins were mass-deleting their email or using GMail. Heat from the opposition led to the NDP making amendments to its recreational property tax and payroll tax to replace MSP premiums. 

The BC Liberals lost power after 16 years when the NDP and Greens forced a post-election no confidence vote in June 2017. They reported $12.75 million in donations, but a whopping deficit of $7.36 million, to Elections BC for 2017.

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Bob Mackin The revolving door swings again at

Bob Mackin

The FIFA vice-president who heads the North and Central American and Caribbean zone was not only paid more than $2.6 million last year, but he also bought a new $6.6 million mansion in West Vancouver.

British Columbia land title records, obtained by theBreaker, show that insurance executive Victor Montagliani and his secretary wife Tanya bought a posh six-bedroom, seven-bathroom, three-level house late last September. The mortgage is with Scotiabank, CONCACAF’s official bank sponsor. 

Real estate agent Jason Soprovich’s brochure described the property as an “exquisite new residence situated on a private gated estate in the heart of West Bay. This luxurious residence is situated on a breathtaking 1/4 acre estate offering spectacular ocean and coastal views. Absolutely no expense has been spared creating this timeless residence.”

FIFA VP Montagliani’s gated mansion, with a view of Stanley Park and Vancouver’s skyline (Jason Soprovich)

The house totals more than 6,000 square feet with Italian marble, hardwood flooring with radiant heating and ambient lighting throughout. “All opening out to gated grounds, lush gardens and covered veranda surrounding a family’s paradise complete with sparkling outdoor pool and bubbling hot tub.”

In June 2017, Montagliani sold his previous house near Sentinel Hill in West Vancouver for more than $3.5 million. 

Montagliani did not respond for comment.

A prepared statement to theBreaker from CONCACAF said Montagliani “has been a client of Scotiabank, both in his personal and professional capacities, since long before the CONCACAF-Scotiabank partnership. The mortgage you refer to is a refinancing of an existing mortgage that well predates Mr. Montagliani’s term as president of CONCACAF, as well as the sponsorship relationship between CONCACAF and Scotiabank.”

The statement said CONCACAF does not provide housing to employees or officers.

It once did. Chuck Blazer, the late secretary general and corruption whistleblower, reportedly billed CONCACAF for a $6,000-a-month apartment for his cats in New York’s Trump Tower. 

theBreaker asked Scotiabank whether the mortgage on Montagliani’s house was related to its sponsorship of CONCACAF, but the bank’s spokesman Lukas Gerber cited customer privacy. 

“We do not comment on customer relationships,” Gerber wrote. 

FIFA VP Montagliani and president Infantino (Twitter)

Montagliani, 52, was the Canadian Soccer Association president from 2012 until 2016. He portrayed himself as a reformer to win the CONCACAF presidency in May 2016, which automatically made him one of eight FIFA vice-presidents. 

In April, the New York Times reported that Montagliani was paid a US$1.25 million base salary with CONCACAF last year, plus bonuses, for gross compensation of more than US$2 million ($2.6 million Canadian). His gross 2017 pay was half-a-million Canadian dollars greater than FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Montagliani was also paid more than Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, United States President Donald Trump and Mexico’s outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto combined.

CONCACAF is comprised of 41 member associations, including Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations. 

Scotiabank became the FIFA subsidiary’s official bank and title sponsor of the CONCACAF Champions League on a four-year deal in 2014. It reviewed the relationship in 2015 in the wake of FIFA’s US$150 million transnational bribery and kickbacks scandal. Montagliani mentors Jerome Valcke of FIFA and Jeffrey Webb of CONCACAF were both ousted from their positions. Cayman Islands banker Webb pleaded guilty to corruption in late 2015 and forfeited US$6.7 million.  

In late April, Scotiabank renewed its sponsorship for another four-year term, but did not release financial terms.

Montagliani was one of the co-leaders of the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup chosen last month at the FIFA congress in Moscow. 

The United 2026 Bid Committee rejected Vancouver as a potential host city on March 14 after the provincial government unsuccessfully pleaded for further clarification and negotiation on key legal, financial and logistical terms. NDP Premier John Horgan said at the time that he was not willing to give FIFA a “blank cheque.”

Inside FIFA VP Montagliani’s old rec room, with a memento from meeting Brazilian Pato (Eric Christiansen)

In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Montagliani called it a “poor decision” and slammed the B.C. government for paying “no attention to the file” and putting a “junior person on the file.” 

Documents obtained by theBreaker under the freedom of information law show that the highest-ranking bureaucrat in the tourism and sport ministry, Deputy Minister Sandra Carroll, and the chief executive of B.C. Place Stadium operator B.C. Pavilion Corporation, Ken Cretney, were both involved.

Montagliani may have another reason to be displeased with the Horgan NDP government, which imposed a so-called schools surtax on houses worth $3 million and up in February’s budget. Since Montagliani’s mansion was assessed at $5.95 million last year, the additional tax bill would be almost $10,000. The most-recent District of West Vancouver tax bill was almost $14,000. 

The website promoting the sale of Montagliani’s previous house shows a rec room, featuring a framed jersey and photograph of Montagliani with ex-AC Milan Brazilian star Alexandre Pato, a Dallas Cowboys helmet in a glass box and a replica of the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl championship trophy in a corner beside a large-screen TV. 

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Bob Mackin The FIFA vice-president who heads the

Bob Mackin

After analyzing the BC Liberal surplus land sales scheme, British Columbia’s auditor general wants the NDP government to do a better job to protect the integrity of bidding. 

Carol Bellringer’s July 10-released report, An Independent Audit of the Ministry of Citizens’ Services Real Estate Asset Sales Management, included seven recommendations after her staff examined the first two years of the so-called Release of Assets for Economic Generation (RAEG) program. 

“Ensure controls are in place to prevent and detect real or perceived bias, bid rigging, and collusion,” Bellringer recommended. “Improve public accountability reporting on sales of surplus real estate.”

Burke Mountain land parcels (BC Gov)

RAEG was introduced in 2012 for the Citizens’ Services Ministry to sell unused or underused provincial land and buildings to help balance the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 budgets, save maintenance costs, create jobs and spur economic activity on the surplus land. Bellringer’s staff looked at 14 of the 101 sales, which represented three-quarters of proceeds. The 101 sales reaped $435 million, which surpassed the $421 million target, but Bellringer said the land sales team should have done more to assess costs and benefits of selling versus holding surplus assets. 

“More specifically, the Ministry of Citizens’ Services only focused on the revenue target, rather than all three of the planned benefits of the RAEG initiative: revenue, generation of economic activity and cost savings,” Bellringer wrote. 

Bellringer found that sales averaged 97% of the appraised value, except for the Burke Mountain lands in Coquitlam. 

Bellringer had no issue with the Burke Mountain appraisals, but she found fault in the sale to a major BC Liberal donor because government allowed bids for both individual and group parcels. 

In 2014, the government put 21 land parcels totalling 584 acres for sale on Burke Mountain. Colliers International was hired as the broker. A forests ministry-sourced appraisal valued the lands at $145.96 million, but the government sold all but three for $93.83 million. 

Fourteen of the 21 parcels were sold to Wesbild Holdings for $85 million, or two-thirds of the appraised value. City of Coquitlam bought four parcels at $11.83 million, or 80% of the value. 

Between 2005 and 2017, Wesbild Holdings donated $504,101.30 to the BC Liberals. From 2012 to 2017, it donated $60,960 to the NDP. Last year, the NDP banned donations from corporations. 

“We found direct comparability of the bids, based on the price offering for each parcel, was not possible, because government did not require bidders submitting grouped bids to disclose how much they were offering for individual parcels within their grouped bid during the bidding process.” 

Since the end of the two-year time frame, the ministry created a Strategic Real Estate Service branch in the Real Property Division, updated guidelines and procedures, and now requires bidders to certify that their bid is independently developed and there has been no communication with competitors. 

“No new property listings have been listed to date,” the report said.

The government also paid $67 million in accommodation costs to First Nations under the program. 

Bellringer appeared to only scratch the surface, because the Burke Mountain sale was the only one mentioned specifically in her report. 

In 2013-2014, the province took in $312.98 million, $125.79 million in 2014-2015, and $358.33 million in 2015-2016, for a three-year total of just over $797 million. 

Under the program, the BC Liberal government also sold the 5.8-acre Dogwood Lodge property in South Vancouver to Onni, a major donor to the BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver, for $83.5 million in April 2015. The land was assessed at $149.27 million in 2017. 

The land around Superior, Menzies, Michigan and Kingston streets near the Legislature in Victoria, called South Block and Portion Q, was assessed at almost $43 million in 2017, meaning it appreciated by almost $9 million since Concert and Jawl bought it.

Polygon bought and redeveloped the former Steveston Secondary land as luxury townhouses. It was assessed at $177.74 million in 2017 — an increase of $136.6 million from the purchase price.

The Willingdon Lands in Burnaby were sold to three First Nations backed by the Aquilinis for $57.9 million in 2014. The land increased by $14.85 million to $72.75 million in 2017.

Documents obtained under freedom of information show that $61.35 million was sold in 2016-2017. 

The biggest sale netted the province $13.9 million at Fraser Heights in Surrey, to Vesta Properties, which paid $16.5 million. Murrayville Elementary in Langley was sold for $10.04 million to Lanstone Homes (Murrayville), a $9.1 million net for the province. Squamish Nation Land Holdings Ltd. paid $3.36 million for the Cheekye Fan, which was worth $3.2 million to the province. 

Figures in 2017-2018, so far, included the $20 million sale of the Cottonwood Lands in Maple Ridge to Polygon Development 309 and Morning Star Homes, which netted $14.57 million for the province. 

The documents said that net proceeds from the sale of Station Street Properties, which is earmarked for the new St. Paul’s Hospital, were reduced to $0 from $10.3 million. Approval to delete the property from the program was rejected in April 2017. 

“Providence Health Care has been advised by their auditor, KPMG, that there will be no net gain realized from this transaction. Property transfer completed in 15/16; transfer was overseen by the St. Paul’s Hospital Redevelopment Oversights Committee and VCHA.”

Citizens Services spokeswoman Joanne Whittier told theBreaker in May that the RAEG program was discontinued in 2017 and the 2017-2018 sales revenue figure was on the miscellaneous revenue line item in the quarterly budget reports forecasts. 

“Now when making decisions about whether or not to sell surplus lands, the ministry carefully considers whether properties can support new public infrastructure and provide social benefits to the community through development of schools, health care facilities, affordable housing and child care facilities.”

In June, for example, the ministry transferred vacant property in the Village of Queen Charlotte to BC Housing, for supportive housing. 

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Bob Mackin After analyzing the BC Liberal surplus

Bob Mackin

An Ontario polling company with links to the federal Conservative Party and BC Liberals surveyed Squamish residents on June 30. 

But the incumbent mayor and her challenger in the Oct. 20 election are both denying involvement in the phone calls and the company won’t identify its client. 

The Campaign Research Inc. questionnaire began with a question about approving or disapproving Justin Trudeau’s job performance, then focussed on district political, economic and social issues. 

Heintzman (left) and Chapelle (Twitter)

A Squamish resident who was contacted spontaneously by “Nathan” at Campaign Research recorded part of the call on an answering machine. She was asked: 

  • whether Squamish’s mayor and council are on the right track; 
  • who would get her vote for mayor on Oct. 20; 
  • to rate Heintzman and Chapelle’s performance on a scale of 1-10; 
  • who she voted for in 2014; 
  • to grade a list of 14 issues on a scale of 1-10 (including wasteful spending, property taxes, availability of good paying jobs; overcrowding of trails and the spit; housing affordability and availability); 
  • and whether eight Howe Sound resource and development projects are supported or not (including Woodfibre LNG, Garibaldi at Squamish Ski Resort, the Burnco gravel mine and Great Wolf Lodge). 

The survey also included a question about whether shipping should be reduced or outright banned in Howe Sound. 

Campaign Research asked standard demographics questions and offered a $5 Tim Hortons gift card in exchange for an email address. 

Chapelle denied involvement in the poll and suggested that Heintzman may be the client. 

“I have not started an official campaign yet, and have always been elected without signage or a ‘team’,” Chapelle said by email. 

Heintzman said she has never done polling of any kind and has not had a meeting about her own re-election campaign.

“I don’t think any other elected official or prospective candidate is behind it either,” Heintzman said. “These polls aren’t cheap, from what I understand.”

Woodfibre LNG, which got provincial and federal approval by 2016, is expected to be a major issue again this fall. The FortisBC pipeline to feed the plant, a dock to ferry workers across Howe Sound to the site and the prospect of LNG tankers plying Howe Sound remain contentious points. 

Heintzman opposed the project when she ran in 2014 and unseated incumbent Rob Kirkham by less than 300 votes.

Chapelle is a staunch defender of the project whose not-for-profit Aligned Collective received a $5,000 grant from Woodfibre LNG’s community sponsorship program last December. Aligned Collective advertises private office, personal desk and boardroom rentals in downtown Squamish. Chapelle told the Squamish Chief newspaper in January that she would recuse herself from voting on any Woodfibre LNG matters. 

Campaign Research wouldn’t answer any of theBreaker’s questions. Founder Richard Ciano responded with an email that said his company “does not disclose, discuss, confirm, or deny the existence of any matter relating to who its clients are, or may be, or any work Campaign Research Inc. may perform on behalf of its clients unless specifically required to do so by law, or unless specifically directed to do so by our clients.”

Ciano is a former national vice-president of the Conservative Party of Canada. His business partner is Nick Kouvalis, who was behind Rob Ford and John Tory’s mayoral wins, and worked on the BC Liberals’ 2013 election win. 

Campaign Research’s Ciano.

Woodfibre LNG vice-president Byng Giraud, a veteran of several federal Conservative campaigns, did not respond to theBreaker

Meanwhile, the B.C. NDP government is negotiating a land and cash deal with the Squamish Nation to enable Woodfibre LNG to proceed. Suntanu Dalal, spokesman for the Energy, Mines and Petroleum ministry, wouldn’t provide any information. 

“Discussions between First Nations and the provincial government, for all benefits agreements, are confidential until finalized,” Dalal said an email.

In October 2015, the Squamish Nation gave its conditional approval to Woodfibre LNG after conducting its own study, which has not been published. The 25th condition, if all others are met, is an economic benefits agreement. 

Squamish municipal population grew 13.7% from the 2011 census, to 19,512 in 2016; B.C.’s average population increase was 5.6%, and nationally it was 5%. 

It is part of a riding that is represented by Liberal Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and BC Liberal Jordan Sturdy. Sturdy won re-election because of vote-splitting. He had nearly 43% of the popular vote in 2017, compared to Green Dana Taylor (28.7%) and the NDP’s Michelle Livaja (27%).

Click below to listen to excerpts from the Campaign Research June 30 Squamish issues phone poll (edited to protect the privacy of the respondent).

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Exclusive: Ontario Tory pollster won't say who hired it for Squamish pre-election survey
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Bob Mackin An Ontario polling company with links

Western Economic Association International brought its 93rd annual conference to Vancouver’s Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver at the end of June. 

More than 2,000 people from 71 countries participated in the meeting that rated and debated the latest economic research, across the spectrum. Among them were 50 sports economists who showed research in-progress about how a new stadium can harm real estate values, how the public subsidizes security costs for pro sports events and why the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics were not the promised tourism bonanza for Brazil.

On this edition, hear host Bob Mackin’s interview with Victor Matheson, a professor from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., at the conference about trends and issues in the business of sports. Such as Seattle’s Key Arena renovation, Calgary’s 2026 Winter Olympics bid and the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup, which ends July 15.

“Very often teams get direct or indirect subsidies from cities or states or provinces, money is spent from taxpayer money to build stadiums and, of course, there is huge public spending on hosting big events,” Matheson said. “A person who is going to be receiving subsidy money, that’s probably a person you shouldn’t necessarily believe when they say ‘oh, yeah, hand a bunch of money to me and we will all get rich’. That’s something you probably want to take with a grain of salt.”

Also: commentaries and headlines from around the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest, and a taste of the Khatsahlano Street Party. 

Click below or go to iTunes and subscribe.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Are public-funded mega-events and sports venues a boon or a boondoggle?
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Western Economic Association International brought its 93rd

Bob Mackin

The Royal Canadian Legion in North Burnaby is suing its ex-lawyer after a developer tore down the war veterans’ social hall and broke a promise to build a new one.

In a May 15-filed B.C. Supreme Court action, Royal Canadian Legion #148, aka North Burnaby (B.C. No. 148), claimed lawyer Anthony H.S. Knight and his firm, McMillan LLP, caused the Legion loss, damage and expense when the plan to replace the 1955-built Legion Hall fell through. 

The Legion retained Knight to advise on the sale of 4354-4357 Hastings Street to Epta Properties (Hastings 3) Development Ltd. 

Real estate lawyer Tony Knight (McMillan)

Beginning in November 2012, the court filing said, the Legion instructed Knight to review the exchange agreement, conduct due diligence on Epta and provide advice about the property, including a second mortgage in favour of the Legion.

The Legion claimed Knight agreed to “exercise the skill and diligence of a reasonably competent solicitor in carrying out the instructions of the plaintiff.” It alleged that Knight acted contrary to the Legion’s instructions and established legal practice by failing to address and advise on the sufficiency of security for the transaction. 

None of the allegations has been tested in court. When contacted by theBreaker, Knight declined comment. He said that no statement of defence has been filed. 

Since 2011, according to his bio on the McMillan law firm website, Knight has bought and sold 76 commercial properties for clients, totalling $922 million. His bio also says he has acted as borrower’s counsel for 85 loan transactions worth almost $2.75 billion. Knight was called to the British Columbia bar in 1977.

After the exchange agreement and transfer of the property to Epta, the Legion claimed Epta encumbered the property with a mortgage and “borrowed amounts that imperilled and/or violated the plaintiff’s security in the property, as represented by the second mortgage, including an aggregate amount exceeding the value of the property. Epta Hastings later failed to satisfy its payment obligations under the Epta mortgage leading to significant losses to the plaintiff.”

Epta vowed in 2013 to build a new Legion canteen by 2015 within the mixed-use, 26-condo development, called Centro. Epta paid the Legion’s $145,000 tax bill for 2014. It took out a $3.1 million loan, but claimed $2.82 million in costs, including a $700,000 “development management fee.” 

Epta has been a party in more than 40 court actions in British Columbia. Instead of suing Epta or giving it more time to begin construction, members of the cash-strapped Legion voted to sell the property to Beedie Development Corp., even if that jeopardized the resurrection of the Legion canteen. Beedie’s proposal includes a 50-seat liquor primary establishment, a fraction of the previous 425-seat licence for the canteen.

The site remains vacant, but a Beedie-branded banner was recently erected around the site. The banner also contains the Royal Canadian Legion’s B.C. command logo.

Beedie banners surround vacant ex-Legion lot (Mackin)

Epta put an end to a North Burnaby institution. In April, it put an end to four West Broadway small businesses, including Kitsilano institutions Benny’s Bagels and Moderne Burger, to make way for its 22-condo Monument project.

Epta’s related company, Apollo, started as a wine importer and became a major cranberry grower for giant Ocean Spray. Court filings show that, over a seven-year period, Apollo advanced $5.9 million from its cranberry farming cashflow to related parties, “with the majority of the advances made to Epta Properties Ltd.”

Apollo was in default to Farm Credit Canada in January 2015 when it owed $23.626 million to secured creditors, primarily Farm Credit ($17.3 million) and First West ($4 million). In July 2015, Apollo reached a deal to sell the land, buildings, equipment, permits and contracts to D.R. Barnston Holdings Ltd. for $24.875 million, with a Feb. 11, 2016 closing date.

Despite the North Burnaby Legion fiasco, Alex B. Tsakumis, vice-president of Epta, played a key role in a US$75 million deal for 618 acres of vacant land near Palm Springs. EC Rancho Mirage Holdings GP Corp. bought the land, also known as Section 38, near the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage. 

Alex B. (left), Chris, Angelo and Bill Tsakumis (Epta).

Tsakumis registered EC Rancho Mirage Holdings GP Corp. in May 2017 in Delaware and his name and West Vancouver residential address are on the company’s November 2017 registration in California. Clarity Real Estate announced the acquisition in late March and its vice-president, Russell Holmes, wouldn’t say how much, if any, equity that Epta had in the deal. 

Tsakumis’s cousin is ex-media commentator Alex G. Tsakumis, of Trigate Properties, who denies any overlapping interests or directors with Epta. “We have never had anything to do with Epta Properties, and we will never have anything to do with Epta Properties — ever, period,” Alex G. Tsakumis said in a statement to theBreaker last November.

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Bob Mackin The Royal Canadian Legion in North

Bob Mackin

The bill for the University of British Columbia advertising blitz that recycled the NDP’s 2017 campaign slogan was significantly higher than what the university told theBreaker in January. 

Documents released under the freedom of information law also indicate that the university’s use of the “For a Better B.C.” slogan was not a coincidence. 

UBC budgeted $1.55 million over two waves (January to March and April to May), which is 64% higher than the $945,000 figure that the university’s communications office originally provided to theBreaker

Scenes from University of B.C.’s “For a better BC” ad campaign, including Okanagan student Tim Abbott (UBC)

A “strategic summary” of what the university called the Provincial Tactical Positioning Campaign said “it is imperative that UBC invests in its profile and reputation — locally, nationally and globally.”

The “For a Better B.C.” campaign launched Jan. 29, and was “designed to build UBC’s social capital and demonstrate the positive contributions UBC students make to the province and its people.” The campaign profiled four UBC students from diverse backgrounds. One of them is an environmental engineering doctorate candidate from the Okanagan campus who appeared before cameras sporting an orange toque, like the NDP’s signature colour.

Among the goals of the campaign was to create “positive perceptions regarding the mission of the university to the benefit of industry, government and NGO partnerships and projects.”

The campaign was developed last September and October by Taxi Advertising. Another agency, Mediacom, arranged the ad space and time, including online video, social media, radio, out of home, and print. Prominently listed atop the Mediacom plan are full-page ads in the Heliject Inflight Review and BC Business, specifically because it doubles as the Harbour Air in-flight magazine. Government officials rely on the floatplane and the helicopter company to commute between the capital and the mainland. The Vancouver cabinet office at Canada Place is near both terminals.

“UBC is the University of British Columbia,” the document said. “A successful communication campaign putting forward UBC’s value to the province should help encourage community engagement and garner support for initiatives within the strategic plan.”

Among the university’s initiatives is the five-year capital plan, which was presented at a UBC board of governors’ finance committee meeting on June 5. It showed $331.5 million of the $605 million bill for five capital projects is sought from the province’s Advanced Education, Skills and Training ministry, including a new chemistry laboratory complex ($140 million), mathematics building and Klinck Building replacement ($106 million) and community health sciences, recreation facility and War Memorial Gym ($80 million). 

theBreaker asked UBC spokeswoman Leslie Dickson to set-up an interview about the ad campaign, but she responded with this emailed statement instead: “As a publicly funded institution, it is important that UBC demonstrates how it contributes to the public good, including through a core role as an educator of B.C. students. Advertising is just one way that we share this message, along with public events, and through media coverage and social media.”

Dickson did not respond to a follow-up phone call from theBreaker

Examples of how the NDP used the “Better B.C.” slogan, before and after the 2017 election. (NDP/BC Gov)

Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC questioned why a university aiming to attract students and faculty from around the world would choose not to “spread its wings,” but instead focus its advertising strategy on a relatively narrow geographic area.

“It adds weight to the theory they’re just trying to curry favour with the provincial government,” Travis said. 

Travis also said that when public money is spent to benefit a public agency, the public is owed a full explanation of the instructions for that spending. 

“UBC hasn’t had a very good time over the years managing damage control, it hasn’t learned anything,” he said. “It should satisfy a reporter’s questions.” 

The B.C. government appoints 11 of the 21 members on the board of governors. Last December, the NDP appointed longtime Vision Vancouver backer Joel Solomon to the board. The university is within Attorney General David Eby’s Vancouver-Point Grey riding and the University Endowment Lands are ultimately governed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, because there is no municipal council. 

At the end of June, the NDP cabinet appointed two more new governors to one-year terms: consultant Alison Brewin and lawyer William Sundhu. Ex-provincial court judge Sundhu was an NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election in Kamloops. Brewin is the daughter of former NDP politicians John and Gretchen Brewin.

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Bob Mackin The bill for the University of