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Bob Mackin

Imagine being the mayor of a big city who declared an emergency, but there was no imminent risk of harm to citizens in his jurisdiction.

Then, more than a year later, a real, deadly emergency comes along and the economy suddenly screeches to a halt. The mayor dithers and refuses to push the alarm button.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart (Mackin)

That is Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s dilemma.

The October 2018-elected city council under Stewart moved in January 2019 to declare a climate change emergency. But no meeting with top officials or live, televised news conference followed. Stewart went about his business for a couple of days and then took the weekend off. It was an emergency in name only. 

Now, the week after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China a global pandemic, Stewart is dithering.

“We base our choices on the needs, based on science and the best public information we have,” Stewart said at a March 16 news conference in city hall. “At this point, we don’t see a need operationally to declare a state of emergency. You can imagine a number of things happen when you do that. But if we did do it, it would really centralize power in the city, allowing us to take extraordinary measures, like, for example, procure hotel space, to deliver clothing, to deliver food, to disperse groups of people, so it really is the top level we can go to.”

For the time being, Stewart will not follow the lead of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who declared a coronavirus emergency on March 15.

“I’m ready to do it, if we think we need to do it,” Stewart said.

What Stewart did do on March 16 was announce the citywide, temporary shutdown of community centres, swimming pools, hockey rinks, libraries and by-admission gardens. Vancouver joined Surrey, Delta and West Vancouver in closing recreation and library facilities. All fear they may not be able to maintain core, essential service levels, if staff become ill.

City manager Sadhu Johnston was absent from the news conference, but city hall communications told that he was healthy.

Stewart said he was in the early stages of talking with senior governments and area mayors about economic stimulus programs and tax breaks to cushion the blow for the economy.

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Stewart said Vancouverites should think twice before going out and stay a metre away from others if they have to. Restaurants and bars, he said, should reduce their capacity to make more space between tables.

Stewart, who is also the police board chair, was asked how the city would monitor establishments, to make sure they do not allow more than 50 people inside. The city has business licence inspectors, but it they were not being mobilized to conduct spot checks. 

“We’re not policing right now, we’re very proud with the way the city has reacted to this point,” Stewart said.

Stewart’s tune changed suddenly in late afternoon.

He told Lynda Steele on CKNW that he had spoken to Police Chief Adam Palmer after Vancouver Coastal Health medical officer Dr. Patty Daly issued an order to close downtown core bars and restaurants on St. Patrick’s Day. Stewart recommended enjoying the taste of Guinness and the sound of the Pogues at home instead.

Dr. Bonnie Henry (left), Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix (Mackin)

The 50-person limit comes from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s formal order, a “notice to owners, occupiers, and operators of places at which large numbers of people gather,” which reduced the public gatherings limit from the 250 attendees cap she set late last week.

That means you cannot invite 50 friends to a St. Patrick’s Day hooley, Easter egg hunt in April or a Cinco de Mayo fiesta in May.

Henry’s order lasts until the end of May. She has the option to extend it into June or reduce the ceiling further.

Henry’s order includes a lengthy, broad list of venues. Such as casinos, which were ordered to fold their cards at 11:59 a.m. March 16, 12 hours after Great Canadian Gaming shut its B.C. gambling venues.

The wording of Henry’s order against public gatherings means city hall and the park board should finally clear Oppenheimer Park’s tent city, if more than 50 people are on the park. A problem would be finding shelter for park dwellers, as the city transitions into spring with double digit daytime temperatures and freezing overnight temperatures in the short-term weather forecast.

Three more deaths

The latest province-wide stats released March 16 said B.C. had 30 new cases in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser and Interior health regions, for a total 103.

Four deaths from Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, including three over the weekend. Six people are in acute care, but five have fully recovered and the rest are self-isolating at home.

Lions Gate Hospital, where three people in the administration department tested positive, will only accept emergency patients. The government is cancelling thousands of surgeries province-wide, recalling recently retired doctors and nurses. It is also reducing court operations, by postponing jury selection and delaying cases that are not urgent between now and the end of May.

Lynn Valley Care Centre (Mackin)

Henry revealed that at least four cases stem from the Pacific Dental Conference, held March 5-7 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Henry said more than one person at the conference had the virus and was passing it to others. Cases have been identified from that conference in other provinces across Canada. She said everybody who attended has been notified that they need to stay home. If she had her way, the conference would never have happened.

“It was at a time when I was advising that medical conferences, in particular, should not be held,” she said.

But a statement from the organizer, the B.C. Dental Association, said that the Provincial Health Services Agency was consulted more than a week before the event and Dr. David Patrick from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control was a speaker at the conference.

“At no time was the PDC asked by any public health representatives to halt the conference,” said the prepared statement attributed to president James Singer.

Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Premier John Horgan and at least two deputy ministers attended a news conference on March 6 in the adjoining Pan Pacific Hotel, which shares doors, escalators, elevators and washrooms with the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place. The Vancouver cabinet office is in the complex’s World Trade Centre.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered that Canada’s borders be restricted to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, diplomats, flight crews and American citizens. Trudeau called upon Canadians to stay home. For those Canadians outside the country, he urged them to come home, before mass-cancellation of flights.

Dix was disappointed border access was not restricted further.

“We remain concerned that access for visitors from the U.S. continues to be allowed, given the situation particularly in King and Snohomish county in Washington State, which affects B.C. more than anyone else,” Dix said. “It’s our strong view, and our strong message, that visitors from the U.S., don’t come.”

Coronavirus cases in Washington have exceeded the 900 mark, including 48 deaths. 

Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, said southbound car volume at the border dropped 33% in the first half of March, on a year-over-year basis.

Canada and the U.S. do about $1 billion a day in cross-border trade. U.S. government figures for 2019 show 3.9 million vehicles crossed at Blaine carrying 7.7 million passengers. Nearly 370,000 trucks and 303,000 full containers also crossed the 49th parallel.

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Bob Mackin Imagine being the mayor of a

After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus from Wuhan, China, a global pandemic, came the cavalcade of cancellations and the pandemic of postponements. A desperate effort to curtail public events, to stop the spread of the disease.

It means the biggest time out in sports history.

Sports economist Victor Matheson in Vancouver, June 28, 2018 (Mackin) Podcast called upon Victor Matheson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. who is one of the world’s top experts on the economics of sports and mega-events. His research has found spectator sports deliver less to the economy than boosters claim, because of what is called the substitution effect.

“In this case, it’s likely to be a much larger impact that we’re feeling on the local economy around Vancouver and other places in the country, because there isn’t going to be people who don’t go to a Whitecaps game, don’t go to a Canucks game, who then instead spend the money elsewhere,” Matheson told Podcast host Bob Mackin. “Because people aren’t going out to dinner, they’re not going to the theatre, they’re not going to other entertainment events. Any money not spent in professional sports, it’s not getting spent elsewhere in the local economy. It’s just not getting spent at all.” 

The impact will be immediately felt by the hourly workers who operate, maintain and clean sports venues and those who work for area hotels and restaurants frequented by fans, teams and media. Major leagues that have suffered strikes or lockouts should be resilient again. Not so much for minor leagues, women’s leagues and startups. There are also major ramifications for broadcasters and advertisers, who were banking on the races for NHL and NBA playoff spots (postponed), the NCAA basketball’s Final Four (cancelled) and golf’s marquee tournament, The Masters (postponed).

The biggest question revolves around whether the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are rescheduled or cancelled. For now, the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee say the show will go on, as scheduled, on July 24.

Whistler Village (Whistler Blackcomb)

“Tokyo has about 25 billion reasons to want to make sure the Olympics goes through in some sort of way,” Matheson said. “Because that’s about what they’ve spent preparing for the Olympics.”

Listen to the full interview with Matheson on this edition.

Also, more on the shocking March 14 announcement from Vail Resorts Inc. that it would close Whistler Blackcomb and its 36 other resorts until March 22, at least.

Vail acquired 75% of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings in 2016 for $1.4 billion and the 2010 Winter Olympics host resort is the jewel in its portfolio. It suffered a poor start, with little December snow and disappointing international visitation numbers in January. Now the coronavirus shock to the global tourism industry.

Listen to what Vail Chair and CEO Robert Katz said when asked March 9 on a call with stock analysts whether he anticipated closing resorts during the lucrative spring break/Easter period.

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines. 

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Coronavirus pandemic forces the biggest time out in sports history

After the World Health Organization declared the

Bob Mackin

Just over a year after he was arrested in San Jose, David Sidoo is scheduled to go before a judge in Boston to plead guilty to his role in the college admissions scandal.

David Sidoo accepting the Order of B.C. from Premier Christy Clark and Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon in 2016 (BC Gov)

The former Canadian Football League star, who became a wealthy oil, gas and mining investor, faced up to 20 years in jail and was tentatively scheduled for trial next January.

But filings released March 11 from the Federal Court in Boston show that Sidoo agreed with prosecutors on Feb. 6 to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. The plea bargain, if the judge accepts it, means Sidoo could face only 90 days in prison, pay a $250,000 fine and be under 12 months of supervised release.

Sidoo was released on a $1 million bond last March and pleaded not guilty to mail and wire fraud and money laundering charges. He will appear in court in Boston on March 13, according to a statement from his three lawyers.

“His desire is to seek finality to the process,” read the March 11 statement from Martin Weinberg, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfield.

Sidoo did not immediately respond to’ phone calls to his $31.7 million Point Grey mansion or his mobile phone.

Sidoo was accused of arranging to pay consultant Rick Singer more than $200,000 for Harvard-educated tennis coach Mark Riddell to write college entrance exams for sons Dylan and Jordan Sidoo, neither of whom are charged.

Dylan Sidoo used the results from the Riddell-written test to enter Chapman University in California, but later transferred to the University of Southern California where he graduated from the film school. Jordan Sidoo entered University of California Berkeley and graduated with a history and political economy degree. Jordan Sidoo briefly worked for the Vancouver Whitecaps early last year. The brothers are two of the three founders of Inc., which markets the Vanish encrypted messaging app.

Dylan (left), David and Jordan Sidoo

Riddell pleaded guilty in April 2019 to fraud and money laundering in the scheme hatched by mastermind Singer, who admitted that he “created a side door that would guarantee families would get in” for a steep price. Singer’s methods involved faking athletic credentials and cheating on entrance exams. Payments were arranged through a charitable foundation that Singer ran.

Prosecutors alleged Riddell traveled from Tampa, Fla. to Vancouver and used false identification to pose as Dylan Sidoo to write an SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] test on Dec. 3, 2011 at a venue that has not been disclosed. Riddell allegedly traveled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012 that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The venue for that exam remains undisclosed.

Prosecutors supplied copies of evidence to Sidoo and his legal team in late April 2019. There was so much evidence, that it came on a hard drive and DVD. At the time, Chesnoff said Sidoo’s legal team was examining the evidence in order to “present facts about the credibility of Mr. Singer.”

Last October, a new version of the indictment against David Sidoo said that Singer drafted a false application essay in 2013 that claimed Jordan Sidoo worked as an intern with an anti-gang violence organization in Los Angeles.

The October 2013 essay falsely claimed that Jordan Sidoo had been held up at gunpoint by gang members in Los Angeles. After Singer emailed a draft to David Sidoo, he wrote back to Singer with minor changes.

“Can we lessen the interaction with the gangs. Guns …? That’s scary stuff. Your call you know what they look for,” David Sidoo wrote.

The essay, without the reference to guns, was later submitted as part of Sidoo’s younger son’s application for admission to multiple universities.

The indictment also alleged that Sidoo asked Singer if Riddell could take either the Graduate Management Admission Test or Law School Admission Test on behalf of Dylan Sidoo. Riddell agreed to pay Singer and Singer agreed to pay Riddell $100,000. But the plan went awry.

David Sidoo (left) and Justin Trudeau in 2016 (PMO)

“Singer and Riddell researched the security measures in place for both exams. On or about April 28, 2015, Singer told Sidoo that their plan to have Riddell take the LSAT in place of Sidoo’s son was ‘[n]ot happening due to fingerprinting’ requirements on the exam,” the indictment said.

In mid-December 2016, according to the indictment, Riddell wired $520 through Western Union to China to buy fraudulent drivers’ licences so he could pose as Dylan Sidoo for the GMAT. Riddell ultimately decided not to take the exam, because the fake ID was “not of high quality.”

In an email last October, Chesnoff dismissed the contents of that updated indictment. 

“These are mere allegations from the mouths of admitted fraudsters. Mr. Sidoo looks forward to his day in court,” Chesnoff said.  

Now Sidoo will go to court to plead guilty and receive a relatively light penalty.

The UBC football star who became a UBC booster, and later a BC Liberal-appointed member of the UBC board of governors, is bound to suffer, reputation-wise. He was caught paying a high price so that his sons could go to universities other than UBC, which is only a short drive from the family mansion. His sons’ California diplomas are tarnished and could be subject to revocation.

David Sidoo could be stripped of his 2016 Order of British Columbia and his name could disappear almost entirely from Thunderbird Stadium, where he donated money to upgrade the facility and help the UBC team win the Vanier Cup in 2015. Sidoo was a star defensive back on the 1982 Vanier Cup-winning UBC team.

Sidoo was the first person from British Columbia to be charged, but will be the second to plead guilty. A Surrey woman who is a Chinese citizen will be sentenced May 19.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, is expected to be sentenced to time already served in a Spanish jail after her plea bargain. She admitted guilt Feb. 21, paid a $250,000 bond to the court, was ordered to provide a DNA sample and restricted to travel within the U.S. and Canada only.

Sui was arrested in Spain last summer after paying a $400,000 bribe to have her tennis-playing son recruited to the University of California Los Angeles soccer team so that he could study there. He had no prior competitive soccer experience, but was falsely billed as a top player on two private teams in Canada.

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Bob Mackin Just over a year after he

It was a week that felt like a month in provincial politics. And it is all on this week’s edition of Podcast

The Legislative Assembly voted to make Kate Ryan-Lloyd the clerk. Craig James’s former deputy filled the role since James was suspended in November 2018. James retired in disgrace last May, rather than face firing for misconduct, and is under RCMP investigation for corruption. A committee struck to replace James said it received only eight applications after widely advertising one of the highest-paid jobs of its type. 

Finance minister Carole James revealed she has
Parkinson’s disease on March 5 (Mackin)

Coronavirus became a bigger concern for the NDP government, after Washington State’s governor declared a state of emergency. Premier John Horgan struck a cabinet subcommittee and deputy ministers’ committee.

Finance minister Carole James (no relation to Craig James) revealed she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and would not run in the next election; teary-eyed political friends and foes united to offer the longtime James Bay MLA support. 

And Victoria Police officers were called to remove five protesters who refused to leave the Parliament Buildings after meeting with NDP indigenous relations minister Scott Fraser.

With one day left before the Legislative Assembly’s two-week March break, Fraser agreed to meet protesters who had been occupying the front steps, driveway and lawn of the Parliament Buildings. He was joined by interim Green Party leader Adam Olsen. The protesters pledged to leave the building, whatever the outcome. 

They had been continuing their occupation in support of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, even after the federal and B.C. governments agreed to fast-track a rights and title deal. The Coastal GasLink pipeline at the centre of the Wet’suwet’en dispute was not resolved in the Smithers talks, so that inspired the group Fraser and Olsen met to stage a sit-in.


“My hope was to convince them to give space to the Wet’suwet’en people as they consider the agreement and to end the protest,” Fraser told Question Period on March 5. “I’m deeply disappointed, obviously, that they broke their word.”

Protester Ta’kaiya Blaney on March 4 outside the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

Alan Mullen, chief of staff to Speaker Darryl Plecas, told Podcast host Bob Mackin that it was a bold move by Fraser, “to have that meeting in good faith is such an olive branch.”

Said Olsen in an interview with Mackin: “What they were demanding was something that government was definitely not, and has been very consistent on, not willing to do. Which is have CGL leave the territory.”

Sergeant-at-Arms Greg Nelson failed to negotiate the protesters’ exit. Finally, more than five hours after the meeting ended, Victoria Police officers arrested the five for mischief and carried them out of the building. But not without protesters surrounding police vehicles. 

The protesters eventually extinguished their fires and took down their tents the next morning and left. The Legislature reopened to public tours. A temporary fence was erected on the steps to the ceremonial entry, to discourage another protest.

Police enter the Parliament Buildings on March 5 (Mackin)

Mullen said the Legislative Assembly welcomes peaceful protest on the grounds, but campfires and tents will no longer be tolerated. 

“We’ve shown a great deal of restraint and leniency,” Mullen told Mackin. “But time and time again, when those olive branches are extended, whether it be by the Legislature, the Speaker’s office, or a minister of the Crown, and those olive branches are essentially put in the wood splitter, I think it’s time to dial it back.”

On this edition of Podcast, hear from Fraser, Olsen, Mullen and some of the protesters in a special feature about how the Shut Down Canada-affiliated protest climaxed and dissipated.

Also, clips of Horgan and James. Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Emotional week in B.C. politics peaked with protest inside the People's House

It was a week that felt like

Bob Mackin (with files from Ben Miljure of CTV News Vancouver)

Some of the seeds were sown at an Ottawa conference in February 2019 for the wave of 2020 protests that have blocked streets, bridges, railways, ports and government offices across Canada.


PowerShift: Young and Rising was the five-day meeting that brought millennial climate change campaigners together with indigenous rights activists to discuss building a movement against capitalism and colonialism, and to learn civil disobedience methods, including blockades. The goal: to stop oil and gas pipeline expansion.

Kanahus Manuel, of the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia’s interior, was a keynote speaker on the opening night of the conference on Feb. 14, 2019 and delivered a prophetic message.

“Native people could shut this whole country down because all the transportation corridors go through our reserves and territories,” Manuel said in a video that was Tweeted by Canada on the first anniversary. “The pipelines are transportation, it’s always been about these transportation corridors to get stolen goods off our lands, from point A to point B.”

The next day, an upside down Canada flag, with “Shut Down Canada” scrawled upon it, was draped over the head table during PowerShift panel discussions at an Ottawa church.

The event was already scheduled before the RCMP raided a long-standing blockade on Wet’suwet’en Territory in early January 2019, to allow Coastal GasLink to build the $6.2 billion pipeline that is supposed to feed the massive LNG Canada plant in Kitimat by 2025.

The RCMP’s enforcement of a new court order in 2020 sparked the unprecedented wave of protests nationwide, in urban and rural areas, under the hashtag #ShutDownCanada.

Federal and B.C. ministers reached an agreement with the hereditary chiefs to resolve a long-standing land title dispute on the weekend. The hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the pipeline remains, although the elected Wet’suwet’en council supports the project. On March 4, students at various universities walked out of class and held small-scale protests.


“This particular protest over the LNG pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory is an opportunity that came up, I don’t think they were planning for this in particular,” said David Tindall, a University of B.C. sociology professor who studies environmental protests.

But they were planning for things around oil and gas pipelines, possibly more stuff around the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion or the oil sands.”

In an interview with CTV News Vancouver reporter Ben Miljure, keynote speaker Manuel said she found PowerShift useful to attend.

“It’s really important to connect with all the young people, the ones that are active on the front lines out there in Canada for our environment, for climate change and for Indigenous sovereignty,” Manuel said. “I went there and met with a lot of amazing organizers and young people from across the country.”

The PowerShift conference program said the non-violent direct action panels would discuss theory and history of social movements of the past, but also prepare for the future.

“It’ll explore tactics like civil disobedience and frontline land defence. Sessions will prepare participants to deploy direct actions by coaching people on action design, legal and security considerations, and more,” the program said. “Tactics explored will include everything from scouting to highly technical actions like blockades and climbing.”

PowerShift 2019 sponsors included non-government organizations such as David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club Canada and Council of Canadians. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, National Union of Public and General Employees and Unifor were also sponsors. A Unifor representative, who was not authorized to be quoted, confirmed that Canada’s largest private sector union donated $5,000 to the conference. Unifor did not send delegates or participate in discussions at the conference.

From the PowerShift program section on civil disobedience, including how to blockade and resist arrest.

Manuel wasn’t the only participant from B.C. Mary Lovell, now of the Sierra Club, Torrance Coste and Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee, No One Is Illegal’s Harsha Walia (now with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association) and Cedar George-Parker of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation were some of the others.

McCartney said in an interview that he attended PowerShift for the fourth time and offered attendees advice on dealing with the media. He downplayed PowerShift 2019’s influence on the events that have unfolded in 2020.

“It’s a conference for activists, some folks came there to learn about media, some folks came there to learn about how to run for election, some folks came there to learn about non violent direct action,” McCartney said. “In terms of links to what we’re seeing now, it just exists in the same space, kind of at the nexus of climate and indigenous rights, that movement is the same.”

McCartney said there was a bigger effort at 2019’s PowerShift to involve indigenous allies than at previous conferences.

One of the main sponsors of PowerShift was the Canadian arm of Washington, D.C.-headquartered Six activists, including Canadian team leader Cam Fenton and digital campaigner Atiya Jaffar, are listed in the program.

A year after PowerShift, Jaffar used social media platforms to promote the blockades at the Port of Vancouver, Deltaport, the Granville Bride and on CP Rail tracks in East Vancouver, as well as the sit-in at David Eby’s riding office in Point Grey.

Fenton was scheduled to conduct a forum at PowerShift on location scouting for protests, but he said by email that it was cancelled.

Fenton declined an interview request, but said he could respond to questions sent by email. provided Fenton with questions about’s sponsorship of PowerShift, its involvement in Shut Down Canada and’s fundraising activities, including a request for the names of its biggest donors and their dollar amounts.

Fenton, on behalf of the organization, declined to answer the questions emailed to him.


In February, Canada’s Twitter account promoted the Shut Down Canada protests with a link to an online map showing each one and it reposted a clip of the climax of Manuel’s speech on the anniversary of PowerShift.’s Our Time campaign team staged a sit-in at the House of Commons, a week after last fall’s federal election, to urge the Canadian government to adopt the Green New Deal. Also in 2019, was one of several groups involved in the Shut Down D.C. protest in the U.S. capital

A decade ago, founder Bill McKibben described as a “scruffy little outfit.” It has grown into a major international force in the movement against climate change. The most-recent annual report, for the year ended Sept. 30, 2018, uses different words, calling a “dynamic and highly collaborative climate change campaign, building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.”

“To a certain extent they can be seen as the core of the climate change movement, and there’s a number of key 350 organizers, activists that have quite a high profile in a number of protests especially with the Trans Mountain pipeline,” said UBC’s Tindall.

McCartney called “friends of ours” who work together on a lot of campaigns. 

“They have the campaigns they’re coordinating on, and we have the campaigns we’re coordinating on and if we happen to be working on the same thing, then we make sure we know what each other are up to,” he said. grossed more than $19 million in grants and contributions for the year-ended Sept. 30, 2018. Main expenses in that fiscal year were $10.5 million for field organizing, $1.4 million for communications and $1.27 million for digital campaigns. For its activities outside the United States, it reported $527,671 for Canada and Mexico.

Tweets from Atiya Jaffar, a digital campaigner since 2015 with

The website contains a long list of foundations that support the charity, but it does not show any dollar amounts from those donations.

The annual report stated that, as of Sept. 30, 2018, 88% of grants and contributions receivable were due from three donors who were not identified. The names of six major donors, ranging from $450,000 to $4 million, were not disclosed in’s tax filing with the U.S. government.

Pro-industry researcher Vivian Krause and the Canadian Energy Centre, an arm of the conservative Alberta government, have both highlighted’s opacity and its ties to the likes of the Rockefeller Brothers. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund website lists a $200,000 grant to dated Oct. 30, 2019.

Tindall, however, said the issue of foreign funding is irrelevant, because the proponents for major resource projects tend to have foreign investors themselves. The $19 million in donations collected by pales in comparison to the $338.4 billion in 2018 revenue that flowed to Royal Dutch Shell, the biggest partner in the LNG Canada project.

“The industry groups have millions and millions, if not billions, of dollars in foreign funding. Most of the companies operating in the oil sands have foreign funding,” Tindall said.

Some of that money is spent on advertising and public relations targeted at the public, on lobbying politicians and on supporting think tanks. Environmental issues, Tindall said, are international issues that know no borders.

“Way more funding comes from the multinationals [in oil and gas] to try and influence environmental politics in Canada,” Tindall said. 

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Bob Mackin (with files from Ben Miljure

Three days after the Cullen Commission into money laundering wrapped its first phase of public hearings in Vancouver, one of the politicians expected to testify announced he will not run for re-election.

Rich Coleman, the former BC Liberal minister in charge of casinos, was first elected in 1996. He revealed Feb. 29 that he will retire from politics.

Attorney General David Eby included Coleman’s name in a list of people that he hopes will appear before Commissioner Austin Cullen when witnesses are heard from September to December.

Cullen heard opening statements over two-and-a-half days from a range of participants, including casinos, labour, law and non-governmental organizations. One of those was James Cohen of Transparency International Canada, who blamed secrecy for fostering corruption in B.C.’s gambling and real estate sectors.

“There are a number of gaps within Canada’s anti-money laundering law, the proceeds of crime, money laundering and terrorist financing law,” Cohen told Cullen. “But our coalition, as well as many experts and international bodies, agree on a key problem, Canada’s weak beneficial ownership regime.”

Not everyone who owns a secret company is a criminal, Cohen said, but gaps in Canadian laws allow mean true owners with sinister intent to remain anonymous and do significant harm to the economy and communities.

Also hear from Brock University’s Charles Burton and the University of British Columbia’s Paul Evans, who testified before the House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations.

Burton raised the concern about foreign money from China influencing Canadian political campaigns and recommended a law similar to one enacted in Australia that is aimed at curbing the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Highlights from the Cullen Commission and the Canada-China Relations Committee

Three days after the Cullen Commission into

Bob Mackin

David Sidoo’s fraud trial could begin next January.

Lawyers for Vancouverite Sidoo and 14 others accused in the college admissions scandal were in Judge Nathaniel Gorton’s courtroom in Boston on Feb. 27 for a case status conference. Sidoo would be part of the second group of defendants to be heard. The first group, which includes Hollywood star Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, would go on trial Oct. 5.

David Sidoo (left) and Justin Trudeau in 2016 (PMO)

Defendants have an April 1 deadline to sever or oppose the groupings. Court may hold a hearing on motions in early June.

“The defendants are charged with engaging in a single theme, as part of a single conspiracy to use various forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to college,” according to a filing by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “To convict them of conspiracy, the government must prove the existence of an illicit agreement among each of the defendants and at least one co-conspirator to engage in the charge scheme.”

Sidoo, a former CFL player who became a wealthy stock market player, tops a list of 19 people named in an April 9, 2019 indictment. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Sidoo is accused of paying more than $200,000 for Harvard-educated tennis coach Mark Riddell to write college entrance exams for sons Dylan and Jordan Sidoo, neither of whom are charged.

If convicted, David Sidoo could face up to 20 years in prison.

Riddell pleaded guilty last April to fraud and money laundering in the scheme hatched by mastermind Rick Singer, who admitted that he “created a side door that would guarantee families would get in.”

Prosecutors allege Riddell traveled from Tampa, Fla. to Vancouver and used false identification to pose as Dylan Sidoo to write an SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] test on Dec. 3, 2011 at a venue that has not been disclosed.

Riddell allegedly traveled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012 that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The venue for the exam remains undisclosed.

Gorton was the same judge that sentenced Michelle Janavs, the heiress to the Hot Pockets empire, to five months in jail for her role in the scandal earlier in the week. 

Meanwhile, a Surrey woman who is a Chinese citizen will be sentenced May 19.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, is expected to be sentenced to time already served in a Spanish jail after her plea bargain. She admitted guilt Feb. 21, paid a $250,000 bond to the court, was ordered to provide a DNA sample and restricted to travel within the U.S. and Canada only.

Sui was arrested in Spain last summer after paying a $400,000 bribe to have her tennis-playing son recruited to the University of California Los Angeles soccer team so that he could study there. He had no prior competitive soccer experience, but was falsely billed as a top player on two private teams in Canada.

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Bob Mackin David Sidoo’s fraud trial could begin

Bob Mackin

The Canadian arm of luxury automaker BMW, which also markets MINI and Rolls Royce, blames the lack of a dedicated police force at British Columbia ports for allowing money laundering to flourish in the province.

“In BMW’s experience, enforcement and transparency at ports should be dramatically improved. BMW is appreciative of the collaborative efforts of the [Canada Border Services Agency] and of local police – however, the volume of exports from Canada’s ports exceeds the abilities of any one regulatory body to police those exports,” testified lawyer Morgan Camley of the Dentons law firm.

2015 BMW i8 (BMW)

“Canadian ports, including at Vancouver, Surrey, and Prince Rupert do not have a dedicated police presence, therefore resulting in a gap in law enforcement. This makes it more difficult for BMW to identify and recover vehicles destined for unlawful export.”

Camley said that if BMW has interest in a vehicle under a lease agreement, CBSA has limited authority to assist the recovery, which is not considered stolen by police. Enforcement of non-export agreements is considered a civil, not criminal, matter, she said.

According to Peter German’s 2019 report for the provincial government, there were less than 100 luxury vehicles exported to China from B.C. in 2013. By 2018, that number had exploded to more than 4,400, according to Ministry of Finance data.

German found that during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, one straw buyer made in excess of 25 purchases. A thousand straw buyers were apparently linked to one exporter and, in many cases, the identification provided by the straw purchaser is a People’s Republic of China passport, not a B.C. driver’s licence.

Commissioner Austin Cullen (Cullen Commission)

Straw buyers had an incentive to flip the cars quickly to exporters. If resold within seven days of purchase, the provincial government refunds the provincial sales tax. There were refunds of at least $55 million on nearly 8,000 vehicles sold that year, with a total purchase value of $555 million. was first to report about the outcomes of two sensational disputes before the B.C. Supreme Court. They were both cases of BMW exports to China gone awry. 

A Lower Mainland real estate investor, whose company supplied steel to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, failed to convince a judge last year who was responsible for losing the BMW she bought and sent to China. A judge awarded a former University of British Columbia student $329,000 after the BMW supercar that his mother bought him went missing in China.

In his verdict on the former case, Justice Christopher Grauer wrote that since 2010, only Chinese government representatives, high-level personnel and specially invited experts have been allowed to import cars into China.

In 1996, the federal Liberal government decided to shut down Ports Canada Police. Then-B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh was perplexed. He cited the seizure of more than $1 billion in illegal drugs over the previous decade and $2 million in luxury cars seized in the first quarter of 1996.

The Port of Vancouver police detachment numbered 29 officers, seven civilian staff and eight seasonal employees, responsible for policing 275 km of coastline from Port Moody to Boundary Bay. 

“In the post-9/11 world this is a serious gap in our law enforcement umbrella,” German wrote las year. “The comparison to Seattle is stark, where the Port of Seattle Police Department has 150 staff to police SeaTac Airport and the Seaport, including numerous specialized units. In addition, U.S. federal authorities are present at the ports, including border patrol, customs officers, and others.”

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Bob Mackin The Canadian arm of luxury automaker

Bob Mackin

A B.C. public sector union head told the Cullen Commission into money laundering that frontline casino workers will offer both historical and contemporary evidence about troubles in the province’s gambling industry.

“Workers in some casinos have faced a visible organized crime presence in their workplaces for more than two decades. Some have dealt with harassment and intimidation from known criminals and/or associated VIP gamblers,” testified Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, on Feb. 24. “All too often, casino management has turned a blind eye to these issues, or in some cases even enabled them, in order to maintain and grow their business.”

Stephanie Smith (BCGEU)

BCGEU represents workers at River Rock, Hard Rock, Starlight, and Grand Villa casinos. Smith told the inquiry, overseen by Justice Austin Cullen, that Muriel Labine, a dealer, supervisor and hostess between 1992 and 2002, will testify when witnesses are heard after Labour Day.

Smith said Labine witnessed loan-sharking activity on the gambling floor at Great Canadian Gaming’s Richmond casino and even a casino vice-president acting in a friendly manner towards a Big Circle Boys kingpin, top casino loan shark and violent drug trafficker.

“Higher stakes, high-turnover games brought in more VIP gamblers and dramatic increases in cash flow, with thousands of dollars being played in a single five-minute game. Men [Labine] learned had gang affiliations would bring clients and sit with them at the tables, passing players casino chips and bundles of $20 bills,” Smith said. “Loan sharks soon became fixtures in her casino, working up to 12 hours per day, with dozens of loan sharks on the casino floor at once. Their presence was so ubiquitous that staff came to know their faces and street names.”

Labine was eventually fired after bringing her concerns to management, which is why Smith said B.C. whistleblower protection laws need beefing-up and expansion to cover private sector workers.

Smith said money laundering grew as regulation withered, pointing to the 2009 disbanding of the RCMP’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team (IIGET), the decisions in the Ministry of Attorney General in 2013 to ignore internal reports of large-scale money laundering and the 2014 decision to fire, without cause, a Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch employee who blew the whistle. She also hopes the relationships between private gambling operators and provincial and municipal elected officials, including lobbyists and political donors, will be investigated.

Smith said Labine will not be alone in testifying. Despite progress under the NDP government since 2017, Smith said the early days of implementing new anti-money laundering measures have had mixed results and current workers will elaborate.

Inside the Cullen Commission hearing room (Mackin)

“Our members report that, in many cases, management are simply going through the motions of compliance with AML measures while making clear to employees that these measures are unwanted requirements that are the fault of regulators or even the employees’ union.”

Meanwhile, the vice-president of security fired by B.C. Lottery Corporation last July has been cleared of wrongdoing by GPEB.

Robert Kroeker’s statement to the Cullen Commission said that GPEB found Nov. 1, 2019 that allegations against him were unfounded. Kroeker intends to “defend against an anonymous and malicious claim that he instructed staff at BCLC to ‘ease up’ on anti-money laundering measures and ‘allow dirty money to flow into casinos’.”

“We expect the Commission will find that throughout, Mr. Kroeker has acted with integrity and in full cooperation with the province and the regulators,” said his lawyer, Christine Mainville. “He has discharged his compliance duties on behalf of BCLC honourably.”

Kroeker spent almost three years as an executive at Great Canadian Gaming before joining BCLC in 2015. Kroeker’s submission said that GCGC and BCLC were at the forefront of preventing money laundering and detecting illegal networks operating with proceeds of crime.

“We are confident that by the end of this process, the public will be fully informed,” Mainville said.

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Bob Mackin A B.C. public sector union head

Bob Mackin

A self-described homemaker, who resides in the People’s Republic of China, is suing a mortgage company and B.C.’s land titles authority for fraud.

In a Feb. 21-filed B.C. Supreme Court action, Yuhui Zhou accuses a woman, who is only referred as Jane Doe, of posing as Zhou last May 15 at a Burnaby law firm. Zhou claims the woman forged her signature on a mortgage and assignment of rents in favour of AP Capital Mortgage Investment Corp. The mortgage was registered against title to the property in the New Westminster land title office on May 31, 2019.

Richmond condo at the centre of a civil lawsuit (BC Condos)

Zhou had financed her purchase of the 2014-built strata townhouse near Richmond secondary, now worth $1.22 million, through Scotiabank.

The court documents say that at the time, Zhou was in China and she denied ever speaking or communicating with Tiffany May at George Lee Law Corp. or AP Capital.

“The mortgage and the assignments of rent were granted without the knowledge and consent of the plaintiff,” the court filings state. “The plaintiff did not apply for, seek out, or agree tot he mortgage or the assignment of rents.”

The defendants have not yet replied and none of the allegations has been proven in court.

Meanwhile, a Chinese citizen is suing a Vancouver immigration consultant over a controversial immigrant investment scheme in Saskatchewan.

Xiaolei Zhang filed against Global Fortune Commerce and Business Group Inc. and Wenda Yang on Feb. 21 in B.C. Supreme Court, seeking damages for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence.

Zhang claimed that, beginning in May 2016, she consulted Global Fortune and its sole director Yang about her family’s immigration to Canada. The defendants, she claims, tried to induce her to invest in a Chinese-style wholesale mall project in Saskatchewan known as the Global Trade and Exhibition Centre.

She claims she was told she was required to invest in GTEC by buying a commercial condominium unit in the GTEC project, in order to be selected by the Saskatchewan government for the entrepreneur category of its program that encourages immigrant investment. She paid an $80,000 consulting fee to Global Fortune and $124,000 to GTEC developer Brightenview Development International Inc.

In March 2019, she said she was told by the defendants that the federal government refused her temporary work permit  application because it was not satisfied the business would create significant economic, social or cultural benefit to Canada.

Global Trade and Exhibition Centre in Regina (GTEC)

Zhang retained another consulting company to review the business plan in June 2019 and the federal government granted the application in October of last year.

“To make matters worse, Government of Saskatchewan decided (Nov. 6, 2019) to exclude investments in GTEC project from eligibility for the entrepreneur category of [Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program]. According to the media, by the decision, Government of Saskatchewan virtually admitted that GTEC Project was an immigration scam.”

The court filing said Zhang’s lawyer sent a demand letter for $204,000 by Dec. 8, 2019 for $204,0000.

None of the allegations has been proven and the defendants have yet to reply.

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Bob Mackin A self-described homemaker, who resides in