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Bob Mackin

B.C.’s Ombudsperson sent a scathing, 11th hour letter to Surrey city council, urging it to not adopt controversial code of conduct amendments on April 25.

B.C. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke (Ombudsperson)

Jay Chalke said the April 11-passed bylaw amendments that stop ethics commissioner Reece Harding from investigating new complaints until after the Oct. 15 election day undermine the purpose of the code of conduct and may have breached the Community Charter’s closed meetings laws.

“Surrey demonstrated commendable leadership by being the first municipality in British Columbia to appoint an ethics commissioner. However, council’s recent decision to so broadly restrict complaints in an election year subverts [the Surrey ethics commissioner’s office] purpose and has weakened the credibility of the overall effort,” wrote Jay Chalke. “The principles of transparency, accountability, and integrity should always be promoted, not just in non-election years.”

Harding recommended last year that council enact a 90-day moratorium on new investigations and to not allow processing of new complaints between the opening of nominations and election day. Chalke called those recommendations a good faith effort to balance accountability with election integrity, and in-line with other big cities. 

Coun. Allison Patton and Mayor Doug McCallum (Metanoia)

However, Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, which holds the majority on council, decided by a 5-3 vote at the April 11 meeting to begin the moratorium the next day. 

Chalke wrote that he was concerned that council considered which recommendations be excluded or modified during a closed door meeting on March 28. 

“The authority by which council considered these recommendations in a closed meeting is not readily apparent, and if that occurred, fails to promote transparency and accountability on the part of council. I have not, at this time, investigated this matter under the Ombudsperson Act,” Chalke said. “I am writing simply to express my concern based on public reports.”

Ultimately, Chalke wrote, the failure to give any notice of the immediate, blanket moratorium that began April 12 impacted every citizen who may have been planning to bring an ethics complaint forward. 

“Furthermore, the scope, duration and timing of the modified moratorium leaves council open to the criticism that the purpose of the restriction is to preclude a report that could be investigated by SECO before voting day rather than being targeted at the lodging of complaints so close to the election that they could not reasonably be expected to be investigated before voting day.”

Coun. Brenda Locke (Surrey Connect)

Coun. Brenda Locke of Surrey Connect, who is running against McCallum in this fall’s election, said she was surprised, but very glad to receive Chalke’s letter.

“Every citizen of Surrey should be very concerned about this, what are they trying to hide?” Locke said. “Why would we stop intaking ethical conduct complaints six months prior to an election?”

Locke said she hopes that Surrey citizens tell McCallum that “this is not his playground, he can’t do whatever he wants.”

McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition majority ignored Chalke’s letter and adopted the bylaw.

McCallum is the subject of an ethics complaint due to his continued role as Surrey Police Board chair while he awaits trial on Oct. 31, two weeks after the election, on public mischief charges. He allegedly lied to a police officer after complaining about a dispute in a parking lot last September with a petitioner in favour of a referendum on switching from the RCMP to a municipal force.

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Bob Mackin B.C.’s Ombudsperson sent a scathing, 11th

Bob Mackin

The Cullen Commission on Money Laundering in B.C. won’t return to look at dirty money in capital markets, according to the attorney general. 

Since last summer, U.S. authorities have charged several British Columbians in criminal and civil matters related to alleged pump-and-dump stock fraud schemes. The biggest names include Panama Papers-exposed lawyer Frederick Sharp, stock promoter David Sidoo and Hells Angel Courtney Vasseur.

German (left) and Eby on June 27 (Mackin)

During an April 21 appearance in Surrey at the opening of a social housing project near B.C. RCMP headquarters, Attorney General David Eby did not comment on the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation operations targeting B.C. residents.  

“The [Cullen] commission has concluded the evidentiary stage and I understand Commissioner Cullen and his team are working hard to pull together the report for June,” Eby said. “We’ve not had a request from the Commission to expand hearings to include additional evidence related to capital market fraud. And frankly, I don’t anticipate one.”

Last November, the NDP cabinet extended the commission’s final report deadline to May 20. Eby said later that he should have said “by June.”

The commission was struck in May 2019 by the NDP cabinet to hear evidence and make findings about money laundering in gambling, real estate, financial institutions and money service, luxury goods, professional services and the use of shell companies, trusts, securities and financial instruments. 

In the interim report in December 2020, Justice Austin Cullen said the commission would examine money laundering in capital markets. 

“While securities dealers are reporting entities under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, an April 2013 report from the securities sector shows that these dealers filed only 20 large cash transaction reports and 1,235 suspicious transaction reports between 2007 and 2011, and that only 14% of those reports came from British Columbia,” Cullen wrote. “Moreover, it appears there are few provincial efforts to combat money laundering in the capital markets.” 

The commission heard testimony from 198 witnesses over 138 days. Closing submissions from participants’ lawyers concluded last Oct. 19. The commission focused most of its attention on money laundering related to casinos. Organizations that regulate lawyers, accountants and notaries public participated. Lawyers for the B.C. Securities Commission and 

Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada did not participate. 

“It’s quite possible that the findings of the Commission may have implications for other types of activity without commenting on the specific allegations, and we’ll see when the report comes out,” Eby said. “[I’m] not familiar with the specific set of allegations you’re talking about, but even if I were, I’d be very reluctant to comment on them.”

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Bob Mackin The Cullen Commission on Money Laundering

Bob Mackin 

Racecars won’t be returning to the east end of False Creek this summer. 

Announcements late afternoon on April 21 from Vancouver city hall and the Canadian E-Fest promoter One Stop Strategy Group Inc. that the ABB Formula E World Championship series race on July 2 has been cancelled.

(Formula E/Twitter)

 City of Vancouver said that OSS “elected to exercise its rights under the host city agreement to postpone” to a future date. 

“The City and OSS Group will continue to work together and hope to announce a new date in the near future. City staff will report on this to Council at a date and time yet to be determined to request Council’s approval of an updated Host City Agreement.”

OSS, through a local public relations company, said OSS “had to make the incredibly difficult decision to postpone the Canadian E-Fest until 2023.”

“Delivery of a world class event is of the utmost importance to the organization. We will be communicating with ticket holders via ATPI our ticket partner to inform their options,” said the OSS statement. 

The temporary, 2.21-kilometre racecourse was supposed to use some of the same streets as the Molson Indy Vancouver, which last ran in 2004. 

But the Formula E cancellation with 77 days to go came as no surprise to insiders. 

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung and Coun. Michael Wiebe spearheaded the proposal at city hall and it was approved by city council in April 2021. 

“Council was aware that it was a tight timeline and that the liabilities would be on the organizers,” Wiebe said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the groups involved to see if we can make it happen.”

The February host city agreement for Vancouver called for payments of $500,000 in security deposit by April 1. OSS claimed to have sold more than 33,000 tickets and planned a two-day “E-Volve” conference and concert by Nickelback.

Deputy City Manager Karen Levitt struck a task force about two months ago to deal with OSS, while suppliers and venues were beginning to report non-payment. 

Caroline Vanasse, head of event partnerships for the Globe Series, sent a message to sponsors and suppliers on April 20, distancing the Vancouver organization from OSS.

“As a values-driven organization where honesty, integrity and transparency are key to who we are, we want to let you know that we are no longer supporting OSS Group (event producers) on delivering the E-Volve conference at the Canadian E-Fest due to OSS’ breach of contract,” Vanessa wrote.

Map of the proposed route for the Vancouver Formula E race.

“Numerous issues have made our involvement in this initiative with OSS untenable, and as a result we do not believe we can produce a high-quality event nor service our partners in the current timeframe.”

Vanasse said that the Canadian E-Fest and FIA Formula E World Championship race are an enormous opportunity for the city and country and Globe would be glad to be involved in those events, should they be delayed and “new leaders are put in place.”

Patsy McMillan, past-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, said her group met several times with organizers and hopes it will happen in 2023. Their major concern was the total, two-day closure of Quebec Street, which would have affected access to the City Gate towers. 

“We were successfully working through this when the race was postponed. Also changes to the temporary park were being worked through,” McMillan said. 

It took two days for OSS to mention the 2022 cancellation on the website. It said it would be “communicating with ticket holders to inform their options.”

A week later, it has not answered questions from about the refund process.

Montreal hosted the race in 2017. Before the end of that year, however, Mayor Valerie Plante said it would not return because it was a “financial fiasco.” Ticket sales were dismal, with 25,000 sold and 20,000 given away, and the cost of the race was $40 million. 

Last year, the city reached a $3 million out-of-court settlement with organizers. 

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Bob Mackin  Racecars won’t be returning to the

For the week of April 24, 2022:

The B.C. NDP government ended the “wild west” of political campaign financing after it came to power in 2017, but left the door wide open to lobbying by party friends and insiders. revealed recent lobbying registrations by party friends and insiders like ex-president Craig Keating and the operative who ran government health communications for almost a year, Jeffrey Ferrier.

NDP lobbyists Jeffrey Ferrier (left) and Craig Keating (H&K/S360)

On this edition of Podcast, hear from Daniel Gold, author of the thesis “Lobbying Regulation in Canada and the United States: Political Influence, Democratic Norms and Charter Rights.” 

The University of Ottawa doctor of constitutional law and public policy explains why lobbying is both a tenet of democracy and corrosive to democracy. He also weighs-in on the much-needed reforms that John Horgan’s government delivered, but also the wide loopholes that put lobbyists and politicians at risk of conflict of interest. 

Also, commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines. 

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

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Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Lobbying loopholes mean treats aplenty for NDP friends, insiders

For the week of April 24, 2022:

Bob Mackin

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that a close associate of Richmond real estate and immigration lawyer Hong Guo abused the court process for a baseless claim.

Hong Gun (left) and Wolfgang Richter (PSTV)

In her April 19 verdict, Justice Heather MacNaughton said that Wolfgang Richter and his company, Richter and Associates Inc., used the courts in a bid to “extort a settlement payment” over a failed real estate deal.

Beginning in March 2021, Richter sued 1075 Nelson Street Development Holdings Inc. and Henson Developments Ltd. and its CEO Xuexin “Henry” Liu and filed certificates of pending litigation against 1075 Nelson. 

1075 Nelson was the registered owner of 1059 and 1075 Nelson Street, assessed last year at $16.4 million each, and formerly held the lands as agent, bare trustee and nominee for Henson.

MacNaughton’s verdict said Guo, a 2018 Richmond mayoral candidate and who once worked in the Chinese Communist government’s state council, claimed in a WeChat message on March 2, 2021 that she had a buyer lined up to offer Henson $110 million.

Henson had conditionally agreed the previous month to sell the Nelson lands to Montreal-based Brivia Group Ltd. and enter a joint venture to build a 60-storey condo tower. Brivia was to have 54% interest and Henson 46%, and retire the existing Nelson mortgages worth $77 million. 

1075 and 1059 Nelson Street (Google Maps)

Henson’s lawyer advised Richter on March 19, 2021 that the Nelson lands were under an unconditional contract and it could not entertain any other offers.

“Mr. Liu’s uncontroverted evidence is that no agreement was ever reached with Richter Inc. The negotiations that were facilitated by Ms. Guo were for a back-up offer in the event that Brivia did not waive the conditions in the Brivia agreement,” MacNaughton wrote.

Liu is also director of Evervan Enterprises Group Ltd. and Vanluxu Enterprises Ltd., companies that jointly owned property on Wentworth Avenue in West Vancouver. He swore in an affidavit about a February 2021 agreement to sell that land to 1291059 BC Ltd., a numbered company controlled by Hong Xu, a friend of Guo. 

Liu’s evidence said Guo brought an unnamed caucasian man to meetings, to discuss the properties. The numbered company claimed in a March 5, 2021 court filing that it had a deal to buy the lands and registered CPLs against the property. The claim was settled a week and a half later when the numbered company received $900,000 to relinquish the claim. 

A division of Brivia bought 2510 and 2480 Wentworth in May 2021. The two properties were assessed at a combined $18.9 million last year.

MacNaughton wrote that Richter used the numbered company’s notice of claim as a template for his action, and that that Richter’s true purpose was not to advance a genuine claim, but register the CPLs for “collateral and improper purposes.”

“In his submissions, Mr. Richter said that he commenced the action and filed the CPLs to let Brivia know what he said was the dishonourable nature of Mr. Liu, the person they were dealing with. The amended claim pleads no facts supporting an agreement or an interest in land. Material facts within the pleading were misleading in order to present what appeared to be a legitimate claim. The only reasonable inference that can be drawn is that the action was commenced, and the CPLs registered, as leverage to obtain a settlement as had been achieved in 1291’s action, albeit in very different circumstances.”

The judge did not admit an affidavit filed by Richter because it was filed late without explanation and contained inadmissible hearsay, unidentified sources of information and argument. “Although Mr. Richter is not legally trained, he is a sophisticated business person,” she said. (Richter is a former high school teacher who founded a company promoting the Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort near Squamish now proposed by the Aquilini Investment Group and the Squamish Nation’s Nch’kay Development Corp.

Hong Guo’s 2018 mayoral campaign sign. She finished fourth.

Although Guo was not a party to the lawsuit, MacNaughton’s ruling referred to Guo’s ongoing battle to remain licensed as a lawyer in B.C.

“While the action purports to be filed by Richter Inc., acting through its authorized representative Mr. Richter, without counsel, the address for service is Ms. Guo’s law firm,” she wrote.

“Ms. Guo has an extensive disciplinary history with the Law Society of British Columbia. It includes two findings of professional misconduct, one on November 4, 2020, and the other on May 20, 2021. She is currently facing another citation for professional misconduct, dated July 23, 2021. It includes a number of allegations of: practicing while suspended, breaching Law Society orders, making misrepresentations to the Law Society, dishonesty and misrepresentations to others, and acting in a conflict of interest.”

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Bob Mackin A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled

Bob Mackin

It cost taxpayers almost $3,000 in airfare to send NDP Environment Minister George Heyman to last fall’s Glasgow conference to discuss cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

George Heyman and two bureaucrats hired a car to see a hydrogen train in Scotland (Twitter/BC Gov)

Heyman and two bureaucrats represented B.C. at the 26th United Nations climate change conference, also known as COP 26. The Glasgow conference was postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. Unlike many events, it did not pivot to a web-conference, despite business travel coming under criticism for polluting the planet. 

Heyman’s Air Canada booking cost $2,889 but an additional $628 charge to cancel the London portion of his trip shows up on purchasing card statements, according to documents released under freedom of information. The reason for the cancellation was not included. 

Heyman and aide Kelly Sather also charged $628 for privately administered COVID-19 tests by a Victoria company, in order to satisfy United Kingdom entry requirements. Before he left, Heyman charged taxpayers $6.13 for hand sanitizer and, before he returned, $140 for a PCR test in Glasgow.

Heyman and Sather’s airfare and accommodations were booked in July for $9,071. Their required government travel authorization forms had estimated costs at $5,910 for Heyman and $6,410 for Sather for Oct. 30 to Nov. 7. They were granted per diems for meals and other expenses at the rate of GBP104.84, or approximately $178.

The name of their hotel was kept secret, as per government security policy. Based on visible directions to a train station, the hotel was near George Square, three kilometres from the Scottish Event Campus conference venue. 

The third member of the delegation, Jeremy Hewitt, the assistant deputy minister and head of the climate action secretariat, estimated costs at $7,221 because he was staying until Nov. 14. 

Hewitt’s assistant, Cheryl Tromp, asked conference organizers for an urgent move to another hotel, because of “the unsafe neighbourhourhood” of the original booking.

During the conference, Heyman’s administrative coordinator, Alyssa Hrenyk, arranged for a car at the cost of $450 to take Heyman, Sather and Hewitt to a train station in the town of Bo’ness, about 75 minutes out of Glasgow, to see a ScotRail electric train converted to hydrogen-power. The train includes fuel cell modules supplied by Burnaby’s Ballard Power. 

The type of car and whether it was gas or electric is not mentioned. Bo’ness has frequent scheduled rail and bus service to and from Glasgow. 

The highlight of the conference, according to B.C. government announcements, was Heyman accepting the Under2 coalition award for the NDP’s CleanBC plan to grant $43 million to 32 pollution-reducing projects.

Heyman also Tweeted several photos of meetings in Glasgow with people from B.C. or elsewhere on the Pacific Coast, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. He also met with Chief Judy Wilson and Karissa Glendale from Alert Bay’s Namgis First Nation. 

Neither Heyman nor Sather responded for comment. 

B.C. NDP environment minister went all the way to Scotland to meet Washington’s governor and California’s natural resources secretary. (Twitter/Heyman)

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions 2018 report said aviation emissions account for roughly 3.5% of total human-caused warming of the planet. A World Resources Institute working paper on business travel and climate released last October said that, based on total emissions from in 2018, air travel would have been equivalent to the sixth-largest carbon emitter in the world, between Japan and Germany. 

“If we are to meet Paris Agreement targets to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, organizations must find effective ways to reduce business travel,” the World Resources Institute paper said. 

When a reporter asked for Heyman’s travel budget for COP 26 last October, staff in the Ministry of Environment and the Government Communications and Public Engagement department refused to comment, despite being reminded of the standard pre-trip budget estimates and travel authorization filings by politicians and their staff. The freedom of information disclosure shows that Heyman and Sather’s were filed in July. 

A committee of eight bureaucrats, including Sather and Hewitt, issues manager Alissa Brandt (now executive director of the NDP caucus), and Heyman’s other aides Desmond Pollard and Reamick Lo, were on the internal email chain. 

They strategized on whether to answer questions about the budget for Heyman’s travel to the conference. After 10 days, they eventually settled on the line: “The trip is funded out of the ministry budget. Final costs will be released after all expenses are tabulated.”

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Bob Mackin It cost taxpayers almost $3,000 in

Bob Mackin

Criminal Intelligence Service Canada logo

Two of the 14 groups considered high level national threats by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) are involved in public sector infiltration.

In its 2021 Public Report on Organized Crime, the nation’s crime intelligence agency highlighted threats to the public sector, including transportation and construction, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, waste management, law enforcement, defence and foreign affairs. 

Four national high level threat organizations have significant influence in the public sector, including decision-making functions or demonstrated corruption, according to CISC. Thirty-one of the assessed organized crime groups (OCG) have access via jobs within Canadian public sector agencies or departments. Neither the names of the agencies and departments, the locations nor the groups were named in the report.

“Of these, 26% are Mafia groups, 10% are outlaw motorcycle gangs and 6% are street gangs. 

While infiltration of the public sector seems to occur mostly at the local/regional levels, (OCG) may be using the benefits for interprovincial or international criminal activities,” the report said. 

CISC’s report said public sector infiltration leads to rising costs of goods and services, misallocation of public resources, weakened policymaking and damage to public confidence in government and law enforcement. 

Familial or romantic relationships and monetary benefits appear to be principal factors motivating corruption and infiltration of Canada’s public sector, the report said.

source: Dirty Money by Peter German (2018)

“Some industries (e.g., construction, transportation, and warehousing), have inherent risks associated to them, such as privileged and sensitive information and monetary gains through government contracts, which could be more attractive to OCGs.” 

CISC said 81 organized crime groups are associated to transportation and warehousing businesses, 20% of which are tow truck companies. Meanwhile, 71 are related to construction companies and 25 linked to professional, scientific and technical services. 

The actual amount of organized crime groups targeting public sector entities could be much higher, the report said. “The involvement of almost two-thirds of assessed OCGs in this sector is unknown. Of those who are, some have ties with municipalities through associates or personal relations within Canadian cities.” 

The report said there could be more than 2,600 organized crime groups operating in Canada and 469 have been assessed and assigned a threat rating. They have links to 54 countries, but the top five are U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic and China, because they are generally source countries for drug precursor chemicals and for moving methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin and cocaine. 

The report put transnational organized crime networks at the top of the CISC national priorities list, above outlaw motorcycle gangs, Mafia, street gangs, fentanyl and methamphetamine dealers, money launderers and cybercriminals. 

The 14 top threats, CISC said, maintain “multiple criminal associations to other OCGs,” including Asian-based OCGs and Mexican cartels. 

“The majority use strategic violence to maintain their market shares, including extortion/intimidation, homicide, kidnapping, assault, and arson. Several  use their associations to street gangs to carry out criminal activities and violence on their behalf, insulating themselves from direct involvement.” 

When Chief Supt. Rob Gilchrist, the director general of CISC, testified at the Cullen Commission on Money Laundering in B.C. in June 2020, he pointed to professional money launderers being a key cog in the wheel of organized crime in Canada, flowing money to and from casinos and real estate. 

“Clients of professional money launderers would be high-level threat organized crime groups that are involved in criminal markets that generate large amounts of proceeds of crime and require a diverse set of money laundering activities to avoid detection and disruption, and organized crime groups that simply do not have the resources or expertise to successfully launder a larger quantity of proceeds of crime themselves,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist was most-concerned with money service businesses that are owned, controlled or influenced by organized crime group members. 

“As money service businesses are cash intensive, they can easily facilitate the placement of illicit funds into the financial system and economy,” he said.

A month from now, May 20, is the deadline for submission of the Cullen Commission’s final report to the NDP cabinet. Hearings wrapped up last Oct. 19. 

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Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_12101" align="alignright" width="150"] Criminal Intelligence

Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP government ended the “wild west” of political campaign financing after it came to power in 2017, but left the door wide open to lobbying by party friends and insiders. 

“So corporate money has moved that way,” said Daniel Gold, who studied the history and regulation of lobbying for a doctorate in constitutional law and public policy at the University of Ottawa.

Just as the corporate money moved to lobbying, so did party insiders.

Premier John Horgan (left), Minister Sheila Malcolmson and ex-party president Craig Keating (Horgan/Twitter)

Ex-B.C. NDP president Craig Keating joined two former party executive directors at the Vancouver office of a Seattle-based lobbying firm, Strategies 360, and registered April 7 to lobby for marijuana farmer Tantalus Labs. Former Ministry of Health communications executive director Jeffrey Ferrier is now a senior vice-president at Hill and Knowlton, where he registered on behalf of COVID-19 vaccine-maker AstraZeneca. 

Gold authored the doctoral thesis “Lobbying Regulation in Canada and the United States: Political Influence, Democratic Norms and Charter Rights” in 2020. He analyzed the history and ethics of lobbying, as well as the lobbying and campaign donations axis. 

“They’re both ways of influencing political figures and, in many ways, they work together,” Gold said. “So if you give a donation, then you get access to politicians. And once you have access to politicians, you can raise your concern. The politician [that] feels indebted to you is more likely to take your concerns seriously.”

In 2017, Premier John Horgan’s party fulfilled a campaign promise to ban corporate and union donations, and set an annual cap for individuals. They also strengthened lobbying regulations, but did not go far enough to close the revolving door. 

“They’ve left, maybe deliberately, maybe accidentally, a lot of loopholes out. And the revolving door issue is maybe one of the biggest ones,” Gold said.

NDP lobbyists Jeffrey Ferrier (left) and Craig Keating (H&K/S360)

Certain senior public office holders, such as cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, are banned from lobbying for two years after they leave government. But other public employees, who may have worked even closer with key decision makers, are allowed to become lobbyists after they quit, with no cooling-off period. Ferrier falls in the latter category, because he officially worked in Government Communications and Public Engagement, not directly under Health Minister Adrian Dix. 

Gold said the revolving door ban should be a full-term of government, rather than just two years. “We have to take account for that, and when we don’t, we end up with situations like this.”

Keating entered the lucrative lobbying industry when he exited the party presidency last December after eight years. Something that would be frowned upon federally, where the code of conduct says a former party executive is in a conflict of interest when a sense of obligation exists with a public office holder that the lobbyist helped elect.

Horgan and Sihota in 2016 (Asian Journal)

B.C. doesn’t have a standalone code of conduct. The lobbying registrar unsuccessfully proposed in 2013 that it be built into the law. The BC Liberal government and the NDP one that followed didn’t agree. Instead, a lobbyist need only pledge to follow guidelines set by a trade group. In Keating’s case, that’s the Public Affairs Association of Canada.

“The [Lobbyists’] Code of Conduct doesn’t stop everything, but at least tells you there are boundaries and encourages people to stick within those boundaries, and B C’s failure to enact a code of conduct or, or take that code of conduct and turn into regulation and some other form has has left this loophole,” Gold said.

Keating joined Strategies 360 almost a year after former NDP executive director Raj Sihota became a vice-president for the firm. Michael Gardiner was already there. The president of the Canadian division is another former B.C. NDP executive director who managed Horgan’s winning leadership campaign. One of Gardiner’s clients is also one of the government’s biggest suppliers, Telus. 

The number of former party officials now working for Strategies 360 echoes an earlier era. After Mike Harcourt led the NDP to victory in 1991, the core of his campaign team, Ron Johnson and Shane Lunny, opened ad agency Now Communications Group. The firm continues to this day, regularly scoring government advertising contracts. 

More than 30 years later, lobbying has gained power while traditional, mass-media advertising is diminished amid media fragmentation and the rise of social media and micro-targeted campaigns. 

Keating and Ferrier aren’t the only party insiders who benefited from the lobbying revolving door. Horgan’s former speechwriter, Danielle Dalzell, joined Earnscliffe Strategies in 2020. Jean-Marc Prevost became associate vice-president in 2021 of Counsel Public Affairs after working as senior communications director for the Ministry of Health. His job included writing scripts for Dr. Bonnie Henry. One of Prevost’s first clients was AstraZeneca contractor Emergent BioSolutions.

Premier John Horgan and speechwriter Danielle Dalzell, before she quit to become a lobbyist. (Twitter)

Maybe nobody should be surprised that the revolving door works so smoothly, because Horgan himself benefitted from it. After the NDP fell from power in 2001, Horgan and fellow out-of-work political aides John Heaney and Ian Reid formed the IdeaWorks consultancy. They helped casino clients successfully lobby Vancouver city hall to overturn its ban on slot machines.

“The influence, the combination of lobbying, combined with sort of public pressure has changed, you’re no longer trying to get all the public behind something unless it’s a really big thing,” Gold said. “Mostly, you’re just trying to get the key decision makers and maybe a few key supporters behind something, and you can do that without the public ever seeing what it is. You can do that just by specifically targeting that person.”

Ultimately, Gold said, lobbying is a core tenet of the democratic process. But it is also corrosive to democracy. 

“If you think about the interactions, you know, we elect a government every four years, whereas the lobbyists might be into the same office once a month, sometimes once a week, raising their concerns and, I’d say, massaging the output of government.”

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Bob Mackin  The B.C. NDP government ended the

Bob Mackin

Trying times for Rugby Canada continued April 17 with HSBC Canada Sevens attendance less than half of pre-pandemic levels and a 10th place finish at B.C. Place Stadium.

Happier times for Rugby Canada: Canada Sevens at B.C. Place Stadium in 2017 (Mackin)

Almost a month ago, a scathing report pointed to the organization’s leadership for the men’s team missing the 15-aside World Cup for the first time next year in France and the women’s sevens squad’s failure to defend its bronze medal at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics. 

The board-ordered report, by Calgary-based STRAAD Consulting, said current and former players confessed they were not proud to wear the Rugby Canada jersey.

“Either through acts of ‘omission or commission’ the leadership of the organization – board, executive, operations, and coaches – have not effectively managed the short-term and long-term needs of the high-performance program,” said the STRAAD review.

CEO since 2016 Allen Vansen announced his departure last November, the month the review began. Earlier in 2021, Rugby Canada lost women’s sevens coach John Tait (quit after a report into player complaints of bullying and harassment) and national development coach Jamie Cudmore (fired over social media posts).

Rugby Canada said neither interim CEO Jamie Levchuk nor chair Sally Dennis were available for an interview. But the organization said it is taking steps to improve governance, finance management and athlete relations, and striking a working group to deal with high-performance. 

Its next event is April 30-May 1 in Langford’s Starlight Stadium, beside the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre that was singled out by STRAAD. Headquarters in the Victoria suburb were deemed both expensive and isolated, “an undeniable challenge.”

“We have a great relationship with the City of Langford,” said a statement from Rugby Canada attributed to Levchuk and Dennis. “The review was authored by independent consultants, and while the report identified some challenges with the location of Langford, we view those challenges as strengths and opportunities. Langford is the home of Rugby Canada.” 

Rugby Canada will have to find a way to make it work. The $7.9 million private-public partnership with City of Langford opened in 2018, with $2.9 million in federal grants and $2.6 million in fundraising. Rugby Canada began paying the city almost $100,000-a-year for a 15-year lease in 2018. At the end, Rugby Canada can own the facility and land for $1 million. 

Before then, it will need to fix athlete relations for the long-term. In 2019, the B.C. Labour Relations Board certified the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 as the bargaining agent for the men’s sevens team. The players’ vote to unionize was a first for a Canadian national team. Scott Lunny, the USW’s district 3 director for Western Canada, said players across the entire national program are now working towards a single players’ association. 

Members of Team Canada celebrate their rugby sevens bronze medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics (Mackin)

“We will continue to back sevens because we have those legal representation rights and will back the players’ association to whatever extent they want to have a relationship with the Steelworkers, or any other union, if they felt that was the right,” Lunny said. 

Said Rugby Canada: “USW currently holds the certification pending court appeal. Discussions continue, and all parties support the ongoing development of the Canadian Rugby Player’s Association to serve as a representative body for all four national teams.”

The 2022 edition of the 16-nation Canada Sevens reported less than 34,000 fans, compared to almost 75,000 in March 2020, three days before the World Health Organization’s coronavirus pandemic declaration temporarily shut down spectator sports. The September 2021 version was limited to a 13,500-per-day capacity due to public health orders.

At least one more edition of the men’s Canada Sevens remains next year. World Rugby has yet to announce 2024 host cities. “At this time, we do not have a confirmed decision date,” said Rugby Canada.

According to its 2020 financials, the $1.57 million from Rugby Canada-owned Canada International Sevens GP Ltd. was the biggest source of revenue after Sport Canada’s $2.01 million grant.

Except when the Grey Cup comes to Vancouver (the most-recent was 2014), Canada Sevens is B.C. Place’s biggest weekend of the year. The 2020 disclosure said Rugby Canada rent was between $139,000 and $167,000 rent, subject to a 1.96% annual increase. In 2020, the sevens events company paid $489,000 for sponsorship, marketing and operations to TTG Strategic Marketing & Communications and related company Torque Marketing Strategies. John Furlong Enterprises receives a $4,000-a-month retainer through June 2023. The former Vancouver 2010 CEO and Rugby Canada’s Gareth Rees collaborated on the bid to bring sevens to B.C. Place beginning in 2016. 

The sevens events paid $43,200 in 2020 and $91,304 in 2019 to board members and their companies for honorarium fees, sponsorship commission, retainer fees and bonuses. 

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Bob Mackin Trying times for Rugby Canada continued

Bob Mackin 

The Somalian refugee who became a Victoria city councillor in 2018 won’t run for re-election in October. 

On Twitter April 19, diversity and housing advocate Sharmarke Dubow cited the upcoming 10th anniversary of his move to Canada as the reason to explore other opportunities.

Sharmarke Dubow (City of Victoria)

The Esquimalt resident ran on the left wing Together Victoria ticket and finished seventh in the race for eight seats. He did not respond for comment. 

Judging by the reaction of angry and disappointed citizens in early 2021, a second term was far from certain. That is because Dubow brought himself national media attention as one of several Canadian politicians who disobeyed pandemic public health orders and traveled during Christmastime 2020. 

Dubow flew to his homeland, Somalia, and initially claimed the trip was his first to East Africa since fleeing civil war in 1992. He had Tweeted in December 2019 about visiting Ethiopia, and said at the time it was his first visit there since 2001.

Instead of answering a Times Colonist reporter’s pandemic travel questionnaire on Jan. 5, 2021, Dubow revealed on Facebook that he had entered 14-day quarantine at a Vancouver hotel the previous day after returning from Somalia. “I know now that I should not have gone,” Dubow said, apologizing to Victorians. 

That sparked a flurry of emails and texts from more than 100 citizens by the end of Jan. 6, 2021.

“Ontario’s Rod Phillips resigned as finance minister Thursday after returning from a Caribbean trip. You should too.” said one of the city hall-anonymized messages, obtained under freedom of information.

Another expressed disillusionment: “Man, actions by politicians (yourself included) have me seriously questioning if COVID is even real, and maybe the crazy assholes posting about covid hoaxes may not be crazy after all.”

A common theme was personal sacrifice.

“I hope this trip was worth it,” wrote another. “With your upcoming unemployment you will have lots of time to go and visit your family. I haven’t seen my family all year because they are dealing with COVID patients.”

Another emailer said: “My family didn’t get together this Christmas. My grandmother is 100 years old and getting weak. This might have been her last Christmas, but we made the difficult choice to follow public health recommendations.”

Sharmarke Dubow in 2019 in Ethiopia (Twitter)

An emailer said Dubow would never get their vote again: “Just to put your behaviour into perspective, my daughter gave birth to my first grandchild a few days before Christmas. From the time she was a little girl, I had promised her I would be by her side when she had her first baby. Instead, I was following health orders and staying home.”

Sense of betrayal was another theme. 

“I voted for you, and asked my friends and family to do the same,” wrote a woman who said she was the daughter of a refugee and had black family members in a country that was censored. 

She suggested Dubow’s voyage could have put scarce medical supplies and the health of Africans at risk. “We have raised thousands of dollars to support COVID response in sub-Saharan Africa, through [censored]. I can’t wrap my head around what you did.”

In a separate message, “People took to heart when you arrived here and people supported you to try to make your life better, to help engage in your new community. In fact, they said, we’ll support you to run for city council!”

Wrote another: “I voted for you in the last election and I am very, very disappointed in your actions. Is this the thanks Canadians get for supporting you in your new home. I am a senior and do not appreciate having you and other Canadian politicians like yourself who feel there Is one rule for themselves and one rule for the rest of us.” 

Another texter, claiming to be a Dubow supporter, suggested he resign immediately, run again in 2022, and “then let the voters decide if your sense of responsibility was enough to assuage them.”

He only received a few unconditional support emails. One suggested Dubow helped create jobs. “There should be no shame in safe travel.”

Someone from Cloverdale offered sympathy for Dubow traveling to see family “in a perilous land ravaged by civil war.” 

“I’m sorry that the mayor of Victoria isn’t supporting you, but please know that I & others are.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said all council members “should be exemplary role models,” but they answer to the public, not each other. “The next steps are left in his hands,” she said on Jan. 6, 2021. 

According to a Jan. 25, 2021 poll by ResearchCo., 61% of B.C. respondents agreed that politicians who travelled during the holiday season should resign or face a recall vote.

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Bob Mackin  The Somalian refugee who became a