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Bob Mackin

Sources tell theBreaker that Linda Hepner, the Mayor of Surrey, will not run for re-election this fall. 

Her party, Surrey First, is holding its annual general meeting tonight and it is expected that Coun. Tom Gill will become candidate for mayor in the Oct. 20 election. A news conference has been scheduled for April 11 in the morning at Surrey city hall. 

Hepner, 69, is the 36th mayor of Surrey, who succeeded her mentor, Dianne Watts, in 2014. The New Brunswick native is a former city hall bureaucrat who ran for a seat on city council under Doug McCallum’s Surrey Electors Team in 2005 and later defected to Surrey First.

Hepner’s spokesman, Oliver Lum, neither confirmed nor denied an announcement was forthcoming. He also would not comment when theBreaker asked if Hepner was going to run this fall.  There was no answer on Hepner’s home phone number and she has not immediately replied to the message.

Hepner will join Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, North Vancouver City’s Darrell Mussatto, North Vancouver District’s Richard Walton, Port Coquitlam’s Greg Moore and Delta’s Lois Jackson as mayors who will not stand for re-election. That means 1.45 million residents of the Lower Mainland are governed by lame duck mayors until Oct. 20, when they voters will go to the polls to elect new mayors. 

UPDATE: Surrey city hall made it official at 7 p.m., with a statement from Hepner. She will be holding a news conference on April 11 at 9:30 a.m. at Surrey city hall. 

“For 33 years the City of Surrey has been a chosen priority in my life and I have been honoured to serve the people of this City. Now after this four year term as Mayor, nine years as Councillor and more than two decades as a senior staff member, I have decided not to seek re-election at the end of this Council term… I have thought long and hard about this and it has not been an easy decision to make, but I sincerely believe that now is the right time to dedicate more time to my family and friends… Finally, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the people of Surrey for their ongoing trust and support. It has been an honour and privilege to serve you and the City of Surrey.”

More to come…

Bob Mackin Sources tell theBreaker that Linda Hepner,

Bob Mackin

Rod the Mod is back, for one night only, tonight at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. 

Did you know that Rod Stewart was briefly signed to a contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League? 

Rod Stewart’s July 10, 1984 contract with the NASL Whitecaps.

During what would be the final NASL season at B.C. Place Stadium in 1984, the club was searching for ways to put bums in seats again. The honeymoon from the previous season’s move from Empire Stadium to Canada’s first inflated-dome stadium had worn off. There were other challenges that season. A double-whammy of labour unrest affected transportation and communication in the city that would host a world’s fair on those themes in just two years. 

Reporters and photographers from Pacific Press, the publisher of the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers, walked the picket line for much of spring. Then Metro Transit bus drivers walked the picket lines for much of the summer. 

Rod Stewart with Celtic Supporters in Vancouver in April 2011 (Facebook)

Someone in the Whitecaps’ front office had the clever idea to capitalize on the Vancouver stop of Stewart’s Camouflage tour at the Pacific Coliseum on July 10, 1984 (featuring Jeff Beck on guitar). They knew Stewart was the world’s most-famous fan of Glasgow, Scotland’s beloved Celtic FC and he likes to kick soccer balls into the crowd at his concerts.

So they offered him a contract with the Whitecaps. For a sum, the contract says, that was “to be negotiated.”

Stewart inked the deal, “c/o Pacific Coliseum,” with Whitecaps’ coach Alan Hinton. 

On April 22, 2011, Stewart was on another tour through Vancouver. He stuck around Vancouver to join the Vancouver Shamrock Celtic Supporters Club on April 24, 2011 at Library Square Public House to watch the Hoops play to a scoreless tie against Rangers.

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Bob Mackin Rod the Mod is back, for

Bob Mackin 

A funny thing happened on the way to the Leader’s Levee. 

A booze binge. 

No, not me. The NDP.

Ex-NDP corporate fundraiser Rob Nagai with John Horgan. (Twitter)

Elections BC released the governing party’s 2017 annual report on April 9. Premier John Horgan’s biggest fundraiser after the May 9 election was at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver last Sept. 22, for what was billed as the Leader’s Levee.

The cash for access cocktail party drew 443 who paid $550-a-pop. Another 58 paid $165 each. The party grossed almost $200,000 and netted $125,228.18. Only two reporters, including yours truly, attended the event, but access was severely limited. There were no interviews allowed with Horgan and reporters were not allowed to freely circulate in the ballroom. 

When the speech was over and party president Craig Keating conducted a brief scrum, reporters were ushered out the door.  

The Elections BC database does not make it clear who donated to the Sept. 22 event, so more digging is required. But a look at the day before, Sept. 21, revealed the sleeper story. 

On the last day of summer, the party reported $670,434.48 in donations — approximately $370,000 in big money contributions from the liquor industry. 

Some of the donors (and amounts) included: Alpenhaus Restaurants ($100,000); Paddlewheeler, John B. Pub, Byrton Liquor Warehouse, Woody’s Sports Pub Inc. Liquor Store ($20,000 each); Langley Hospitality Inc. Samz Neighbourhood Pub ($15,000), Oliver Twist Neighbourhood Pub, Monarc Hospitality Corp., Jericho Liquor Store, Sapperton Liquor Store, Two Parrots Pub and Liquor Store ($10,000 each), Queen’s Cross, Black Bear Pub, Berezan LRS Langley, Berezan LRS White Rock, Berezan LRS Hwy 33 ($5,000 each).

On the same day, Terrim Properties donated $25,000 each from its Chances Salmon Arm and Chances Castlegar casinos. Those are also Ralph Berezan-owned enterprises. 

“It reads like a Liberals’ donor list,” said Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC. “I’m actually surprised at the groups they took money from. It’s not going to go over well in the party.” 

Travis also noticed 11 of the cheques from pub and liquor store owners were each for the identical amount of $1,818. 

The NDP fundraising flurry eclipsed a March 24, 2010 event hosted by then-BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell and perennial liquor minister Rich Coleman at the Gotham Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver. On that day, just weeks before industry-pleasing Liquor Control and Licensing Act amendments, the BC Liberals raised $302,500. At least a dozen liquor businesses donated $15,000 each for that event. 

Did the liquor loot have an impact on the fledgling NDP government? 

Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones leaves an NDP fundraiser on Sept. 22, 2017 at the Hotel Vancouver (Mackin)

You be the judge. 

Attorney General David Eby announced Nov. 7 that he had retained wine lawyer Mark Hicken as a liquor policy analyst and industry liaison. On Feb. 23, Eby announced Hicken would chair a Business Technical Advisory Panel, to include members from the major provincial lobby groups representing the wine, craft beer, craft distillers, national beer brands, restaurant industry and private liquor stores. 

For the 2017 calendar year, the NDP reported raising $15.3 million in donations and an $820,000 surplus. The BC Liberals, who lost power when the NDP and Greens forced a June 29 no confidence vote, reported $12.75 million in donations, but a whopping deficit of $7.36 million.

The NDP banned corporate and union donations and set $1,200 as the maximum for individuals to donate. 

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Bob Mackin  A funny thing happened on the

Will Facebook survive the snowballing scandal around its sharing of users’ data with political campaign data miners?

Last week, Facebook admitted that data for at least 87 million users was shared improperly with Cambridge Analytica. Documents suggest the company involved in the Brexit and Trump campaigns had a franchise in Victoria, B.C. called AggregateIQ. Authorities in the United Kingdom and Canada are investigating.

On this edition of Podcast, host Bob Mackin interviews Kwantlen Polytechnic University criminology professor Mike Larsen.

Larsen researches state secrecy and is the president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. He is not surprised that political parties exploited social media channels to gain voter intelligence and spread their slogans. But he also wonders whether political parties actually see social media users as adversaries.  

“I’m sure a lot of politcal campaigns regard this as money well-spent,” Larsen said, “to be able to get, in a fairly short turnaround, reams of predictive information that allows for not just for targeted campaigning campaigning towards people who might be receptive to a message, but also towards some fairly nefarious disruption and discouragement activities.”

In the interview, Larsen also offers privacy tips for the public and solutions for regulators. 

Also on this edition, commentaries about the good, the bad and the ugly of British Columbia, and the regular scan of headlines around Cascadia and the Pacific Rim. 

Listen by clicking below or go to iTunes 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: Do social media-savvy political parties see voters as adversaries?

Will Facebook survive the snowballing scandal around

Bob Mackin

A principal of the company that tore down North Burnaby’s Royal Canadian Legion, and reneged on promises to rebuild it, played a key role in a US$75 million deal for 618 acres of vacant land near Palm Springs. 

Vancouver’s Clarity Real Estate landed The Eagle in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (Asset Solutions Group)

But it does not appear that Epta Properties vice-president of finance, Alex B. Tsakumis, was left with a significant stake in the deal. 

The Desert Sun newspaper in California reported March 28 that EC Rancho Mirage Holdings GP Corp. bought the trophy property, known as Section 31, at the geographical centre of Rancho Mirage. 

Russell Holmes, vice-president of Clarity Real Estate, said his company led the deal for what is also known as The Eagle. It is adjacent to Sunnylands, the former estate of Walter Annenberg, who published TV Guide and Daily Racing Form in their heyday. The private resort and golf club came to be known as the “Camp David of the West” for hosting the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. 

Holmes said that the majority of capital for the transaction came from two New York family offices. He declined to identify them. Likewise, he declined to name the principals of Clarity, other than to say that they are also managers at Second City Capital Partners of Vancouver. Holmes said Second City chair Sam Belzberg is not affiliated with Clarity. Coincidentally, and tragically, Belzberg died March 30 in a Vancouver hospital after suffering a stroke. The private equity investor and philanthropist was 89. 

The Rancho Mirage land is zoned for residential, resort hotel, commercial and retail use, but Holmes said there are no definite plans yet. 

“We’re still very early in our planning and envisioning processes and we haven’t yet assembled our full, world-class team of developers and consultants,” Holmes said. 

Holmes called Epta “instrumental in sourcing the acquisition, as well as forming the entity that put it under contract,” but he wouldn’t say how much, if any, equity that Tsakumis, his two brothers and father have in the deal. 

“I can’t speak to the exact equity partners, but I spoke to the two New York family offices and Clarity forming the majority of the equity,” Holmes said. 

Vacant Burnaby Heights lot where a Royal Candian Legion stood until developer Epta demolished it. (Mackin)

Tsakumis did not respond to theBreaker’s request for an interview. He listed the address of a $2.158 million-assessed house in West Vancouver’s Eagle Harbour neighbourhood on the Nov. 30, 2017 California corporate registration. The form said EC Rancho Mirage Holdings GP was incorporated last May 2 in Delaware. 

His cousin is a former media commentator who emphatically denied any connection with Epta. Last November, Trigate Properties CEO Alex G. Tsakumis said his company has no overlapping interests or directors with Epta. 

“We have never had anything to do with Epta Properties, and we will never have anything to do with Epta Properties — ever, period,” said Alex G. Tsakumis.

Last November, theBreaker reported that Epta was negotiating for prime land in Greater Palm Springs. At the time, CBRE listing agent Jeff Woolson would only say the land was under contract. Woolson was the broker for sellers Stark RM Eagle LLC and Difference RM Properties LLC. He referred theBreaker to Holmes. 

Epta has been a party in more than 40 court actions in British Columbia and it never put a shovel in the ground to rebuild the Branch 148 Legion Hall in North Burnaby after demolishing the 1955-built social venue for war veterans. It vowed in 2013 to build a new Legion canteen within the mixed-use Centro, with two dozen condos, by fall 2015. Epta paid the Legion’s $145,000 tax bill for 2014. It took out a $3.1 million loan, but claimed $2.82 million in costs, including a $700,000 “development management fee.” 

Instead of suing Epta or giving it more time to begin construction, members of the cash-strapped Legion voted to sell the property to Beedie Development Corp., even if that meant the canteen plan would fall by the wayside. The site remains vacant.

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

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

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

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Bob Mackin A principal of the company that

Bob Mackin

When he was the leader of the opposition and the BC Liberals gave advertising contracts to friends of Christy Clark, John Horgan slammed the governing party for “padding the pockets of their political pals.” 

Horgan’s premiership is barely nine months old and the NDP has given a second patronage gig to the Vancouver ad agency that helped the party regain power last year.

Scenes from the Now Communications Group ad on budgetary housing measures (BC Gov)

Now Communications Group is one of three shops behind the $725,000 “Working for B.C.” campaign that promotes taxes on foreign home buyers and speculators, as announced in the February budget. Captus Advertising and Trapeze Communications are the other two. Vizeum and Jungle were the media buyers. 

Now also had the contract on the $600,000 budget ad campaign. 

The Government Communications and Public Engagement department put Now and nine others on a preferred suppliers list, to avoid publicly tendering every contract worth $75,000 or more. The NDP-appointed bureaucrat who oversees the government’s advertising and marketing office is Robb Gibbs, the former Now creative director and husband of ex-Now CEO Marie Della Mattia. 

Della Mattia quit in 2016 to become Horgan’s campaign advisor. Her sister (and Gibbs’s sister-in-law) Michele Della Mattia remains Now’s vice-president of operations. 

Now was launched at the end of 1991 by Ron Johnson and Shane Lunny from the team that helped Mike Harcourt become B.C.’s second NDP premier. Now’s $165,000 contract in March 1992 for the Commission on Resources and Environment was the Harcourt government’s first scandal. 

Marie Della Mattia (left), Robb Gibbs and Michele Della Mattia.

Johnson, ironically, co-wrote the party’s 1991 platform, which bluntly stated that a “Harcourt government will put an end to secret deals and special favours for political friends.” 

In May 1995, Auditor General George Morfitt reported that the NDP government spent $21.3 million on contracts with 10 ad agencies over four years, but Now was the top supplier at $4.8 million. Despite Now’s close ties with Harcourt, Morfitt surprised the ad industry by finding no pattern of favouritism. He was, however, “perturbed” that Now concealed the names and amounts paid to some of its subcontractors from the U.S.

From November 2015 to March 2017, the BC Liberals spent $20.5 million on the controversial “Our Opportunity Is Here” B.C. services campaign, which sparked a class action lawsuit that ultimately wants the party to repay the public treasury. Agencies owned by Clark cronies Jatinder Rai and Kim Pickett were among the four main contractors for the campaign. 

Paul Doroshenko, one of the lawyers behind the lawsuit, Tweeted on March 31 that NDP government ad campaigns paid for with tax money were “as bad as the BC Liberals.” 

“It’s condoning the dirty theft of tax money by the BC Liberals,” Doroshenko wrote. “It’s an insult to British Columbians.”

The NDP promised it would ban partisan advertising by the government and that it would empower the auditor general to approve or reject ad campaigns. But the Horgan government has done neither so far.

The “Working for B.C.” ad includes several slogans, including a repeat of the 10-year goal of building “114,000 new homes”  that appeared in the 2017 election platform.

NDP ad agency Now Communications Group.

The NDP budget ad campaign is the most-important, so far, from a strategic standpoint. But it is not the most-expensive. 

The StopOverdoseBC ad campaign through Traction Creative, Vizeum and Jungle Media is costing $2 million. The NDP government also ran a $300,000 campaign through St. Bernadine Mission and Captus Advertising to promote the “How We Vote” public comment period for electoral system reform. Meanwhile, ICBC has spent $800,000 on ads about its troubles, despite being close to insolvency. BC Hydro hiked rates 3% on April 1, but is in the middle of a $1.3 million ad blitz about household energy saving. 

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Bob Mackin When he was the leader of

Bob Mackin 

Three months after WorkSafeBC slapped TransLink with a whopping six-figure fine that led to an executive shakeup, the TransLink division that operates SkyTrain has rebranded. 

Cake served at TransLink staff lunch on March 13 (TransLink)

An internal video leaked to theBreaker shows a March 13 lunch for SkyTrain and West Coast Express staff at the Burnaby Firefighters’ Hall. Executives gave away coffee mugs and pieces of cake while outlining a communications plan rife with slogans, icons and ads. 

B.C. Rapid Transit Company, the name of TransLink’s rail division, has been rebranded as “SkyTrain Delivered by B.C. Rapid Transit Company.”

Last Dec. 19, WorkSafeBC fined TransLink $607,497.56 after a May 26, 2017 incident during passenger operating hours at Nanaimo Station. Two electricians were working on an energized electrical panel when an arc flash occurred. One of the workers was seriously burned. According to WorkSafeBC, TransLink has paid the penalty, but it is under appeal. 

Coffee mugs from gift bags for SkyTrain staff (TransLink)

“WorkSafeBC’s investigation determined that the panel had not been completely locked out before work began,” said the WorkSafeBC log entry for the province’s fourth-biggest fine of 2017. “The employer failed to ensure energy sources were isolated and effectively controlled, and that energy isolation devices were secured using appropriate locks. These were high-risk violations. The employer also failed to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety.”

The incident happened almost three years after a five-hour outage on the Expo and Millennium lines caused by an unsupervised electrician using a non-insulated screwdriver on a panel. A report on the July 21, 2014 incident stated that: “Although standard operating procedures did not restrict this from occurring during operating hours, they also did not state that it could occur during operating hours.”

The presentation — at least the version that made the cut for the slick, 12-minute video — does not mention the hefty fine or appeal. 

The fine led to the Jan. 8 departure of health, safety, training and environment director Natalia Skapski. Her interim replacement, Eva Kaczmarczyk, told the March 13 meeting that an environmental and emergency management system would be developed by the third quarter of 2018 and a new safety management system would be phased-in starting in the fourth quarter. 

SkyTrain GM Vivienne King (TransLink)

General manager Vivienne King vowed her division will “go from good to great,” by emphasizing a new “safety first” slogan on internal and external posters, banners and billboards. She stressed a five-year plan to encourage teamwork, support and excellence. 

Operations vice-president Mike Richard said training for supervisors would be established in the fourth quarter, while maintenance vice-president Richard Sykes said the two-week planning window for rail network access to perform maintenance would be extended by two weeks by the fourth quarter. 

“That’s a big ask, but be happy if we can move from two weeks to four weeks, and maybe have a six or an eight week outlook in a couple of years time,” Sykes said. “It will take time. State of good repair will take time, change takes time. What I need you all is to come with me on the journey.”

Sajeeta Saroop, the customer experience and public support director, said another round of focus groups is being conducted, to find out what passengers want, need and expect for system cleanliness and communications. She suggested TransLink examine the cleaning contract and station announcements. 

“Let’s do an audit of all of our train announcements and see if they’re the right ones,” Saroop said. “Do we need to add more to it?”

The event was emceed by consultant Karen Elliott, who is, coincidentally, a Squamish city councillor. 

The former BCRTC seems to be in major catch-up mode, having a better-late-than-never epiphany about the vital importance of safety. After all, it has been in business since the December 1985 launch of SkyTrain’s Expo Line. It expanded with the Millennium Line (2002), Canada Line (2009) and Evergreen Line (2016).

The B.C. NDP government is on the verge of green-lighting the Broadway subway and Surrey light rail. TransLink has not publicly updated cost estimates since 2014, but has conceded that prices have ballooned because of escalation in land, labour and materials costs. 

UPDATE (April 17): TransLink staffers were informed in a memo from King that Sykes is no longer with the company. “I would like to thank him for his service and contributions,” King wrote in a mass email to “all users” at SkyTrain. 

Chun Ho Lau, the director of asset management and engineering, was immediately named as Sykes’s interim replacement. No reason was given. Neither King, nor CEO Kevin Desmond nor anyone in TransLink’s media relations department responded to theBreaker

Ex-SkyTrain VP Richard Sykes (TransLink)

Despite the recent rebranding, King started the email with the salutation “Hello BCRTC” and her email signature remains the organization’s old logo. 

Geoff Morbey, director of assurance in the maintenance division, wrote in a memo to Sykes’s ex-subordinates that the division would “continue as before, along the same path towards the overall vision and strategy as you have all heard Richard discuss.

“I reallize that some of you have built a strong working relationship with Richard and this has come as a shock.” 

Sykes came to TransLink in 2014 from London’s Docklands Light Railway, where he was general manager of rolling stock during a period that included the London 2012 Olympics. Lau also worked at the Serco-owned operation, as the senior project engineer of rolling stock engineering.

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Bob Mackin  Three months after WorkSafeBC slapped TransLink

Bob Mackin

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s former South Asian community organizer in B.C., who was accused in civil court documents of cheque-kiting, worked on Coun. Hector Bremner’s NPA by-election campaign last fall, theBreaker has learned. 

Internal Bremner campaign documents seen by theBreaker show that Rajinder Singh Bhela was among Bremner’s inner circle that phoned NPA members to seek votes in the nomination contest for the October by-election. Bhela also signed Bremner’s nomination form. Bremner and Bhela were photographed together at campaign events. 

NPA Coun. Hector Bremner (left) with Raj Bhela (right).

Bremner took advantage of low voter turnout, left-wing vote-splitting and anger towards Vision Vancouver to win the by-election to replace Geoff Meggs, who quit to become Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. Bremner is one of three candidates vying to become the NPA’s mayoral nominee on May 29. The civic election is Oct. 20.

The National Post reported March 29 that Scheer had cut ties with Bhela, who is facing several default judgments for millions of dollars in B.C. courts. Toronto Dominion Bank obtained a court order for $500,000 on Feb. 1, 2017 against Bhela and five other defendants, after TD alleged they had been involved in a cheque-kiting scheme to defraud the bank. The court filing defined cheque-kiting as obtaining money by passing a cheque through a bank without value being deposited against the cheque. 

Bremner did not respond to several interview requests. 

Bhela is a former general secretary of the Ross Street Sikh Temple who quit the federal Liberals in 2014 when he claimed Sikh extremists were manipulating Justin Trudeau. In 2013, he was on the guest list for Christy Clark’s cabinet unveiling event in Vancouver for party donors, lobbyists and campaign staff.

Reached by phone on April 3, Bhela said “I’m not going to say nothing, my lawyer is going to have a press conference” before he hung up. 

Bremner campaign document shows Bhela’s involvement.

Glen Chernen lost to Bremner in last September’s nomination contest for the by-election and is challenging the rookie councillor for the NPA mayoral nod. Asked about Bhela’s involvement in the Bremner campaign, Chernen said: “It’s not surprising and it’s indicative of the poor decision-making of Hector Bremner, which is much like Gregor Robertson. It’s time for a change.” 

Two-term NPA park board commissioner John Coupar declared his bid last month. 

“Obviously it’s a concern when these kinds of allegations are made, we have to look into those to see what they really are,” Coupar said. “Right now I’m concentrating on what I can do to do seek the nomination.” 

Bremner ran unsuccessfully for the BC Liberals in New Westminster in 2013. He was an aide in the BC Liberal government to cabinet ministers Teresa Wat and Rich Coleman, before joining the public relations and lobbying firm Pace Group in 2015 as an LNG and liquor lobbyist.

Bremner is a part-time city councillor with a full-time job as a vice-president at Pace, whose clients include Aquilini Investment Group, Port of Vancouver, Vancouver International Airport Authority, B.C. Pavilion Corporation, Concert Properties and Intracorp. 

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Bob Mackin Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s former South

Vancouver city hall is exploring ways to forge closer ties with the People’s Republic of China, by posting Chinese words on wayfinding signs. 

Under a new trial program, expect to see the word for Vancouver, Wengehua (pronounced wen-GUH-wah), on the welcome signs at major thoroughfares on the city’s boundaries. 

Mayor Gregor Robertson said his priority, in his last six months in office, will be cultural harmony. 

Under a city hall trial program, expect Mandarin words on wayfinding signs.

“China is a vibrant nation that has contributed so much to our economy. Companies like Anbang Insurance, Huawei, and Poly Culture are investing in the community and creating jobs,” Robertson said in a news release obtained by theBreaker. “These signs will be the first step in telling the Middle Kingdom that we’re open for business.” 

Robertson said he conceived the idea during a low-key visit to Shanghai last September. He marvelled at the signage in the city centre, showing the word Shanghai in the western alphabet. Acknowledging that Chinese characters would be confusing to average Vancouverites, he said the so-called pinyin, or romanicized version, was feasible. He also suggested city staff study changing Vancouver’s name to Wengehua. 

The initial budget for the trial is $88,000 and public comment will be sought on the Talk Vancouver polling portal. 

Robertson announced in January that he would not run for a fourth term in the Oct. 20 election, leaving the future of his Vision Vancouver party in doubt. 

Robertson is a distant relative of the late Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who treated dictator Mao Tse-tung. Robertson raised eyebrows on both sides of the Pacific for comments favourable to the Chinese Communist Party and for a two-and-a-half-year romance with Chinese pop star Wanting Qu. Robertson and city council are gearing-up to apologize to the Chinese community for historical wrongs later this month. 

The first sign in the trial program will be unveiled just before noon today, but theBreaker obtained a sneak peak photo by Yu Renjie. 

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Vancouver city hall is exploring ways to

TransLink isn’t waiting for public consultation to test new public washrooms on Metro Vancouver’s transit system. 

At its quarterly board meeting last week, CEO Kevin Desmond said it’s “an infrastructure issue, it’s a maintenance issue, it’s a safety and security issue.”

Outfitting each SkyTrain station with a loo may not be cheap or easy to do. But a special articulated trolley bus retrofitted with six automated-cleaning washrooms was quietly added to the Coast Mountain Bus Company fleet this weekend. 

TransLink’s go, while you go bus, the P-Line, routes 1 and 2.

Access to the on-board washrooms is free for passengers with Compass cards and limited to five minutes per session; a one-minute warning sounds at the four-minute mark. The one-minute automatic cleaning cycle sanitizes the stainless-steel toilet. The bus contains high-intensity air conditioning and fragrant filtering to prevent unpleasant aromas from spoiling the ride. 

The $1.2 million system includes diversion of urine to the biodiesel engine, in order to reduce emissions. 

Reporters and the public are invited to take a ride, in more ways than one, on the 1&2 P-Line with driver A.P. Rilstulti just before noon today at the bus stop outside the Broadway-Commercial SkyTrain station.

Souvenir TransLink toilet paper and sanitary seat covers will be available to the first 100 passengers. 

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TransLink isn’t waiting for public consultation to