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Bob Mackin

NDP Premier John Horgan wasn’t joking when he said FIFA wants a blank cheque from governments bidding to host 2026 World Cup games. 

The corruption-tainted world soccer governing body will get a United States-led bid that includes cities in Mexico and Canada, but not Vancouver, host of the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. 

FIFA publication illustrates the degrees of tax breaks it demands from 2026 host governments. (FIFA)

Talks broke down between the United Bid Committee and the British Columbia government, ahead of the March 16 deadline. Horgan balked at FIFA’s expensive wish list, from a sweetheart lease of B.C. Place Stadium to onerous security costs. 

Vancouver was in the running to host approximately three games in the early stages of the expanded 48-nation tournament. Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, Toronto’s BMO Field and Montreal’s Olympic Stadium remain candidate venues. 

Chicago, where the 1994 World Cup kicked-off, also withdrew from the United Bid. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office cited cost uncertainty for taxpayers and the unwillingness of FIFA to negotiate. Losing the Windy City is especially shocking, because it is the hometown of the United States Soccer Federation.

theBreaker has obtained a copy of FIFA’s requirements for governments bidding for 2026. The Swiss-based organization, still reeling from the FBI’s 2015 crackdown on FIFA’s massive bribery and kickbacks, requires host governments agree to grant it huge tax breaks for an entire decade and allow it to import and export unlimited amounts of foreign currency. FIFA also requires host taxpayers pick up the full bill for safety and security and assume liability should there be any security incident of any size. 

FIFA will decide between the CONCACAF bid and one from Morocco on June 13 at its congress in Russia. From that day until the end of 2028, FIFA will demand that the winning bidder grant it a vast tax holiday. 

The general tax exemption, the FIFA bid manual states, “must comprise all taxes that may be applicable in the host country/host countries. The sole exception to the general tax exemption is taxation on the sale of tickets to third parties (i.e. tickets not used by FIFA, the 2026 FWC [organizing] entity, the 2026 FWC subsidiaries (if applicable) or any other FIFA subsidiary for its own purposes), but limited to VAT, sales tax or the like at a unified rate of a maximum of 10%. No other taxes may be charged on any revenues or profits generated through the sale of tickets.” 

The hosting agreement also includes a clause guaranteeing the “unrestricted import and export of all foreign currencies to and from the host country/host countries by means of bank transfer, as well as the unrestricted exchange and conversion of all foreign currencies into local currency, U.S. dollars, Euros or Swiss francs, is unrestricted, not subject to any taxes in the host country, and in line with the conditions prevailing on the international foreign exchange market.”

The guarantee, however, “will by no means limit or restrict the applicability of laws and regulations in the host country/host countries to prevent money laundering.”

Security operations, to be paid by host governments, will extend from stadiums to team training facilities, official hotels, media centres, the FIFA Fan Site, airports, train stations and bus stations. Host governments will also assume liability for safety and security incidents. 

FIFA also requires special laws and enforcement against counterfeiting, trademark violation, ambush marketing and “the prohibition of the secondary ticket market in relation to the competition.” 

For its workforce, FIFA wants a visa-free environment where work permits are issued “unconditionally and without any restriction or discrimination of any kind.” 

“It is also requested to grant exemptions from labour law and other legislation for companies and personnel directly involved with the competition, provided that these exemptions do not undermine or compromise the government’s commitment to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights.” 

FIFA’s annual report for 2016, the most-recent published, revealed that it had US$1.27 billion in investments and it spent more than US$50.4 million on legal costs after the transnational soccer corruption scandal peaked with FBI raids in 2015. It also revealed scandal-plagued president Sepp Blatter’s pay and perks for the first time: $3.76 million. 

Blatter cancelled his trip to Vancouver in 2015, for fear of arrest. Canadian taxpayers spent at least $27 million to subsidize the $90 million Women’s World Cup. 

Blatter was banned for eight years in late 2015 over his corruption. In 2016, Gianni Infantino became the new president. 

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Bob Mackin NDP Premier John Horgan wasn’t joking

Bob Mackin

The NDP minister in charge of British Columbia’s basic auto insurance and licensing monopoly called it a “dumpster fire” on the “path to insolvency” because of a forecast $1.3 billion deficit.

But the Insurance Corporation of B.C. is on its way to spending a million dollars it doesn’t have to buy ads about its troubles that most British Columbians have already heard about. 

ICBC spokeswoman Lindsay Olsen told theBreaker that the campaign, by ad agency Wasserman, has cost $795,000 so far. She refused to say when the campaign would end or even what the approved budget is. 

Instead of a dumpster fire, ICBC uses a broken down car in an ad campaign to describe its sorry state. (ICBC)

“We do not have a final budget, but $795,000 is the spend to date,” Olsen told theBreaker

“We felt it was important to get accurate information out to our customers and all interested parties through all channels possible and in multiple languages. This was especially important to ensure accurate information is available regarding the changes to accident benefits and the cap on pain and suffering payouts for minor injury claims.”

Last August, Attorney General David Eby warned reporters that ICBC was “on the path to insolvency” and blamed the previous BC Liberal government for driving the Crown corporation into the ground. The cost of basic auto insurance rose 6.4% last November and further hikes are inevitable. At a news conference in January, Eby declared ICBC a “financial dumpster fire,” because it would likely end the fiscal year with a $1.3 billion deficit. Eby also announced measures aimed at rescuing the monopoly, such as changes to accident benefits, a new dispute resolution process to divert cases from the courts and higher rates for high-risk drivers. 

theBreaker wanted to know why Eby would authorize buying ads when ICBC can’t really afford it. His oft-quoted statements about the ailing monopoly already garnered front page and top story treatment from every major media outlet in the province. 

A prepared statement attributed to Eby said every driver in B.C. “has a vested interest in the state of the financial crises [at ICBC], the potential impacts it can have on their insurance rates and in what we’re doing to fix it.

“Government feels it is critical that all British Columbians have a good understanding of what improvements we are pursuing so that they know what to expect when these changes take effect next April,” the Eby statement said. “We are also interested in educating the public about the challenges ICBC is facing so that they are able to provide informed feedback to the rate fairness engagement survey that is currently underway.”

ICBC isn’t the only Crown corporation that can’t afford to buy ads, but is doing so anyway on the backs (and pocketbooks) of its customers. 

Dave and the Boparais, part of BC Hydro’s $3 million energy conservation ad campaigns. (BC Hydro)

BC Hydro, which is building the $10.7 billion Site C dam, is running a Power Smart ad campaign starring “Dave the BC Hydro employee” who offers energy and cost-saving tips and tricks to the “Boparai family.” 

The budget for the mid-February to mid-April campaign is $1.8 million, and is part of the utility’s $3 million annual budget for conservation-related advertising. The ad agency of record is Taxi and media buyer is Media Experts, BC Hydro spokeswoman Mora Scott told theBreaker. Neither Scott nor NDP-patronage appointee Darwin Sauer, the utility’s communications chief, responded to theBreaker’s question about who Dave really is and how much he was paid to appear in the ad campaign. 

His name is Dave Mix and, according to the March 31, 2017 financial information act return, the recovery manager was paid $114,148 for that fiscal year. 

The NDP ran on an election platform that promised a BC Hydro rate freeze. On March 1, the B.C. Utilities Commission gave thumbs down and ordered a 3% hike to electricity bills on April 1. 

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Bob Mackin The NDP minister in charge of

Vancouver’s marquee annual sport extravaganza climaxed March 11 at B.C. Place Stadium with Fiji’s 31-12 win over Kenya in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Canada Sevens Cup final. 

Organizers claimed 77,096 attendance for the two-day, 16-nation tournament, the third in a four-year commitment. Canada Sevens is bidding on another four-year term, through 2023. 

The only blemish on the weekend was the closure of the B.C. Place retractable roof, despite calm, sunny weather and temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius. B.C. Pavilion Corporation said it wanted to keep fans comfortable and World Rugby wanted consistent playing conditions throughout the weekend marathon of matches. 

The men’s world sevens series resumes in Hong Kong April 6-8. 

The fourth annual women’s edition of the Canada Sevens, featuring the top 12 teams in the world, is May 12-13 in Langford, near Victoria. 

They’re both on the road to San Francisco, for the Rugby World Cup Sevens July 20-22. 

Fiji celebrates the Canada Sevens Cup win on March 11 at B.C. Place Stadium. (Bob Mackin)

Fiji accepts the ball on a line-out during the Canada Sevens Cup final in Vancouver on March 11 (Bob Mackin)

Fiji won Olympic gold at Rio 2016 and the Canada Sevens on March 11. (Bob Mackin)

Fiji’s Uluiyata Batinisavu celebrates the Canada Sevens Cup win over Kenya. (Bob Mackin)

Not the Queen, Beefeaters or Hannibal Lecter, but real fans of the Canada Sevens. (Bob Mackin)

Canada Sevens 2018 champion Fiji shares the stage with runner-up Kenya and bronze medallist South Africa (Bob Mackin)

An American defender grabs South Africa’s Zain Davids. The Sprinboks were 29-7 winners in the Canada Sevens bronze final on March 11 at B.C. Place Stadium. (Bob Mackin)

Vancouver's marquee annual sport extravaganza climaxed March

Bob Mackin

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth did everything he could to try and dance around John Daly’s questioning, but Daly eventually won out. 

Farnworth proclaimed on the March 10 edition of Daly’s Back to the Beat program that the plan to add radar speed detection to red light cameras at intersections was “nothing like photo radar whatsoever.” 

Daly, in his wry style, told CKNW listeners: “It is, what I’m told, called three digital,  high definition tracking using radar to measure the speed and the parameters of range and angle.”

A B.C. photo radar unit from the 1990s (SENSE)

It could also cost up to $14 million to install. Net revenue from fines would go into the coffers of municipalities that are directly responsible for paying for policing, under the Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing program. It could only help the ailing ICBC if crashes decrease. 

The BC Liberals abolished the NDP’s fleet of police-staffed, robotic radar minivans in 2001, a program that the incoming government deemed a cash grab. The program was the classic example of scope creep. Where the minivans would park and when they would be snapping speeders was announced by press release weekly and there were signs near the vans. As the program aged, press releases became less frequent and more vague, and some of the signs disappeared. Drivers were getting tickets for driving 61 km-h through a 50 km-h zone, even when the speed for the flow of traffic was substantially higher than the posted speed limit. 

Former B.C. government bureaucrat Richard McCandless, quoting submissions to the B.C. Utilities Commission, said the existing $2.8 million a year cost to activate intersection cameras for six hours a day would jump $5.2 million to go around the clock. 

During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, 34,600 violation tickets worth $4.3 million were issued. McCandless estimates traffic fine revenue would increase to $10 million under 100% activation. 

Derek Lewers of the anti-photo radar group SENSE B.C. expects photo radar to return to highways. 

The Capital Regional District is lobbying heavily for photo radar to be tested on the Malahat Drive, a 20 kilometre section of the Trans Canada Highway near Victoria. 

CRD board chair, and Esquimalt mayor, Barb Desjardins wrote to Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby on Sep. 26, 2017, asking for a pilot study of what she called an “interval-based speed enforcement system” between the Langford Parkway and Mill Bay Road underpass. 

A photo radar sample, shot at the Molson Indy Vancouver (ITCU)

Yet, as Lewers discovered, Desjardins is not relying on science, but anecdotal information about Malahat. 

“Specific road data was not a deciding factor for TSC [Traffic Safety Commission] members because the police officers who regularly attend TSC meetings indicate speeding is continuously an issue on the Malahat,” Desjardins wrote in a Sept. 28, 2017 email to Lewers. 

Desjardins cited Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall’s 2016-published 2011 report “Where the Rubber Meets the Road” report that identified distracted driving and speeding as the top two causes of B.C. crashes. Yet the 1996 rate of 18.4 fatalities per 100,000 population had dropped to 6.2 per 100,000 by 2012. 

The report said 577 deaths — almost 35% of high-risk driving related motor vehicle fatalities, happened because of speed, between 2008 and 2012. Failing to yield right of way (141), ignoring a traffic control device (86), improper passing (56) and following too closely (14) rounded out the list. 

Lewers’ analysis of Ministry of Transportation reports and ICBC crash maps found there was an average of one Malahat crash per week from 2000 to 2011 and a fatality of one per year. There were three major safety upgrades in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Lewers says the Malahat’s 0.35 accidents per million vehicle kilometres is below the provincial 0.48 average. 

“If we are to believe that speed cameras will cut related crashes by half, then instead of having six crashes per year, we will have three, as a result of speed, but it won’t solve the other 89% of crashes that are not related to speed,” Lewers said. 

The 18-member TSC includes staff from the province’s Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as cycling advocates Alan Perry of CFAX Radio, Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition’s Edward Pullman and consultant Todd Litman.

Bob Mackin Solicitor General Mike Farnworth did everything

On this edition, British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame curator and Vancouver 1954 British Empire Games book author Jason Beck discusses the legacy of the late Roger Bannister.

Bannister died March 3 at age 88 after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The 1954 Games put Vancouver on the map and Englishman Bannister’s race with Australia’s John Landy was a legendary moment in world sport and Canadian history. Beck tells host Bob Mackin that Bannister was much more than a runner and the Miracle Mile was more than a race. 

What happened on Aug. 7, 1954 had ripple effects that last to this day on the West Coast of Canada.

Enjoy this edition of Podcast. If you missed any of the previous editions, click here. 

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Three-minutes and 58.8 seconds that changed Vancouver

On this edition, British Columbia Sports Hall

Bob Mackin 

Surrey Centre Liberal MP Randeep Sarai met last October with an executive from a credit union that is not only seeking to expand nationwide, but is the same credit union that sued Sarai and his business partners for defaulting on a loan. 

The federal lobbyist registry shows Coast Capital Savings Credit Union CEO Don Coulter reported communicating with Sarai on Oct. 17, 2017. The credit union, Canada’s biggest by membership, is headquartered in Sarai’s Surrey Centre riding. 

An Oct. 17, 2017 photograph on Twitter shows Sarai in his office with several people, including Coast Capital vice-president of communications Dave Cunningham. Coulter is not in the photograph. The reason for the meeting was the annual “Hike the Hill” National Credit Union Government Relations Forum. McDonald said Coulter was not at the meeting, but reports to the lobbying commissioner must be filed in the name of the most senior executive. 

Coulter left in January to join Saskatoon-based Concentra Bank as its CEO, yet Coast Capital has not updated its federal lobbying registration. 

The lawsuit, filed two years before Sarai was elected, was still active at the time of the meeting that Cunningham attended.

Coast Capital named Sarai, his numbered company 687495 B.C. Ltd., and two other men, Sandeep Bains and Inderdeep Mann, in a petition to B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 18, 2013. The credit union sought repayment of $1,521,511.28 plus interest relating to a 2007 loan.

Liberal MP Randeep Sarai (centre) with credit union reps, including Coast Capital VP Dave Cunningham (right). (Twitter)

In 2012, Sarai and company wanted to redevelop a 0.79 acre parking lot on 2785 Gladwin Road in Abbotsford into a five-storey commercial building. The lot, which remains vacant, was assessed at $1.514 million last year. Sarai’s real estate holding company, 687495 B.C. Ltd., remains the first owner name on title.

The Nov. 22, 2013 response to the petition, via lawyer Rajdeep Deol, denied Sarai and company owed $1,521,511.28 as of Oct. 7, 2013 

“The fact is that all payments due pursuant to the mortgage were paid by the respondents on a timely basis but the petition respondents’ refinancing has been delayed,” said the respondents’ court filing.

A Jan. 23, 2014 court order set $1,492,468.54, plus $238.14 per diem, as the redemption amount. The Court Services Online database shows no other activity on the case until a Feb. 8, 2018 acknowledgement of payment. 

Sarai did not return email or phone calls from theBreaker. McDonald did not respond to questions about the lawsuit. 

In his conflict of interest disclosure, Sarai reported income in the last 12 months from referral fees from a real estate license with Planet Group Realty of Surrey. Planet Group was in the news Feb. 16 when one of its agents, Kam Rai, was shot to death in broad daylight in Vancouver’s posh Shaughnessy.

Sarai is also sole owner of Grand Fairway Development Inc., a land development company which holds significant interest in the 1041672 B.C. Ltd. holding company.

McDonald said Coast Capital has applied to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions for federal licensing. If OSFI recommends approval, Finance Minister Bill Morneau would have the final say. Last summer, Coast Capital’s application was approved by B.C.’s Financial Institutions Commission and Credit Union Deposit Insurance Corporation. 

Sarai quit Feb. 27 as head of the Liberal Party’s Pacific sub-caucus after photographs emerged of ex-convict Jaspal Atwal at a cocktail party in India with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie. Sarai initially took responsibility for Atwal’s appearance, but later told the Surrey Now Leader that he didn’t invite Atwal, a former Sikh separatist terrorist who was jailed for attempting to murder a visiting Indian cabinet minister in 1986. 

Sarai told the local newspaper that he simply forwarded names of anyone who had contacted his office with interest in attending the Prime Minister’s events in India. 

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Bob Mackin  Surrey Centre Liberal MP Randeep Sarai

Bob Mackin 

When British Columbia trade minister Bruce Ralston hosted 11 of the province’s foreign trade representatives at the Legislature on March 7, one was missing. 

The representatives for offices in Japan, China, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Europe and India did not include the Malaysian sultanate of Johor. 

Mike de Jong gave the Sultan of Johor a Canucks jersey during a November 2016 junket to Malaysia. (Facebook)

In April 2016, BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong told a reporter from Malaysia’s Star Online that B.C. would open a trade office in the Malaysian province near Singapore. The Sultan of Johor, Ibrahim Ismail, was visiting B.C., but de Jong’s staff refused to acknowledge the Malaysian media report when contacted by this reporter. 

In November of that year, de Jong visited Johor and gave the Sultan a Canucks’ jersey. International trade minister Teresa Wat was in China, after being hospitalized for an injury suffered in a mysterious incident, so de Jong did the honours of announcing B.C. would open a trade office in Johor in early 2017

It never opened. 

“The office was primarily intended to advance B.C. relations with [state-owned] Petronas, with a secondary mandate to facilitate trade and investment ties with Malaysia and Singapore,” Tasha Schollen, a spokesperson for Ralston, told theBreaker. “On July 25, 2017, Petronas announced that the Pacific Northwest LNG Project was cancelled due to market conditions, so the former ministry never proceeded with its opening.”

Last September, the South China Morning Post reported on a joint venture between a Chinese company and a local partner owned by the Sultan of Johor that was building the $100 billion Forest City on four man-made islands for 700,000 people. It was being marketed as the “next Shenzhen.” 

When de Jong visited Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak was visiting China. De Jong’s staff said at the time that they spoke by phone. 

Razak remains under a cloud of controversy over the 1MDB state investment fund scandal. He was accused of embezzling US$700 million, but claimed the money was a gift from Saudi Arabia. 

The corruption scandal was a source of mirth, and, perhaps, envy, for Christy Clark when she was premier. In a late 2015 interview with The Tyee, she said: “Makes me feel like I went into business in the wrong country. It’s crazy. But you know, it’s just a different way of doing business, I guess…”

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Bob Mackin  When British Columbia trade minister Bruce

Captains of the 16 teams entered in the 2018 HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament posed for the traditional photo on March 7 in North Vancouver, with a twist. 

They were on the 140-metre long Capilano Suspension Bridge for the photo-by-drone. 

Bob Mackin of theBreaker was there. 

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Captains of the 16 teams entered in

Bob Mackin

theBreaker can exclusively show you photographs from the massive Site C dam construction area.

But little else. 

That is because BC Hydro, with the NDP government’s blessing, has censored most of the information about budgeting and scheduling for the $10.7 billion dam from the main civil works contractor’s 96-page, project status report for September 2017. 

theBreaker applied Nov. 8 under the freedom of information law for a copy of the Peace River Hydro Partners report for that pivotal month when the project went awry. BC Hydro finally delivered it on March 2 — almost three months after Premier John Horgan announced the BC Liberal-started dam would continue with “enhanced oversight.”

BC Hydro claims disclosure of this information would harm both BC Hydro and its contractors. theBreaker will appeal to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

PRHP is the $1.75 billion main civil works joint venture of South Korea’s Samsung and Spain’s Acciona. Alberta’s Petrowest was the third member, but it went into receivership in August. 

What is censored? The list is long.

The summary of risks; schedule progress; changes in critical activities; comparison of actual progress and the latest updated work program; graphs showing actual progress and planned progress; manpower allocation and forecast; actual equipment on-site and forecast; and safety report statistics. 

There is a list of environmental incidents. The dates and locations are visible, but the nature of each incident is not. 

What is not censored? 

Fuel use.

As of September, 11.6 million litres of fuel (10.07 million litres of diesel) had been used for construction on the left bank, while 23.49 million litres of diesel had been used on the right bank. That would create a lot of exhaust for a project that BC Hydro has branded “clean.” 

There were five media inquiries made to PRHP in September, all on the same topic: the 200 workers laid-off Sept. 24-25.

The layoffs were a sign of major trouble brewing on the horizon.

BC Hydro claimed in a letter to the B.C. Utilities Commission on Aug. 30 that the project was “on time and on budget” for $8.335 billion, and it would likely not have to dip into the $440 million set aside by Treasury Board. 

On Oct. 4, BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley revealed to the BCUC that there had been “some geotechnical and construction challenges on the project.” The 2019 river diversion would be delayed by a year and the cost would jump $610 million. 

The NDP cabinet decided Dec. 6 that the project would go ahead at $10.7 billion — which is $4.1 billion more than the 2010-announced budget by the BC Liberals. 

In a Jan. 25 affidavit for Sage Legal, on behalf of the West Moberly First Nation, ex-BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen accused BC Hydro of mismanaging the project and misleading taxpayers about the costs and schedule. 

“In less than three and a half months, Site C costs increased from $8.335 billion to $10.7 billion, an increase of almost 30%,” Eliesen wrote. “There still remains seven years of scheduled construction to complete the project. BC Hydro claims to have been caught unaware by the material increases in its costs.”

Meanwhile, BC Hydro is downplaying the impacts of pausing work to clear a 29-kilometre stretch for a transmission line corridor. West Moberly First Nation convinced a B.C. Supreme Court judge to hold a 10-day injunction hearing between July 24 and Sept. 10. BC Hydro agreed to suspend the road clearing work until Oct. 1 or when a decision is made, whichever is soonest. 

BC Hydro spokeswoman Mora Scott told theBreaker “there is no impact” to the project schedule and BC Hydro is assessing potential cost implications. 

“Any increase in costs related to the work stoppage we expect to be covered by the project’s contingency,” Scott wrote. “We are proceeding with clearing and access road development along the transmission corridor outside of this area and waste wood disposal and hauling of already felled merchantable timber will continue along the entire transmission corridor.” 

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See the heavily censored Site C September 2017 project report

September PRHP .pdf by BobMackin on Scribd

See the Site C picture show

Bob Mackin theBreaker can exclusively show you photographs

Bob Mackin

The Vancouver advertising agency that helped the NDP regain power in British Columbia last year has the contract for a $600,000 campaign to promote the Horgan government’s 2018 provincial budget.

theBreaker confirmed that the Government Communications and Public Engagement office chose Now Communications Group from a list of preferred suppliers. The campaign launched Feb. 28, eight days after Finance Minister Carole James tabled the budget. It runs through March 18. 

A prepared statement from the ministry’s communications office, provided to theBreaker, said: “All agencies on the standing offers list had the opportunity to submit a bid for this work. The Now Communications Group bid was accepted based upon our standing offer proposal process which includes pre-determined evaluation criteria.”

GCPE spent $663,000 to promote the BC Liberals’ pre-2017 election budget and $773,000 to promote the party’s 2016 tax-and-spend blueprint.  

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

The NDP-appointed assistant deputy minister of strategic communications is former Now creative director Robb Gibbs. Gibbs oversees the government’s advertising and marketing office. Gibbs did not respond for comment. 

Deputy Minister Evan Lloyd did respond, but declined an interview request.

“The Now Group is one of 10 firms that secured a place on GCPE’s standing offer list, effective Jan. 1,” Lloyd said by email. “In anticipation of this start-work date, a standing offer proposal request was issued to all 10 firms [on the Jan. 1-effective preferred suppliers’ list] relating to the Feb. 20 provincial budget and its specific housing and child care components.

“This SOPR was issued in late December with a decision made in early January. It was anticipated, due to the extensive nature of this SOPR, a minimum of two firms would be selected. In fact, three firms were selected from this SOPR: Captus, NOW, and Trapeze. Their work is ongoing.”

Gibbs’s wife, Marie Della Mattia, was Now’s CEO until 2016 when she left to become John Horgan’s campaign advisor. After Horgan was sworn-in last July, the new premier hired Della Mattia to be his special advisor for $30,000, but she left in mid-January. Her LinkedIn profile describes Della Mattia’s self-employment as a coach “with attitude.” Her sister, Michele Della Mattia, is Now’s vice-president of operations. theBreaker exclusively reported Jan. 8 that Now was among 16 advertising and advertising research companies chosen for a three-year roster of pre-qualified suppliers. 

Now was established 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. Johnson 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.

The Horgan NDP government is using a system of prequalified companies for advertising contracts inherited from the BC Liberals. Otherwise, government procurement rules set $25,000 as the floor for a competitive process through advertising on BC Bid or obtaining three quotes. A public call for proposals is mandatory if a service contract is worth $75,000 or more. 

NDP ad agency Now Communications Group.

The BC Liberals spent $20 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. Two of the agencies contracted were owned by BC Liberal party campaign workers and friends of then-Premier Christy Clark. When the non-essential campaign launched in November 2015, then-opposition leader Horgan slammed the BC Liberals for “padding the pockets of their political pals.”

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. 

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. 

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Bob Mackin The Vancouver advertising agency that helped