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Bob Mackin 

A B.C. Supreme Court judge threw out a University of Victoria graduate’s bid for a class action lawsuit over the university’s refusal to refund parking passes when the pandemic hit.

In September 2019, fifth-year mechanical engineering student Aaron Timothy Elsser paid $568.05 for a parking permit lasting through the end of August 2020. In March 2020, after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic, the university moved classes online and much of the campus closed.

Victoria courthouse (Court Libraries BC)

Elsser argued that because the university switched to remote learning, there was no reason to park on campus. Thus, his contract was “frustrated and/or breached” and pass holders should be reimbursed on a prorated basis.

The university refused to issue partial refunds. Had the pandemic affected operations during the first four months of the contract, Justice Catherine Murray said, Elsser would have been entitled to a refund. 

Elsser did not dispute the decision to move to online learning and told the court that he did not attend the campus between March 23 and Aug. 31, 2020. 

While the judge accepted switching to online learning and closing the campus made the parking contract less useful, it was not rendered fruitless.

“The plaintiff argues that it is common sense to conclude that only people that were attending the University or working there would buy an annual parking permit,” said Murray’s judgment. “That may be so, but it was not a term, either express or implied, of the contract. The plaintiff did not need a reason to park on campus to purchase a permit. Parking permits are not only available to people that work or attend classes on campus. The parking contract is quite simply that — a contract for a parking spot. The pandemic did not change the fundamental contractual obligations. The plaintiff could still park at the University after learning went online and the gym closed.”

Elsser contested the university’s application to quash the lawsuit, claiming it was premature because he had not received disclosure from the university. But Murray called that irrelevant. How or why the university chose not to offer refunds would not determine whether the contract was breached or frustrated.

“The University’s ‘decision-making process,’ the amount of parking permit money refunded, what the University did with the money it did not refund, or cost savings to the University during the pandemic do not need to be investigated in order for the plaintiff to put his best foot forward on this application or for the court to determine whether the breach of contract or frustration claims should be dismissed,” Murray wrote. “Nor will any of that disclosure raise a triable issue.”

Murray found the claim the parking contract was breached had no chance of success and dismissed the action with costs to the university.

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Bob Mackin  A B.C. Supreme Court judge threw

For the week of April 17, 2022:

Mayors of Vancouver and Whistler, along with leaders of four First Nations, are exploring a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Coun. Collen Hardwick (left) and Mayor Kennedy Stewart at the April 12 city council meeting (City of Vancouver)

Fewer cities can afford the Games, so the International Olympic Committee now prefers closed-door negotiations over bidding wars. It wants to pick the 2030 host next year, that’s why Coun. Colleen Hardwick proposed a plebiscite on the Oct. 15 civic election ballot. Let the people decide whether to host another multi-billion-dollar mega-event. 

“So does this council support our citizens’ right to vote or not?” Hardwick asked on April 12. “Someone really needs to second this motion and to get it on the table. We have speakers signed up. Let them speak.”

To her surprise, none of her nine fellow councillors nor Mayor Kennedy Stewart put up a hand.

The public hasn’t been told how much a 2030 Games could cost. That could come before summer, when a feasibility study is expected. But the public doesn’t really know the cost of the 2010 Games, because organizing committee board minutes and financial records won’t be open to the public until October 2025. 

Vancouver’s Olympic bid is alive, but is democracy dying? 

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, here the entire segment of the April 12 city council meeting.

Also, commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines. 

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Vancouver’s 2030 Olympic bid alive, but is democracy dying?
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For the week of April 17, 2022:

Bob Mackin

Vancouver city hall is an “outlier” because it lacks a policy for handling public whistleblower complaints and relies on the human resources department to investigate, according to a report from the civic auditor general.

Vancouver civic auditor general Mike Macdonell (City of Vancouver)

“Vancouver’s Auditor General has no role with respect to whistleblowing and is required to comply with the city’s whistleblowing policy,” said Mike Macdonell’s report to the April 22 committee meeting. “This means that a whistleblowing complaint from city staff, received by the Auditor General, is to be referred to the general manager of human resources. While there is nothing that prevents the Auditor General from investigating any matter, the requirement to refer complaints to city management is inconsistent with the independence of the office.”

Macdonell reported that a summary of whistleblower complaints and investigation outcomes is supposed to be submitted annually to the city manager and city council, however, “We were informed that no such summary report has been written or reported to council.”

He obtained a spreadsheet showing complaints from 2015 to present day. In 2021, there were 113 complaints logged. 

Council approved an update to its 2008 whistleblower policy in 2017 and another review took place in 2020. Macdonell recommended council direct city staff to revise the policy so that it addresses complaints from external sources and considers whether the existing policy should be revised now that there are independent offices of the auditor general and integrity commissioner at city hall. 

The city website includes an online form to report misuse of public funds, conflict of interest, abuse of position, manipulation or falsification of data and harm to people or property.

Protecting whistleblowers’ confidentiality, investigation of all valid complaints and independence from management are hallmarks of an effective whistleblowing process, he wrote. 

Vancouver city hall at night (City of Vancouver)

The report was not an audit, so it did not gauge the effectiveness of Vancouver’s system. But Macdonell looked at Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary, which have auditors general or similar. 

Toronto opened a fraud and waste hotline in 2002 for city staff, the public and anyone doing business with the city. The Toronto Public Service bylaw requires employees to report wrongdoing to their manager, division head or the auditor general’s office. 

“Toronto’s Auditor General reports that, between 2017 and 2021, a total of $28 million in actual losses were found and another $1 million in potential losses were prevented,” said the report. 

In 2021, Toronto’s auditor general received 820 complaints about 1,200 allegations and 90 were investigated. Last year 11% were substantiated. 

Ottawa launched its fraud and waste hotline in 2005 and expanded it to the public in 2009. It is operated by an independent third party. 

Two-thirds of last year’s 301 reports were from employees and the rest from the public. 

A third were related to alleged misuse of city property, information or time, a quarter about alleged violations of laws, regulations, polices or procedures, and 10% about alleged theft, embezzlement, fraud, conflicts of interest or falsification of data. Thirty-one of the complaints closed in 2021 were substantiated. 

Calgary established its whistleblower program in 2007. Historically, employees have accounted for 56% of reports received, but, in 2021, employees reported 64% of all concerns.

Vancouver appointed Macdonell its first auditor general last summer after Coun. Colleen Hardwick spearheaded the establishment of the office. In the next three years, Macdonell plans to focus on a dozen areas, including procurement, police performance monitoring, cybersecurity, grants and capital infrastructure. 

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Bob Mackin Vancouver city hall is an “outlier”

Bob Mackin

Vancouver stock promoter David Sidoo is one of 15 men charged in a vast US$194 million securities fraud scheme that spans three continents. 

(SEC)

In an April 14 filing in the Southern District of New York, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges the defendants ran pump-and-dump schemes between 2006 and 2020 using encrypted messaging, various front companies and offshore accounts to hide their transactions. SEC charges them with fraud in the offer or sale of securities, fraud in connection with the purchase or sale of securities and unregistered offerings of securities. 

The defendants stretch from Vancouver to Bulgaria and London to the British Virgin Islands.

SEC says it’s one of the most complex microcap stock fraud schemes ever. 

Sidoo is accused of collaborating with three other Canadians: Ronald Bauer, aka Ronald Jacob Bauer, Craig James Auringer, and Adam Christopher Kambeitz. SEC believes Bauer and Auringer to be in the U.K., and Kambeitz is believed to be in the Cayman Islands.

Bauer is a central figure to the scheme. In recent years, he gained attention for collaborating with Nolan Bushnell, the father of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, on the Black Sheep Ventures sports gambling promotion. 

None of the allegations has been tested in court.

“David Sidoo denies the allegations contained in yesterday’s SEC filing in New York,” said his Boston-based lawyer Martin Weinberg. “He will not have further comment about these proceedings.”

Dylan (left), David and Jordan Sidoo

In what the filing described as the “Sidoo and Bauer Ring,” Sidoo is alleged to have coordinated the fraudulent promotions and transactions of North American Oil and Gas stock from July 2013 to August 2014 and American Helium between March 2018 to February 2020. The latter allegation against Sidoo coincides with the period in which he was facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for paying six-figure sums to have someone else write his sons’ university entrance exams. In March 2020, he pleaded guilty and spent three months in jail in fall 2020. 

The SEC filing said Sidoo collaborated with Bauer, Arranger and Kambeitz in a fraudulent penny stock dump involving North American Oil, which originated as a shell company named Calendar Dragon Inc. that Sidoo acquired for $350,000 on April 3, 2012 via a wire payment from a Swiss banking platform to a California law firm’s trust account. 

“Despite being beneficial owners of well over 10% – indeed 100% – of North American Oil’s securities, defendants Sidoo, Bauer and Auringer never made any 13D or Form 4 filing with the Commission,” the court document said. “These defendants’ failure to disclose accurate – indeed, any – information about their beneficial ownership of, trading in, or agreements concerning, North American Oil’s securities, in the face of duties to do so, defrauded investors by depriving them of this highly material information to which they were, by law, entitled.”

The court document also said Sidoo coordinated the promotional campaign for American Helium between March 2018 and July 2018.

SEC alleges proceeds from the North American Oil and Gas pump and dump were $15.23 million and $1.45 million for American Helium. 

“Like others, Sidoo used offshore omnibus vehicles and front companies to conceal the fact that he was the beneficiary of stock sales, and failed both to disclose his beneficial ownership and trading and to register his stock sales as legally required.” 

The SEC wants to permanently ban the defendants from being a director, promoter or trader of any penny stock, and to surrender all ill-gotten gains earned from the schemes.

Canadian Ronald Bauer (right) with Atari and Chuck E. Cheese pioneer Nolan Bushnell (RonBauer.vc)

In a related criminal action, Bauer, Auringer and five other Canadians are charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which is punishable by up to five years in jail, plus with four offences that carry maximum 20-year jail sentences: conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

The FBI complaint names Burnaby Hells Angels Nomads member Courtney Vasseur (aka Black Water, Cyrill Vetsch, Arctic Shark and Oscar Devries), former Eron Mortgage principal Curtis William Lehner (aka Santa), Julius Csurgo, aka Gyula Karoly Csurgo, and his Canadian/British Virgin Islands company Antevorta Capital Partners, Domenic Calabrigo, believed to be in the Bahamas, and Dean Shah, who is believed to be in Spain. 

Vasseur and Lehner appeared in B.C. Supreme Court on April 14 to begin extradition proceedings.

Vasseur and Craig Leonard Retvedt were acquitted of possession of fentanyl for the purposes of trafficking in 2017, more than four years after police found drugs in the Cadillac Escalade that Retvedt crashed into a Coast Mountain bus on Cambie and 16th. 

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Bob Mackin Vancouver stock promoter David Sidoo is

Bob Mackin

The owner of the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena is throwing his support behind Mayor Kennedy Stewart. 

In a late afternoon email on April 12, Francesco Aquilini invited his business contacts to an April 25 fundraiser at the Captain’s Room in Rogers Arena, officially called the Mayor’s Engagement Lunch.

Francesco Aquilini

“I would like you to join Mayor Kennedy Stewart and I for a fundraising lunch and

discussion with a focus on housing and development in the City of Vancouver,” said Aquilini’s email. “As we look toward the next election I encourage my community to participate in

this engagement lunch. The city of Vancouver is important to me and I want to share this opportunity with other local stakeholders and friends. Please see the link below to purchase

tickets to this event.”

Stewart is advertising tickets for the event at $600, $900 and $1,250. The latter is considered a  “leadership donor” purchase that includes attendance for all campaign events and is the maximum allowable by individuals under Elections BC rules for the year.

Stewart campaign spokesman Mark Hosak would not say how many tickets are being sold, whether Stewart’s campaign is paying rent for the Captain’s Room or if the Aquilini-owned Canucks Sports and Entertainment is offering the space in-kind. 

“Please be assured that our campaign follows Elections BC rules regarding fundraising and disclosure,” Hosak said. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Dec. 10 (City of Vancouver)

Aquilini has not responded for comment.

Last year, Francesco Aquilini ($1,238.70) and Roberto Aquilini ($1,239) both donated to Stewart’s re-election campaign. In 2014, Aquilini companies donated $60,000 to Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver, three times as much as they gave the opposition NPA. Aquilini companies donated $12,500 to the Burnaby Citizens’ Association in 2013 and 2017. In 2020, Francesco Aquilini gave $1,200 personally to the NDP-aligned council majority party. 

The Aquilini family is partnered in several ventures with three of the four first nations that are exploring a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics with Vancouver and Whistler. 

Aquilini Investment Group (AIG) and MST Development Corp., the Musqueam-Squamish-Tsleil-Waututh real estate company, plan to redevelop the former B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch site on East Broadway. AIG, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh co-own the Willingdon Lands in Burnaby. 

In 2016, MST hired AIG president David Negrin with the support of patriarch Luigi Aquilini. Negrin advised MST on its purchase of the province’s Jericho Lands, after MST combined with Canada Lands Co. to acquire the federal parcel and two other federal properties.

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Bob Mackin The owner of the Vancouver Canucks

Bob Mackin

The veteran NDP operative who led the B.C. government’s health communications for almost a year has become a lobbyist for coronavirus vaccine maker AstraZeneca. 

Jeffrey Ferrier was executive director of communications for the Ministry of Health from April 2021 to January 2022, one of the deadliest periods in provincial history.

Ex-B.C. NDP health communications director Jeffrey Ferrier (left) and Deputy Minister of government communications Don Zadravec (LinkedIn)

Ferrier’s April 1 registration showed up April 12 on the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists website. It says he wants to arrange meetings between his U.K.-based client and officials in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation “to encourage the B.C. government to recognize the importance of AstraZeneca Canada’s investments in research and development in B.C.’s healthcare bioscience ecosystem, and to providing innovative approaches to management of the health care system.”

Under NDP government amendments to B.C.’s lobbying act, former public office holders are subject to a two-year, post-employment ban on lobbying the government. However, the law does not apply to all public office holders, only those who worked in the following positions: members of cabinet, parliamentary secretaries, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, officers, directors and employees of a Crown corporation, and anyone, other than administrative support staff, formerly employed in a current or former cabinet member’s office.

In Ferrier’s case, he does not qualify as a former public officer under the Lobbyists Transparency Act, because he was officially employed in the Government Communications and Public Engagement department.

AstraZeneca is best-known for its viral vector coronavirus vaccine developed with Oxford University. It briefly became the mainstay in the province’s COVID-19 vaccine arsenal in spring 2021 after Pfizer and Moderna supply delays and even Premier John Horgan rolled up his sleeve for the jab. Then came credible reports of adverse reactions and uptake rapidly declined. AstraZeneca also developed Evusheld to help guard immunocompromised people from the virus and sells a suite of cancer-fighting drugs. In 2020-21, AstraZeneca billed Provincial Health Services Authority, which buys medical supplies for the government, $6.3 million.

Ferrier was director of communications for the Ontario NDP from 2001 to 2008 and spent eight years as a lobbyist with Fleishman Hillard and National Public Relations prior to the government job. His previously lobbying clients included Johnson and Johnson, B.C. Pharmacy Association, Uber Canada, Sobeys Inc., Bombardier, Chevron Canada and TransCanada Pipelines. In February, he joined the Vancouver office of international firm Hill and Knowlton as senior vice president of public affairs and advocacy.

During Ferrier’s time heading government health communications, the NDP was harshly criticized for withholding information about the pandemic — including hospital admissions and rates of local infection and vaccination — and failing to warn the public ahead of the June 2021 “heat dome” that led to the deaths of nearly 600 people.

Ferrier did not respond for comment.

Ferrier was not the first senior Ministry of Health communicator to leave for a lobbying company. 

In May 2021, NDP operative Jean-Marc Prevost registered for an AstraZeneca supplier, the Canadian division of Emergent BioSolutions. Prevost was Dr. Bonnie Henry’s scriptwriter and left his job as strategic communications director for the Ministry of Health to join former NDP campaign manager Brad Lavigne’s Counsel Public Affairs as a vice-president for Western Canada.

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher

Prevost’s registration said the topic of his lobbying was to increase access in B.C. to Emergent’s Narcan nasal spray emergency treatment for opioid overdoses.

At the time, a lobbying watchdog called such a move a conflict of interest. 

“It’s always unethical for someone to be leaving government in a significant position and starting to lobby right away, especially if they’re lobbying in the same area that they worked in government,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of DemocracyWatch. “There should be a cooling-off period for everyone, on a sliding scale, based on your connections in government, your relations in government, the access to information you had.”

At Counsel, Prevost also lobbies for HumanisRx, CareRx Corp., North York Rehabilitation Centre Corp., B.C. Real Estate Association, Insurance Council of B.C., Toyota Canada, and Encorp Pacific.

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Bob Mackin The veteran NDP operative who led

Bob Mackin

If FIFA picks Vancouver to host matches during the 2026 World Cup, it could cost taxpayers up to $260 million. 

FIFA announced April 14 that it had added Vancouver to its list of candidate cities vying to host the 48-nation tournament in four years. It expects to decide on 16 host cities by June. U.S. cities will share 60 matches, with Canada and Mexico getting 10 apiece.

Minister Melanie Mark (NDP)

“While estimated costs are still being evaluated, preliminary planning shows costs in the range of $240 million to $260 million for planning, staging and hosting FIFA events in B.C.” said a prepared statement attributed to Tourism Minister Melanie Mark. “We expect the federal government will also make contributions to these costs, and the City of Vancouver has pledged support.”

On March 15, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he wanted city council to commit $5 million. In 2015, city hall gave Women’s World Cup organizers $1.2 million for a fan festival at Larwill Park. The province granted FIFA $2 million, which amounted to free rent at B.C. Place Stadium.

Vancouver’s return to contention comes just over four years after Premier John Horgan said the NDP government wouldn’t give FIFA a “blank cheque.” Vancouver was excluded from the winning U.S.-led bid when the B.C. NDP government couldn’t reach an agreement over extra costs for matches at B.C. Place Stadium.

Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton were in the 2018 proposal. But, last July, Montreal withdrew due to rising costs. 

How many matches could B.C. Place host for a quarter-billion-dollars? That is not clear, but it could be similar to the five contemplated for Toronto. City hall staff there estimated that would cost $290 million, so they asked the federal and Ontario governments to pay two-thirds of the bill, or $177 million. FIFA is expected to pay just $12.7 million. 

Back in 2018, Toronto bureaucrats estimated the cost to be $30 million to $45 million, but the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA have since shifted more hosting requirements onto city hall, Exhibition Place, Destination Toronto and the owners of Toronto FC.

“This exercise – which considered the full breadth of the host city agreement – saw a rise in costs in several areas such as security, stadium adaptation and expansion, and preparation of training sites,” the report said. “City staff anticipate that there are areas where savings can be secured given that there is time available for lower cost alternatives to be identified and for FIFA requirements to be negotiated.”

Inside B.C. Place Stadium (Mackin)

Toronto has committed to providing FIFA with BMO Field, training sites, a 34-day FanFest and transportation and safety and security services. FIFA is also demanding an addendum to the 2018 agreement for upgrades and rental costs at BMO Field.

“Signing the contractual addendum has been identified by FIFA as mandatory to remain in contention for host city selection,” the report said.

In return for spending $290 million, Toronto estimates a $307 million economic impact, with 3,300 jobs and 174,000 overnight visitors, resulting in $3.5 million municipal accommodation tax revenue. 

The B.C. government claims that Destination B.C. and B.C. Stats estimate the west coast tourism industry could attract more than $1 billion in new revenue “during and in the five years following the event.” The Ministry did not include the methodology. 

Prof. Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., has studied mega-events. While there can be benefits, they don’t live up to the hype generated by the organizers who benefit from the subsidies. 

Large sporting events like World Cups and Olympics supplant, rather than supplement, the regular tourist economy, Matheson said.

“There’s no reason that again, taxpayers in Vancouver or in Boston, where I am, should be subsidizing a private entity run by millionaires generating billions of dollars,” Matheson said.

After Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup, FIFA reported that US$5.35 billion revenue from the tournament contributed to its record US$6.42 billion, four-year haul. Its 2021 financial statements boast US$3.4 billion assets and US$1.6 billion in reserves.

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Bob Mackin If FIFA picks Vancouver to host

Bob Mackin

Coun. Colleen Hardwick’s motion to get the Vancouver 2030 Winter Olympics bid on this fall’s election ballot fell flat at the April 12 city council meeting.

NPA Coun. Collen Hardwick (Mackin)

Hardwick, who is running for mayor under the TEAM for a Livable Vancouver banner, could not find another councillor to second her motion, which would have opened debate and allowed public speakers. She withdrew the motion from the March 29 meeting, fearing lack of support.

She said taxpayers deserve a say on hosting another multibillion-dollar mega-event, especially since so many questions remain about the costs of organizing the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

The 2003 standalone plebiscite, passed by almost 65% of 135,000 voters, cost $575,000 and led to winning the 2010 hosting rights. Hardwick said adding a yes or no question to the Oct. 15 civic election ballot would cost little or nothing and could bring more citizens to the polls. 

“The International Olympic Committee looks favourably on bids that have demonstrated community support,” Hardwick said to fellow council members. “So why would we not have an open and democratic process given all these considerations?”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart did not speak to the motion. He had publicly opposed the motion, claiming it contravened a memorandum of understanding signed with the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. 

Hardwick said it was up to Vancouver city council to be responsible to its electorate. None of the civic staff that ensure motions are compliant expressed a concern about the MOU, which explicitly states it is not legally binding for any party. 

“So does this council support our citizens’ right to vote or not?” Hardwick asked. “Someone really needs to second this motion and to get it on the table. We have speakers signed up. Let them speak.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the new city council on Nov. 5 (Mackin)

Only councillors Adriane Carr, Rebecca Bligh, Melissa De Genova and Sarah Kirby-Yung spoke, all with questions critical of Hardwick’s motion. De Genova was concerned about costs incurred by first nations so far, while Carr and Kirby-Yung suggested Hardwick should have consulted the band chiefs. 

“Like any MOU, and in business, I’ve been party to MOUs, each one of those parties has an internal responsibility to their shareholders, members and constituents,” Hardwick said. “So I wouldn’t expect the first nations to be coming and asking us whether it was okay if they had a referenda, for example.”

So far, none of the four have scheduled a vote. The Squamish Nation has invited its members to an April 24 information meeting in Squamish.

Bligh errantly claimed that VANOC records are publicly accessible. In fact, the public is not allowed to see the 2010 organizing committee’s board minutes and financial records at the City Archives until Oct. 1, 2025 under an agreement negotiated by former city manager and VANOC director Penny Ballem.

COPE Coun. Jean Swanson protested against the 2010 Olympics and was in the minority that opposed a 2021 motion on exploring an Olympic bid. However, she opposed Hardwick’s motion.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Dec. 10 (City of Vancouver)

“In the past I have fought against the Olympics for a bunch of good reasons,” Swanson said by email. “This time I think it would be disrespectful of the host nations to set in motion a process that could derail what they propose before we know what it is.”

Coincidentally, Swanson earlier spoke out against restoring $5.7 million to the Vancouver Police Department budget. The RCMP-led 2010 Games security operation cost $1 billion and marked the beginning of an era of VPD budget increases. 

When ex-Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong proposed a 2030 bid two years ago, Stewart was quick to say he favoured a plebiscite. In an April 11 statement, Stewart suggested after consideration of a feasibility study and staff report on the bid in June, “council may decide to schedule a community vote or other engagements with residents.”

The International Olympic Committee wants to choose a 2030 host before its annual meeting next year in Mumbai. It has replaced costly bidding wars with a new process that encourages interested cities to negotiate behind closed doors. 

Besides Vancouver, other bids could come from Sapporo, Japan, Salt Lake City, Utah, and a Spanish/French/Andorran group.

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Bob Mackin Coun. Colleen Hardwick’s motion to get

Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP’s former president is lobbying the B.C. NDP government for a marijuana company.

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

Craig Keating joined the Vancouver office of Seattle-headquartered Strategies 360 as a vice-president last December after eight years as party president. On April 7, Keating registered on behalf of client Tantalus Labs Ltd. to arrange meetings with officials in the ministries of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Agriculture, Food and Fisheries and Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. Keating is also lobbying the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, which distributes and retails non-medical cannabis. 

Tantalus operates the 120,000-square foot SunLab greenhouse grow-op in Maple Ridge, and advertises pot products named “Petrocan,” “Wedding Crashers,” “More Cowbell” and “Unicorn Poop.” 

Keating joined Strategies 360 almost a year after former NDP executive director Raj Sihota became a vice-president for the firm, which boasts 22 offices and over 180 staff in the western U.S., Washington, D.C., Indonesia and Vancouver. President of the Canadian division is Michael Gardiner, another former B.C. NDP executive director who also managed Premier John Horgan’s winning leadership campaign.  

The firm’s B.C.-registered clients include Telus, Seaspan ULC, Pembina Pipeline Corp., Vancouver Art Gallery Association, Google Cloud Canada Corp., Surgical Centres Inc., and Canadian News Media Association.

Keating did not respond for comment. His bio on the Strategies 360 website says he established and leads the municipal lobbying practice, focusing on zoning, permitting and regulatory matters in Metro Vancouver. Keating taught history classes at Langara College and spent 19 years as a North Vancouver city councillor. 

B.C. does not have a municipal registry of lobbyists.

Merritt lawyer Aaron Sumexheltza, the former elected chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, succeeded Keating as party president last December.

The NDP government imposed a two-year, post-employment ban on lobbying by former senior provincial public office holders, but the law does not cover former party officials. Nor does the B.C. government have its own code of ethics for lobbyists. 

“Federally, there’s an ethics code, you can’t do anything to place the public officeholder in a real or apparent conflict of interest,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of DemocracyWatch. “So it doesn’t matter how the conflict of interest is generated, just can’t do it. One of the things that generates conflict of interest is helping someone get elected.”

The federal Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct states a public office holder who benefits from political activities may have a sense of obligation to those who held a senior position in a party or had significant interaction with candidates. “If you engage in higher-risk political activities then you should not lobby any public office holder who benefited from them, nor their staff, for a period equivalent to a full election cycle,” said the federal code.

Horgan and Sihota in 2016 (Asian Journal)

In a 2013 report, Registrar Elizabeth Denham said instead of a standalone code of ethics, B.C. should “embed aspects of other jurisdictions’ codes of conduct into the existing Lobbyists Registration Act.”

In Keating’s case, he told the registrar that he agrees with the Public Affairs Association of Canada’s seven-point code of conduct, which includes following laws in each jurisdiction and avoiding conflicts of interest. Conacher called it another form of industry self-regulation. 

“Without ethics rules, it doesn’t matter,” Conacher said. “The transparency doesn’t really matter, as you see by the clients of these firms, right? They don’t care that everyone knows that they’ve hired these people to lobby. They’re still hiring them because they know they’re going to get their calls answered and likely get what they want, because they have the access.”

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Bob Mackin  The B.C. NDP’s former president is