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This week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast includes a feature interview with Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch. 

Conacher discusses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s conflict of interest scandals and Trudeau’s controversial push to forge closer ties with China. 

Also this week, commentaries about the end of the NDP’s first session on the government side of the aisle in the B.C. Legislature since 2001 and Wally Buono’s swan song. Plus, headlines from around the Pacific Rim and the Pacific Northwest. 

Only on theBreaker.news Podcast. Give it a listen. 

Catch-up on the episodes that you’ve missed: Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, and Nov. 26

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. 

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Why free trade with China is a bad idea for Canada
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This week's edition of theBreaker.news Podcast includes

Bob Mackin

There is a new real estate king in the B.C. Legislature.

Surrey-Fleetwood NDP MLA Jagrup Brar also bought land in Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Twitter)

Surrey-Fleetwood NDP MLA Jagrup Brar has a residence in Surrey, joint ownership of land in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., quarter interest in a family farm in Deon Village, Punjab, India, and, through a holding company, land in Peace River, Alta. and North Battleford, Sask. and one-third shares of seven properties in Prince George.

That, according to the annual conflict of interest disclosure summaries obtained by theBreaker from the Legislature Clerk.

MLAs are required to file confidential conflict of interest disclosures annually with Commissioner Paul Fraser. Fraser, in turn, releases filtered statements for public consumption that do not include residential addresses or dollar values, among other details.

Brar reported more real estate holdings than ex-Finance Minister Mike de Jong, whose report says he receives rental income from six properties in Abbotsford and a family hobby farm. De Jong declared ownership in three properties and a one-third interest in three others.

Brar’s report also declared an unspecified amount of shares in Fortis, TransCanada, CP Rail and Enbridge in an RRSP.

Elsewhere, Premier John Horgan declared a residential property in Victoria and one-third interest in a Victoria investment property. He has a variety of RRSP investments, including an “Integrity Fossil Fuel Free Portfolio.”

Horgan’s wife Ellie reported income from a small business, the It’s Your Move downsizing and relocation consultancy.

Green leader Andrew Weaver listed royalties from Orca Books, consulting fees from Solterra Solutions and rental income from investment property in Victoria and recreational property in Parksville.

BC Liberal interim leader Rich Coleman reported residential property in Langley and his wife has salary from Mobil One Lube Express.

Claire Trevena, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, declared shares in Brookfield Infrastructure.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson reported mortgages on residences in Coquitlam and Victoria.

Vancouver East NDP MLA Melanie Mark and Richmond BC Liberal Teresa Wat report no residential property in their ridings, but instead residences in Burnaby.

For Richmond-Queensborough BC Liberal rookie Jas Johal, his only residence is in Delta.

NDP’s Judy Darcy and Janet Routledge both have recreational property on Mayne Island.

Nelson-based NDP veteran Michelle Mungall has residential properties in Nelson and Victoria, and three investment properties with her spouse — two in Nelson and another in Calgary.

BC Liberal rookie Tracy Redies represents White Rock, but has residential property in Langley and investment property in Williamsburg, Va. West Vancouver BC Liberal Ralph Sultan also has a property in Vermont. Coquitlam NDP MLA Mike Farnworth also has a place in Bromborough, England.

Pemberton-based BC LIberal Jordan Sturdy continues to hold shares in a variety of tech stocks, including Alibaba, IBM, Telus, Facebook and Amaya. The latter is an grey market online gambling company that competes with B.C. Lottery Corp., the statutory Crown monopoly.

Jas Johal doesn’t live in Richmond or New Westminster, but Delta.

Ex-Kamloops Mayor and rookie BC Liberal MLA Peter Milobar shares a liquor store and pub under the Ramblin Man Ent. Ltd. banner with his wife. His Stag’s Head store was busted for selling booze to a minor and fined $7,500 in 2013.

Vancouver-Langara BC Liberal Michael Lee reported partner salary from the Lawson Lundell law firm and distributions to his Michael Lee Law Corp. His spouse has 1/17th interest in agricultural property in Langley. Lee has a variety of private business interests, including shares in Marine Learning Systems, ARC Medical Devices, Britnell Ventures, Pyfera Growth Capital, Greenspace Solutions, and G-Pak Technology

Few of the 87 MLAs reported receiving gifts.

Former environment minister Mary Polak said she received a $272.97 vase with a colour picture of a Rock Chrysanthemum from the Japanese consulate general and a $250 hummingbird print by Alano Edzersa from the Tahltan Central Governemnt Band.

Ex-aboriginal relations minister John Rustad reported two $800 ceremonial masks (Gitxsan and Kwakiutl) and two ceremonial paddles ($500). One of the masks was from 2013 and the other in 2016. The paddles were from 2014.

Ex-junior liquor minister John Yap said he had a one night stay at the Nk’Kmip Resort for $324.31 on July 12 for the B.C. Wine Institute’s 2017 conference.

Horgan reported receiving a $345 Team B.C. ceremonial apparel and backpack from the B.C. Games Society.

The Legislature does not publish the annual disclosure forms, but theBreaker does. 

Click on any of the MLA names below to read a 2017 disclsoure form. (MLAs listed in order of Legislature seating.) 

Speaker Darryl Plecas

NDP 

George Heyman

Doug Donaldson

Harry Bains

Judy Darcy

Michelle Mungall

Shane Simpson

Selina Robinson

Lisa Beare  

Lana Popham

Mike Farnworth

Katrina Chen

John Horgan

Carole James

Claire Trevena

David Eby 

Jinny Sims

Adrian Dix

George Chow

Bruce Ralston

Melanie Mark

Raj Chouhan

Anne Kang

Rob Fleming

Nicholas Simons

Katrine Conroy

Ravi Kahlon

Bob D’Eith

Scott Fraser

Garry Begg

Doug Routley

Spencer Chandra Herbert

Jagrup Brar

Bowinn Ma

Mitzi Dean

Jennifer Rice

Mable Elmore

Leonard Krog

Janet Routledge

Rachna Singh

Ronna-Rae Leonard

Rick Glumac

BC Greens

Sonia Furstenau

Dr. Andrew Weaver

Adam Olsen

BC Liberals

Mary Polak

Stephanie Cadieux

Mike Morris

John Rustad

Michelle Stilwell

Shirley Bond

Dan Ashton

Mike de Jong 

Coralee Oakes

Rich Coleman

Steve Thomson

Andrew Wilkinson 

Jordan Sturdy

Greg Kyllo

Ellis Ross

Todd Stone

Joan Isaacs

Mike Bernier

Peter Milobar

Teresa Wat

Jas Johal

Jane Thornthwaite

Linda Reid

Michael Lee

Doug Clovechok

Marvin Hunt

John Yap

Norm Letnick

Donna Barnett

Tracy Redies

Linda Larson

Jackie Tegart

Ian Paton

Eric Foster

John Martin

Simon Gibson

Laurie Throness

Ralph Sultan

Dan Davies

Tom Shypitka

Sam Sullivan

Bob Mackin There is a new real estate

Bob Mackin 

Why did an ex-BC Liberal cabinet minister’s aide, who is known for mass-deleting government email, remove a page from his company website which named a leadership candidate that claimed to not use email? 

George Gretes was the only BC Liberal charged in the “Triple Delete” scandal. He pleaded guilty in July 2016 to lying under oath to Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham during an investigation of email purging across the Christy Clark administration. Provincial Court Judge Lisa Mrozinski fined Gretes $2,500. 

Page deleted from BLRD Strategies website on Nov. 26 (BLRD/Gretes)

Gretes was fired from Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s office after Denham’s damning Access Denied report in October 2015. The former University of Toronto wide receiver originally came to B.C. in 2013 to work on the Clark Clique’s re-election campaign and was rewarded with a job as Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s special advisor. CKNW reported in March 2016 that de Jong requires his staff to print correspondence, briefing notes and reports for him. De Jong’s excuse for not using email? “I just never got into it.”

Since leaving Stone’s office, Gretes became a partner in BLRD Strategies. De Jong’s name appeared on a page of the company’s website until it was deleted on Nov. 26. 

The page showed what was labelled as a company performance graph under the heading “BCL Leadership 2017.” “De Jong” and “8/24/17” were below the graph. The page disappeared from the BLRD website shortly after IntegrityBC published a screen shot on Twitter.

Though 2011 leadership loser de Jong did not announce his entry in the 2018 race until Sept. 26, he was already making plans to run in late August. Longtime de Jong supporter Markus Delves was behind a strategic Mainstreet Research poll designed to favour de Jong. It was publicized Aug. 25 in the Vancouver Sun.

Toronto-based Gretes did not respond to email queries from theBreaker

Tamara Little, spokesowman for de Jong’s campaign, said BLRD and Gretes are not doing any work for the campaign. “We weren’t even aware of this company,” Little said. 

Stone, to whom Gretes once reportred, is also vying for the leadership and his campaign logo resembles BLRD’s. Stone campaign spokesman Stephen Smart did not respond to theBreaker’s email. 

George Gretes (Twitter)

BLRD describes itself as a “boutique firm specializing in 21st-century corporate due diligence and research” and boasts “an innovative approach to information collection, management, and disruption.” Its services include digital microsite campaigns and, ironically, freedom of information.

“We focus on the truth,” Gretes Tweeted on Nov. 26. “In a world of fake news and Twitter trolls, we help companies and associations tell their stories when pundits and critics are presenting to the public inaccurately.”

But Gretes’s name does not appear on the BLRD website. 

“It’s the clandestine style of his new company that should set-off alarm bells,” said IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis. “Normally a company like this would first and foremost be putting its leadership team up, front and centre, because you are generallly attracted to a company because of who is involved with it. There is nothing, as of yesterday, that would include the principals behind the operation.

“[Gretes] is either working for, or has some association with a leadership campaign, or he is monitoring a leadership campaign. Given his track record and the campaign in question, whoever it may be, should be forthright about this.”

Denham investigated the BC Liberal government after former Gretes subordinate Tim Duncan went public in May 2015. 

“It is my belief that the abuse of the Freedom of Information process is widespread and most likely systemic within the Clark government,” whistleblower Duncan wrote to Denham.

Documents that should have been released to freedom of information applicants instead were triple-deleted from individual email accounts, computers and government servers.

Wrote Denham in October 2015: “The forensic evidence conclusively demonstrates that emails were deleted from Duncan’s computer on November 20, 2014. That evidence also proves that there was a triple deletion of emails on Duncan’s computer that day. I find Duncan’s evidence about the triple deletion to be credible for the reasons already described. Conversely, Gretes was not a credible witness. His denials of the allegation during the second interview – that he triple deleted emails on Duncan’s computer – were unconvincing, up to and including his statement that he didn’t know for sure if he did it. He admits to falsifying his testimony in this investigation. The justification he gave for his failure to tell the truth also proved to be false. The only reasonable explanation for his failure to tell the truth was to hide the triple deleting of emails as alleged.”    

Todd Stone’s campaign logo and the logo for his former aide’s company.

When he pleaded guilty, the court heard that Gretes repaid $8,000 in legal fees to the public treasury.

It is not an offence under B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to delete email. Denham unsucessfully lobbied the BC Liberal government for a “duty to document” amendment with penalties for deleting email. In opposition, the NDP had promised to bring in a strict duty to document law with fines, but the earliest it could happen is February 2018.

From spring 2016 to winter 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile, Gretes worked on contract for Staffy Inc., a restaurant and bar staff recruiting app created by Peter Faist. 

Faist is, coincidentally, the common law husband of former BC Liberal executive director Laura Miller. She was charged in Ontario in 2015 with breach of trust, mischief and misuse of computer systems from her time as deputy chief of staff to Ontario Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty. 

Miller’s trial heard that she “double-deleted” email about the politically motivated cancellation of two gas-fired power plans in 2011 and that she hired Faist in early 2013 to erase computer hard drives in the premier’s office before Kathleen Wynne succeeded McGuinty.

Faist reached an investigative assistance agreement with Ontario Provincial Police in 2014. He testified as a Crown witness at Miller’s trial. Judge Timothy Lipson reserved his decision until the new year on the mischief and misuse of computer systems charges, after the breach of trust charge was dropped.

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Bob Mackin  Why did an ex-BC Liberal cabinet

Bob Mackin

Bremner (lower right) celebrates nomination with Marissen (second from right, back row) from the front page of South Asian community newspaper Sach Di Awaaz.

Mark Marissen’s bid to gain control of the NPA board was thwarted. 

The party with the monogrammed grape logo held its last pre-election annual general meeting Nov. 28 at the Hellenic Community Centre. The meeting featured an election for eight seats on the board of directors. 

Seven of the eight were snagged by members of a small business slate associated with Glen Chernen, the former Cedar Party leader who lost the NPA by-election nomination to Hector Bremner.  

Marissen, the BC Liberal strategist who is ex-husband of ex-premier Christy Clark, was behind BC Liberal lobbyist Bremner’s successful, but unimpressive, campaign to become city councillor in October. He is now running rookie MLA and ex-Lawson Lundell lawyer Michael Lee’s bid for the BC Liberal leadership.

Those ousted from the board include past-president Carling Dick and directors Peter Labrie and Lianne Rood. 

Dale Steeves, husband of rookie school board trustee Lisa Dominato, also didn’t make the cut.

Elected to three-year terms were: David Mawhinney (nightclub operator); Franco Peta (salon owner); Federico Fuoco (restaurateur); Eli Konorti (management consultant); and incumbents Greg Baker (2014 city council candidate and son of longtime councillor Jonathan Baker) and Terry Yung (police officer and husband of park board commissioner Sarah Kirby-Yung). 

Glen Chernen (Twitter)

Commercial appraiser Michael Lount won the two-year term seat. 

Restaurateur Marinos Anagnostopoulos was the only unsuccessful member of the slate. Results for the under-40 seat may be contested, based on the age of some voters.

A hot potato may be waiting for the new board at its first meeting. A source told theBreaker that expenses for Bremner’s by-election campaign exceeded $100,000 and some of the claims may not be approved.

Neither the NPA nor Vision Vancouver responded to repeated requests from theBreaker to voluntarily release their unaudited lists of donations before the Oct. 14 by-election. 

In 2014, all parties released their unaudited donors’ lists before the general election. The deadline for audited campaign finance reports from the Vancouver by-election to be submitted to Elections BC is Jan. 12. 

The NDP government moved this fall to ban corporate and union donations to municipal parties, and cap donations at $1,200 year.

Oct. 20, 2018 is general election day for local governments across B.C.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. 

Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_5044" align="alignright" width="264"] Bremner (lower

Bob Mackin 

Vancouver city hall is spending $55,000 on an advertising agency to promote the new 1% empty homes tax. 

Vancouver city hall’s ad campaign for the 1% empty homes tax includes a YouTube ad. (City of Vancouver)

Now Communications Group, the city’s biggest and oldest left-wing ad agency, was chosen for the contract from a shortlist of four shops, theBreaker has learned. This, despite the 42 people directly employed in the communications department at city hall. 

City hall delayed the disclosure of Now to theBreaker by three weeks. 

After she was contacted by theBreaker on Nov. 7 — the day after empty homes tax ads debuted on YouTube — city communications director Rena Kendall-Craden refused to release the information. The contract had been awarded in October. theBreaker was told that the identity of the contractor would be released “within two weeks” as part of a quarterly procurement report. 

theBreaker inquired again on Nov. 28 and the information was finally released. 

Other bidders for the gig included Camp Pacific, LMP Publication and Traction Creative Communications. While Camp and Traction are traditional ad agencies, LMP is a division of Glacier Media, the publisher of the Vancouver Courier and Business in Vancouver. 

Bid documents say the campaign’s overarching goal is to raise awareness of the tax and educate residential property owners of the Feb. 2, 2018 declaration deadline. 

Owners of class 1 residential properties are the primary audience. The secondary audience is “owners who do not speak English and residential property owners who are unfamiliar with the digital environment.”

“The city’s approach that requires all residential property owners to make a property status declaration is a new process that is not well understood by the public,” said the bid document. “A commonly held misconception is that only owners of second homes, or homeowners whose properties are vacant, are required to make a property status declaration. This campaign aims to address these misconceptions and raise awareness of the requirement to declare by communicating key EHT and declaration messaging to the public through paid media channels.”

Now was formed by members of Mike Harcourt’s campaign team after the NDP won the 1991 provincial election. Its staff roster includes Mayor Gregor Robertson’s speechwriter Rob Cottingham and vice-president of operations Michele Della Mattia. Her sister, Marie, is a special advisor to Premier John Horgan after working as deputy chief of staff on the NDP’s 2017 election campaign. 

The city estimates it will cost $7.4 million over three years to start the tax collection. It was originally estimated at $4.7 million. 

A staff report optimistically estimated that collection of the 1% tax from 740 properties worth $1 million each would pay for the program. 

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Bob Mackin  Vancouver city hall is spending $55,000

Bob Mackin

Lilia Zaharieva is not looking forward to 2018.

The University of Victoria child and youth care student, 30, lives with cystic fibrosis. The genetic disease affects lungs and the digestive system, and there is no cure.

In 2015, doctors warned her that she had between two-and-five years left until total lung failure. Then she discovered a drug called Orkambi and her condition stabilized. 

Lilia Zaharieva (right) cannot afford the $250,000-a-year cystic fibrosis medicine that the B.C. government is refusing to subsidize.

“I got my quality of life back and it’s been absolutely miraculous in my life, but my insurer stopped covering it,” Zaharieva told theBreaker.

It is the first medicine to treat the basic defect in the largest population of Canadians with cystic fibrosis. But her supply runs out early in the new year.

“It comes at an annual cost of $250,000 a year — I can’t afford that, and I don’t have a family here even to ask for help. I’ve been petitioning the office of [Health Minister] Adrian Dix since September to meet with me, to have a discussion with the other people from CF Canada. I’ve been met with a complete stonewall.”

Health Canada approved Orkambi in 2016, but no government in Canada has agreed to buy it from its U.S.-based maker, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, based on the Canadian Drug Expert Committee’s negative ruling.

Governments in countries bigger and smaller than Canada, such as Ireland, U.S., France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria and Italy, do cover the cost of Orkambi.

Cystic Fibrosis Canada estimated that 1,620 Canadians over the age of 12 could benefit from Orkambi, of which 159 live in B.C. Vertex has made a confidential offer to provincial governments to secure public reimbursement, but the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which negotiates to buy drugs on behalf of the 13 provinces and territories and the federal government, is not negotiating.

Vertex reported a $122 million loss in 2016. It spent almost $1.05 billion on research and development and took in $1.68 billion in product revenues.

Zaharieva and another cystic fibrosis patient, Melissa Verleg of Vernon, are going to the B.C. Legislature on Nov. 29 to press their case with politicians in-person, especially Dix. Zaharieva said Dix recently called her, to tell her there would be no public funding for Orkambi. She said it  seemed like he was more concerned with Vertex executive salaries than her plight.

“I’m losing hope and I’m running out of time,” Zaharieva said. “If I’m lucky, I’d be on the transplant list. Since my cellular function is being regulated right now, it’d be quite horrific with high side effects to go off [Orkambi].”

More than two dozen doctors across Canada who specialize in treating cystic fibrosis endorsed Orkambi (five of them declared conflicts of interest in their letter, mostly for receiving research grants from Vertex). In September, four cystic fibrosis specialists at St. Paul’s Hospital, Victoria General Hospital and B.C. Children’s Hospital wrote to Dix. They said the Canadian Drug Expert Committee recommendation against funding Orkambi was flawed.

“It puts us, as clinicians, in a difficult spot in terms of managing the health of many of our patients who could benefit from this potentially life-changing drug,” said the Sept. 8 letter.

Chris MacLeod, a Toronto lawyer who runs the CF Treatment Society, lives with cystic fibrosis. In 2012, he was down to 30% lung function and spent four out of six months in a Toronto hospital. He now takes Kalydeco, another Vertex product. “I haven’t seen a hospital since I was on the drug.”

MacLeod said it makes no sense that Canadian officials are not at the table, trying to negotiate a lower price with Vertex for Orkambi.

“When Dix came into office, presumably he had a plan to change things,” MacLeod said. “The fact is he has bought hook, line and sinker, toeing the company line — the minstry line — without even giving some push back. B.C. could negotiate a deal for Orkambi on its own or insist the pharmaceutical pricing alliance enter into negotiations.”

Last February, the BC Liberals finally agreed to fund the $60,000-a-year Duodopa for people with severe Parkinson’s Disease. On Nov. 20, Dix ordered an Expensive Drugs for Rare Disease advisory committee to consider treatments like the $750,000-a-year Soliris, for atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, on a case-by-case basis.

At a Nov. 23 news conference in Victoria, however, Dix said the cost of listing Orkambi would be $87 million over three years. He said Canadians are being asked to pay 30% more for Orkambi than other developed countries and the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board is investigating Vertex “for being potentially excessive.”

Dix said it does not make sense to negotiate price without full approval.

Health Minister Adrian Dix. (BC Gov)

“When you consider that it failed both at the Common Drug Review and the Drug Benefit Council, there’s really no justification in the absence of the evidence-based independent review to have approved that, and that’s the direction we’re taking,” Dix told reporters in Victoria.

That is not what Zaharieva wanted to hear.

“I’m looking for hope wherever I can find it but I was devasted when I heard what came from that news conference,” she said.

CF Canada’s chief scientific officer, Dr. John Wallenburg, said he is optimistic that the tide could eventually turn. But it is not happening fast enough and it is distressing to patients like Zaharieva.

“After the announcement about Soliris, we’re happy for them. This important drug for cystic fibrosis should be considered in the same vein,” Wallenburg said.

“There is a range of benefits for individuals who take the drug. We’re not advocating that everybody take the drug, we’re hoping those individuals who really do benefit from the drug, get the drug.”

Wallenburg said patient survival in Canada is higher than anywhere else in the world — CF Canada says Canadians with the disease live a decade longer than those in the U.S. — but Canada is in danger of falling behind.

“If we can’t get these drugs to our patients we’re going to find we’re very rapidly going to lose our position of excellence internationally and that’s not something we should be complacent about,” he said.

Bob Mackin Lilia Zaharieva is not looking forward

Bob Mackin 

Watts in happier times during campaign launch in September (DianneWatts.ca)

Trying times for the only woman and only caucus outsider in the race to become the next BC Liberal leader. 

From press gallery pundits panning her debate performances to the sudden appearance of an attack website (Waffling Watts), Dianne Watts can only be fortunate that she’s competing in a marathon, not a sprint.  

So she called an emergency meeting on Nov. 27. The former Surrey mayor and former Surrey White Rock Tory MP read the riot act to her team. Her campaign needs a reboot, but she is comforted by polling that puts her atop the other five candidates, trending better than Christy Clark when she beat Kevin Falcon in the 2011 contest.

A source close to the campaign told theBreaker that Watts gathered her group, led by Norman Stowe, at campaign headquarters in Surrey for the 9 a.m. meeting. 

She is said to have emphatically told the group: “I’m in this to win it, I’ve made this clear time and again. Mistakes will be made, and there are always challenges. If any of you are not completely on board with saving this party and this province, then feel free to get out now.”

The BC Liberals choose a new leader on Feb. 3.

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Bob Mackin  [caption id="attachment_5250" align="alignright" width="264"] Watts in

Bob Mackin

A 20 acre farm in Richmond valued at less than $85,000 sold for more than $9 million. (Google Maps)

A 20-acre farm in East Richmond that was assessed at less than $85,000 has sold for more than $9 million, theBreaker has learned.  

In June, real estate agent Layla Yang announced the sale of 13000 Blundell Road on Twitter. “My sellers Mark and Dan finally retired from here,” she wrote. Yang originally promoted her listing as an $11 million “investment opportunity” in a January 2015 Tweet. The asking price was reduced to $9.68 million. The declared value is $9.2 million. 

The identity of the buyer was a mystery for more than four months, until theBreaker found a recent update to the land titles database. 

The farm is now registered to 2014-incorporated Jia Xin Da Investment Management Co. Ltd. The Bank of Montreal mortgage was registered Oct. 30. 

Jia Xin Da is located at a $2.163 million condominium in the posh Private Residences at Hotel Georgia. The only officer listed for Jia Xin Da in the corporate registry is Xuan Ming Wu. Nobody answered when theBreaker called the listed phone number for Xuan Ming Wu.  

The farm had been registered to My Glory Farms Ltd., formerly known as Mike’s Plastering Contractors Ltd. Michael David Drozdowski of Surrey and Daniel Drozdowski of Richmond are the company’s officers. Gross taxes were $397.84 last year on the $84,264-assessed property, according to City of Richmond.

Real estate agent Layla Yang with a celebratory selfie (Twitter)

My Glory Farms also previously owned 8600 Sidaway, which is valued at $3.27 million and registered to Ming Qiang Andon Pan. That property is north of the 13,000-square foot farmland mansion at 8880 Sidaway registered to Wen Feng. Authorities believe it was the site of an illegal casino, so the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office is applying to seize the $4.95 million property.

Under pressure from Richmond residents, city council voted in May to limit the size of new mansions built on farmland to 10,763 square feet. Coun. Harold Steves said the bylaw was referred back to staff, with a view to reducing the limit. 

“Of nine houses on large farms, six of them in the last six months came in at over 10,000 square feet,” said Steves, a West Richmond farmer. “These aren’t farmers, they’re people are looking at developing huge manasions they couldn’t build elsehwere. Farmland is cheap.”

Steves, who co-founded the Agricultural Land Reserve as an NDP MLA in the 1970s, believes some of the mansions are operating as illegal hotels for Chinese tourists, including pregnant mothers seeking instant Canadian citizenship for their offspring. Whatever farming that may continue is nominal and aimed at paying artificially low taxes, he said. 

On Oct. 5, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver tabled a private members’ bill to amend the Property Law Act. Weaver is proposing to ban foreign entities from buying land over five acres in the ALR without prior permission from cabinet.

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Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_5241" align="alignright" width="346"] A 20

Kevin Thomson (left) with Ron Putzi, atop the Lions Gate Bridge. Thomson is disappointed by the B.C. NDP government decision against his bridge climb proposal (Facebook)

Bob Mackin

Kevin Thomson isn’t giving up on making the Lions Gate Bridge a tourist attraction for adventure-seekers. 

The Vancouver-to-Whistler Gran Fondo co-founder is the entrepreneur behind Legendworthy Quest Inc., which proposed charging tourists $250-a-pop to climb the inside of one of the 1938-built bridge’s iconic towers.

After going through more than two years of bureaucratic hoops, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure issued a notice of intent last February to give Legendworthy Quest a two-year trial period. Another company responded, proposing to do the same. Then the provincial election happened. 

Since July 18, the Lions Gate Bridge is under NDP management. On Nov. 19, a letter from assistant deputy minister Kevin Richter said the deal was off. “After much review, discussion and briefing, the ministry has decided not to pursue the commercialization of any public structures with any vendor.”

“When they told me they wouldn’t be able to support it anymore, they told me it was due to a new mandate at the government, which led me to ask the obvious question, well what was the previous mandate that made it possible?” Thomson told theBreaker. “There is no mandate to either use or not use public infrastrucutre for commerical operations.”

In Question Period on Nov. 27, Jordan Sturdy and Jane Thornthwaite, two of the three North Shore BC Liberal MLAs, challenged NDP Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.

“This was an unsolicited bid,” Trevena said. “Somebody came forward to talk to the ministry about that. The ministry wanted to know a little bit more about it but was not going to direct-award any contract on this. After that, there was discussion about whether such endeavours should go ahead. It was decided that we are not going to be commercializing our bridges or highways for commercial response.”

Thomson said the Lions Gate Bridge Climb is “stalled at political will” and is encouraging supporters to sign-up on his website

“[The Ministry is] struggling and they don’t want to take on something that is confusing with probably not as big enough of a reward. It’s a small project, it’s a fun and exciting project, I think it would be wildly successful, but it’s not a big mega-win,” he said.

“My only recourse at this point is to go to the people of B.C. and say what do you guys think? If we get enough people interested to make a noise that the government would listen to, maybe they will reconsider their unsual position. If that doesn’t work, we wait until the next election.”

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[caption id="attachment_5243" align="alignright" width="749"] Kevin Thomson (left)

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, host Bob Mackin interviews Craig Jones, who recounts his experience 20 years ago on Nov. 25, 1997.

As a law student at the University of British Columbia, Jones decided to peacefully and quietly protest the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which brought Indonesian dictator Suharto and Chinese president Jiang Zemin to Vancouver. 

More than 2,500 protesters marched on campus and nearly 50 were arrested. A public inquiry later found the RCMP abused civil liberties, under pressure from the office of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Jones became president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and is now a law professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

Also, hear Bob Mackin’s take on Vision Vancouver’s new 10-year housing strategy, headlines from around the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest, and a special tribute to the province’s search and rescue volunteers.

Don’t miss this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast. 

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Remembering APEC '97
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On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, host