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Bob Mackin

JUNE 20 update: Two sources have told theBreaker that Coleman informed the BC Liberal caucus he is running for Mayor of Surrey. Coleman has not responded for comment. Developing…

On May 13, theBreaker reported that career politician Rich Coleman may not be back in the Legislature this fall.

The Langley East BC Liberal’s name was being polled in preparation for a potential run for the mayoralty of Surrey or Langley City this fall or as a Conservative candidate in the Cloverdale-Langley City riding in 2019.

Last week, Coleman was in Hawaii with wife Michele, enjoying “beauty, love and contemplation,” as he Tweeted on June 11. 

Rich Coleman: contemplating a run for Surrey’s mayoralty? (Twitter)

Two sources tell theBreaker that he is so seriously contemplating a run to replace Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, that he is already putting a campaign team together. Hepner won’t seek re-election this fall and her key advisor, longtime BC Liberal powerbroker Patrick Kinsella, is also a close Coleman friend. 

Coleman has found the results of pollster Greg Lyle’s research to be more than satisfying. The sources say that Coleman could hit the ground running in early July, just in time for the summertime barbecue circuit. 

The team includes Kinsella, Pace Group’s Norman Stowe and Independent Contractors and Businesses Association’s Chris Gardiner and Jordan Bateman. 

Bateman told theBreaker that there isn’t a “formal team” yet, but he would be glad to help Coleman get elected.

“Rich has been a friend for more than 20 years and if he asked me for a favour, I owe him a few,” Bateman said. 

Bateman said it is wait-and-see while Surrey First decides its candidate for mayor. 

“Once that gets sorted out, then I think Rich has more information to make his decision with,” Bateman said. 

The ex-deputy premier is 62 and has enjoyed six election victories in Langley ridings that earned him several cabinet posts during the 16-year BC Liberal dynasty, from housing to horse racing, and hooch to hydro. He is in line for an $83,000-a-year MLA pension. But, as they say, the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition. 

Coleman broke from tradition as the interim opposition leader and endorsed Mike de Jong for February’s party leadership election. When Andrew Wilkinson won, both Coleman and de Jong were demoted from the BC Liberal shadow cabinet. 

Being Mayor of Surrey would propel Coleman back into the limelight with influence beyond the borders of Surrey, with seats on the Metro Vancouver board and TransLink Mayors’ Council. Imagine this scenario: Coleman wins the Surrey mayor’s chair and his protegé Hector Bremner follows through on a threat to start a new party and wins in Vancouver. 

Coleman’s imminent move is apparently why there is no widespread panic in the NDP about longtime MLA Leonard Krog throwing his hat in the ring for Nanaimo’s mayoralty.  Instead of one late-2018 or early-2019 by-election, there could be two by-elections in ridings that are unlikely to swing. The NDP/Green alliance’s slim, two-seat edge over the BC Liberals may just hold after all. 

Before his years as the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s highly effective spokesman for B.C., Bateman was a Langley Township councillor and Coleman’s riding association president. If Coleman quits the Legislature, would Bateman run in the Langley East by-election?

“No, I have an excellent job where I get to criticize the NDP for their goofy politcies, I don’t have to be an MLA to do that,” Bateman said. “I already told the party that I wouldn’t be interested.” 

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Bob Mackin JUNE 20 update: Two sources have

The House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee recalled AggregateIQ’s co-founders Jeff Silvester and Zack Massingham to Ottawa on June 12.

It was part of the committee’s ongoing probe into the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica Scandal. AIQ, an obscure Victoria company with connections to the federal Liberals and BC Liberals, played a pivotal role in the result of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum and worked for the Republican Party in the U.S.

Silvester attended, but Massingham was a no-show, prompting an official threat of contempt of Parliament. Silvester gave the clerk a doctor’s note on behalf of his business partner, but that was not good enough for the committee, whose vice-chair suggested Massingham is hiding.

“I’ve got a lot of friends who are lawyers, you’ve clearly lawyered up and, frankly, the information you provided is inadequate,” said Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.

Committee members wanted AIQ to answer questions after whistleblower Christopher Wylie, also of Victoria, testified. They didn’t get all the answers they wanted, but Silvester revealed AIQ’s use of a phone number spoofing app and work on a cryptocurrency token.

Listen to highlights of the hearing on this edition of Podcast. Plus commentaries on FIFA’s selection of North America to host the 2026 World Cup and a nod to those who teamed-up to help Lynn Valley residents after a devastating apartment fire. Also: headlines from around the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest. 

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Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: AggregateIQ co-founder threatened with contempt of Parliament

The House of Commons Access to Information,

Bob Mackin

In its quest to crack down on unlicensed sports and poker websites, the British Columbia government is proposing a multi-province complaint to the Canadian advertising industry’s self-regulator. 

At a meeting of the Canadian Association of Gambling Regulatory Agencies in Charlottetown last September, an official from B.C.’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch urged fellow provincial regulators to team-up and file a special interest group complaint with Advertising Standards Canada. Thousands of websites, some of which are major advertisers on Canadian sports broadcasts and websites, are taking business from provincial gambling corporations and depriving governments of revenue. 

Canada’s legal gambling websites compete with many unregulated companies. (GPEB)

“B.C. is willing to lead the drafting of this complaint with input from those provinces that are interested in participating,” said the speaking notes for Michele Jaggi-Smith, the GPEB executive director of policy and projects. “Participation would involve some research by each regulator— namely, documenting the instances and mediums of advertising by these websites in your province from now until our next Community of Practice meeting — the more evidence we can show that this type of advertising is prevalent and linked to actual gambling websites, the better.”

The Advertising Standards Council, whose members include some of Canada’s biggest media companies and advertisers, can ask for an advertiser to amend or withdraw an advertisement. Jaggi-Smith’s notes, released to theBreaker under freedom of information, do not specify the complaint, but the council’s Code includes 14 provisions that could apply, such as accuracy and clarity, guarantees, safety, and advertising to minors, 

“My view is that if there were enough regulators that agreed with the proposed complaint, that would be enough to meet the test for special interest group. The ASC would have difficulty ignoring a group of government regulators making a singular complaint of this nature,” she said.

Section 207(4)(c) of the Criminal Code allows only a province to conduct and manage a lottery or game of chance on or through a computer. The section has not been clearly defined in law or by a court while technology has rapidly advanced. For fear of being shut-down, some Canadian online gambling companies moved their operations offshore, while others migrated to the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve near Montreal.

GPEB executive director Michele Jaggi-Smith (LinkedIn)

Gambling companies not licensed by provincial governments are significant advertisers on Canadian sports TV and radio channels and websites. They generally tout free-play or “educational” dot-net websites, hoping that gamblers will find their way to the pay-to-play dot-com sites. One such recent free-play campaign was for the Malta-based, Swedish-developed The company used its address for a spring TV and billboard ad campaign in B.C. that starred former Toronto Maple Leaf and Vancouver Canuck Mats Sundin.

Jaggi-Smith estimated there are over 2,200 unregulated websites accessible by British Columbians that compete with B.C. Lottery Corporation’s She estimated the industry is worth $50 billion worldwide and $640 million in B.C. The sites, however, lack consumer protection, technical integrity and responsible gambling checks and balances. 

“You’re probably familiar with a number of these companies, or at least their names — PokerStars, Party Poker, Draft Kings, Bet888, Bodog — these are all companies that operate gambling websites legally in other jurisdictions,” said the speaking notes. “There are many reasons why we believe Canadians choose to gamble in the unregulated market — from the ability to place bets on single sports events to having a larger variety of choice when it comes to operator. We do know that many who gamble in the unregulated market are unaware of the risks involved.” 

Jaggi-Smith said government bears the negative social consequences and pays through its health and justice systems for addicts and criminals who gamble on unregulated sites. 

Revenue from unregulated sites goes into “private pockets,” often located offshore, to benefit shareholders and executives. Jaggi-Smith showed a picture of Calvin Ayre, the Saskatchewan native who founded Bodog in Vancouver. She said at Ayre’s peak, his net worth was over US$1 billion.

Slide from Jaggi-Smith’s presentation shows Canadian online gambling tycoon Calvin Ayre (GPEB)

In 2017, Ayre avoided jail in the U.S. when he pleaded guilty in Maryland to being an accessory after the fact to transmission of wagering information from 2005 to 2011. He was fined $500,025 and put on unsupervised probation for a year.

A representative of the Ministry of Attorney General told theBreaker that the advertising standards complaint has yet to be filed. GPEB is still discussing the matter with other provinces. 

“GPEB is currently compiling information to support a complaint, including identifying how the advertisement of unregulated sites may violate the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. GPEB will share that information and a draft complaint letter with other provincial gambling regulators for their consideration,” said a prepared statement sent by Liam Butler.  

In August 2016, GPEB sent letters to 18 companies that operate at least 25 of the most prominent gambling websites, asking them to stop targeting B.C. gamblers. However, none of them ceased operations in B.C. 

Quebec’s Bill 74 was intended to give Loto-Quebec power to order Internet service providers to block illegal gambling websites. The law was opposed by Canada’s telecommunications industry and free speech advocates and the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission ruled it illegal in late 2016. 

In the wake of a the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark May 14 decision to legalize sports betting outside Nevada, B.C. Attorney General David Eby said the federal government should legalize single-event wagering in Canada for the benefit of provincial gambling monopolies. The most-recent attempt to amend the Criminal Code, an NDP private member’s bill called the Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act, was defeated in the House of Commons in fall 2016.

“We really need the federal government to be involved in the discussion, given the fact that British Columbians are already betting on single-game events using these grey market and black market websites,” Eby told theBreaker in a May interview. “How can we ensure we protect the integrity of sport in Canada and how can we ensure there are responsible gaming and age protections in place for these kinds of bets, if they were to take place in Canada?” 

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Bob Mackin In its quest to crack down

Greetings, Minister Ralston and Minister of State Chow. 

May I call you Bruce and George? 

Let’s cut to the chase. 

Which one of you, or your staff, bought a $16 orange juice on your Asian junket earlier this year?

Did anyone get dinged $250 for smoking in a non-smoking hotel room?

Come on, ‘fess up. 

Ralston, Chow and Oda.

Your underlings are acting just like you committed a Bev Oda. 

She was the Conservative cabinet minister who enjoyed only the finest orange juice and smoking where she was not allowed during a trip to London’s posh Savoy Hotel in 2011. It led to her becoming an ex-cabinet minister. 

Today, staff from your ministry dug in their heels and thumbed their collective noses at taxpayers. They told me it would cost $510 to see all the receipts from the late January/early February trade mission, on which you and four other public servants from the Jobs, Trade and Technology ministry traveled on the taxpayer dime to China, South Korea and Japan. They claim it would take 20 hours to do the work — work that can be performed pretty easily in less than two hours. 

The public has already paid for your entourage’s travel and the public has already paid for the filing and processing of the expense reports. To suggest that I, on behalf of the public, must pay a single dollar, let alone $510, to see how public money was spent is, frankly, absurd and wrong. 

Your staff did send me a summary of spending. They say the mission cost $291,487, of which $223,552 came from your ministry. You were accompanied by B.C. trade representatives Paul Irwin, Francis Acquarone and Richard Sawchuck, for a cost of nearly $25,000.

Deputy Minister Fazil Mihlar and the two of you spent $30,737. And then more than $168,000 on “general mission costs,” such as $80,000 in meetings, ceremonies, lunches and receptions. Plus $51,000 on interpreters and translators. 

Sure would be nice to see all the receipts, to know whether taxpayers really got value. Or whether they were stuck paying for fancy orange juice and misbehaviour.

Chow (left) and Ralston at Japanese video game giant Sega’s headquarters. (Twitter)

Your staff told me to go fish around travel expenses website for some of your receipts. But they won’t get me all of your receipts and they won’t give me any of the receipts for your staff. 

Unless I pay $510.

This only validates what United States Senator and open government advocate Patrick Leahy famously said: 

“Indeed, experience suggests that agencies are most resistant to granting fee waivers when they suspect that the information sought may cast them in a less than flattering light or may lead to proposals to reform their practices. Yet that is precisely the type of information which the FOIA is supposed to disclose, and agencies should not be allowed to use fees as an offensive weapon against requesters seeking access to Government information….”

While your party was in opposition, Christy Clark and the BC Liberals jetted off to Asia several times. When NDP caucus researchers and the media asked to see their travel expense receipts, they were released at no cost. 

Like this one.

Fancy that! Those triple deletin’ BC Liberals were being transparent and accountable on travel spending and now you’re not! 

The NDP has already been caught deleting. Now the NDP has been caught gouging.

Heck, let’s call a spade a shovel. The NDP government sent me an information ransom note. 

Is this what Better B.C. really looks like? 

Best regards,


Bob Mackin 

FOI Request JTT 2018 82916 by BobMackin on Scribd

Greetings, Minister Ralston and Minister of State

Bob Mackin

With Vancouver’s participation in the United Bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup hanging by a thread, the general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association issued an ultimatum to the NDP government and Vancouver city hall three days before the bid book’s deadline. 

Peter Montopoli (CSA)

At 7:58 p.m. on March 13, Peter Montopoli wrote to Deputy Tourism Minister Sandra Carroll, B.C. Pavilion Corp. CEO Ken Cretney and Vancouver Sport Hosting manager Michelle Collens. 

He set 8:30 a.m. March 14 as the deadline for Vancouver’s bid to be included. 

“The City of Vancouver and Province of British Columbia must provide the following documents: An unaltered and duly executed Host City Agreement and unaltered and duly executed Stadium Agreement,” wrote Montopoli, a director on the United Bid Committee. “We will require a confirmation email on the direction being taken in advance of the deadline to ensure that the City of Vancouver continues as a Candidate Host City and is included in the United 2026 Bid Book. Failing to meet these conditions, the City of Vancouver will be removed as a Candidate Host City.” 

On March 13, Carroll had written to the United Bid Committee’s lawyer, Michael Kuh, reiterating the desire for B.C. and PavCo to host 2026 World Cup matches at B.C. Place Stadium, but not without further information and clarification from, and negotiation, with FIFA.

“We are well-equipped to continue hosting and supporting international competitions and expect our partnerships with the Government of Canada, the United States and Mexico would mean a successful FIFA World Cup in 2026,” Carroll wrote. “We agree, in principle, with many of the terms contained in the Stadium Agreement, we do have some concerns about the costs to British Columbia taxpayers. Certain key terms of the Stadium Agreement are so broad in scope that, based on our legal counsel advice, we believe that they may pose unacceptable risks to PavCo and its shareholder, the Province.” 

Carroll had included the March 9 letter by Cretney, who was concerned with several unknown costs: security, securing land near the stadium for related events, a temporary grass field and backup field, inflation and the ability of FIFA and the CSA to unilaterally amend the contract.  

Cretney’s letter, also obtained under the freedom of information law, said the proposed terms of the stadium agreement were “unnecessarily broad, create unacceptable risks and require further clarification and information.” 

UPDATE (June 15): Cretney’s letter was not warmly received after it arrived in New York on March 10 at the Latham and Watkins law firm. United Bid executive director John Kristick emailed Cretney at 8:41 a.m. on March 11, after a discussion with members of the United Bid’s board and partners at the CSA.

Kristick had worked as an executive between 1992 and 2008 with ISL, Kirch and Infront, the notorious Swiss sports marketing firms that enjoyed cozy relationships with FIFA during the corrupt presidencies of Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter. 

“Unfortunately, the Vancouver submission does not meet the standard required for inclusion with the United Bid’s submission for FIFA,” wrote Kristick. “In order for Vancouver to go forward with the bid, you must provide to us an unaltered and duly executed original of the Stadium Agreement by 12 PST on Monday, March 12. We are prepared to have a personal courier authorized by the United Bid Committee at your offices tomorrow to retrieve the documents… Canada Soccer will contact you today to discus this matter further and determine if there is a way forward. ” 

Montopoli followed-up on March 12, before 8:30 a.m., restating that noon deadline. It is not clear why United Bid eventually stepped back from that deadline. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino announcing the United Bid to host the 2026 World Cup (FIFA)

At 9:26 a.m. on March 14, almost an hour after the passing of the deadline he set, Montopoli sent an email rejecting Vancouver and B.C., because “The conditions set out in the March 13th email have not been met.”

The message was copied to FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani, CSA president Steve Reed and Kristick. 

The U.S.-led bid with Canada and Mexico submitted its detailed proposal to FIFA on schedule March 16, without Vancouver. 

Chicago, Minneapolis and Glendale, Arizona were also not included, because they had similar concerns about uncertain costs. The Alberta government withdrew its support for Edmonton, which remained in the bid book.

In March, theBreaker reported that FIFA demands the 2026 World Cup host agree to pay all security costs, give FIFA a 10-year tax holiday, relax labour laws, and allow the import and export of unlimited sums of foreign cash. 

In a statement issued on March 14, B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said that “should the bid committee reconsider, our door remains open to bringing some of the 2026 World Cup games to Vancouver.”

Beare’s statement said B.C. made “numerous attempts to clarify the risks and obligations faced by British Columbians.

“So far, the bid committee has rejected our requests to clarity how much British Columbians could be expected to contribute. And they have declined to negotiate with the province regarding the concerns we raised.” 

Bureaucrats in the sport division of Beare’s ministry drafted an internal analysis, marked confidential, on Feb. 2 to compare the 2026 World Cup bid phase with the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which ended at B.C. Place. The heavily censored document included columns on security requirements, cash and in-kind contributions from taxpayers, economic impact, cost-sharing and indemnification, budget and risk/optics. The estimated TV audience in 2026 is a cumulative 26 billion, compared with a total 500 million-plus in 2015. 

theBreaker obtained the document after asking for the NDP government’s cost-benefit analysis for the 2026 bid. It withheld information claiming policy advice, fear of harm to governmental relations or negotiations, and fear of harm to government finances. The Feb. 2 document came after a Jan. 29 meeting held by Carroll about the bid. The NDP government is refusing to release any documents from the Carroll meeting, claiming they also contain legal advice and third-party business information. 

On June 13 at the FIFA congress in Moscow, United Bid beat its only rival, Morocco, by 134 votes to 65. One person voted none of the above. Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are in the running to host some of the 10 games allotted to Canada. Mexico will also get 10 games.

The U.S., which hosted in 1994, will stage 60 matches, including the opener and the final, in the first World Cup to feature 48 nations. 

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TAC-2018-82236-UnitedBid by BobMackin on Scribd

TAC-2018-82220-2026 by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin With Vancouver’s participation in the United

Bob Mackin

On the day between the G7 Summit in Quebec and the Trump/Kim Summit in Singapore, the biggest delegation of government officials to visit British Columbia from the People’s Republic of China since 2005 arrived in Vancouver.

The NDP government did not publish a news release. Trade Minister Bruce Ralston Tweeted photographs of the June 10 airport greeting and Westin Bayshore dinner. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin Tweeted dinner photographs a day later. 

Premier John Horgan did not, but there are photographs of him meeting with Wang Chen, a member of Xi Jinping’s Politburo, on the B.C. government’s Flickr site. 

A Chinese governemnt entourae dined with five B.C. cabinet ministers on June 10 at the Westin Bayshore (Rich Lam/BC Gov)

The roster of the Chinese entourage, obtained by theBreaker, included senior officials in Beijing’s propaganda and Internet censorship regime and the Communist Party anti-corruption department. 

Wang, leader of the 24-person entourage, is also vice-chair of the National People’s Congress standing committee, China’s rubber-stamp legislature. The NPC standing committee’s secretary general is a director of the Cyberspace Administration of China and deputy director of the party’s publicity department. The former journalist was president of People’s Daily from 2002 to 2008. 

In total, there were a dozen members and bureaucrats from the NPC, including the chair of the Committee on Supervisory and Judicial Affairs (Wu Yuliang), and vice-chairs of the Financial and Economic Affairs Commission (Yin Zhongqing) and Legislative Affairs Commission (Zhang Yong).

Wu is also the deputy party secretary of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s anti-corruption office. 

Horgan, who had to fly back to Victoria, was unable to join them for the private Westin Bayshore banquet with Austin, Ralston, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Carole James, Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, Minister of State for Trade George Chow, and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. 

Discussions centred around trade, the Canada-China year of tourism, education, climate change, and “ways to enhance co-operation” between B.C. and China. 

The entourage, which carried-on to Ottawa, was the biggest since 2005 when President Hu Jintao visited the Bayshore on a North American tour.

Ex-Premier Christy Clark and Trade Minister Teresa Wat hosted a 21-person entourage from Guangdong on May 8-9, 2016. That delegation was led by Politburo member Hu Chunhua. 

Wang’s visit came the week after Chinese dissidents marked the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and two weeks since the 9th Conference of the World Guangdong Community Federation in Vancouver.  The Vancouver Convention Centre-hosted event was linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department. The Financial Times described the United Front as “China’s secret magic weapon for world influence.” 

A May report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service analyzed China’s influence on western governments and ambitions to rival the United States as a superpower. 

“With the abolition of the two-term limit on the presidency, Xi Jinping will guide China for the foreseeable future,” the report said. “Authoritarian rule facilitates determined action, but this can translate into decreased sensitivity to criticism, vulnerability to corruption, and a restricted flow of information vital to sound decision-making. The inter-mingling of private and public economic enterprises has led to ineficiency and corruption that persist.”

The Chinese delegation list:

1.     His Excellency Wang Chen, Member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China (NPC).

Horgan and Chinese Politburo member Wang Chen (Rich Lam/BC Gov)

2.     The Honourable Wu Yuliang, Member, NPC Standing Committee & Chairman, NPC Committee on Supervisory and Judicial Affairs.

3.     The Honourable Yin Zhongqing, Member, NPC Standing Committee & Vice Chairman, NPC Committee on Financial and Economic Affairs.

4.     The Honourable Zhang Yong, Member of the NPC Standing Committee, Vice Chairman, Legislative Affairs Commission, NPC Standing Committee.

5.     The Honourable Li Yihu, Member, NPC Committee on Foreign Affairs.

6.     Mr. Cao Yanfang, Director-General, Retiree Affairs Bureau, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

7.     Mr. Zhang Xinmin, Director-General, Service Department, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

8.     Mr. Jin Qingzhong, Deputy Director-General, Research Office, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

9.     Mr. Xiong Wei, Deputy Director-General, Foreign Affairs Bureau, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

10.  Mr. Yin Chengwu, Counselor, Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

11.  Mr. Zheng Xiliang, Director, Central Guard Bureau, CPC

12.  Ms. Bai Dandan, Director, Foreign Affairs Bureau, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

13.  Mr. Zuo Liang, Secretary to the head of the delegation

14.  Mr. Xu Xiaoqing, Secretary to Hon. Wu Yuliang

15.  Ms. Zhao Daihong, Deputy Director, Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs, MFA

16.  Mr. Gu Xinqiang, Deputy Director, Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs, MFA

17.  Mr. Liu Rundong, Private Security Official to the head of the delegation

18.  Mr. Wu Yunbo, Private Doctor to the head of the delegation

19.  Mr. Chen Shanrui, Principal Staff Member, Foreign Affairs Bureau, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

20.  Ms. Wang Yan, Senior Staff Member, Foreign Affairs Bureau, General Office, NPC Standing Committee

21.  Mr. Luo Wei, Interpreter, MFA

22.  His Excellency LU Shaye, Ambassador of China to Canada

23.  Ms. Tong Xiaoling, Consul General of China in Vancouver

24.  Mr. Yang Fan, Counsellor, Embassy of China to Canada

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Bob Mackin On the day between the G7

Bob Mackin

Developers are laughing at Premier John Horgan, because the NDP’s speculation tax does nothing to address demand by domestic and foreign property flippers. 

That is according to an email sent to the Premier’s office from someone who claimed to be a developer and supporter of David Eby’s 2017 re-election. The sender’s name was censored by the government for privacy.

“Sadly, this new budget did nothing but open champagne bottles through the development community all day and night. Why? Because you are continuing to allow the ‘same old, same old,’” read the Feb. 21 email released to theBreaker under freedom of information. 

“Developers are laughing at you,” the person wrote, because they will continue to sell suites and homes in bulk to local and offshore property flippers “known as ‘whales’ in the development community.”

Premier John Horgan and Wang Chen, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo (Rich Lam photo)

The correspondent proposed restricting sales of all residential properties — including pre-sale and re-sale condos, townhomes and houses in the City of Vancouver — to Canadian-resident, owner-occupiers. “Developers and realtors will cry foul as they will go from stratospheric profits to extremely high profits. By removing the global (and local) investor/speculator, you will be doing what you were elected to do — serve your taxpaying citizens who are looking to purchase homes!”

The email was among 39 pages released to theBreaker on June 12 about post-budget reaction from citizens to the increase and expansion of the foreign home buyers’ tax and the introduction of a real estate speculation tax. 

Email from residents of Vernon, Sunshine Coast and Penticton seeking relief from a bubbling real estate market complained their areas weren’t included. 

“I hope you will continue with the momentum, and close loopholes such as bare trusts which allow foreign buyers to avoid disclosing their nationality and other money laundering in our markets,” reads a Feb. 23, 8:16 a.m. email. “Drain the swamp!” 

“Speculators, flippers, drug money, etc etc – use the whole province as a PIGGY BANK – why not impose these real estate rules province-wide?” wrote someone at 2:59 p.m. on Feb. 23. “Why the discrimination? Our children, grandchildren will never be able to purchase a house, destined to live as renters, deal with landlords — so sad!!!’ 

The sender of a Feb. 22, 12:15 p.m. message proposed channeling foreign capital into low-cost housing. A Feb. 23, 11:32 a.m. writer claimed to have voted NDP and did not support the foreign buyers’ tax increase, calling it racist to single-out people from other countries and punish them with a high tax rate. “Not everyone from another country is laundering money here, many are honest.” 

Five emails decried the lack of tax or regulation on Richmond farmland. 

“I live in Richmond and have been watching with horror as Richmond Mayor and Council have ignored the majority of Richmond citizens in favour of developers and corrupt realtors who have ruined our most precious resource,” reads one of them, sent Feb. 22, 7:54 p.m. “With all due respect, you seemed to go out of your way (to) exclude farmland. Why did you fail to protect farmland?” 

A dozen emails expressed concern about the imposition of a speculation tax on recreational properties.

Said a Feb. 23, 3:09 p.m. email: “The B.C. government’s latest attack of non-residents who already pay 30% more property tax than B.C. residents and use less services have been included in your government’s efforts to control an out of control housing market in Vancouver fuelled by what now the B.C. government admit is money coming from foreign buyers with no traceable income. The collateral damage to the government’s misguided policy is us.” 

The writer of a Feb. 21 email said his or her family moved from B.C. to the U.S. for employment opportunities. 

“We still own our Vancouver home. We want to keep our Vancouver home as a vacation home so we can stay there when we visit family and friends in B.C or when we have a ski trip to Cypress or Whistler. Did we do anything wrong that warrants the punishment of the 2% speculation tax? There is nothing speculative about our ownership of the home. We worked hard, paid $10,000s of tax, saved enough down payment and bought our first home. So for expat Canadians like us, the only option is to just sell the house and never come back for a visit? (The strata has bylaw forbidding rental so even if we wanted to rent we cannot.)”

A retired septuagenarian couple living in a Kelowna townhouse, who spend 120 days a year in a West Vancouver condo, feared prohibitive costs. 

Finance Minister Carole James (BC Gov)

“We are highly stressed by this possibility as we cannot possibly afford to pay the massive annual tax that would be assessed to us. It would force us to have to sell…. we have always paid our fair share, but this additional $12,000 or more annual tax is not acceptable to us.” 

On March 27, Finance Minister Carole James softened the blow, by limiting the areas where tax will be charged and exempting properties worth less than $400,000, if owned by a British Columbian. Resort areas like Harrison Hot Springs and the Gulf Islands are not covered anymore. Whistler was not among the areas targeted in the first place. 

The Urban Development Institute launched a campaign, by multinational lobbying firm Hill and Knowlton, to oppose the measures. It includes an anonymous-organized online petition, that was rejected by the Legislature’s clerk, and an anonymous-organized Facebook page. 

British Columbians who own more than one house that is not rented for at least half the year are subject to a 0.5% rate. Rates for out-of-province owners are 1% and foreign owners 2%. 

theBreaker filed the application on March 8. It was supposed to be due April 23, but delayed by the government to June 5 to consult with an unnamed third party or public body. The records were released June 12, a week later than the revised deadline. 

Jinny Sims, the minister in charge of the government’s FOI office, was ordered last July with orders by Horgan to “improve response and processing times” for FOI requests.

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Bob Mackin Developers are laughing at Premier John

Bob Mackin

In a letter obtained by theBreaker, the executive in charge of B.C. Place Stadium told the lawyer for North America’s 2026 World Cup bid committee that he could not agree to FIFA’s demands without further negotiation. 

“While we agree in principle to many of the terms contained in the Stadium Agreement [SA] provided, certain key terms of the document are so uncertain and broad in scope, and pose unacceptable risk, that they prevent PavCo at this time from providing an irrevocable offer in response,” B.C. Pavilion Corporation CEO Ken Cretney wrote on March 9 to Michael Kuh of New York’s Latham and Watkins firm. “PavCo is therefore unable to sign the SA as provided, or provide a legal opinion regarding the enforceability of the SA.” 

PavCo CEO Ken Cretney (PavCo)

A week later, on March 16, the United Bid committee submitted its 23-city hosting proposal to FIFA without Vancouver, which hosted FIFA’s 2015 Women’s World Cup final. Chicago, Minneapolis and Glendale, Arizona also withdrew bids after similarly deeming FIFA’s demands too rich.

On June 13 in Moscow, FIFA’s 211-member congress will choose between the joint U.S./Mexico/Canada bid and Morocco. 

Cretney’s letter, obtained under the freedom of information law, said the proposed terms of the stadium agreement are “unnecessarily broad, create unacceptable risks and require further clarification and information.” He wanted more information on the “broad and expansive” indemnities, guarantees and waivers in order to ask the Ministry of Finance whether it would agree to indemnify FIFA. 

“The SA provides for the payment of certain fees to PavCo, but it is unclear whether such fees will include inflation escalators. As the expectation is for PavCo to incur future significant and yet unknown costs imposable by FIFA until 2026, the inflation risk is significant and requires further discussion.” 

Cretney wrote that PavCo could not accept safety and security obligations on behalf of other governments and parties or be stuck having to negotiate the rent of land for tournament-related uses. 

“The potentially significant costs and other complexities of securing control of property owned by third parties will require further discussion, clarity and certainty.”

The playing surface was the last of PavCo’s six grievances. 

“A natural grass pitch that meets FIFA requirements would need to be installed over the current artificial turf at B.C. Place Stadium. Costs related to the installation of a grass turf and related watering, maintenance and lighting systems, all currently excluded from the draft Stadium Rental Fee, will require agreement and confirmation of a source of funds. Additionally, the parties will need to address the requirement for a contingency pitch.”

United Bid 2026

Kuh replied on March 11, but the NDP government has not yet released the letter. On March 13, Deputy Tourism Minister Sandra Carroll reiterated the desire of B.C. and PavCo to host 2026 World Cup matches, but not on terms dictated by FIFA.

“We are well-equipped to continue hosting and supporting international competitions and expect our partnerships with the Government of Canada, the United States and Mexico would mean a successful FIFA World Cup in 2026,” Carroll wrote. “We agree, in principle, with many of the terms contained in the Stadium Agreement, we do have some concerns about the costs to British Columbia taxpayers. Certain key terms of the SA are so broad in scope that, based on our legal counsel advice, we believe that they may pose unacceptable risks to PavCo and its shareholder, the Province.” 

In March, theBreaker reported that FIFA demands the 2026 World Cup host agree to pay all security costs, give FIFA a 10-year tax holiday, relax labour laws, and allow the import and export of unlimited sums of foreign cash. 

A committee evaluating the two bids deemed Morocco’s venue, transportation and hotel plans high risk. Should the United Bid win the vote, FIFA stands to gain a US$300 million bonus from North American rights-holding broadcasters, including Fox. FIFA reported US$1.27 billion in the bank through 2016.  

FIFA is still reeling from the US$150 million corruption scandal that led to the end of Sepp Blatter’s presidency in 2015. 

FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani (Mackin)

In April, the New York Times reported FIFA vice-president and United 2026 board member Victor Montagliani of Vancouver was paid US$2 million last year, more than his superiors at FIFA and at the European confederation. CONCACAF boss Montagliani is the former president of the Canadian Soccer Association, which reported a $2.26 million loss for 2017. 

The CSA’s $20.6 million revenue included $7.4 million in membership fees paid by associations, teams and registered players, $3.6 million in grants from taxpayers and $1.26 million from FIFA and CONCACAF. 

Of the $22.8 million expenses, the CSA’s biggest cost was its senior men’s and women’s teams at $5.8 million. It spent nearly $5 million on administration, meetings, marketing and communications, and $270,000 on the 2026 bid. 

Neither Canada nor the U.S. qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup, which kicks-off June 14. Mexico’s first opponent, on June 17, is defending champion Germany.

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Bob Mackin In a letter obtained by theBreaker,

Except for Stompin’ Tom Connors’ “The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down,” there has been relatively little to commemorate the mass-tragedy of June 17, 1958 in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. 

Until now. 

George Orr’s new documentary, The Bridge, tells the story of the day the under-construction Second Narrows Bridge collapsed. 

“About 3:40 in the afternoon, there were 79 men working on this bridge…They felt a lurch, it went bump, then it fell out from under them,” Orr said during an interview. 

“Nineteen men died that day. It’s the biggest industrial accident in the city’s history.”

The Bridge features never-before-seen colour footage of the bridge, before and after the fateful afternoon.  

Orr is gearing up to premiere the documentary at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver on June 17. Screenings on three other days are scheduled. 

On this edition of Podcast, host Bob Mackin catches-up with Orr, on-location at the Vancouver end of the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing. That is where survivors gather every year on the anniversary for a sombre memorial ceremony. 

Plus commentaries on the Ontario election and the comeback of a Vancouver summertime tradition, and headlines around the Pacific Rim and Cascadia. 

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Except for Stompin’ Tom Connors’ "The Bridge

Bob Mackin

Canada’s provincial governments will try again on May 8 to give away a $60 million jackpot in the nationwide Lotto Max. Plus 52 prizes of $1 million, and the $500,000 Extra. 

This, the week after the B.C. Lottery Corp. awarded $30 million to the anonymous winner of the April 25 Lotto 6/49 draw. 

The minister responsible for gambling in B.C. is Attorney General David Eby, who is facing a BC Liberal-backed tax revolt in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding for the NDP’s schools surtax on the value of houses over $3 million. 

Boosters of this controversial tax contend that those who bought a house before the 21st century and the recent price explosion have figuratively “won the lottery,” because they are now multimillionaires on paper. 

Finance Minister Carole James talks to the media in Victoria (BC Gov)

Opponents of the tax include former NDP premier Mike Harcourt, a Point Grey resident whose government backed-off a similar tax in 1993 when Westsiders complained en masse. Harcourt said it will hurt senior citizens, even if they choose to defer their tax bills. 

So why not actually tax winners of lottery jackpots, like the United States does, to replace the schools surtax or lessen the blow on those who really cannot afford it? 

In the United States, home of the Powerball, winnings $5,001 and above are subject to a 25% federal withholding tax. 

California, Florida, Texas and Washington are among a handful of states that do not apply state taxes to lottery prizes. Oregon (8%) and New York (8.82%) do. 

Eby didn’t respond to a query on whether his goverment should tax lottery jackpot winners. However, according to the office of Finance Minister Carole James, “this is not being considered.” 

Economist Victor Matheson of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts has studied the economics of gambling. 

“There is no theoretical economic reason not to tax the award, and the only reason you wouldn’t is for advertising purposes, I think,” Matheson said by email. “There are a handful of places that don’t tax the award, and of course, it also means that if you win Powerball, try to make sure you are living in Texas or Florida at the time instead of California or New York City.”

Diana Gibson, research manager for the Canadians For Tax Fairness, say taxing big gambling winnings “makes sense.”

“They should be treated differently than earnings people have made through working,” Gibson said.

She also said that gambling is associated with social harm and governments need more revenue to deal with that. 

In a similar vein, Gibson said, those facing higher property tax bills or applying for deferral because they live in houses worth more than $3 million should be paying extra. 

“The people that earn money by the luck of the market, paying a higher tax on that is important,” she said. 

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Bob Mackin Canada’s provincial governments will try again