Recent Posts
Connect with:
Sunday / September 24.
  • No products in the cart.
HomeStandard Blog Whole Post (Page 136)

Alberta is returning to right-wing rule, after Jason Kenney and the United Conservatives handily defeated Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government in last week’s provincial election.

An impressive 71% of voters turned out.

“[United Conservative Party] did remarkably well, getting to 55% of the vote, it’s not something you see every day,” said Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco in an interview with Podcast host Bob Mackin.

The NDP share of the vote was lower than last election when it won, but still historically better for a party used to getting much less in a province dominated by conservative politics. Now Alberta has a clear two-party system after the Alberta Party lost its three seats.

“It’s starting to look a lot like the United States, which is something that many people in Alberta will like,” Canseco said.

But there could be a bumpy road ahead for Kenney, his panoply of populist promises and his trademark blue pickup truck. Successful UCP Calgary-East candidate Peter Singh’s auto parts business was raided by RCMP in the final days of the campaign, which could be connected to a police investigation into Kenney’s unite the right leadership campaign. Canseco said it could erode Kenney’s base of support, if police find evidence of wrongdoing. 

On this edition of Podcast, Canseco also talks about the ripple effects of Kenney’s election for B.C. leaders and the upcoming federal election. He also takes a glance south of the border, where the redacted Mueller Report was finally released. No charges for President Donald Trump for collusion with Russians or obstruction of justice, but the report revealed how Trump tried to shut down the probe.

Click below to listen or go to iTunes (aka Apple Podcasts) and subscribe

Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries, including Mackin’s take on the Vancouver Whitecaps’ harassment and bullying scandal.

Have you missed an edition of Podcast? Go to the archive.

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Jason Kenney picks up Alberta, but is there a bumpy road ahead?

Alberta is returning to right-wing rule, after

Bob Mackin

The University of British Columbia has spent nearly $4.5 million on advertising since the NDP came to power in 2017.

Documents released to under freedom of information show that the most-recent campaign, which ran last fall and into early 2019, cost $2.88 million.

The “Potential is yours” ads, created by Taxi and placed by MediaCom, highlighted seven professors and students who appeared in the ads with images projected on and behind them.

UBC student Alicia Lau in the Potential is yours campaign (UBC)

UBC did not fulfil a request to interview president Santa Ono. Instead, it delivered a prepared statement from Rick Hart, the university’s senior director of brand and marketing.

“The ads challenge the audience, as we at UBC challenge ourselves, to not accept the status quo,” Hart wrote. “We’re very proud of the work of our researchers, students and staff in embodying that spirit and the advertisements reflect their work.”

Hart said it was the first time UBC advertised nationally and the cost of media space in Eastern Canada runs six to seven times more than in B.C. The lion’s share of the campaign, almost $1.26 million, was spent on TV ads. It also included $322,000 for ads in newspaper ads and $274,000 on websites and social media. 

The previous UBC campaign cost $1.55 million and was themed “For a better B.C.,” a variation of the NDP’s 2017 campaign slogan. One of the ads featured a student wearing an NDP orange toque. The amount spent on ads in the last two years is the equivalent of one year’s tuition for 842 nursing, science and arts students. 

Scenes from University of B.C.’s “For a better BC” ad campaign, including Okanagan student Tim Abbott (UBC)

A two-and-a-half page client brief by Taxi about “Potential is yours” was fully censored because UBC considered it policy advice. However, a similar document about the 2017 campaign was not censored. It said “it is imperative that UBC invests in its profile and reputation — locally, nationally and globally.” The 2017 Provincial Tactical Positioning Campaign was intended to create “positive perceptions regarding the mission of the university to the benefit of industry, government and NGO partnerships and projects.”

The Sept. 13, 2018 report to the UBC board of governors justifying the latest campaign said UBC’s reputation was affected by “a series of negative news headlines through 2015 and into 2016.” The subjects of those stories were not mentioned. That period included the controversial departure of president Arvind Gupta the year after he was hired, sexual assault allegations by female students against a grad student and professor and campaigns for and against ex-Vancouver 2010 Olympics CEO John Furlong’s speech to an athletics department fundraiser after he was accused of abuse by aboriginal students he taught four decades ago.

“Global competition for the best students and faculty, funding investments and charitable donations continues to increase,” said the report. “For all these reasons, defining UBC’s brand proposition and communicating it broadly take on heightened importance.”

UBC’s increased ad spending reflects a trend in the U.S., where paid advertising by U.S. institutions hit a record $1.65 billion in 2016, an 18.5% jump over 2015, according to research by Kantar.

UBC was supposed to deliver the records about the latest ad campaign to by March 21, but missed the deadline because it claimed it has a large backlog. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner intervened and the documents were finally released April 18.

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

Bob Mackin The University of British Columbia has

Bob Mackin

SNC-Lavalin is lobbying the B.C. NDP government without a registration, but it may be perfectly legal.

As exclusively reported, SNC-Lavalin’s vice-president of government relations, Sam Boutziouvis, arranged to meet with Claire Trevena, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, on Feb. 19 in Victoria. The meeting, however, was canceled on Feb. 14 because of a death in Boutziouvis’s family. The meeting has yet to be rescheduled.

SNC-Lavalin lobbyist Sam Boutziouvis (Twitter)

Feb. 14 was also the day that Trevena announced SNC-Lavalin and partner Acciona were among three groups shortlisted to build the new $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge after applying to bid in the fall. SNC-Lavalin is also expected to bid on the Surrey-Langley and Broadway SkyTrain extensions.

Boutziouvis’s targeting of Trevena is not visible in the lobbyist registry because he has not registered provincially. The only way found out was in email released under the freedom of information laws after SNC-Lavalin hired Whistler lobbyist Richard Prokopanko to register on its behalf in order to set-up meetings with government officials last November.

Jane Zatylny, spokeswoman for the B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, said she could not discuss specifics of the SNC-Lavalin registration.

“There are certain circumstances where registration is not required, for instance, if the lobbyist is meeting with the public office holder for general information purposes,” Zatylny said. “Secondly, when organizations lobby B.C. public office holders, the 100-hour threshold applies, which means that organizations are only required to register when they have lobbied 100 hours in the previous 12 month period.”

The 100-hour threshold is based on the honour system and came into force in April 2010 under the BC Liberal government, to replace the requirement for an employee to register if he or she spent at least 20% of his or her time lobbying. The 20% threshold is still used by the federal lobbying registry, where Boutziouvis is listed as the only SNC-Lavalin executive whose lobbying activities represent 20% or more of his duties.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC called the rule “blatantly absurd” and said the threshold should be reduced to the bare minimum.

NDP Transport Minister Claire Trevena (BC Gov)

“Here’s a company that is actively pursuing contracts in B.C. — probably 365 days a year — it is tough to imagine that they can somehow keep that lobbying under the 100-hour ceiling,” Travis said in an interview. “The legislation has created a bureaucratic nightmare for anyone who wants to try to monitor lobbying activities of various companies in Canada, at the same time has presented an appetizing opportunity for those companies who want to hide their lobbying activities.”

A June 2018-published ORL guidance document states that if an organization employs one or more individuals who, alone or together, spend 100 hours lobbying or preparing to lobby, the organization is required to register all in-house lobbyists. 

“When calculating your organization’s lobbying activities, you do not need to track each and every activity to the minute,” reads the ORL guide. “However, you must record time spent in activities that are directly related to and necessary for lobbying as accurately as possible.”

Those activities include research, hiring and training staff to lobby, deciding which public office holders to target, and lobbying by letter, email, phone or in-person.

Duff Conacher of DemocracyWatch said both the 100-hour threshold in B.C. and the 20% of time threshold used federally are wrong.

SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver office (Mackin)

“They’re both loopholes that allow for secret lobbying and there is no reason to allow for secret lobbying,” Conacher said. “The only people who should be exempt from disclosure is a voter who clicks send on an action alert sent to them by an interest group. The organization should be registered and the registration should show that what they’re doing is sending out action alerts, other than that, even if you’re a voluntary organization, if you’re dedicated to winning some change and doing more than just clicking send on an action alert letter you should have to register.”

Travis said the Act should contain no wiggle room, because the intent is to increase transparency.

“The idea that we can somehow allow small companies to large corporations such as SNC to hide behind this 100-hour rule is the same sewer pit that we ended up with in Ottawa related to Facebook,” Travis said.

In April 2018, Maclean’s reported that while Google had registered eight lobbyists, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy Kevin Chan was not registered because he said he did not spend 20% of his time lobbying. The former public servant and political aide was executive assistant in the Privy Council Office (PCO) before joining the office of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in 2011.

Coincidentally, Conacher complained to the federal ethics commissioner on April 17 alleging that Chan’s former boss in PCO, SNC-Lavalin chair Kevin Lynch, received preferential treatment from retiring Clerk Michael Wernick when Wernick took Lynch’s phone call on Oct. 15, 2019.

Lynch was Wernick’s boss from 2006 to 2009, during Wernick’s tenure as Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

April 17 was also the sixth anniversary of the World Bank’s 10-year blacklisting of SNC-Lavalin over bribes related to a bridge project in Bangladesh and power project in Cambodia. Dozens of SNC-Lavalin associated companies, including several involved in B.C. infrastructure projects, were suspended from bidding on World Bank projects.

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

Bob Mackin SNC-Lavalin is lobbying the B.C.

The Andrew Scheer-led Conservatives erected a wall of noise on federal budget day, to protest the Trudeau Liberal government’s shutdown of justice committee hearings into the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

That inspired the BC Liberals to turn up the volume in Question Period at the B.C. Legislature. So much, that NDP cabinet ministers’ answers could not be heard over the din.

Speaker Darryl Plecas had enough. He issued an extraordinary and lengthy warning on April 10, directed primarily at his former caucus-mates.

“We will not have interruptions of a speaker,” said Plecas, the independent MLA for Abbotsford South who could revoke an MLA’s question privileges and order the expulsion of an MLA for disorderly conduct.

On this edition of Podcast, listen to highlights of two April 9 incidents and Plecas’s April 10 address to the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the BC Liberal Opposition caucus has joined the NDP Government caucus in spending taxpayers’ money on partisan radio ads, after the NDP broke an election promise to ban partisan government ads.

Like the NDP, the BC Liberals are refusing to release the amount spent. 

Also on this edition, hear unapologetic BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who said the caucuses should pay back the public treasury. The spending is happening in secret because the Legislature is not yet covered by the freedom of information law.

This is all happening under the cloud of an RCMP investigation into corruption at the Legislature. Retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is expected to report May 3 to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee on whether to stop the paycheques for the Nov. 20-suspended Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

Click below to listen or go to iTunes (aka Apple Podcasts) and subscribe

Plus the latest on the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

Have you missed an edition of Podcast? Go to the archive.

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Question Period cacophony earns BC Liberals an earful from Speaker Plecas

The Andrew Scheer-led Conservatives erected a wall

Bob Mackin

Luxury condo developer Westbank would be a 50-50 partner with the Squamish Nation and share profits with the band if a high-density project proceeds on the Kitsilano 6 reserve beside the Burrard Bridge, has learned.

Westbank’s Ian Gillespie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 (Westbank)

On April 10, the North Vancouver-headquartered First Nation announced it was trying again to build on the 11-acre site called Senakw that its lawyers regained at the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2002. Two years earlier, Squamish Nation surrendered a 60-acre claim for Kitsilano Point as part of a $92.5 million settlement with the federal government.

“The fact we have an opportunity to do something for the city like building around 3,000 rental units is so exciting on so many levels,” Tweeted band councillor and spokesman Dustin Rivers, aka Khelsilem.

However, a document prepared for a March 21 information meeting of Squamish Nation members said the project would be a “mix of primarily rental housing, along with offices, retail, public space and community amenities.”

“Real estate sales opportunity: Potential to develop a portion of project as strata condominiums for sale,” the document said.

Obtained by (Squamish Nation)

The development would be in two or three phases, but no timeline is mentioned. Long-term rental income would allow the Nation “to take advantage of rising rents and real estate values over time.”

The project would also offer job, training and education opportunities for Squamish Nation members through each phase and component of development. Rivers Tweeted that the band would be applying in the fall for BC Housing subsidies.

The Squamish Nation undertook a “comprehensive third-party review of proposals from multiple development partners” and engaged in non-binding talks with Westbank. Westbank would be the project manager “for which it would receive market rate fees” and would guarantee loans required to fund construction, including major upfront utility infrastructure.

A source who attended the March 21 meeting said that Westbank CEO Ian Gillespie delivered a presentation about his company.

The Squamish Nation documents contemplate two rounds of information sessions with members in Squamish Valley, North Vancouver, Seattle and Nanaimo and two referenda: one for designating the land for development and another to vote on the business terms. The documents also include a questionnaire, seeking input on concerns about the project, how ancestors who lived at Senakw more than a century ago should be honoured through the development process and ways to spend Senakw development revenue.

Artist’s rendition of the 2010 Squamish Nation plan for its Burrard Bridge land (Squamish Nation)

Westbank redeveloped Woodward’s which has a substantial rental quotient, but it has become better-known for high-end luxury tower projects marketed in Asia, including Shangri-La, Telus Garden, Vancouver House and Horseshoe Bay. The penthouse at its Fairmont Pacific Rim sold for more than $50 million to Prince Hamdan of Dubai.

This is not the first attempt to develop the land. Squamish Nation politicians said in 2010 they wanted to build a tower on the west side of the bridge and mid-rise office buildings on the east side. In recent years, the band council shifted its attention to partnering with the Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam, with major backing from the Aquilini family, to acquire a portfolio of federal and provincial properties in Burnaby, Vancouver and West Vancouver. Projects on the former RCMP land and in Jericho are in the drawing board stage.

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

Bob Mackin Luxury condo developer Westbank would be

Bob Mackin

SNC-Lavalin’s pursuit of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena continued in February, as bureaucrats were nearing a decision on the shortlist for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge project, has exclusively learned. previously reported that the Montreal construction and engineering giant sent lobbyists and an executive to Victoria in late November.

NDP Transport Minister Claire Trevena (BC Gov)

SNC-Lavalin hired Whistler’s Richard Prokopanko to arrange meetings for government relations vice-president Sam Boutziouvis and oil and gas division executive vice-president Joseph Lichon with four senior bureaucrats on Nov. 26. A fifth, Transportation Deputy Minister Grant Main, joined in by phone.

Documents obtained under the freedom of information law said SNC-Lavalin wanted to make a presentation about the company’s “history and recent projects in Canada” and pitch its LNG plant-building expertise to the NDP government.

Prokopanko also sought a “10 minute stand hand shake and greeting” with Trevena in November. The NDP cabinet minister was unavailable, but one of her aides proposed Feb. 6.

According to a newly released email from Boutziouvis to Jobs,Trade and Technology deputy minister Fazil Mihlar on Feb. 1, Trevena had agreed to meet on Feb. 19 with Boutziouvis, Francois Morton, executive vice-president of infrastructure engineering, and Jussi Jaakkola, vice-president of investment development.

“We will be in Victoria and have a couple of meetings booked, including with Transport and Infrastructure Minister Trevena at 9 a.m.,” Boutziouvis wrote to Mihlar. “It’s budget day in B.C. So this is a long shot, but if you have some time in the morning, it would be great to bring Francois and Jussi by to introduce them and talk about our infra[structure] priorities in B.C. in greater detail.”

Jussi Jaakkola (SNC-Lavalin)

Boutziouvis did not respond to request for comment.

Morton joined the company in 2015 as senior vice-president for Western Canada and became the executive vice president in February 2018. Jaakkola was a financial advisor on SNC-Lavalin’s $889 million contract to build the Evergreen Extension to SkyTrain’s Millennium Line. He also directed SNC-Lavalin’s successful bid for BC Hydro’s $1 billion John Hart Generating Station and helped the company get shortlisted for the $3 billion Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, which the NDP cancelled after coming to power in 2017.

The meeting with Trevena, however, was cancelled Feb. 14 because of a death in Boutziouvis’s family. SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman Daniela Pizzuto said the meeting has not been rescheduled, but she would not disclose who else the Boutziouvis-led delegation planned to meet in Victoria.

“We will not provide comment,” Pizzuto said by email.

There was good news for both Boutziouvis and the company: On Feb. 14, Trevena issued a news release that announced SNC-Lavalin and fellow Site C contractor Acciona’s joint application was among three shortlisted for the next phase of bidding on the new Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC is concerned that the NDP is not enforcing standard anti-lobbying rules in tendering documents.

“Do we want companies that are bidding on contracts to be lobbying deputy ministers and politicians on areas that overlap with those contracts they may be bidding on?” Travis said.

SNC-Lavalin lobbyist Sam Boutziouvis (Twitter)

SNC-Lavalin is expected to bid for the Broadway subway and Surrey to Langley SkyTrain extensions. The company has been involved in building every phase of rapid transit in Metro Vancouver.

The shortlisting for the Pattullo Bridge was among the only rays of good news for SNC-Lavalin in an otherwise dismal week. Share prices hit a 10-year low after a dim forecast about projects in Saudi Arabia and Chile. Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould quit the federal Liberal cabinet. She later revealed the Prime Minister’s Office wanted her to meddle in a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin for corruption rather than negotiate a remediation agreement over bribes paid to the Gadhafi regime in Libya from 2001 to 2011.   

Last month, a federal court judge rejected SNC-Lavalin’s bid to pursue the deferred prosecution agreement. Chilean miner Codelco canceled SNC-Lavalin’s $260 million contract at the Chuquicamata copper mine and SNC-Lavalin announced it hoped the sale of 10% of its shares in Ontario’s Highway 407 toll freeway would bring in $3.25 billion. The company also filed a lawsuit against former CEO Pierre Duhaime, who is serving a 20-month house arrest for aiding a bureaucrat in rigging the bid for the $1.3 billion McGill superhospital project.

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


Bob Mackin SNC-Lavalin’s pursuit of Transportation Minister Claire

Bob Mackin

The NDP government will not expand British Columbia’s freedom of information law to cover the Legislature this spring, has learned. 

In the wake of reports by Speaker Darryl Plecas on waste and corruption in the offices of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, the province’s information and privacy watchdog urged the government to add the Legislative Assembly to the list of 2,900 government offices subject to the transparency law.

Mike Farnworth announcing the suspension of the B.C. Legislature clerk and sergeant-at-arms on Nov. 20, 2018 (Hansard TV).

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said Feb. 5 that he accepted the recommendation from Commissioner Michael McEvoy and vowed it would happen. Just a week later, the NDP’s throne speech for the first session of 2019 climaxed with a section titled “Trust in Our Public Institutions” that stated the government “values transparency and takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain the integrity of our public institutions.”

“Your government will work with this Assembly to implement reforms that restore trust in this core institution, so that our democracy is stronger going forward,” read the speech. 

On April 9, Farnworth told that he did not know when the bill would be tabled, but it would definitely not be during the spring session, which is scheduled to end May 30.

“Just from a practical sense, the fall would be the earliest you could do it,” Farnworth said.

“First off, you have to write it. We have a whole legislative calendar, you don’t just say we made a decision to do something and then it gets done,” Farnworth said. “There’s a whole range of things that have to be done, in terms of legislation has to go to the legislative review committee, it has to be drafted by legislative counsel along with all the other legislation. So most legislation that’s being done this spring has, in fact, last fall or last spring, been approved and gets worked on during that time.”

Speaker Darryl Plecas arrives on Throne Speech Day Feb. 12, 2019 (BC Gov)

McEvoy preceded the open letter, which was co-authored by the merit commissioner and ombudsperson, by telling that there is no good reason why the law should not cover the Legislature, its staff, offices and members.

On April 9, McEvoy said that he takes Farnworth at his word that drafting proper language to reform the Legislative Assembly may take until the fall sitting, because it is not as simple as adding the Legislature to the list of public bodies in the Act. “In my view an amendment to FIPPA will be required to ensure accountability of the Assembly,” McEvoy said.

“When the government reopens the legislation, however, they must also make other badly needed amendments. The most significant changes were unanimously recommended by an all-party committee of the Legislature three years ago. They include mandatory breach notification, an offence provision for wrongly accessing someone’s personal information, and making sure subsidiary corporations set up by public bodies are covered by access to information legislation. 

“The present administration now has the opportunity to make government more transparent and accountable. My office and the public expect they will embrace that opportunity.”   

A poll released Jan. 28 by Research Co found 70% of respondents agree that amending the FOI law to include the Legislature is a leading remedy to the waste and corruption that Plecas exposed. Only 12% of respondents disagreed.

Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were immediately suspended Nov. 20 and the RCMP announced it was investigating undisclosed allegations about them. Two special prosecutors were appointed to oversee the RCMP’s work. 

James and Lenz say they are innocent and have demanded their reinstatement. In early March, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee retained retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin to review James and Lenz’s conduct. She is scheduled to report back to LAMC by May 3. The all-party committee will use her report to determine whether James and Lenz should remain on paid leave or be fired. 

The Legislature publishes quarterly statements and receipts about MLA spending, but the four top officers, including the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, only publish total dollar amounts they spend, without any hint of where they traveled or what they bought. 

The Legislature’s annual financial report shows payments to suppliers $25,000 and up and payments to staff $75,000 and up. The public has no legal right to seek correspondence and contracts, like it does from government ministries, agencies and Crown corporations.

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee met in late afternoon on April 9.  The all-party committee heard that the Legislative Assembly spent $73.2 million on operations through Dec. 31, 2018 — $4.2 million less than projected. Auditor General Carol Bellringer told the committee that her audit is in the early stages. She said the Legislature’s accounting system is slow and “not the most contemporary model.” She also pointed out that there are a lot of purchasing cards in circulation. “A red flag, if you will,” Bellringer said.

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

Bob Mackin The NDP government will not expand

Bob Mackin

The BC Liberal Opposition Caucus blew an easy chance to one-up the NDP Government Caucus, according to an independent watchdog.

Andrew Wilkinson’s party launched its own taxpayer-funded radio ad on April 8 on CKNW, two weeks after was first to report how the NDP spent an undisclosed amount of taxpayers’ money on a partisan 30-second radio ad comparing Premier John Horgan to Wilkinson. 

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson (BC Gov)

“The Liberal party had the opportunity to take the high road, they chose to take the low road,” said Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC. “They could’ve been the official opposition, calling for an end to partisan advertising with taxpayer money. They’ve decided just to join the bandwagon.”

The BC Liberal ad, which you can hear below, says that under Horgan and the NDP, British Columbians are “paying more and getting less.” It refers to higher taxes and ICBC premiums and claims that “Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberal MLAs are standing up for you. B.C. can do better, for all of us.” A second ad, that aired April 12 on CKNW, blames the NDP for record high gas prices in B.C.

After hearing the ad, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver told that the BC Liberals have taken partisan caucus ads to an entirely new level.

“I shake my head,” Weaver said. “Am I surprised? No. Do I think it’s right? No. Do I think the BC Liberals should be paying that back? Yes. Just because the BC NDP did this does not mean it’s right to do.

“This has got to stop.”

BC Liberal caucus communications director Carlie Pochynok did not respond to a request from for information about the costs and contractors. Likewise, BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak did not respond. Polak is a member of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, which is scheduled to meet April 9. The NDP caucus refused to release the budget for its ads and the names of its contractors. The NDP caucus radio ad broke the party’s 2017 campaign promise to eliminate partisan government advertising.

Weaver said the actions of the two major provincial parties are precisely what fuels public mistrust of politicians, which leads to low voter turnout.

“They say one thing and they do another,” Weaver said. “For the NDP this is particularly troubling, because they were so vocal in their opposition to the BC Liberals doing the same in previous years.”

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver (UBCM)

The parties are already benefitting from a new public-subsidized per-vote allowance administered by Elections BC, part of a program that NDP government says will run out in 2022. It is meant to help the parties transition from relying on the now-banned corporate and union donations. The BC Liberals were initially opposed to the subsidy, but the party took in $1.89 million from taxpayers, the NDP $1.88 million, and the Greens $789,000.

Caucus support services cost taxpayers $7.86 million in the year ended March 31, 2018, but details about spending and contracting by the NDP, BC Liberal and Green caucuses are excluded from the freedom of information law because the money is from Legislative Assembly accounts.

In the wake of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s reports exposing waste and corruption in the office of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy co-authored an open letter calling for the Legislature to be added to the list of 2,600 public bodies subject to B.C.’s transparency law. That prompted NDP house leader Mike Farnworth to promise in early February that the government would amend the law to finally cover the Legislature.

Even with the absence of rules forbidding taxpayer-funded partisan ads by caucuses, Travis said the NDP and BC Liberals “can rely on something else: it’s called common sense.”

“They don’t have to wait for the law to be amended, they have the freedom to release [caucus ad costs] at any point in time they choose to,” Travis said. “[BC Liberals] could do it proactively and again seize the high road on this file.”

The NDP radio ads began to air after revealed how Wilkinson has paid more than $44,000 to the Parksville-based Motiontide digital advertising agency from his Vancouver-Quilchena constituency office account and how Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross led all MLAs with more than $20,000 in advertising and communications spending.

Ross’s spending included ads in Terrace and Kitimat newspapers that slammed the NDP and Greens, despite rules forbidding the use of constituency funds for partisan messages. In the year ended March 31, 2017, Wilkinson spent $59,000 on advertising and communications, including a series of one-minute ads on CKNW that cost $199 each.

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


Bob Mackin The BC Liberal Opposition Caucus blew

Bob Mackin

Two days in April. Two famous Canadian Dicks in Vancouver.

First, Dick Pound. The Canadian who is the International Olympic Committee’s most-senior member. The 77-year-old told the Canadian Club Vancouver on April 1 that the IOC is grappling with perceptions that the Games cost too much and changes in social mores. 

On gender identity issues, he said the IOC is facing legal challenges to be more inclusive and will evolve. “The expression has generally been the problem comes from people who are pale, male and stale trying to deal with an emerging issue.”

IOC member Dick Pound (Mackin)

On Vladimir Putin and the legacy of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: “Whatever goodwill he had from the Games, which is potentially pretty good, he threw away when he invaded Crimea. Somehow that gets an Olympic rings label on Crimea.”

Montreal lawyer Pound said the IOC also has a challenge to spur a younger audience to both watch the Games and then play sport. 

“I’m not quite sure what the answer to that is. It certainly is not the Youth Olympic Games, which in my respectful point of view, tend to be a very, very, very expensive summer or winter camp for some very nice kids. But they’re not going to move the dial on grassroots participation.”

Without naming video gaming, Pound said “what nobody seems to realize is there is a tsunami of diabetes approaching. Young, sedentary kids with bad diets. We’ve somehow got to get that brought to a level of attention that will result in some action.”

Pound, founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency, rejected the notion that the battle against performance enhancing substances has been a failure. He said letting athletes be free to dope would lead to an arms race mentality and, ultimately, athletes would take toxic or lethal doses in the pursuit of championships. 

He said there will always be outliers, so the job is to persuade 99.9% of athletes that doping is wrong and dangerous and give those ethical athletes reasonable assurance that the bad guys will be caught. “Then you’ll have won the war on drugs,” he said. 

Pound recounted the day in September 1988 when he learned Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was caught doping at the Seoul Olympics, stripped of his 100 metre gold medal and world record and sent home. 

Pound had been at diving, to watch American Greg Louganis, before lunch with the Coca-Cola board of directors. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said to him “have you heard the news, have you heard the news?”

Asked Pound: “Someone died?”

Samaranch said: “It’s worse.” 

Pound said that he came to terms with the scandal after a conversation with Johnson’s coach, Charlie Francis.

“[He] had a huge toothache, feeling miserable on both counts,” Pound said.

Francis asked him what the IOC thought Johnson was taking. He told him it was the steroid stanozolol, to which Francis replied: “I don’t want my guys on stanozolol on race day! It tightens them up, I want them loose!”

Pound told the lunch crowd at the Terminal City Club: “Hmm, the question may not be whether. It’s what.”

He said, based on the evidence, it was the right result. 

A day later, it was Richard Fadden’s turn.

The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service from 2009 to 2013, who warned of foreign interference from China in 2010. He told an audience at Simon Fraser University downtown that China is an adversary that poses a major threat to Canada.

“That’s the one big issue with China, they want to benefit from the rule of law, they want to benefit from all our procedural protections here, but if any of you do business in China, it’s a crapshoot,” Fadden said at an event hosted by the Canadian International Council. “It can go perfectly well, but in the absence of the rule of law and contract law, you’re never assured how things are going to turn out.” 

Fadden said China is a great civilization that has helped improve the standard of living for its citizens, but “I’m not sure we want to sign over the UN, World Bank and IMF, and a whole bunch of other institutions which the west constructed, to the Chinese model.”

Former CSIS director Richard Fadden (Mackin)

China, he said, is a country without the rule of law and without human rights that is trying to export its values to the west. 

“If they want to run their country that way, my view is hunky dory, but they should not be telling us in the west how we’re going to run our part of the planet,” Fadden said.

Canadians should not be lulled into a sense of security because the country is surrounded by three oceans and the United States. He said foreign propaganda is especially worrisome, via social media. 

“It is massive, it contributes to fake news, it weakens our resolve in our institutions and it is going on all the time. Cyber propaganda I’d argue in the long term can do as much harm to our civilization our society as something that’s rather more kinetic.”

China has risen as a world power while the U.S. has declined, but it is not the fault of the Donald Trump administration. Fadden said it would have happened anyway had Barack Obama been, hypothetically, allowed to remain in the White House.

“China is going to continue its rise and in some respects and ways that is going to harm the west.”

Fadden pointed to intellectual property theft, the South China Sea territorial dispute with Philippines and Vietnam, and the trade imbalance. 

“Most Canadian corporations have a limited amount of financial resources, in the case of many Chinese companies they can draw on the full resources of the Chinese state, which means we do not have an even playing field.”

On the most-urgent national security and trade question facing Ottawa, Fadden said it is not in Canada’s interest to let Huawei Technologies build the country’s 5G network. 

“It’s almost beyond rational debate that any Chinese company will respond to request from China to spy on other countries. If we allow them in, we will never get them out, they’re already too far in, in my view.” 

Should Canada choose to snub Huawei, there will be consequences. China could deny Canada preferred tourist destination status or cut back on university students it allows to travel and study in Canada. He said Canada is already facing what amounts to a boycott of its canola by China as retaliation for arresting Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the United States last year. Meng awaits an extradition hearing to face fraud charges in New York.  

“We think the best of everybody else until something obvious happens,” Fadden said.

Meanwhile, Fadden said Canada is increasingly alone in the “leaderless west,” while the United Kingdom debates Brexit, Germany prepares for a post-Angela Merkel government, the U.S. further retrenches and Japan and Australia are geographically isolated.

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


Bob Mackin Two days in April. Two famous

Bob Mackin

Five months after losing a box of microfiche containing personal and financial information, the B.C. Pension Corporation finally broke the bad news to 8,000 College Pension Plan members last week. 

The breach prompted the Information and Privacy Commissioner to renew his call for the Legislature to make it illegal for government and its branches and agencies to delay or conceal the disclosure of a privacy breach to authorities and affected persons.

“Reporting privacy breaches is not mandatory in B.C. My office has long called on government to add breach notification requirements to B.C.’s privacy laws,” said Commissioner Michael McEvoy. “With mandatory breach notification in place, public bodies and organizations would be required to report breaches or suspected breaches to my office within days of discovery. In this case, B.C. Pension Corporation would have been required by law to report the breach in October.”

Chilliwack MLA John Martin (Facebook)

As it approaches mid-term, the B.C. NDP government has not fulfilled promises to improve privacy laws. In a reply to the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association’s 2017 election questionnaire, John Horgan’s party criticized the BC Liberals after the OIPC found privacy breaches increased 56% over five years. The NDP vowed to take action, if it won power.

“We agree that mandatory breach notification would benefit the public by enhancing accountability and transparency, and helping to mitigate the serious fallouts of privacy breaches and as government we will take action,” read the NDP’s April 27, 2017 letter to B.C. FIPA. “We will consider best practices both across Canada and internationally for breach notifications in both the public and private sectors to determine a made-in-BC policy.

One of those affected by the pension plan breach is John Martin, the BC Liberal MLA for Chilliwack who is on leave from his position as an associate professor of criminology at the University of the Fraser Valley. Martin received a March 29 letter from the B.C. Pension Corporation on April 3 that said his personal information was on the missing microfiche. 

“We believe the risk is low that someone will use your personal information inappropriately as a result of this incident, however, we want to provide you with the details of what happened,” said the form letter.

The form letter said the corporation “declared” the breach on Jan. 28, but it did not notify the province’s information and privacy regulator until March 8. What the letter does not say is that the box went missing in an office move last September. 

“I’m concerned,” Martin told ” If you look at those nine variables that are in there [including full name, birthdate and social insurance number], that’s enough to open up credit in someone else’s name.” He wonders if that is what happened last month when a retailer notified him of suspicious activity on his account a day-and-a-half after the transaction. His card was canceled and replaced overnight. 

Martin said he has asked staff to review NDP statements and promises about improving privacy, to “see if there is something there worth pursuing with the minister, Jinny Sims,” Martin said. 

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy (Mackin)

McEvoy said citizens need to know as soon as possible that their personal information has been lost, stolen or compromised, so that they can take steps to mitigate any harm. He suggested affected individuals check their credit activity since September 2018.

The College Pension Plan told several media outlets that it considered this a low risk incident because microfiche is an outdated medium. However, most libraries still have microfiche readers. Microfiche reading and digitizing devices are also for sale through Amazon and several other e-tailers.

The College Pension Plan is one of five public sector pension plans under the B.C. Pension Corporation, which counts a total 560,000 members. It pays out $4.2 billion a year to over 181,000 retirees. 

Meanwhile, B.C. FIPA slammed the NDP for breaking its election promise to enact a strong duty to document law with fines.

On April 1, the government announced it added 41 agencies to the list of those under the Information Management Act. That is the same law that the NDP called ineffective when it was in opposition. The NDP repeatedly hammered the BC Liberals for their 2015 triple delete scandal, but has been found mass-deleting information since coming to power. Horgan’s office even defended ex-Christy Clark spokesman Ben Chin, who was found mass-deleting his email on the day that the Ombudsperson’s report on the health firings scandal was released in April 2017.

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


Bob Mackin Five months after losing a box