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Bob Mackin 

One of Christy Clark’s closest friends, who approved a misleading 2012 press release about an RCMP probe of government scientists that didn’t happen, got a nearly $475,000 golden parachute when the NDP took over from the BC Liberals in July. 

That, according to documents released to theBreaker under the freedom of information laws on Sept. 13.

Athana Mentzelopoulos was paid $284,052, plus $50,002 in expenses, in her last year as deputy minister of finance under the BC Liberal government. Her $474,552.51 settlement was the second-biggest after Clark Deputy Minister and Public Service head Kim Henderson’s $540,955. (Henderson, who was paid $312,730 last year, agreed in August to be the $1-a-year special adviser to her NDP-hired successor, Don Wright.) 

Athana Mentzelopoulos

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke concluded in his damning April 6 report that eight health ministry researchers were wrongly fired over trumped-up claims of a data breach. His report said that then-goverment communications deputy minister Mentzelopoulos “conceded that she thought that it was important to have the RCMP in the press release, ‘because I assumed that it was true’.”

One of the eight, Roderick MacIsaac, died of suicide in fall 2012. In 2013, the government sent his sister, Linda Kayfish, a posthumous settlement cheque for $482.53.

Mentzelopoulos was a bridesmaid at Clark’s wedding and they worked together in Ottawa during the Chretien administration in the early 1990s. Mentzelopoulos oversaw the public affairs bureau for Gordon Campbell during part of his premiership, but returned to Ottawa as the director general of Health Canada’s consumer product safety directorate before Clark hired her in 2011.  

Mentzelopoulos, Henderson and eight other top-level bureaucrats accounted for more than $4.02 million of the $11.3 million that the NDP government said it paid to 133 people officially laid-off in cabinet orders signed by Clark on July 17, her last day in office. 

The list provided to theBreaker totalled $8,191,695.53. It was not complete, because the individual settlement amounts for dozens of politcal appointees had not been finalized. One of them, Virginia Bremner, is Clark’s ex-receptionist and the wife of NPA Vancouver city council candidate Hector Bremner.

A similar, partial list provided to theBreaker from June 2001 showed $2,906,833 in payments to NDP appointees who were swept out of office by the incoming Gordon Campbell BC Liberals. Deputy ministers Russel Pratt ($191,012) and Jim O’Dea ($112,281) received the biggest settlements on that list.

In July, the B.C. government said the total bill for transition severances in 2001 was $9 million which, after inflation, would be $11.93 million in 2017 dollars.

John Paul Fraser

Also enjoying big 2017 exit payments were Clark deputy Neil Sweeney ($413,631.51), education deputy minister Dave Byng ($409,346.51) and John Paul Fraser ($396,205), the government’s chief propagandist and son of conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser. 

In Clark’s office, the biggest non-deputy payouts went to corporate priorities director Sandy Wharf ($214,538), executive operations director Michelle Leamy ($201,175), communications head Ben Chin ($159,533), and correspondence manager Antoinette de Wit ($158,091). 

Deputy chief of staff Michele Cadario ($147,249) and issues management director Evan Southern ($73,777) were both key players in the 2015 “triple delete” email scandal. Investigators from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner found Cadario routinely deleted all of her email while Southern used post-it notes to keep track of FOI requests. 

Shane Mills, who managed the party’s “Truth Truck” election campaign stunt, got a $145,646 payout. He is now the party spokesman. 

Clark also cost taxpayers $1.25 million in 2013 when she fired three deputy ministers  — Don Fast (Community, Sport and Cultural Development), Cairine MacDonald (Advanced Education) and Graham Whitmarsh (Health) — after a surprise re-election win over the NDP.

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FOI Request PSA-2017-72524 Severances by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin  One of Christy Clark’s closest friends,

Bob Mackin

The slower they are at banning corporate and union donations from politics in B.C., the more the NDP government will face a grilling like the one on Sept. 12 in Question Period. 

The BC Liberals, who set new highs in fundraising revenue and new lows in ethics during their 16-year dynasty, put Surrey Panorama MLA and Citizens Services minister Jinny Sims on the spot. Sims was front and left-of-centre in a widely seen photograph from a Sept. 6 event at trucking company owner Kulwant Dhesi’s Surrey house. 

Sims, Horgan, Hepner and Meggs in Surrey Sept. 6.

The photograph included convicted gunman Maninder Gill (over Sims’s right shoulder, without a turban) and Jawahar Padda (second from left), a pizzeria owner who faces firearms and assault charges. Also smiling for the camera were Premier John Horgan, his chief of staff Geoff Meggs, and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. 

Said Sims to Johal: “I was at a private event. I was not aware of the full guest list, and I was not aware that Maninder Gill would be in attendance. Anyone who knows me understands that I abhor violence. I have spent my life fighting against violence of all types. This man was convicted of a very serious crime that I do not condone in any way. He should not have been there.”

Johal reminded Sims of the time in February 2013 when she awarded Radio India’s Gill the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for community service (60,000 of the royal trinkets were handed out by politicians all over the country in 2012 and 2013). In a statement to media at the time, Sims claimed she was unaware of Gill’s charges for shooting Harjit Atwal outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Surrey in 2010: “I recognize the seriousness of the crime he has been accused of committing, and apologize to those who were offended that he was presented with the medal.”

Johal referred to the event as a cash-for-access fundraiser, but Sims did not contradict him. She simply called it a “private event” twice. 

Ex-Finance Minister Mike de Jong — no stranger to fundraising follies himself — joined the dog-pile. Yes, that’s the same de Jong whose staff had this reporter escorted out of the Wall Centre last Oct. 12 during his own cash-for-access elbow-bend. 

“Look, this is the party that was dripping with sanctimony on this issue — day after day, week after week, came in here speaking about this issue,” de Jong said. “Not only are they now ramping up their own cash-for-access program; the minister seems to be at the forefront of the new cash-from-convict program.”

Sims, further pressed, misspoke: “No money has been donated by that man to the NDP. I abhor violence and any who take part in it, and he should not have been there.”

Oh, really? Elections BC shows five $1,000 donations by Radio India (2003) Ltd. to the NDP from 2007 to 2011. Maninder Singh Gill (who is appealing his four-year jail sentence) is listed as the sole owner. Meanwhile, Padda made $7,000 in donations to the NDP from two of his companies, most recently for $5,000 on March 23. Donations received after the 2017 election will be disclosed next April.  

Horgan got up in the Legislature and said, like Sims, that he was unaware of the guest list, “aside from the mayor of Surrey and a handful of councillors, who I was having an opportunity to meet and talk about making life better for the people who live south of the Fraser — taking tolls off the Port Mann Bridge, for example, so life will be better for people on that side of the House,” he said.

“I had an opportunity to talk to the mayor of Surrey about getting 7,000 kids out of portable classrooms that have been building up on the watch of the government on the other side.”

“I took advantage of an opportunity, not at a fundraiser but to meet with business leaders in Surrey that are well known to many over on that side, to meet with the mayor of Surrey and to talk about making life better for British Columbians.”

NDP president Craig Keating also denied it was a fundraiser. 

But that does not necessarily mean there were no funds being raised.

A source told theBreaker that attendees invited by Dhesi were encouraged to donate $5,000 each to the NDP and more than $50,000 was raised. Neither Dhesi, Meggs nor Prem Vinning (third from right) returned calls from theBreaker. Vinning is a BC and federal Liberal powerbroker in the South Asian community, yet he was invited to Horgan’s swearing-in on July 18

Horgan hosted a $500-per-person golf fundraiser on Aug. 24 at Bear Mountain in Langford. He is also hosting a $525-per-person “Leader’s Levee” at the Hotel Vancouver on Sept. 22. Green leader Andrew Weaver sarcastically called it the “leader’s levy.” 

Johal, a Tsawwassen resident who narrowly won the seat in Richmond-Queensborough, is a former Global reporter who often covered BC Liberal cronyism and corruption before quitting to lobby for the LNG industry. He has not responded to repeated queries from theBreaker about various aspects of his switch to politics, including the six-figure fundraising quotas set by 2017 campaign co-chair Rich Coleman for those, like him, who were appointed as candidates for the May 9 election. 

Oliver Lum, Hepner’s spokesman, said she did not pay to attend and called it a “mistake on her part” to be photographed in a group with Gill. Lum said Hepner was not aware that he would attend. 

The RCMP and special prosecutor David Butcher continue to investigate indirect donations made to the BC Liberals from lobbyists. The NDP insist they will table a bill this month to ban corporate and union donations, prohibit donations from outside British Columbia and set a maximum amount for donations. During the election campaign, Horgan had said it would be the first order of business. 

Bob Mackin The slower they are at

Bob Mackin 

Cut the NDP some slack. But don’t let them enjoy a long leash. 

Finance Minister Carole James’s Sept. 11 budget update came on the 56th day since the July 18 swearing-in. A rather ambitious summer project. 

Just like Gary Collins’s speech on July 30, 2001, when the BC Liberal mini-budget was packed heavy with a bevy of promised tax cuts for individuals and industry.

The Gordon Campbell Liberals were able to get to work quicker, only because they won 77 of 79 seats in

James delivering the first NDP budget since 2001 (Hansard TV)

the May 16, 2001 election. It took three weeks before B.C.’s 2017 vote was settled and then most of the next month as the minority BC Liberals unsuccessfully tried every which way to Sunday to hang-on to power and force another election. Christy Clark’s gamble flopped on a Thursday night. 

Back in 2001, Collins aggressively commenced a red-tape cutting agenda, which eventually included an about-face on key promises, such as stopping the expansion of gambling and not selling BC Rail. Decisions that still haunt the Liberals. 

James’s plan was more detailed and complex than Collins’s, but it contained notable omissions. 

John Horgan’s NDP campaigned aggressively to bring $10-a-day childcare and a $400 credit for renters, neither of which were in the budget. James said they’re coming, but didn’t say when. Student loan relief and BC Hydro rate freezes were promised. So were BC Ferries fare rollbacks. The wait is on for those as well.

The NDP is spending $208 million for 1,700 new rental units and $291 million for 2,000 modular housing units for homeless. But that leaves more than 110,000 to build. 

There is $681 million more for Kindergarten to Grade 12 over three years, including the hiring of 3,500 teachers (as the Supreme Court of Canada told the BC Liberals to do). There is also $189 million to improve seniors’ home and residential care and $322 million to battle the fentanyl crisis: prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery. 

To pay for it, James hiked personal income taxes from 14.7% to 16.8% for $150,000-plus earners, and hiked corporate income taxes from 11% to 12%, but dropped small business taxes from 2.5% to 2%. 

The AdvantageBC corporate welfare program is over and the BC HOME Partnership mortgage program is under review. The Liberals are predictably outraged, as outraged as a party that decided June 22 to support key planks of the NDP platform can be. 

That James’s speech was on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was a reminder of the curveballs governments face. Campbell’s cabinet met Sept. 12, the day after the tragedy, and the minutes (obtained by theBreaker) show that Campbell and co. discussed “the global slowown, the impact of the softwood lumber tariff, the events of September 11 on the U.S. economy and Crown corporation losses are all contributing to a scenario of weak economic growth.” 

The NDP in 2017 faces the twin challenges of the fentanyl overdose crisis and wildfires (the cost of fire management has zoomed from $63.16 million to a whopping $506.3 million). 

The softwood lumber tariff is back and the B.C. economy relies more on buying, selling and building houses than natural resources. Interest rates could be going up and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are bound to have economic ripple effects for weeks and months to come. 

The NDP has a long social and economic “to do list,” but there is another list they can and should act quicker to fulfil. Governance, itself. 

Last Friday’s throne speech committed to changing fixed election dates to fall, beginning in 2021, amending lobbying laws to restrict former public office holders from profiting, and a referendum on proportional representation. All good ideas. Originally conceived for during the province wide municipal elections vote next October, it may happen a tad later and by mail-in vote. The throne speech says “no later than November 2018.”

British Columbians should be worried about other promised democratic reforms that look like they will get pushed beyond the first 100 days. 

The party’s election platform said: “We’ll work with the auditor general to set strong standards for advertising spending. We’ll protect whistleblowers, strengthen conflict-of-interest legislation and improve access to information rules.” 

None of the four above measures appears in the throne speech. 

The only thing in the “ending partisan waste and opening up government” section that the NDP has delivered is the announcement to bring back the B.C. Human Rights Commission.

Bob Mackin  Cut the NDP some slack. But

Bob Mackin 

The University of British Columbia ignored the rights of First Nations when it reinstated John Furlong as guest speaker for its annual athletics department fundraiser, according to a complaint filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. 

Santa Ono (Twitter)

Furlong, the former Vancouver 2010 Olympics CEO who chairs Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps, was hired last fall for $11,000 to deliver a half-hour motivational speech at the ZLC Millennium Scholarship Breakfast at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Feb. 28. UBC President Santa Ono cancelled Furlong’s appearance on Dec. 22 after complaints from students about Furlong’s controversial past as a gym teacher at a Catholic elementary school for aboriginals in 1969 and 1970. 

A series of Freedom of Information requests by theBreaker resulted in a 916-page document dump last April that showed heavy lobbying by donors, some of whom threatened to withhold money from their alma mater. 

Myrtle Perry of Vancouver filed the complaint on Aug. 27, saying that when Ono buckled to the complaints and reinstated Furlong on Jan. 9, UBC “listened, responded, apologized only to Furlong supporters; not First Nations.”

Perry, a member of the Lake Babine First Nation, claimed to be intentionally denied a service by UBC, which, she wrote, “went to great, expensive lengths to provide it to non-indingenous people.”

Perry’s brother, hereditary chief Richard Perry, was one of eight people who provided the Georgia Straight newspaper and reporter Laura Robinson with sworn affidavits alleging abuse by Furlong at Immaculata elementary in Burns Lake. They were the foundation for a September 2012 exposé about omissions and inconsistencies in Furlong’s post-Olympics memoir, “Patriot Hearts“.

Furlong has emphatically denied allegations that he abused children and has never been criminally charged. The allegations have not been tested in court. Furlong sued for defamation in late 2012, but later withdrew the lawsuits against Robinson and the newspaper. In 2015, Robinson lost a defamation lawsuit she filed against Furlong. Furlong has not sued his accusers.

“UBC did not reach out to or listen to our people in Northern B.C.,” Perry wrote. “My brother Richard — a hereditary chief — traveled 1,000 km to UBC because we wanted to speak to decision-makers about Furlong’s abuse. Our people live a long distance from UBC and were seen as having no consequence. We are members of the Lake Babine First Nation and were not listened to, responded to or apologized to because we are First Nation.”

Furlong (UBC)

Perry said she survived abuse at Immaculata, but was no longer a student there by the time Furlong arrived in 1969 as an 18-year-old lay missionary from Ireland. “There was extreme violence and we were terrified and always on guard,” she wrote. “This experience with UBC has brought back that trauma. There is PTSD, depression and despair.”

Perry’s complaint names Ono, chair Stuart Belkin, athletic director Gilles Lepine, vice-president Philip Steenkamp, chief communications officer Richard Fisher and three others.

“We have not been notified by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal of a complaint by this individual nor have we seen the complaint so [we] aren’t able to comment on it,” UBC spokeswoman Leslie Dickson told theBreaker.

The Ubyssey reported Aug. 25 that Ono would apologize Sept. 28 for UBC’s involvement in the history of the Indian Residential School system. Next spring, UBC will open the Indian Residential Schools History and Dialogue Centre. 

Bob Mackin  The University of British Columbia ignored

The best-of-seven national championship for the national summer sport in this Canada 150 year is where it belongs. 

The 2017 Mann Cup — the 108th — is at New Westminster’s historic Queen’s Park Arena, hosted by the legendary New Westminster Salmonbellies. 

The host ‘Bellies beat the Peterborough Lakers 12-10 in overtime in game one of the best-of-seven series on Sept. 8. Game two is Sept. 9 and game three Sept. 11. 

Bob Mackin spoke with Western Lacrosse Association commissioner Paul Dal Monte. 

Visit Salmonbellies.com for schedule, ticket and webcast information. 

 

 

The best-of-seven national championship for the national

Bob Mackin

theBreaker played a bit part in changing political history in British Columbia. 

Plecas (centre) dragged by house leaders to the Speaker’s chair (Hansard TV)

How?

Well, BC Liberal Darryl Plecas’s surprise ascent to the Speaker’s throne in the B.C. Legislature on Sept. 8 may never have happened if not for two sources who told theBreaker what really went on behind the scenes at the pivotal BC Liberal caucus retreat in Penticton at the end of July. 

Ex-premier Christy Clark shocked the province and resigned as party leader on July 28, after pledging earlier that week that she was looking forward to being in opposition and holding the NDP’s feet to the fire. Rich Coleman became the interim leader and held a tearful news conference where he made that infamous slip of the tongue: “What she’s given to this province should never be forgiven… forgotten.” 

Clark waited until after the weekend to hold her farewell news conference in Vancouver, where she claimed nobody in caucus wanted her to leave. 

On Aug. 3, theBreaker published the story that debunked the last-known fib of Clark’s career: those two sources told theBreaker that Plecas stood up to Clark and had threatened to leave caucus if Clark’s leadership didn’t undergo a review. Not only had the Clark Clique adopted NDP and Green policies in the “clone speech,” not only had party insiders held a meeting to blame Clark for the election loss, but now there was genuine dissent. 

Evidently, they tried to make it appear that things were OK and found a role for Plecas in the fall sitting of the Legislature. When Coleman announced his shadow cabinet, Plecas was given the unenviable task of being the BC Hydro critic. 

Now, instead of defending BC Liberal mismanagement of the biggest Crown corporation, Plecas has a pay raise and a prestigious job better-suited for an academic who didn’t get into politics to play games. But that didn’t stop the Liberals from withholding applause for the new speaker. As is his character, the notorious bloviator and career politician Coleman labelled Plecas a traitor. 

After all the games and tricks played by the Liberals after the election — such as the June 22 clone speech and Clark’s failed June 29 bid to trigger a new election — the Legislature sorted itself out naturally. The 41 NDP and three Greens now outnumber the Liberals by three votes. That is likely to be reduced to two in the new year when Clark’s West Kelowna seat is reclaimed by Liberal Ben Stewart. But the feared deadlock needing tie-breaking votes from a “partisan” speaker won’t happen. 

Now, after all the dilly-dallying, the people paid good money to make laws and dole out contracts can get down to work and solve the province’s myriad problems. And there were many left by the previous BC Liberal government. 

More than 4.7 million British Columbians are waiting for you to make it better, NDP. No excuses. 

Bob Mackin theBreaker played a bit part in

Bob Mackin

The good news is the candidate green-lit by Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party to run in the Oct. 14 by-election hasn’t had to go to court for running a red light. 

But the Sept. 6-unveiled city council hopeful Diego Andres Cardona was fined more than $1,000 for driving violations on four occasions since spring 2016. Cardona failed to appear for three traffic court hearings and faces another on Sept. 14 at Robson Square. Cardona said in an interview that he has learned from his mistakes. 

Cardona (left) and Robertson (Vision)

Cardona, who turns 22 in February, was scheduled Sept. 7 to dispute a $276 fine levied by Burnaby RCMP for not having a valid driver’s licence last Jan. 20. Neither Cardona nor the officer, who wrote the ticket for the Rumble Street and Gilley Avenue incident, were in courtroom 204 at Robson Square. The presiding judge treated Cardona’s non-attendance as if he was no longer disputing the charge, which means the fine stands and must be paid. 

On April 27, 2016, a Burnaby RCMP officer cited Cardona for driving at 1:20 a.m. — during the standard midnight-to-5 a.m. ban for new drivers — and without a qualified, licensed supervisor age 25 or older. The court file shows that Cardona also failed to appear for that Oct. 24, 2016 hearing. 

Cardona was charged July 28, 2016 with violating a restriction on a driver’s licence and failing as a new driver to display the letter L (for learner) decal on the exterior of his car. The fines are worth $109 each. According to the court file, Cardona failed to appear for the Aug. 18 hearing, after three defence-initiated adjournments. The ticket was also treated as not disputed. 

Cardona did not appear at Robson Square on Sept. 14 to fight another $109 fine for failing to display the learner L and a $253 fine for speeding past a playground sign near John Hendry Park on Sept. 17, 2016. The Vancouver Police officer who wrote the ticket alleges Cardona drove his black 2015 Chrysler 200 at a speed of 61 kilometres an hour in a 30 km-h zone. Cardona’s non-appearance was treated as not disputed.

A 2015 Chrysler 200, similar to Cardona’s (Chrysler)

Cardona was granted two adjournments on this case. His applications mention that he was to attend a professional development course paid by his employer at the University of Toronto March 15 to April 7 and that he took a leave of absence to remain in Toronto until July 17. 

Cardona told theBreaker on Sept. 7 that he has paid the fines, but was unable to recall when. theBreaker has asked Cardona to show proof of payment. So far, only one ICBC payment receipt has been shown to theBreaker: a Sept. 1 payment for the $253 speeding in a playground zone ticket. He said that none of the infractions was the “result of me putting the lives of anybody in danger.”

“I really do hope that people are not distracted by mistakes that were made, that were owned and acted on,” Cardona said in an interview. “That’s the idea and I’m not ashamed to share the fact that I did not have financial resources to address these challenges when they did come up.”

Cardona was chosen behind-closed-doors by the Vision Vancouver board, rather than via an open vote by party membership, to contest the seat vacated by Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs. Meggs quit to become Premier John Horgan’s $195,000-a-year chief of staff. 

Vancouver city councillors are paid $85,000-a-year, plus expenses. Vision holds six of the 11 council seats, with the NPA at three and Greens at one.

The deadline for nominations to run in the Oct. 14 vote is 4 p.m. Sept. 8. The next general election is Oct. 20, 2018.  

Cardona’s bio — issued by the party that has put the bicycle ahead of the car in city planning — says the Killarney-area resident is a spokesperson for the Vancouver Foundation’s Fresh Voices program and works as programs coordinator for Kiwassa Neighbourhood House. His statement of disclosure, filed with the city clerk’s office for the by-election, says that Cardona is also a contractor at both Oxygen Yoga and Fitness and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, facts omitted from the Vision Vancouver announcement of his candidacy.

The native of Colombia came to Canada as a refugee in 2005 says he cares for his sister as well as his grandmother, who is back in Colombia. 

Bob Mackin The good news is the candidate

Bob Mackin

“Let’s all go to the lobby, to get ourselves a treat.”

The old movie theatre intermission announcement could just as easily apply to the corridors of government in British Columbia. It is no secret about how politicians and their staff have figured out how to treat themselves by parlaying their time in public office into personal profit. 

NDP Attorney General David Eby pledges that is about to change, with new laws to be introduced after the Legislature resumes on Sept. 8.

“We want this bill to be able to achieve what the public wants and what we think the majority of the legislature wants, which is restrictions around peiople using inside knowledge gained from their public employment to profit from it privately,” Eby told theBreaker.

In part one of this two-part series, theBreaker detailed some of the BC Liberals who cashed-in. Now, in part two, a look at those NDP insiders who are replacing those Liberals who were access brokers over the last decade-and-a-half. 

Who’s in
  • Brad Lavigne has seven contracts on the go through Toronto-based Counsel Public Affairs Inc. 

Lavigne

Late federal NDP opposition leader Jack Layton’s campaign manager and communications director previously worked in the B.C. NDP government from 1998 to 2001 as an aide in the office of the premier and chief of staff to the finance minister. He cut his teeth in campus politics as chair of the Canadian Federation of Students.

Lavigne’s B.C. clients, so far, are in the business of pills, piles, cash, cars, apps and pot: GlaxoSmithKline Inc., B.C. Real Estate Association, Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities, Totem Capital Corp., Toyota Canada Inc., Carrot Insights and Eden Medicinal Society. 

Carrot’s registration says it has received $2.5 million from B.C. taxpayers and it wants more for its healthy living promotion and consumer loyalty app. Lavigne is an executive advisor for Carrot, along with Rogers CEO Joe Natale. Carrot’s chair is Irfhan Rawji, a principal at one of Lavigne’s other clients, Totem. 

Parkbridge was Lavigne’s latest registration, on Sept. 1. Lavigne’s registration describes it as an owner, operator and developer of residential land lease communities, recreational resorts and marinas. But what makes it so intriguing is that the parent of the Calgary company is the B.C. Investment Management Corp., the giant $135.5 billion Crown pension fund. Lavigne is, essentially, being paid by a Crown corporation to lobby government. 

  • Michael Gardiner is a newly minted principal of Ascent Public Affairs with Kimanda Jarzebiak and Geoff Ingram, but also runs his own shop, MG Strategies. 

Gardiner

Gardiner was NDP provincial director for two years after managing Horgan’s leadership win. Back in 2000, he was advanced education minister Graeme Bowbrick’s assistant for six months. 

Gardiner is tied with Lavigne, with seven clients: Calgary-based oil and natural gas explorer Tourmaline Oil Corp., Rick Hansen Institute, LifeLabs, Genome B.C., B.C. Technology Association, mobile and Internet of things incubator Wavefront Accelerator and Uber competitor Lyft. UPDATE: On Sept. 18, Gardiner gained his eighth client registration, with Telus, the omnibus telecommunications provider to the government since 2011. 

Coming soon?
  • Former NDP and Vision Vancouver backroomer Marcella Munro made waves two summers ago when she moved to the other side of the Rockies to join the Rachel Notley NDP administration in Alberta. 

She was paid $130,000-a-year as stakeholder engagement and communications manager at Notley’s Calgary office. 

Munro was later transferred to the energy minister’s chief of staff, but is now out of the Notley crew and into KTG Public Affairs. That is the firm founded by Conservative Ken Boessenkool, NDPer Brian Topp and Liberal Don Guy. 

Guy announced Munro’s acquisition on his LinkedIn page, which also said Jamey Heath quit KTG to take a senior communications job in the Notley government and ex-federal NDP candiate Aileen Burke was joining his firm.

“Ken, Brian and I welcome Marcella Munro as senior strategist,” Guy wrote. “Marcella expands our reach with her terrific network in British Columbia and across the country, as well as our strategic communications planning and execution abilities.”

The former Earnscliffe lobbyist had 28 client registrations during her B.C. lobbying career, including Chevron, Canadian Beverage Association, McDonald’s, Spectra Energy, Glaxosmithkline, Cement Association of Canada, Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C. and B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

“It was time for me to get back to the private sector,” Munro wrote to her followers. 

“I’ll be based in Calgary, but expect to be seeing a lot more of friends in B.C. and Ontario in my new role.”

Munro’s other claim to fame is her onetime, odd couple relationship with ex-NDPer Brad Zubyk, the Z in the BC Liberal-allied lobbying firm Wazuku. 

Out of the game, for now
  • In early August, Wazuku began adapting to the new reality of an NDP government in B.C. 

It hired Port Coquitlam city councillor Brad West, who was NDP MLA Mike Farnworth’s constituency assistant from 2008 to 2011 and an aide on his unsuccessful leadership campaign in 2014. 

By the end of August, however, the West recruitment announcement was gone from the Wazuku website and so was West’s photo. Wazuku’s Kim Haakstad, the company’s government affairs managing director, did not respond to theBreaker. West said by email that he is not employed by Wazuku, but continues to work as a staff representative for the United Steelworkers (the union that was the biggest financial backer of the NDP election campaign at more than $750,000.)

  • Moe Sihota, the controversial 1990s on-again, off-again NDP cabinet minister, signed-on with

    Sihota from the Canadian Strategy Group website.

    Edmonton-based Canadian Strategy Group in 2015 to help its clients navigate the Notley government. 

Sihota told theBreaker on Aug. 29 that he was no longer involved with CSG, despite being prominently featured on the CSG website. Sihota disappeared from the CSG website by the end of the day, after theBreaker contacted the firm. 

“He is correct,” said CSG co-founder Michael Lohner. “Our website is out of date. Moe worked as a counsel to the firm in Alberta as he indicated, but hasn’t been involved for many months.”

Sihota admitted his phone has been ringing since the NDP came to power on July 18 (with help of the Greens). 

“If I am going to be lobbying, I’ll register,” Sihota said. “You get all sorts of calls from all sorts of people, but I’m not doing any of that work at this point, so there is no need to register.”

Sihota owns the Four Points by Sheraton Victoria Gateway in suburban Langford. He declined to comment on the NDP-cancelled bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which would have relied heavily on Langford venues. 

Bob Mackin “Let’s all go to the

Bob Mackin

Four days after he became the ex-minister of energy and mines, BC Liberal Bill Bennett was suddenly a director of Eagle Plains Resources, a junior mining explorer. 

Terry Lake, the veterinarian who was health minister under Christy Clark, was gone from office for 80 days before he was announced as the vice-president of “social responsibility” for Hydropothecary Corp., a Quebec medical marijuana concern. 

Should there be a cooling-off period for cabinet ministers before they go to work in industries that they once regulated or sought to regulate? 

Attorney General Eby (Mackin)

There will be, if they want to communicate to influence their successors in cabinet or the bureaucrats they once managed.

Attorney General David Eby’s mandate letter from Premier John Horgan says he is expected to “make substantive process” on introducing legislation to reform lobbying in British Columbia.

Eby told theBreaker that the NDP government will do more than that, after the Legislature resumes on Sept. 8. 

“We’ll be introducing a bill that expands the scope of the existing lobbyist regulations in British Columbia, to expand the categories of people with inside knowledge through their work and using that knowledge to profit from their public job to profit from it privately,” Eby said. “The amendments are broadly similar to the federal amendments, to their lobbyist regulations.” 

In the pre-election sitting of the Legislature, the NDP introduced a bill to restrict publicly funded organizations from lobbying, legislate a two-year cooling-off period for public office holders, staff and advisors, and to review the law every five years. 

The majority Liberals quashed the bill. Then-Attorney General Suzanne Anton boasted in Question Period on March 9 that her party established the lobbyist registry in 2002 and updated it in 2009 to give the registrar power to conduct investigations. Yet, when she was registrar, Elizabeth Denham complained she did not have enough power and the law was riddled with loopholes. For instance, lobbyists must only report which department or cabinet minister they want to target. Unlike the federal law, they are not required to report whenever they met or communicated with politicians or officials.

In the June 22 throne speech, ridiculed as the “clone speech,” the Liberals pledged finally to “work with other parties to strengthen lobbyist legislation and regulations.” But that did not last — they were defeated June 29 by the NDP and Greens on a no-confidence vote.

Eby said “we’re not passing laws for the sake of passing laws.

“We want this bill to be able to achieve what the public wants and what we think the majority of the legislature wants, which is restrictions around peiople using inside knowledge gained from their public employment to profit from it privately.”

Bennett and Lake have not registered as lobbyists yet and they may never have to if the B.C. laws mimic federal laws. 

Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative administration enacted restrictions, but that gave birth to a new cottage industry for former Prime Ministers and cabinet ministers to be hired by law firms as “strategic advisors.” Since losing the 2015 federal election, Harper became one with the Calgary office of Dentons. The firm’s website says he provides “advice to clients on market access, managing global geopolitical and economic risk, and how to maximize value in global markets.”

Numerous BC Liberals and senior staff exploited the weak B.C. laws for their own interests. 

Dimitri Pantazopoulos was recruited from Ontario to work as Clark’s principal secretary in 2012 and acted as the BC Liberals pollster in the 2013 election. 

After the surprise Liberal win, Pantazopoulos quit to open a B.C. lobbying office for Maple Leaf Strategies in the same Canada Place building where Clark’s Vancouver office was. Pantazopoulos escaped the one-year cooling off period that exists only for senior bureaucrats, but not their political masters, because he did not intend to lobby the Intergovernmental Relations division of Clark’s office where he officially worked. Pantazopoulos eventually registered for 13 clients, including a consortium of B.C. daily and weekly newspapers, Adobe Systems, Johnson and Johnson, Uber and Liquor Stores N.A.

Patrick Kinsella (Conor Kinsella/Facebook)

Gabe Garfinkel left his job in Clark’s office in October 2013 to join FleishmanHillard. Within weeks, he registered for EDF EN Canada to lobby energy minister Bill Bennett.

Press secretary Samuel Oliphant quit Clark’s office in February 2016. Before the end of March 2016, he had registered for Toronto’s Think Research to help get a proposed app in front of Health Minister Terry Lake.

Less than a year after Doug Horne quit as a BC Liberal MLA and lost a bid for a seat in Parliament as a Conservative in 2015, he registered for Hollywood film studio Skydance Media.

PartnershipsBC chair Dana Hayden registered in early 2016 for Westbank Projects to lobby her former employer, B.C. Pavilion Corporation, to put land for sale next to B.C. Place Stadium’s east end. In mid-2016, Hayden was fined $800 by the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists for not properly disclosing that she had been a deputy minister in the B.C. government. 

The king of all lobbyists in B.C. is Patrick Kinsella, himself an import from Ontario who worked as Premier Bill Bennett’s right-hand man. Kinsella, 76, had a hand in the ascent to power of both Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, and sold his many clients access to them both. 

On March 10, Elections B.C. referred its investigation into lobbyists making indirect and illegal donations to political parties (primarily the BC Liberals) to the RCMP. David Butcher was appointed special prosecutor. The investigation is ongoing.

  • In part two, tomorrow, theBreaker looks at the NDP insiders who are remaking the lobbying landscape in B.C.

Bob Mackin Four days after he became the

Bob Mackin

NPA hopeful Hector Bremner (left) was a Steelhead LNG lobbyist in 2016 when he hosted his ex-boss, LNG minister Rich Coleman (Twitter)

Instead of taking steps toward sweeping the clunky, vegetable-oiled machine that is Vision Vancouver out of office for good, the opposition NPA is paving the way for Gregor Robertson’s party to control 12th and Cambie into the fall of 2022. 

The liberal-conservative party with the monogrammed grape logo met Sept. 6 at the Italian Cultural Centre to nominate a candidate for the by-election caused when Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs skedaddled to a $195,000-a-year job as NDP Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. 

Showing a lack of depth in its candidate-recruitment, only three people put their names on the NPA ballot: ex-School Board trustee Penny Noble, former Cedar Party leader Glen Chernen and Hector Bremner, a failed 2013 BC Liberal candidate from New Westminster. The race was Bremner’s to win, but not because of any policy magic. What was the final tally? The NPA did not announce it and nobody from the party responded to theBreaker’s query. 

Bremner assembled a team that can stack nomination votes and raise money faster and better than anyone in this race, and maybe even in the province. It is not known how much was in Bremner’s kitty, but his crew went on a membership spree in and around the Ross Street Sikh Temple. A typical strategy employed provincially and federally to much controversy.

Bremner is vice-president at veteran BC Liberal backroomer Norman Stowe’s Pace Group and has Mark Marissen and Mike Wilson in his backroom. Marissen is the ex-husband of ex-Premier Christy Clark and was on the inner-circle of the party’s disastrous 2017 campaign. Wilson is the former business partner of veteran BC Liberal and Vision message maker Don Millar at the FD Element advertising agency, which scored several no-bid contracts from Robertson’s office and set-up a pro-Vision blog called Civic Scene. 

Bremner parlayed his 2013 election loss into lucrative fart-catching gigs, first with International Trade Minister Teresa Wat until fall 2014, and then with Rich Coleman, the Deputy Premier, LNG and housing minister. Bremner signed-up in early February 2015 as a lobbyist for Steelhead LNG, the Vancouver Island natural gas play that includes Geoff Plant on its board and had startup help from a pre-BC Hydro Jessica McDonald. Oddly enough, Bremner’s LinkedIn profile shows that he continued working in Coleman’s office until December 2015. Bremner appears to have had one foot in Coleman’s office and the other in the Pace office until the end of December 2015. Yet his sole lobbying target was Finance Minister Mike de Jong. Bremner’s lobbying undertaking for Steelhead LNG ended in February of this year.

Somehow, Bremner failed to tell the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists about his jobs as executive assistant to cabinet ministers. Former public office holders, including political staffers like Bremner, are required to do so. theBreaker confirmed Aug. 29 with the ORL that deputy registrar Jay Fedorak took the first steps toward an investigation. It could end with a fine. 

The low-hanging fruit for Vision to retain the seat Meggs vacated, or for the Greens to win it, gets lower and juicier. Bremner’s wife, Virginia, was paid to answer Christy Clark’s office phone for six years. She organized a June 2016 event in New Westminster attended by Coleman. 

Anti-Clark Clique sentiment was alive on May 9 and it could play a key role on Oct. 14. 

In the 11 Vancouver ridings, the NDP outpolled the Liberals 134,241 to 87,470 in the popular vote on May 9 and knocked-off Attorney General Suzanne Anton, a former NPA city councillor, in Fraserview. The Greens had 34,357 votes. 

The NDP won eight of the 11 seats, but it could have been worse for the Liberals. Had all Green votes gone NDP in False Creek and Langara, it would have been a different story: Andrew Wilkinson in Quilchena would have been the only Liberal left in the province’s biggest city. 

The left is further fragmented entering this by-election — OneCity’s Judy Graves and the COPE-endorsed, Bernie Sanders-inspired Jean Swanson anti-poverty campaigns cancel each other out — and a by-election tends not to reward the ruling party. That may be why Vision is putting-up unknown Diego Cardona as less-than-formidable opposition to Green Pete Fry. Fry earned name recognition after finishing 19th in 2014’s council election with 46,522 votes and his party earned many votes provincially from disaffected Liberals who wanted an end to the Clark Clique.

After Bremner’s coronation, Fry can run his campaign on auto-pilot, by simply reminding voters at every turn of Bremner’s recent past and who is pulling his strings from the shadows. 

Meanwhile, former South Vancouver Conservative MP Wai Young is already planning a fundraiser Sept. 19 as she begins a quest for the NPA mayoral nomination next year. 

Vancouver has never had a female mayor, much less one born in Hong Kong. But Young, like Bremner, has baggage that may be too much to shake away in a centrist city like Vancouver. She served a term with the Stephen Harper Conservatives and was one of those turfed from office in the 2015 federal election. In her case, by Liberal Harjit Sajjan. 

An NPA loss in 2018 would mean 14 years without power at city hall. A Vision win in 2018 would mean 14 years in power at city hall.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_4898" align="alignright" width="451"] NPA hopeful