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Bob Mackin

The NDP minister in charge of the government’s freedom of information department said she is “monitoring all trends with the legislation” after the Vancouver School Board refused to waive the $10 application fee for a high school newspaper.

Bad actors? Premier John Horgan and Lisa Beare on the Riverdale set in 2019 (BC Gov/Flickr)

During the Ministry of Citizens’ Services April 7 budget hearing, BC Liberal critic Bruce Banman mentioned how the school board demanded payment from Eric Hamber secondary’s Griffins’ Nest student newspaper. He asked Minister Lisa Beare whether she would consider exempting student newspapers from the NDP-cabinet imposed fee, but Beare was noncommittal.

“As with any new piece of legislation, it’s important to try and strike that balance within it,” Beare said. “Of course, as with any new piece of legislation, it’s also important to monitor the implementation and what that looks like, and to hear feedback.”

After the student newspaper went public, a GoFundMe campaign raised $1,650.

The NDP used its majority last Nov. 25 to ram through Bill 22, a suite of controversial amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) that included power to charge an application. Shortly after royal assent, Beare signed a cabinet order setting the fee at $10.

The NDP government rushed to make the amendments ahead of the all-party, Special Committee to Review FIPPA struck to review the law once every six years. That committee had only met once, in order to elect a chair, before Bill 22 was passed. Banman asked whether Beare would abolish the $10 fee if the committee’s scheduled June 15 report recommends it be scrapped.

. Photography by John Lehmann

“I’m not going to prejudge any committee determinations. I’m looking forward to seeing the report,” Beare said. “Of course, we will give them thoughtful consideration, as we would any committee report that we receive here in government.”

Banman pressed Beare further: “Would she consider ignoring the recommendation of the committee on that particular issue?”

Replied Beare:The member is asking hypothetical questions, which is absolutely the member’s right, of course. It’s hard to comment on a hypothetical.”

Earlier on April 7, Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy testified to the all-party review committee with 17 recommendations. His top recommendation was for the NDP government to fulfil the February 2019 promise to add the Legislative Assembly to the public records disclosure law. 

“There is no reason why the Legislative Assembly should not, in respect of its administrative functions, be subject to the same transparency and accountability rules as the more than 2,900 public bodies across the province,” McEvoy said. 

More than three years ago, after then Speaker Darryl Plecas uncovered a spending scandal, McEvoy and the Ombudsperson and Merit Commissioner issued a joint public letter to NDP Government House Leader Mike Farnworth. Farnworth said the Legislature would be added to the law, but it still has not happened.

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

McEvoy recommended the law be amended in such a way that covers the administration of the Legislature, but still protects constituents’ case files and other records subject to parliamentary privilege. For almost 30 years, ministries, local governments, universities, schools and independent officers of the Legislature have complied with the law. 

“It is time for the Legislative Assembly to adhere to the same standards,” McEvoy said. 

McEvoy also recommended FIPPA be amended to allow cabinet to disclose information about its deliberations when satisfied the public interest outweighs the need to protect cabinet confidences. Cabinet agendas, minutes and reports are generally kept secret for 15 years.

He also wants the government to clarify the section that protects advice and recommendations made to politicians, so that factual, investigative or background material can be accessed by the public. 

McEvoy said he would not repeat his criticism of Bill 22, except to say he would eventually report on its impacts. 

“The obvious thing we’d be looking at are the volume of requests, whether that’s been impacted,” he said. “And, for example, comparing what is happening with the provincial government, generally, compared to past years, how that compares to other public bodies, where fees are not being charged, to see how the level and number of requests are being made.”

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Bob Mackin The NDP minister in charge of

Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP is running deficit budgets in government, but it’s a different story at party headquarters.

In the annual financial report, released April 6 by Elections BC, Premier John Horgan’s party reported $9.47 million revenue and a $5.84 million surplus in 2021.

John Horgan (NDP)

It issued $3.62 million in income tax receipts to voluntary donors — who were limited to giving $1,268.07 each in 2021 — but took $3.71 million directly from taxpayers: $2.14 million in partial reimbursement for 2020 election campaign expenses and $1.57 million in the annual per-vote subsidy program. The NDP government implemented direct subsidies to political parties when it banned corporate and union donations after coming to power with the support of the Green Party in 2017. 

The allowance was originally deemed transitional, but a special all-party committee struck to review campaign financing provisions of the Election Act recommended subsidies become permanent. To nobody’s surprise, the NDP government agreed and the Legislature passed the amendment last November. The per-vote subsidy was cut from $2.50 to $1.75, but tied to inflation. Quebec and Ontario have similar funding schemes for political parties.

NDP executive director Heather Stoutenberg argued in favour of the permanent subsidy tied to inflation when she appeared at the committee’s May 27, 2021 meeting. 

NDP provincial director Heather Stoutenberg (LinkedIn)

“Annual allowances, in our opinion, are one of the ways that parties can continue to work engaging the public throughout the four-year election cycle, which is incredibly important for, again, our democracy,” Stoutenberg said. 

The next election is scheduled for 2024, but the NDP already has financial clout. It reported a $9 million accumulated surplus to Elections BC, including $5.05 million in land and buildings, $3.48 million in bonds, stocks and other investments and $1.9 million cash on deposit. The former includes the investment in a building that houses party headquarters on West 7th Avenue in Vancouver.

The party paid $2.01 million in salaries and benefits in 2021 and owes $1.4 million on a $1.5 million 2019 loan from Community Savings. An $850,000 loan from the same credit union, arranged during the 2020 election, has been paid off.  

A dinner at La Terrazza Italian restaurant in Vancouver was the biggest of 37 party fundraisers in 2021. “After Work with the Premier and Minister Kahlon” on Oct. 14 grossed $50,000 from the sale of 50 tickets at $1,000 each. 

The NDP also capitalized on a caucus retreat in Chilliwack with a Sept. 23 event at Farmhouse Brewing with $13,850 from 121 tickets sold. The Elections BC return shows Horgan came with 20 MLAs. 

The NDP netted $207,562.87 from fundraising events, exponentially more than the BC Liberals ($3,600) and Greens ($774.02).

Kevin Falcon and BC Liberal leadership candidates except Val Litwin (BC Liberals/Facebook)

The BC Liberals events revenue number is asterisk-worthy, because of fundraising for candidate campaigns in the leadership race. Those financing reports are forthcoming. Leadership fees brought in $218,000, but there were $180,000 in related expenses. 

Previous leader Andrew Wilkinson had been opposed to public subsidies, but the Elections BC report shows the party took almost $3.02 million in various forms of taxpayer subsidies, including the $1.54 million election expenses reimbursement, $1.1 million annual allowance, and $379,000 in federal wage and rent subsidies. At year-end, the party reported a $4.52 million surplus on $6.9 million revenue. 

The party issued $1.125 million in income tax receipts. The report shows one of those who exceeded the annual contribution limit was February-selected leader Kevin Falcon, by a mere $10. 

The Green Party recorded $1.09 million in donations and a $497,264.24 annual allowance. Sonia Furstenau’s party has a $2.2 million accumulated surplus. 

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Bob Mackin  The B.C. NDP is running deficit

Bob Mackin

The Florida tennis pro who was paid to write college entrance exams for the sons of Vancouver stock promoter David Sidoo was sentenced in Boston to four months in jail and two years probation on April 8.

Mark Riddell (IMG)

U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton also ordered Mark Riddell, 39, to pay a $1,000 fine and forfeit $239,449, although the U.S. government had already collected almost $166,000. 

Part-time professional imposter Riddell of Palmetto, Fla. pleaded guilty three years ago to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

Between 2011 and 2019, Riddell used fake identification to secretly pose as students and write their college entrance exams. He also acted as a proctor who corrected answers after students took their exam.

“Riddell played a key role in the success of the test cheating aspect of [mastermind Rick] Singer’s scheme and took 27 exams for 24 students over eight years,” said the prosecutor’s partly redacted sentencing submission. “While he was earning $5,000 to $10,000 per exam, Riddell was gainfully employed as a college counsellor at an elite athletic boarding school earning $71,000 per year. He had a privileged upbringing and attended an Ivy League university before becoming a professional tennis player. He did not act out of desperation; he committed his offense because he could get away with it.”

During the hearing, Gorton asked “how could you have stooped so low?”

In March 2020, David Sidoo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He admitted paying $200,000 in 2011 and 2012 to Singer, who then arranged for Riddell to use fake ID to pose as Dylan and Jordan Sidoo. 

The scheme helped Dylan Sidoo enter Chapman University in California. He later transferred to the University of Southern California where he graduated from the film school. Jordan Sidoo used Riddell’s results to enter and graduate from the University of California Berkeley. 

Dylan (left), David and Jordan Sidoo

Prosecutors alleged Riddell traveled from Tampa, Fla. to Vancouver and posed as Dylan Sidoo to write a scholastic aptitude test (SAT) on Dec. 3, 2011 at a venue that was not disclosed. Riddell also allegedly traveled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012 that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The indictment did not include the proper name for the test or the venue.

Provincial examinations in 2012 were written June 18-22 and 25-28, but June 9 was the designated date for students to write the standardized ACT test. Dylan Sidoo was a student at St. George’s boys school at the time. In a March 2019 statement, the school said “there were no school or provincial exams written at St. George’s School by the student in question on or around the [2012] date named in the indictment.”

The allegations about Riddell’s trips to B.C. were not tested in court, because David Sidoo avoided trial by pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. If convicted, he could have faced up to 20 years in jail. Instead, after the plea deal, Sidoo spent three months in a jail south of Seattle in fall 2020. 

Also in one of the indictments, David Sidoo allegedly asked Singer if Riddell could take either the Graduate Management Admission Test or Law School Admission Test on behalf of his oldest son, Dylan. But the plan went awry.

“Singer and Riddell researched the security measures in place for both exams. On or about April 28, 2015, Singer told Sidoo that their plan to have Riddell take the LSAT in place of Sidoo’s son was ‘[n]ot happening due to fingerprinting’ requirements on the exam,” the indictment said.

David Sidoo (left) and Justin Trudeau in 2016 (PMO)

The indictment also said that in mid-December 2016, Riddell wired $520 through Western Union to China to buy fraudulent drivers’ licences so he could pose as Dylan Sidoo for the GMAT. Riddell ultimately decided not to take the exam, because the fake ID was “not of high quality.”

Singer pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing. 

As a result of the scandal, former Canadian Football League player David Sidoo lost his Order of B.C. and his name was removed from the Thunderbird Stadium field and scoreboard at the University of B.C.

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Bob Mackin The Florida tennis pro who

Bob Mackin

The exclusive and expensive conference for innovators and celebrities is back at the Vancouver Convention Centre, after two years of pandemic cancellations.

TED is back at the Vancouver Convention Centre (PavCo/Twitter)

TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, returns April 10-14 with headliners Bill Gates, Al Gore and Elon Musk. Tickets start at $5,000, but are sold out. The $250,000, five-year membership includes a concierge and meet and greets with speakers. 

The trendy talkathon moved north in 2014 from Long Beach, Calif. It took until 2021 for B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), the Crown corporation that runs the venue, to release the contract under B.C.’s freedom of information law. 

Then-director of operations Katherine McCartney signed the contract on Jan. 23, 2013. It had been originally labeled “Confidential Conference.” TED booked March 11-22, 2014 with a negotiated room rental charge for use of the entire west building for $224,000 including taxes. Jack Poole Plaza and the West Pacific Terrace were available at no additional rent. Food and beverage service, housekeeping, security, lighting, telecommunications were extra, but the contract included a tax relief clause that sweetened the deal.

“If at least 75% of the delegates are reasonably expected to be non-residents of Canada, then 100% of taxes on eligible convention related goods and services that are booked through the Convention Centre will be fully rebated,” the agreement stated. “50% of the taxes on eligible convention related food and beverage booked through the Convention Centre will also be rebated.” 

The contract listed 11 pages showing the day-by-day usage for each room, including CNN, Japanese translation, kids room, “media cave,” film crew studio, community food and beverage, and “speed meetings.”

Inside TED at the Vancouver Convention Centre (North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce TED/YouTube)

In 2014, Tourism Vancouver estimated the meeting of 1,200 to 1,500 delegates would translate to $2.2 million in direct visitor spending or an overall impact of $4.5 million. By comparison, in 2019, Port Vancouver said each cruise ship calling at the Canada Place terminal leaves a $3.17 million impact. 

McCartney declined comment. Her North Vancouver agency, PDW Inc., produced TED until 2018 when she became a consultant. She said she would be attending the 2022 conference, but had no comment. TED’s press office did not respond by deadline.

The organization behind TED was rocked by a #MeToo scandal in November 2017, when the Washington Post reported that two men had been “disinvited” after allegations that at least five people, including a speaker, had been harassed or groped at that year’s conference. 

When the pandemic hit, New York-headquartered TED Conferences LLC received a $3,896,015 Paycheck Protection Program loan from the U.S. government in April 2020 to keep 255 people employed. The ProPublica “Tracking PPP” database shows the loan was forgiven as of June 25, 2021.

The organization’s motto is “ideas worth spreading,” but it did not want details of the Vancouver Convention Centre contract to be shared.

From the TED contract with PavCo (TED/PavCo)

After the initial November 2013 FOI request, PavCo denied access in January 2014, claiming disclosure would harm PavCo finances and TED’s interests. An adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner issued a disclosure order in December 2016 with a February 2017 deadline. Negotiated contracts between public bodies and private entities cannot be withheld, ruled adjudicator Celia Francis.

Neither PavCo nor TED “demonstrated a clear and direct connection between disclosing the information in dispute and the alleged harms,” Francis wrote. “Rather, they provided assertions, unsupported by evidence, which do not persuade me that disclo

sure of the information in dispute could reasonably be expected to result in harm.”

In its submissions, PavCo had called TED a “powerful economic engine” for Vancouver and “fundamental to the fulfillment of PavCo’s economic mandate.” 

In an unusual move, PavCo’s in-house lawyer, Clark Ledingham, also acted as the lawyer for TED, instead of TED hiring its own lawyer. In McCartney’s June 2016 affidavit, she swore that contract negotiations began in November 2012 and threatened TED would move elsewhere if the contract became public. 

PDW’s Katherine McCartney (North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce TED/YouTube)

“Disclosure of the information requested in this Inquiry would have a detrimental impact on our business relationship with PavCo because TED would no longer be able to trust, through no fault of PavCo, that information we consider to be commercially sensitive will remain confidential,” McCartney’s affidavit said. 

At the time of the inquiry, TED did not have a signed agreement past 2017, but had reserved tentative dates at VCC up to 2026. 

The disclosure ruling triggered PavCo’s application for a B.C. Supreme Court judicial review. It finally relented in May 2021, discontinued the court action and released the contract.

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Bob Mackin The exclusive and expensive conference for

For the week of April 10, 2022: 

April is Parkinson’s awareness month in British Columbia and April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day. 

The degenerative disease causes a loss of control of movements, body and emotions. Scientists continue their quest to find a cure. But a deep brain stimulation implant can treat the symptoms and vastly improve the quality of life.

In B.C., the waiting list for the surgery is measured in years. In other provinces, it’s measured in months. 

In February 2019, B.C. NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix promised a second surgeon would be hired and funded to deal with the backlog. More than three years later, Parkinson’s patients wait and wonder if it will ever happen. 

Vancouver sportswriter Michael Harling is one of the 15,000 people in B.C. living with Parkinson’s and a guest on this week’s edition of Podcast with Bob Mackin.

Harling said Dix has an obligation to live up to his commitments, “to honour his word, and to be fair to people with Parkinsons, give them what he promised.” 

Also, commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines. 

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

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

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For the week of April 10, 2022:  April

Bob Mackin

The spotlight is back on the former top judge of B.C. and Canada, because of her controversial part-time role on Hong Kong’s highest court.

Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 2000 to 2017, is among a dozen overseas, non-permanent judges on the Hong Kong Court of Appeal. She was appointed in 2018, the same year she was named a companion of the Order of Canada.

Beverley McLachlin (Jean-Marc Carisse)

On March 30, the United Kingdom government announced that two U.K. judges immediately resigned due to the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing crackdown on rights and freedoms in the former colony.

U.K. foreign secretary Liz Truss announced that discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor and President of the Supreme Court had concluded that “it was no longer tenable for serving U.K. judges to sit” on the Hong Kong court. After imposing a national security law in 2020, the statement said, the People’s Republic of China had continued to use the legislation to undermine fundamental rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers.

Asked if she would also tender her resignation, McLachlin replied by email: “I have no comment at this time.”

In August 2021, McLachlin told the National Post that she was staying on the court out of principle because she did not “wish to do anything that will weaken the last bastion perhaps of intact democracy in Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong was supposed to be governed for 50 years after the 1997 handover according to rights and freedoms in the 1984 Joint Declaration between the U.K. and China. Since the national security law, Beijing’s response to 2019’s pro-democracy protests, numerous activists, politicians and journalists have been tried and jailed. Two newspapers, Apple Daily and Stand News, were forcibly shut down.

Canada also agreed to accept more immigrants from Hong Kong, but many applications have been caught in the pandemic backlog.

McLachlin served as the B.C. Supreme Court’s chief justice from 1985 to 1989. In 2019, in the wake of then-Speaker Darryl Plecas’s report on corruption at the B.C. Legislature, McLachlin was hired for a three-month, $220,000 review that found suspended clerk Craig James committed misconduct. Her report led to James’ sudden retirement in May 2019.

Last year, McLachlin published the crime thriller Denial.

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Bob Mackin The spotlight is back on the

Bob Mackin 

The federal sport minister has ordered an audit of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) after athletes bristled at the organization’s plan to hire a third-party mediator.

After a disappointing finish at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, athletes demanded change atop Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (COC)

A second open letter from 87 athletes on March 21 called BCS’s proposal a band-aid solution that would not solve the “physical, mental, emotional, and financial suffering as a result of BCS’s organizational failures.”

“We continue to believe that BCS is not able to move forward to address the athlete concerns in a positive or productive manner with the current leadership, and once again recommend that at the very least, the board president/acting CEO [Sarah Storey] and high-performance director [Chris Le Bihan] are placed on leave until this process is complete,” said the open letter, which did not name the athletes.

One of the Olympic-level athletes, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing funding, said in an interview that mediation will not fix the “structural integrity issues” at BCS.

“The last eight years, we’ve exhausted every internal mechanism that has been afforded to us,” the slider said.

Federal sport minister Pascale St-Onge responded by using her power to fast-track a regular Sport Canada audit of BCS to ensure compliance with all terms of its federal contribution agreement, including financial and governance.

During the fiscal year ended March 31, 2021, $2.35 million of BCS’s $3.4 million budget came from Sport Canada. Only $249,000 was from sponsors and donors. When Vancouver hosted the Games in 2010, BCS reported $804,000 in sponsorship.

Former Canadian bobsledded Kaillie Humphries joined the United States team in time for Beijing 2022 (USOPC)

St-Onge said the government is also working to establish, by end of spring, an independent reporting process through the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada that would be mandatory for all federally funded national sports organizations.

‘’Let me be clear: there is no place for harassment, abuse, discrimination, or maltreatment in sports. I want to recognize the courage of the athletes who have come forward,” St-Onge said in a statement.

The first letter on March 14 came two weeks after the 21-member Team Canada left the Beijing Olympics with only two bronze medals. Two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist Kaillie Humphries slid to her first gold for the United States in the new monobob event. She quit the Canadian team in 2019 due to a coach’s verbal and mental abuse.

BCS spokesman Chris Dornan said Storey was not available for an interview, but sent a statement from the board that acknowledged receipt of the two letters and plans to improve. “We believe that constructive dialogue and a clear action plan will bring about positive change,” said the statement.

Storey responded to athletes after the March 14 letter to say that BCS, with Own the Podium support, would engage an independent, third-party mediator to convene meetings with athletes and other stakeholders, including board, management and funding agencies. The process is in addition to routine post-Olympic debriefs.

Frustration with Storey’s leadership had been festering since her election. The lawyer had been the vice-president who helped draft a new version of BCS bylaws in 2013 and was accused of using those new rules to win the presidency in 2014. Storey is also the BCS acting chief executive, despite the Canadian Sport Governance Code stating that no board member should become CEO or interim CEO during their term as a director.

A rival for the presidency in 2014 filed a whistleblower complaint to the Canadian Olympic Committee, which inadvertently shared the complaint with Storey. Rita Vathje had asked the COC to keep her name confidential to protect her daughter, national skeleton team member Elisabeth Maier, from retribution.

Vathje alleged that “by unregulated, unregistered voting membership in the Ontario provincial Bobsleigh Skeleton Association, president Max Storey cast 196 provincial member proxies (the majority of counted votes) to elect his sister, Sarah Storey president of the BCS.”

Bob Storey received the Olympic Order in 2012 (FIBT/IOC)

The “Fancy Bear” hacking group, affiliated with the Russian government, published the complaint in early 2018. Despite that, Storey was re-elected to another term later that year, unopposed.

Max Storey, an Olympic bid and organizing consultant, was involved in development of sliding centres for the Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Olympics.

A national team athlete, who declined to be named, now regrets signing a proxy form in 2014.

“I just trusted in this person that they had my interests in mind. And that, you know, this was just another form to fill out. I didn’t realize I was signing my vote away in the sense of being complicit, I guess, in Sarah’s takeover.”

Vathje’s complaint also mentioned that elite athletes paid substantial funds to compete in world cup races to qualify for PyeongChang 2018, but Storey had withheld financial information from membership. Vathje declined to be interviewed.

Sarah and Max Storey’s father, Bob Storey, was three-time Canadian bobsleigh Olympian (twice as an athlete, once as a coach), BCS president from 1976 to 1994 and International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation president from 1994 to 2010.

In 2018, Sarah Storey withdrew her challenge for the IBSF presidency, citing poor transparency and governance. Ivo Ferriani, who defeated her father in 2010, won a third term.

Bob Storey is also known in the Lower Mainland as the founder of South Fraser Broadcasting, which owned Richmond’s CISL and Z95.3 FM radio stations. He was the chief international strategist for Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics bid. In 2012, longtime International Ice Hockey Federation president and IOC member Rene Fasel said: “Vancouver would not have won the 2010 Olympics without him.”

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Bob Mackin  The federal sport minister has ordered

Bob Mackin 

Mexican media is abuzz about the citizenship of the mining union leader who lived 12 years in exile in the Lower Mainland before going home to become a senator.

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia fled north in 2006 and became a Canadian in 2014. In February 2018, he was nominated to the senate and returned to Mexico for his August 2018 swearing-in. Senators in Mexico must be Mexican-born and have no other citizenship.

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia: Out of Canadian exile and into the Mexican senate, thanks to proportional representation.

According to a translation of a March 31 Reforma news agency story in El Diario, Gomez “did not carry out any kind of procedure in Canada to renounce the citizenship of that country.”

The story quoted Gomez’s March 4, 2021, testimony to the 14th District Court on Administrative Matters: “I renounced any foreign nationality before the authorities that I consider to be competent, which in the case are the Mexican ones, not the Canadian ones […] it was not necessary to carry out procedures in Canada.”

To renounce Canadian citizenship, a person must deal directly with Canadian officials. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada requires a $100 payment and completed application with proof one is or will become a citizen of a country other than Canada, will not live in Canada, be at least 18 years old and is not a security threat. The application form is available online and, for those not living in Canada or the U.S., must be submitted to a Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate.

An email query to Gomez’s office did not elicit a reply before deadline.

Questions about Gomez’s citizenship status erupted more than two years ago after he was photographed at Vancouver International Airport. Gomez and his wife, Oralia Casso, flew first class on a Jan. 2, 2020, Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to Vancouver and presented dark blue-covered Canadian passports. Mexico’s are dark green.

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia at a Whitecaps FC match in B.C. Place Stadium (Facebook)

Gomez was head of the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic, better known as Los Mineros, when he fled with his family to Vancouver in 2006. He blamed mining company Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government for “industrial homicide” after an explosion at a coal mine earlier that year in Coahuila killed 65 workers. He was charged for allegedly embezzling USD$55 million from a union trust fund that had been dissolved in 2005. Gomez denied the allegations. In 2014, a Mexican appeal court deemed the charges unconstitutional and cancelled an arrest warrant.

Gomez continued to run Los Mineros from afar and enjoyed the support of Unifor and the United Steelworkers. Elections BC’s database shows he made seven donations to the BC NDP, from 2009 to 2017, totalling $2,680. Oxford-educated Gomez succeeded his father as the union’s leader in 2000, but never worked in a mine.

In 2018, Gomez triumphantly returned to Mexico when he was appointed a senator under that country’s mixed member proportional representation system after the election of new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. At the time, Gomez claimed he had renounced his Canadian citizenship. When he started his six-year term, Gomez said he wanted to reconstruct Mexico and fight corruption.

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Bob Mackin  Mexican media is abuzz about the

Bob Mackin

The Chinese citizen arrested at Vancouver International Airport more than two years ago on charges he laundered money for Mexican drug cartels pleaded guilty on March 28 to a federal judge in Chicago.

Federal Court in Chicago (U.S. District Court)

Long Huanxin, aka “Little Long” or “Mateo K,” was accused of receiving bulk cash from the proceeds of narcotics, laundering the funds and delivering the money to drug-trafficking cartels in Mexico. 

During a video hearing, Long, 34, told Judge Gary Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that he pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and that the facts against him were correct. The other three charges will be dropped. Long is held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

The plea agreement contemplates a prison sentence in the range of 14 years to 17.5 years. Long will also forfeit $70,000. The judge told Long he also faces the very high likelihood of deportation to China upon release. Feinerman set July 12 for a status hearing, at which the sentencing hearing is expected to be scheduled.

Had a trial gone ahead, Long could have faced up to 20 years in prison, a $500,000 fine or twice the amount of funds involved in the criminal transaction (whichever is greater), and up to three years probation. 

Long was destined for Mexico when he was arrested Feb. 5, 2020 at YVR after arriving on a flight from Guangzhou. Canada Border Services Agency officers were acting on a U.S. warrant issued in March 2019. Long agreed during a July 2020 B.C. Supreme Court hearing to surrender to U.S. authorities.

Prosecutor Sean Franzblau told Feinerman that in 2017 and 2018, Long acted as a broker of at least $14 million in narcotics through the collection of the proceeds from various individuals and the exchange of U.S. dollars for Chinese renminbi.

Long, he said, earned a commission fee of approximately 0.5% for each money pick up and associated mirror transaction that he facilitated, personally earning approximately $70,000. 

“The defendant also knew that he was collecting and exchanging narcotics proceeds in this manner, because the individuals who owned and controlled the money wanted to hide the connection to the proceeds from law enforcement, as well as the source and nature of the funds, and ultimately to remit the funds back to drug traffickers in Mexico,” Franzblau said. 

At the direction of co-conspirator Haiping Pan, Franzblau said, Long “facilitated up to one to two money pickups per week in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other areas, including Atlanta, in amounts, typically ranging between $150,000 to $500,000 per pick up.” 

He described how Long and Pan used BlackBerry Messenger to communicate and how the serial number on a dollar bill in the money courier’s possession served as a transaction identifier and later a receipt.  

“The money laundering couriers then arranged to meet with other intermediaries involved in the money laundering operation, to deliver the money to them, so that they could facilitate the mirror transaction,” Franzblau said. “After the mirror transactions were completed, other intermediaries who have received the money from the couriers sent the couriers copies of the associated Chinese bank-to-bank wire transfer which proceeds which the money laundering couriers then forwarded to Long who forwarded the information to Pan.” 

The judge asked Long “did you do the things that [the prosecutor] said that you did?” 

Long answered: “Yes, I did, your honour.”

He also asked: “Is there any part of his statement, even if you think it’s a minor detail, that you disagree with?”

Said Long, after a brief pause: “No.”

Vancouver International Airport control tower (YVR)

Long may not be in custody and facing hard time in the U.S. had he not booked a flight through YVR due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After witnessing his wife give birth to their second child in November 2019 in Taiwan, Long returned to Guangdong province in China to visit his mother, according to evidence at a hearing of the Immigration and Refugee Board. When COVID-19 spread from Wuhan to other Chinese provinces, Taiwan banned entry for travellers from Guangdong. Since Long has both permanent resident status and business holdings in Mexico, he arranged to travel there to reunite with his family on a flight routed through Vancouver.

After his YVR arrest, where he was interrogated and his Huawei smart phone was searched, Long was transferred to the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam and held in quarantine, even though he did not appear to be infected with the coronavirus.

The immigration court in Vancouver heard that Long worked as a purchasing manager for a business owned by his parents-in-law that imports toys and clocks from Guangdong and sells from a warehouse in Mexico. 

Long, who holds a degree in international trade and economy from Guangdong University of Technology, had no prior criminal record. Long had previously invested in Mexican hotels, restaurants and karaoke bars, as well as bitcoin.

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Bob Mackin The Chinese citizen arrested at Vancouver

Bob Mackin 

B.C.’s Auditor General says the government’s information technology department has adequate policies regulating employees working from home, except when it comes to the use of personal devices.

Michael Pickup, B.C.’s new auditor general (Nova Scotia)

But, during a March 29 media teleconference, he declined to comment on the state of cybersecurity and telework at the Legislative Assembly. 

In his new report, Michael Pickup said even though the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) prohibits use of personal devices for telework, the OCIO has not established technical controls to ban their use. 

“With no controls to enforce this policy, there is a risk of government data being stored in an unencrypted format on teleworkers’ personal devices,” the report said. 

Pickup became Auditor General in July 2020, four months after the government shifted to telework due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In November 2020, after the NDP won a snap election, the Legislative Assembly suffered a cyberattack that remains shrouded in secrecy. The information technology department at the seat of government received emergency help from the OCIO, a division of the Ministry of Citizens’ Services.

“What we set out to do was look at whether the OCIO overall has established these processes and practices, and, of course, with the exception of the one area with a recommendation, found that they did these things,” Pickup said during a media teleconference. “So, otherwise, I would have nothing to comment in relation to that specific question.”

The Legislature’s website was taken down Nov. 10, 2020 and replaced with an image that claimed it was subject to “unscheduled maintenance.” The Clerk’s office finally admitted on Nov. 19, 2020 that it had been hacked, but downplayed the severity and said no data had been lost.

The all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) and clerk’s office have not released the report into what went wrong. Neither has the NDP government fulfilled house leader Mike Farnworth’s February 2019 promise to add the Legislature to the freedom of information law. Farnworth made that promise after the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Merit Commissioner and Ombudsperson publicly demanded new transparency and accountability measures in the wake of the damning report by then-Speaker Darryl Plecas about spending misconduct by disgraced Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

What the B.C. Legislature website looked like on Nov. 13 (

The public portions of most LAMC meetings have skirted the issue. Then-BC Liberal house leader Peter Milobar expressed frustration at the July 8, 2021 meeting over increasing IT costs and continuing network outages at constituency offices stemming from the incident. 

“Our own ability to service our constituents has been eight months of complete frustration that seems to not be getting any better — if anything, getting worse,” Milobar said. 

At the Dec. 16, 2021 meeting, Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd admitted that there had been an “underinvestment” in the IT infrastructure for years and that constituency office network replacement projects, to manage power or network outages, continued. She also said work was underway for a disaster recovery plan for financial systems.

“The network challenges experienced over the past year are well-known to members, as well as some of the other challenges that we have with Wi-Fi connectivity, for example, on the precinct grounds,” Ryan-Lloyd said.

The NDP government allotted $92 million for the Legislative Assembly’s 2022-2023 operating budget. The $5.8 million for IT is the biggest line item in Legislative Operations. According to the December budget update, it forecast spending $7.9 million on IT, a whopping $2.3 million more than budgeted for 2021-2022. 

Andrew Spence, the assembly’s chief information officer, said: “With all the challenges over the past year, we recognize the need to strengthen business continuity considerations and ensure business interruptions are minimized.“

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is expected to announce her verdict May 5 in the fraud and breach of trust case against James. 

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Bob Mackin  B.C.’s Auditor General says the government’s