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Bob Mackin 

The massive Petronas Pacific NorthWest LNG plant will not be built. 

It is no longer pining for the fjords. It is an ex-proposal. 

The Malaysian state oil company chose to make the announcement July 25, upstaging NDP Premier John Horgan’s meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. 

Coleman at a Petronas plant in Malaysia in 2013. (BC Gov)

In the words of Petronas, the $36 billion project, which included an $11 billion plant near Prince Rupert and $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline, had been under “total review” since last year, even though the Trudeau Liberals gave it conditional approval last Sept. 27.

Petronas claimed the cancellation was all about economics and not about politics. But the week-old BC Liberal opposition claimed otherwise. It blamed the week-old Green-supported NDP minority government.

The Liberals trotted out two rookie MLAs to slam the NDP  — camera-ready, ex-LNG lobbyist Jas Johal (Richmond-Queensborough) and Ellis Ross (Skeena), the taxi boat operator-cum-Haisla First Nation chief councillor who was natural gas minister for all of five weeks. 

Rich Coleman, the original natural gas minister, who held the portfolio for four years, used Twitter to blame Green-NDP “imposed market uncertainty.”

But how much did Coleman know about the announcement ahead of time? A lot, according to a senior BC Liberal source, who told theBreaker that Coleman was involved in the decision. 

Coleman has yet to respond to phone and email messages from theBreaker

At a Sept. 20, 2016 fundraiser on Granville Island, Coleman gave party members no indication that a change in government would threaten the project.

Instead, Coleman said that the economics of the project had changed so radically since 2012, that Petronas had returned to the drawing board and delayed its final investment decision. In a recording leaked to theBreaker, which is published below, Coleman is heard saying that he needed to meet with executives to “restart our discussions in and around our project development agreement which we signed with them.”

“Everything in the market has changed, the price of steel and everything else, so they have to go back out and re-bid it and then decide if they go to a final investment decision. But I can tell you this, that the numbers have really got to be tightened down, because the price of gas in Asia right now is so cheap, because of the price of oil. Just about nobody is globally competitive unless they have a long-term contract that they signed before the market crashed,” Coleman said.

“I know the number they have to get to in order to make it financially viable, I think they’re about 50 cents to a dollar away from that, but it’s a lot better than it was six months ago… We really need them them to be able to figure out the numbers,” he told party members.” 

Coleman claimed Petronas had already spent billions. “They’re in, it’s just a question of price, but it’s very complicated stuff. But I’m still optimistic.” 

Coleman went to Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 17-18 and met with Petronas executives, including president Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Ariffin and PNW LNG president Adnan Zainal Abidin. Coleman’s March 15 agenda indicates he met with Abidin, there are no other meetings visible between March 1 and May 31. Deputy Minister Dave Nikolejsin’s only meeting during the period with the proponent was March 7 with Datuk Anuar Taib, the CEO of the Petronas upstream department. 

In March, Ariffin was quoted in the Financial Post saying that Petronas was “doing a total review of the project, and taking into account all the cost optimization options. That is still ongoing.” 

In April, as the May 9 election loomed, Bloomberg reported that the total review continued, but Petronas was pondering Ridley Island as an alternate site. On June 24, five days before the Liberals government fell in a no confidence vote, the B.C. Lions opened their 2017 home schedule and there was no PNW LNG sideline advertising. Even with the federal approval in its pocket, Petronas had quietly ended its highly visible sponsorship after the 2016 season.

UPDATE (July 27): The database for the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists shows that PNW LNG never registered to lobby anyone in the new Green-supported NDP government, which was sworn-in July 18 after toppling the BC Liberals in a June 29 no confidence vote. 

National PR lobbyist MacInnis

In fact, the lobbying database shows that Matthew MacInnis of National Public Relations registered to lobby for three days only, July 24-26, and named only two targets — ex-Premier Christy Clark and ex-Natural Gas minister Rich Coleman — with the intention of arranging meetings to “provide an update about the proposed (PNW LNG) project.” The registry requires lobbyists to report only their intentions, not whether meetings ever took place. 

MacInnis’s registration shows he worked as a BC Liberal government aide from 2008 to 2012, including as Premier Gordon Campbell’s communications coordinator. He is also listed as the BC Liberal Party’s communications chair. MacInnis did not immediately respond to theBreaker’s request for comment.

PNW CEO Abidin registered June 6 for vice-president of external affairs Tessa Gill to target outgoing BC Liberal energy minister Bill Bennett and various staff of labour minister Shirley Bond and advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson. The registration was not changed to reflect Clark’s June 12-sworn Liberal cabinet or the July 18-sworn NDP cabinet.

Pipe dream?

Petronas’s minority partners in PNW LNG included Japan Petroleum Export Corp., PetroleumBrunei, Indian Oil Corp. and Sinopec-China Huadian. 

Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in April. On May 11, the Trump administration announced it was opening the doors wide to LNG buyers. 

“The United States welcomes China, as well as any of our trading partners, to receive imports of LNG from the United States,” said a Trump administration statement. “The United States treats China no less favourably than other non-[free trade agreement] trade partners with regard to LNG export authorizations. Companies from China may proceed at any time to negotiate all types of contractual arrangement with U.S. LNG exporters, including long-term contracts, subject to the commercial considerations of the parties. As of April 25, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy had authorized 19.2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas exports to non-FTA countries.”

May 11 was, coincidentally, two days after the B.C. election. The BC Liberal campaign included attack ads that featured Trump’s image and Christy Clark was portrayed as the only leader who would stand-up to the U.S. president in the latest dispute over softwood lumber tariffs. The U.S. Consulate in Vancouver was following the election closely and its daily cables to the State Department would have included anything from the campaign trail directly relevant to U.S. interests. 

BC Liberal attack ad taunted Trump, who opened LNG exports to China.

During the 2013 election campaign, Clark predicted a $100 billion LNG bonanza for the province and three plants would be up and running by 2020. With the cancellation of Petronas and the delays for Shell and Chevron/Woodside projects in Kitimat, only one of the 18 proposed may be built. 

The Singaporean owner of the $1.6 billion Woodfibre LNG near Squamish gave a green light on the opening day of the BC Liberal Party’s November 2016 convention. But a profit-sharing deal isn’t yet done with the Squamish Nation. 

A mid-July report by the National Energy Board painted a dim picture of Canada’s prospects to play catch-up to LNG market leaders, such as Russia, Qatar and Australia. 

It called Canada a “late entrant” to the global LNG market, despite an abundance of natural gas and prospects for long-range demand from Asia.

“Canada has yet to emerge as a significant participant in global LNG markets. There are no LNG export projects currently under construction in Canada, and only one of the smaller projects has decided to move ahead,” said the report. 

The report said historically low global prices for natural gas and ample supply “make it challenging for Canadian LNG projects to secure long-term contracts.” Spot price trends mean it is more difficult to finance LNG megaprojects. Projects under development are competing for labour and materials, driving up development costs. 

“Canadian project proponents are concerned about cost overruns observed in other global projects. Canadian LNG projects would generally be greenfield sites and incur higher costs than U.S. projects built on existing LNG import terminal sites,” reported the NEB. 

“Disadvantages facing Canadian projects include high costs to develop projects in remote locations with limited infrastructure, and, where the construction of new pipelines is required to supply the necessary gas. With LNG prices falling in recent years, the margins needed to justify this type of capital-intensive development have eroded. Increased competition has also made it difficult for Canadian projects to sign long-term supply contracts.”

Bob Mackin  The massive Petronas Pacific NorthWest LNG

Bob Mackin

The former Yaletown playboy who launched an online gambling giant in Vancouver reached a plea bargain with United States authorities to avoid jail. 

Court documents from the United States District Court in Maryland show that Judge Catherine Blake agreed July 14 to fine founder Calvin Ayre $500,025 and sentence him to one-year unsupervised probation. Antigua-based Ayre pleaded guilty to the misdemeanour of being an accessory after the fact to transmission of wagering information between June 2005 and December 2011. 

Online gambling pioneer Calvin Ayre in Vancouver  (

Ayre and three others, who were charged in February 2012, had faced up to 25 years in jail each for conducting an illegal sports gambling business and conspiracy to launder money. Those charges were dropped. 

The plea agreement stated that Bodog “provided marketing assistance to entities that accepted funds from people located in Maryland and elsewhere to open accounts.”

“This activity constituted the business of betting or wagering information on a sporting event. Furthermore, the representatives of the Bodog brand participated in a wire communication in which information assisting the placing of bets was transmitted, which was made across state lines or from the United States to a foreign country.”

Ayre agreed not to make any claim to the $66,113,389.78 seized from various accounts. His probation is unsupervised and the mandatory drug test waived because he is not a U.S. resident or citizen. 

U.S. authorities seized the domain in 2012, but relinquished it for $100,000 under Ayre’s plea deal. The Feb. 21, 2000-registred domain was updated July 17, 2017 via Safenames House based in Milton Keynes, England. Other iterations of the Bodog brand have continued to exist online. 

U.S. authorities originally alleged that Ayre, James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney ran an illegal online sports gambling business between June 9, 2005 and Jan. 6, 2012, that moved funds from Bodog accounts in Switzerland, England, Malta, Canada and elsewhere, to pay winnings to gamblers, and to pay media brokers and advertisers located in the U.S.  

“The conspirators directed payment processors to send at least $100 million by wire and by check to gamblers located in Maryland and elsewhere,” said a news release from prosecutors in February 2012. It also said that Bodog paid more than $42 million to advertise to U.S. gamblers from 2005 to 2008. 

A 2006 Forbes magazine feature, under the headline “Catch Me If You Can,” said Bodog handled $7.3 billion in online bets in 2005, triple its 2004 volume. 

Forbes reported: “Ayre says all this betting gave him sales of $210 million and that he took 26% of the revenue to the bottom line. Whats his business worth? Two similar ventures that are publicly traded (in Europe) go for well over 18 times trailing earnings. At that multiple Bodog, along with other assets, gives Ayre a net worth of at least $1 billion.”

Bodog sponsored the 2011 Grey Cup at public-owned B.C. Place Stadium and advertised its free-to-play promotional website on the stadium’s exterior video boards in 2013, even though B.C. Lottery Corporation has the statutory monopoly for online gambling in the province. Bodog sponsored the Canadian Gaming Summit at the Vancouver Convention Centre in late June. During a rare appearance at an industry event, Ayre slammed the B.C. government-run gambling system.  

“B.C. Lottery Corporation is actually an operator, not a regulator; they’re an unregulated operator from my view of the world. Regulation is something that should be put in place here in B.C.,” Ayre said in an interview on

“They have to put proper third-party regulators in place, who would then regulate their company as well and then open it up to the private sector.”

The Canadian Criminal Code says it is illegal for anyone — other than Crown corporations like BCLC — to take bets online from Canadians or advertise gambling websites. Federal authorities have been reluctant to enforce laws against grey market operators like Bodog, which have spent millions of dollars on advertising with Canadian sports channels. The Kahnawake Mohawk reserve near Montreal became a global hub for various online gambling operators, including Bodog. 

Ayre and Bodog operations are now based in Antigua, a Caribbean country that became home to another Vancouver website that broke the law in 1999. 

Starnet International forfeited $4 million and was fined $100,000 after pleading guilty in 2001 to keeping or controlling a device for recording or registering bets.

On June 13, B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit held a news conference to reveal that it arrested nine people after a year-long investigation into money laundering through B.C. casinos that involved an organized crime group with links to China. 

theBreaker asked the CFSEU spokeswoman, Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, for an update on July 19. “Once charges are laid, we will release an update,” she said by email. 

On July 18, B.C. Premier John Horgan named David Eby the new Attorney General, with responsibility for BCLC and the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch. In the June 29-defeated BC Liberal government, ex-Finance Minister Mike de Jong oversaw the marketing and regulation of gambling. 

Ayre Plea Bargain by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The former Yaletown playboy who launched

Bob Mackin

The Vancouver Whitecaps have filed an eyebrow-raising negligence and breach of contract lawsuit against the taxpayer-owned company that runs B.C. Place Stadium.

The Major League Soccer franchise filed a B.C. Supreme Court statement of claim on June 16 against B.C. Pavilion Corporation, alleging their landlord failed to obtain third-party liability insurance. The lawsuit, obtained by theBreaker, stems from Whitecaps’ fan Basil Rolfe’s lawsuit against PavCo and the Whitecaps for a 2014 slip and fall injury he suffered on a rainwater-soaked ramp inside the stadium.

The Whitecaps’ statement of claim says that its March 10, 2011 rental contract included a clause making PavCo responsible for third-party liability insurance.

B.C. Place’s retractable roof (Mackin)

“By the terms of the Covenant to Insure contained in the license agreement, PavCo agreed to assume from the Whitecaps FC the risk of loss or damage to third parties in connection with the license granted to the Whitecaps FC by the license agreement, including loss or damage to third parties as a result of gross negligence or wilful misconduct on the premises,” according to the legal filing by Whitecaps lawyer Daniel Barber of Singleton Urquhart.

“In breach of the license agreement, PavCo failed to obtain the insurance required by the terms of the license agreement, or at all.”

The Whitecaps’ legal documents include part of Rolfe’s June 5, 2015 statement of claim, that said he suffered various injuries to his right leg in the Oct. 25, 2014 accident. The Whitecaps disputed Rolfe’s claims, but want PavCo to pay damages and costs should the court rule in favour of Rolfe. PavCo had 21 days to respond to the Whitecaps’ lawsuit with a statement of defence, but none was available in the online court registry when theBreaker checked on July 21. 

Rolfe’s lawsuit alleged that the Whitecaps and PavCo were aware of the dangers on the ramp before that day, because there had been other slip and fall incidents. “The defendants took no steps to ensure the ramp was safe or warn pedestrians including the plaintiff about the hazard.”

In its Nov. 10, 2015 defence statement, PavCo denied that it was responsible for the maintenance of the stadium, including the ramp, and further claimed it owed no duty of care, statutory or otherwise, to Rolfe. 

Nearly a year later, on Nov. 3, 2016, PavCo’s third-party notice to the Whitecaps claimed the stadium operator “implemented a reasonable system of maintenance and inspection that was being followed on October 25, 2014. PavCo’s conduct neither amounted to gross negligence, nor wilful misconduct.” PavCo further alleged that “Whitecaps have refused to meet their contractual requirement to defend and indemnify PavCo.”

In a March response to a freedom of information request, PavCo gave theBreaker a censored version of the Whitecaps’ 2016 contract. Not a single clause of the 27-page document is visible. theBreaker complained to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. In 2015, the OIPC ordered PavCo to release its full contract with the B.C. Lions, because an adjudicator held that public bodies cannot withhold copies of negotiated contracts between governments and private companies. 

Rolfe required surgery at St. Paul’s Hospital for injuries suffered at the Oct. 25, 2014 Whitecaps versus Colorado Rapids match. In a media statement at the time, PavCo apologized for Rolfe’s injuries: “This was an unfortunate incident. We are truly sorry our guest had a bad experience and wish him well in his recovery.”

Meanwhile, attendance statistics released to theBreaker by PavCo via freedom of information show that the Whitecaps averaged 16,181 fans for their first 11 home dates of 2017. 

The team drew a total 177,995 through June 17, which was 18% less than the 217,857 total reported by the club for eight MLS fixtures, two in the CONCACAF Champions League and one in the Canadian Championship. 

While the club claimed six crowds over 20,000, figures released by PavCo show there were only two above 20,000. The Whitecaps claimed the biggest crowd for the period was 25,083 to see the L.A. Galaxy on April 1. The actual attendance number released by PavCo was 20,815. Only 11,403 attended the March 2 game against Red Bull New York, the lowest count for the period.

Despite the OIPC ruling, Whitecaps’ chief operating officer Rachel Lewis said in a 2016 interview that the club would continue to publish only the number of seats allotted, not seats used at home games. 

Changes are likely at money-losing PavCo, after the July 18 swearing-in of the new NDP Tourism, Arts and Culture minister Lisa Beare and her parliamentary secretary for sport, Ravi Kahlon. 

PavCo’s BC Liberal-appointed chair is longtime party donor Stuart McLaughlin. Last fall, the board added director Jatinder Rai, a campaign strategist for former premier Christy Clark. Clark is a longtime friend of Whitecaps’ principal owner Greg Kerfoot and lives in a $3.7 million Dunbar house registered to Kerfoot associate Nevin Sangha

The day after the Liberals won the 2013 election by surprise, stadium general manager Howard Crosley was fired and given a golden parachute worth nearly $500,000. PavCo’s joint health and safety committee failed to meet in February and March of this year, in violation of the Workers’ Compensation Act. In late 2015, WorkSafeBC found that the 1983-opened stadium had failed to make a violence prevention plan to protect workers from rowdy sports and music fans. 

Whitecaps v. PavCo 061717 by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The Vancouver Whitecaps have filed an

Bob Mackin

You’ll never guess who helped stickhandle a deal that will make a First Nation the first jackpot winner at the soon-to-open Parq Casino beside B.C. Place Stadium. 

BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald (BC Hydro)

None other than Jessica McDonald, who was BC Hydro CEO from May 2014 until the first week of Premier John Horgan’s NDP government. She was replaced as president on July 21 by Deputy CEO Chris O’Riley, a professional engineer with an MBA who began his climb on the Crown corporation’s ladder in 1990.

According to a timeline of the B.C. Place casino development, obtained by theBreaker, McDonald was retained in late 2012 for $300 an hour by B.C. Pavilion Corporation for “strategic advice and leading negotiations and consultations” with Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Sto:lo and Tsawwassen first nations. Talks were related to the pending Master Development Agreement between PavCo and Paragon Gaming Corporation. The BC Liberal government was in a rush to sign the deal before the 2013 election that they had expected to lose.  

“PavCo previously commenced, but has not completed, consultation and potential accommodation discussions with affected First Nations and will need to re-engage this process on an urgent basis,” read McDonald’s proposal to PavCo CEO Dana Hayden. 

From January 2010 to June 2013, McDonald was an executive vice-president at Heenan Blakie Management Ltd., an arm of the major national law firm that spectacularly collapsed in early 2014. In July 2013, her Jessica L. McDonald Inc. registered the website. She got deeper into the LNG industry with an advisory services and First Nations engagement contract on the Shell Canada/LNG Canada proposal. Financial statements for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 show Jessica L. McDonald Inc. was paid a combined $302,940 from BC Hydro, ICBC and the central government. 

The former head of the B.C. Public Service during Gordon Campbell’s second term as premier was Clark’s choice to head Hydro in May 2014.

The timeline, which was part of former Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone’s briefing binder, details on-again, off-again negotiations between the Crown corporation and First Nations. 

A November 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling said governments must consult and accommodate First Nations when decisions may affect them. That includes the lease or sale of Crown real estate, which may be subject to aboriginal land claims.

PavCo began consulting Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh about the Paragon Gaming casino project in April 2010. At the same time, it sent a notice letter to the Sto:lo. (In 2007, Musqueam became the landlord for River Rock Casino Resort after a court settlement.) 

PavCo was transferred from the Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Ministry in Sept. 2012 to Energy, Gas and Mines, under Rich Coleman. 

Over winter 2012, Musqueam contacted the provincial government to re-engage on accommodation. Hayden formally retained McDonald on Nov. 14, 2012. In January 2013, PavCo asked for and got an extension to its First Nations negotiation mandate. 

Until just before the May 2013 election, McDonald billed for more than $20,000. She even dinged PavCo for leaving a voice mail message for Hayden.

In March 2013, Paragon and PavCo updated their 70-year lease agreement, halving payments to $3 million-a-year, down from the $6 million agreed in January 2010. Vancouver city hall had refused in April 2011 to allow the new casino to stock double the slot machines of Paragon’s Edgewater Casino. 

Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow (Mackin)

In April 2013, right before the provincial election, Treasury Board approved PavCo’s request to proceed with an $8.5 million, three-year accommodation deal for Musqueam. At the end of June 2013, PavCo became part of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure under rookie Kamloops MLA Stone. 

The Musqueam accommodation deal breaks down as $2.84 million in the first year and then $2.83 million in the second and third years. 

Little was known publicly about this deal until the summer of 2015, when it was confirmed with Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow and I reported on it for The Tyee

Some of the above information came via freedom of information from Stone’s budget estimates briefing book, which was requested on May 2, 2016, but not delivered until Jan. 6, 2017. What should have been disclosed in 30 business days or less took eight calendar months, and then some.

Stone was the minister who was at the centre of the Triple Delete scandal in 2015. He co-chaired, with ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman, the BC Liberal failed 2017 re-election committee. Coleman had boasted to party members in September 2016 that the BC Liberals never had so much money in the bank and would win 50 or more seats and have an even bigger majority after the 2017 election.

Instead, they fell from 49 to 43 seats and were defeated June 29 when the 44  NDP and Green MLAs combined to pass a no confidence vote. Premier Christy Clark resigned later that day. 

PavCo McDonald Parq Musqueam by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin You’ll never guess who helped stickhandle

Bob Mackin

To nobody’s surprise, BC Liberal insider Brad Bennett is now the ex-BC Hydro chair. 

On his first full day in office, July 19, NDP Premier John Horgan replaced the Christy Clark loyalist with former Powerex executive Ken Peterson. The move was announced July 20.

Christy Clark (left), Brad Bennett, Bill Bennett (no relation) and Jessica McDonald. (BC Gov)

theBreaker can reveal shocking information about Bennett presiding over a pivotal, 15-minute board meeting just before Clark’s huge campaign eve fundraiser.

According to documents obtained under freedom of information, the BC Hydro and Site C project boards met at 4 p.m. on April 10 in a joint session at the Crown corporation’s Vancouver headquarters. The next morning, Bennett reprised his role as Clark’s main traveling supporter and advisor when the election campaign formally began. 

At the joint meeting, Bennett and company received an update on the tension crack that delayed work on the $9 billion dam and they rubber-stamped an increase to the value of the main civil works contract with Peace River Hydro Partners. Dollar figures in the minutes and a confidential board briefing were censored, because BC Hydro fears that public disclosure would cause it financial harm. BC Hydro officials have refused to answer questions from theBreaker.

The board briefing said that the Feb. 11-observed tension crack on the haul road “interrupted the left bank excavation schedule by approximately two and a half months.” It said the delays can be accommodated within the PRHP “contractor float of three months.”

“Recent events such as the left bank tension crack and left bank claim have caused increased pressure on the main civil works contingency such that an additional project contingency draw for main civil works is required prior to the June board meeting. It is anticipated that a draw of (censored) million is required as an interim measure prior to June 2017.”

In December 2015, BC Hydro signed a $1.75 billion contract with PRHP, a consortium of South Korea’s Samsung, Spain’s Acciona and Alberta’s Petrowest. Hydro claimed PRHP was the lowest bidder, but has not revealed the identities of those shortlisted for the biggest public works contract in the province’s history. Though the low bid always looks like a win for taxpayers, the Charbonneau Commission inquiry on construction corruption in Quebec warned that defaulting to the lowest bids on public contracts can open the door to cartels and bid-rigging. 

Records also show that the board resolved on Feb. 22 to increase the amounts to be paid to engineering design contractors Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd. and SNC-Lavalin. The dollar amounts were also censored. 

The quarterly report to the B.C. Utilities Commission for the period ended March 31 said $321.1 million in contingency funds had been allocated from the $391.7 million released to management so far.

But BC Hydro is keeping secret the actual amounts spent on the project. 

Appendix D in the quarterly report to BCUC is labelled “Detailed Project Expenditure” but the copy for the public reads “Confidential Attachment Filed with BCUC Only” in big, bold letters. The quarterly report says the project is on track for November 2024 service, but it warned that the federally approved Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning “could impact labour prices and availability of skilled labour” and lead to cost increases.

Horgan promised to send the Site C project to the BCUC for an expedited review before deciding its fate. 

BC Hydro April 10 Meeting by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin To nobody’s surprise, BC Liberal insider

Bob Mackin 

Ten numbers you need to know from the end of the 16-year BC Liberal dynasty and start of the Green-supported NDP minority government. 


Three of the BC Liberals favourite ministries are no longer: Natural Gas Development, International Trade and Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. 

International Trade and Small Business functions are absorbed by Jobs, Trade and Technology under Bruce Ralston. The LNG file goes where it naturally belongs, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources under Michelle Mungall. 


Four people appointed by Gordon Campbell when he came to power on June 5, 2001 were with the Liberal dynasty when it ended July 17, 2017 under Christy Clark: Neil Sweeney, Deputy Chief of Staff, Issues Management (2001), Deputy Minister Corporate Policy (2017); Mike

IN: Oreck and Vdovine (Twitter)

McDonald, Director of Outreach and Special Projects (2001), Chief of Staff (2017); Antoinette De Wit, Managing Director, Correspondence (2001 and 2017); and Primrose Carson, Director of Internal Liaison (2001), caucus executive director (2017).


The number of people in the Office of the Premier who will be paid more than the base $105,881.83 salary for an MLA: Chief of Staff Geoff Meggs ($195,000), Director of Communications Sage Aaron ($125,000), Director of Operations Kate Van Meer Mass ($125,000), Director of Stakeholder Relations Mira Oreck ($120,000), Press Secretary Sheena McConnell ($120,000) and Deputy Communications Director Jen Holmwood ($110,000). 


The number of deputy ministers who didn’t make the transition from the Clark government to the Horgan government. 

Also the number of new deputy ministers in the 2001 Campbell government. 

The Campbell picks included two of his deputy ministers (Ken Dobell and Brenda Eaton), intergovernmental relations deputy minister Andrew Wilkinson (who was David Eby’s attorney general predecessor in Clark’s cabinet), and forests deputy minister Don Wright. 

Horgan hired Wright as his deputy minister to head the public service. 

Clark rescinded the cabinet appointments for 10 senior mandarins, including Dave Byng (Education); John Paul Fraser (Government Communications and Public Engagement); Kim Henderson (Office of the Premier); Sweeney, Athana Mentzelopoulos (Finance); and Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland (Finance). The latter two were the overseers of the government’s central freedom of information office for Mike de Jong, the finance minister who claimed that he doesn’t use email. Severance information is to be released. 


The number of full cabinet ministers in the Campbell and Horgan administrations. 

Additionally, Campbell had seven ministers of state. Horgan lists two ministers of state in cabinet, plus six parliamentary secretaries. 

Four of Campbell’s choices became career politicians and were in the Liberal cabinet at the end of the dynasty: de Jong, forests (2001), finance (2017), Clark, education/deputy premier (2001), premier (2017), Rich Coleman, solicitor-general (2001) and natural gas/housing/deputy premier (2017), and Shirley Bond, advanced education (2001) and jobs, tourism and skills training (2017).


OUT: “Secrecy Sisters” Mentzelopoulos and Wenezenki-Yolland. (BC Gov)

In three cabinet orders bearing Clark’s signature, 132 people were dismissed. GCPE assistant deputy ministers Denise Champion, Kelly Gleeson and Matt Gordon and 38 of their staff (including Clark’s videographer Kyle Surovy), plus 75 from across cabinet ministers’ offices and 16 administrative coordinators. On his last day as premier, Ujjal Dosanjh rescinded cabinet appointments for 94 people.


The number of the first Order in Council issued under the Horgan cabinet, listing cabinet members and their responsibilities. Number 213 lists their duties, powers and functions. 


What Manitoba import Bob Dewar will be paid annually as special advisor to Horgan. He managed Horgan’s “Better B.C.” campaign and was believed to be a shoe-in for chief of staff before Meggs was hired. Marie Della Matia, the former NOW Communications adwoman, is Horgan’s other special advisor. She will get only $30,000-a-year. 


Meggs’s pay raise, after leaving his $85,077-a-year job as a Vancouver city councilllor to become the $195,000-a-year chief of staff. 

The 2016-2017 public accounts haven’t been published, so we don’t know how much Deputy Chief of Staff Michele Cadario was paid last year. 

Clark rewarded her after the 2013 election with a $195,148 job, which was about 60% more than her predecessor, the Quick Wins-disgraced,  Kim Haakstad got ($149,027). 

In early 2016, Steve Carr became Clark’s chief of staff. It was reported as a $228,000 no-bid contract to “Provide Strategic and Personnel Advice” from Feb. 1, 2016 to end of September 2016.


The combined annualized pay rate of Vision Vancouver power couple Stepan Vdovine ($94,500) and Mira Oreck ($120,000). He is the executive director of the party that controls Vancouver city hall who was named an aide to Tourism, Arts and Culture minister Lisa Beare. She is the longtime Vision strategist and Broadbent Institute veteran who ran unsuccessfully for the federal NDP in 2015 after spending time with the Jewish Council for Education and Research’s pro-Obama campaign. Oreck’s title is director of stakeholder relations.

Bob Mackin  Ten numbers you need to know

Bob Mackin 

The Shanghai investment giant with connections to the Chinese Communist government is downplaying its purchase of Grouse Mountain.

The McLaughlin family asked $200 million for the beloved North Vancouver resort. The Globe and Mail reported July 12 that China Minsheng Investment Group (CMIG) made a deal to buy it. 

Grouse sign (Mackin)

A news release timed for July 18 — when NDP Premier John Horgan’s swearing-in dominated British Columbia headlines — said CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. is the new owner of GM Resorts LP, and it claims to be 60% Canadian-owned.

Public records obtained by theBreaker show that CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. was incorporated Nov. 21, 2016 as 1097351 B.C. Ltd. with Kang Yu Canning Zou as the sole director. 

Zou’s address is a $7.6 million-assessed, Shaughnessy mansion near the People’s Republic of China consular compound in South Granville. The property deed was registered in 2009 by businessman Wei Zou and homemaker Xia Yu. 

1097351 B.C. Ltd. became CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. on March 8, when a second director was added: Liao Feng. According to the CMIG website, Liao is the assistant president of CMIG and CEO of CMIG International. He uses Laurence as his English first name.

Six days later, on March 14, GM Resorts LP registered. Both GM Resorts LP and CM (Canada) are registered at the Bentall Centre office of law firm Fasken Martineau. 

“We act for both state-owned enterprises and private-sector companies coming from China,” says the Fasken website. “We have advised Chinese companies investing in the resource sector around the world, particularly in mining, energy, oil and gas, Canadian oil sands, renewable and nuclear energy. We also work with Chinese companies involved in life sciences, aviation, communications and other industries.”

Edmond Luke is the director of Fasken’s China practice. He did not immediately respond to theBreaker.

None of the corporate records show the ownership structure of Grouse Mountain or its buyer. There is no legal requirement for a company to disclose such information to  the Canadian public.

Liao Feng (CMIG)

In a report last December called No Reason To Hide: Unmasking the Anonymous Owners of Canadian Companies and Trusts, Transparency International Canada urged Canadian governments to mandate the reporting of beneficial ownership in order to curb money laundering and tax evasion. 

“In Canada, more rigorous identity checks are done for individuals getting library cards than for those setting up companies,” the TI report said. “Corporate registries do not verify identification and most do not require information on shareholders, let alone beneficial owners. Most provinces also allow nominee directors and shareholders, who do not need to disclose that they are acting on someone else’s behalf.” 

CMIG was born in 2014 on orders from Premier Li Keqiang with RMB50 billion (nearly $9 billion) from 59 founding companies.

The CMIG website sets out the company philosophy: “By fully utilizing the technology, brand, and resource advantages of developed countries, and the tremendous opportunities of ‘Going Global and Bringing in’ brought by the development potentials of countries along the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ route, CMIG guides Chinese private capital to go abroad together, and promotes industrial upgrading and economic transformation.”

In a 2015 South China Morning Post interview, Liao was quoted saying his company was taking a cautious approach to foreign expansion. “We hope we could learn gradually even if we may pay premium prices for our projects abroad,” Liao said. “But we will try to minimize the prices we pay.”

CMIG senior leaders are veterans of China’s political elite. Board chair Dong Wenbiao was a member of the 10th and 11th National Commitee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and a member of the standing committee of the 12th CPPCC national committee. President and CEO Li Huaizhen was a Deputy to the 11th National People’s Congress.

The Grouse Mountain acquisition corresponds with national political and economic objectives. Chinese president Xi Jinping has encouraged tycoons to invest in sports and recreation, because he wants China’s sports industry to be worth RMB 5 Trillion (nearly $1 billion) by 2025. 

In 2022, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics.

That the formal announcement came the same day as the end of the BC Liberals’ 16-year dynasty may not have been a coincidence. Both Fasken and Grouse’s outgoing owner, Stuart McLaughlin, are major supporters of the party. Horgan’s NDP minority government is under public pressure to further regulate B.C.’s real estate market and enact anti-money laundering measures. The new attorney general is David Eby, whose Point Grey riding is riddled with multimillion-dollar houses registered to housewives and students with obvious mainland Chinese names. 

Fasken donated $382,785 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2016. Grouse Mountain Resorts CEO McLaughlin donated $136,730 to the party. Since September 2013, McLaughlin has been the provincially appointed chair of B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Crown corporation that operates B.C. Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre. 

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Bob Mackin  The Shanghai investment giant with connections

Bob Mackin

theBreaker has learned that BC Liberal Party soul-searching reached a fever pitch this week — the last full week of the free enterprise party’s 16-year dynasty. 

Party brass met behind closed doors in Vancouver and Surrey to ruminate over losing power to John Horgan and the NDP, who will be sworn-in on July 18 after defeating the Liberals on a June 29 confidence vote. The post-mortem was not kind to the “Strong B.C., Bright Future” campaign, which was backed by a huge corporate-funded war chest. (Remember how Rich Coleman privately boasted last September to members that the bank account had never been so full and the party would wind up with more seats after the election?)  

Clark and Fassbender in October 2016 (BC Gov)

Attendees of the Monday event at a top secret location in downtown Vancouver included senior party members, several cabinet ministers, former support staff and party-connected lobbyists. Several unloaded on the horrific 2017 election campaign and named lame duck Premier Christy Clark as the problem. 

Another debrief in Surrey, with a similar mix of individuals, saw defeated cabinet minister Peter Fassbender get up and unload about Clark. The one-term Surrey-Fleetwood MLA “went to town,” according to theBreaker’s source. The former education and taxis/transit minister called Clark, not the party, the problem. 

Fassbender admitted mistakes were made on the road to the May 9 vote and said “we could’ve been more giving.” He called Finance Minister Mike de Jong too difficult, but had more criticism up his sleeve for the premier, blaming her for the NDP’s return to the government side of the house. The former Palmer Jarvis adman and Langley city mayor’s criticism was so harsh and intense, that he was asked to slow down! 

Fassbender was blunt: “She lost it for us. Period. End of story.” 

Longtime Liberal powerbroker Prem Vinning was furious at two of Clark’s right-hand men, for costing the BC Liberals at least three seats in Surrey. Thousands of votes were lost in the battleground city because Clark stubbornly listened to her inner-circle. The NDP won six of nine ridings, much to the chagrin of longtime Liberal strategist Patrick Kinsella, who convinced the party he would deliver eight of nine. Before the election, and before redistribution, the Liberals held a 5-3 advantage.

A key decision was pinpointed during the Surrey session. Instead of supporting well-known Surrey businessman Satnam Johal’s candidacy, Clark sided with her brother Bruce Clark and ex-husband Mark Marissen’s recommendation for a Sukh Dhawilal-connected candidate: Puneet Sandhar. NDP’s Jinny Sims beat lawyer Sandhar by almost 1,800 votes in Surrey-Panorama. 

Clark-favoured Dhaliwal was slated to run for the BC Liberals in 2013, but was forced to bow out over his tax evasion conviction. Dhaliwal made a federal comeback as a Liberal MP, by handily winning Surrey-Newton in 2015 over Sims.

While the shrinking Clark Clique clings to the dream that the slim Green-supported NDP minority will fall this autumn, expect the many disappointed realists in the party to spend the rest of this summer plotting a leadership change and house cleaning. 

Bob Mackin theBreaker has learned that BC Liberal