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Bob Mackin

The B.C. government is withholding preliminary findings of a panel struck to review the business case for the Surrey LRT project. 

But a February briefing note for then-transit and taxis minister Peter Fassbender says the second phase could use SkyTrain technology instead of the planned light rail. 

The Feb. 9 briefing note, finally released this week to theBreaker via freedom of information, refers to the 11 kilometre Newton to Guildford “L-Line.” 

There would be 11 stations  with an additional potential future station at 84th Avenue. It would require 16 vehicles (13 in operation plus three spares. “An operations and maintenance facility is planned on the west side of King George Boulevard, south of 72nd Avenue. The most aggressive schedule for the project includes procurement in 2018, construction beginning in 2019 and completion in 2022.”

A second, 16 km phase from Surrey to Langley along Fraser Highway could follow five years later.

Ex-SNC-Lavalin executive Burke

“While the Mayors’ Council has proposed LRT technology for this project as well, TransLink is currently evaluating both LRT and SkyTrain technology for the line,” the note said.

The briefing note mentions that the Ministry of Transportation struck a due diligence panel through PartnershipsBC to review the draft business case. 

The panel includes Los Angeles-based ex-Bombardier vice-president Les Elliott, ex-deputy B.C. finance minister Peter Milburn and James Burke, the retired former head of SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver-based transportation division.

The scandal-plagued Montreal-based engineering and construction giant has been involved in every SkyTrain project, most recently the Evergreen Line, which encountered major tunnelling delays. In 2013, while Burke was in charge in Vancouver, SNC-Lavalin was blacklisted from bidding on World Bank projects for a decade. 

“The business case specifically addresses project rationale, project delivery, procurement, funding and implementation. TransLink is also developing similar business cases for the Broadway Millennium Line extension project in Vancouver and the Pattullo Bridge replacement project in Surrey/New Westminster.”

All the preliminary findings were censored by the B.C. government, using loopholes related to cabinet secrecy, policy advice, intergovernmental relations, and financial interests of a public body. 

The briefing note said PartnershipsBC met Feb. 7 with TransLink and City of Surrey staff “to discuss preliminary themes emerging from the Due Diligence Panel and establish an approach for addressing some of the major considerations.” 

Documents included the speaking notes for Fassbender’s Feb. 10 meeting with Surrey officials, including Mayor Linda Hepner. 

Surrey-Fleetwood’s Fassbender was one of four BC Liberal cabinet members who lost their seats in the May 9 provincial election. 

 The Broadway subway and Surrey light rail were estimated in 2014 to cost $1.98 billion and $2.14 billion, respectively. In March 2016, City of Surrey revised its estimate upward to $2.6 billion because of real estate costs.

TransLink spent $3 million to hire companies for design and cost estimates contracts in early 2015: Steer Davies Gleave and Hatch Mott MacDonald for the Surrey proposal, and Stantec for the Vancouver proposal. 

Also in March 2016, TransLink CFO Cathy McClay admitted rising real estate costs and the declining loonie combined to drive costs up, but she wouldn’t give a hint about the new estimates. TransLink originally wanted to submit business cases to the federal and B.C. governments in the fourth quarter of 2016. 

CSC-2017-71727-Surrey by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The B.C. government is withholding preliminary

Bob Mackin

B.C. Place Stadium’s joint health and safety committee skipped two of its monthly meetings, despite the law that says management and staff must meet monthly.

(BC Place)

Minutes from an April 26 meeting, obtained by theBreaker via Freedom of Information, show that WorkSafeBC found the stadium in violation of section 131.2 of the of the Workers Compensation Act for missing the February and March meetings. That section states the committee “must meet regularly at least once a month.”

B.C. Pavilion Corporation’s spokesman downplayed the violation, claiming the committee meets “on average once per month.”

Duncan Blomfield said “due to personnel schedules” meetings for February and March were held April 11 and April 26 instead.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents B.C. Place workers, has yet to comment.

The April 11 minutes indicated there had been an “accident reported” during the World Rugby Canada Sevens on March 11. “The employee has not contacted the company or police, but worker has contacted WorkSafe. Reports and CCTV footage has been collected for WorkSafe to review,” it said. 

When it came time to hold the April meeting, the committee of stadium managers and BCGEU members finally met on May 31. 

PavCo has a long history of violating worker protection laws.

A Nov. 20, 2015 WorkSafeBC report found B.C. Place was failing to protect workers from violence and gave until late December of that year for the stadium to comply. It failed to make policies and procedures and offer training for three years.

In November 2006, a janitorial contractor collapsed on the job and later died in hospital. Nobody at PavCo or the worker’s company told WorkSafeBC, as they were supposed to. A whistleblower finally came forward in October 2008.

Less than a year before the stadium hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics ceremonies, WorkSafeBC found the staff who controlled the stadium’s original inflated roof weren’t trained or supervised to ensure health or safety at the dome. Written emergency procedures couldn’t be found by an inspector.

WorkSafeBC slapped PavCo with a hefty $68,970.57 fine on Nov. 6, 2009 after an electrician was nearly electrocuted on March 10, 2009. There were injuries during the $514 million renovation in 2011. 

After the Olympics, it was learned that the stadium held no evacuation drill for more than two years prior to the event. Such drills are required annually.

In 2015, a worker that had been fired for snoozing on the job was reinstated

When John Horgan is sworn-in as premier on July 18, it will end more than 16 years of Liberal oversight of PavCo, which included the preventable January 2007 rip and collapse of the roof and the costly and controversial replacement four years later with a retractable system. 

Bob Mackin B.C. Place Stadium’s joint health

Bob Mackin

Activists with the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society are urging Vancouver city hall’s board of variance to just say no to a pot proprietor linked to a family they call “slumlords.”

Herban Legends wants city hall to excuse it from the 300 metre bubble zone around schools, so it can operate a “medical” (cough, cough) marijuana store on 3038 Arbutus. York House’s junior and senior kindergarten is located just 260 metres away at 3274 East Boulevard.

The company’s 2016  submission for a development permit and business licence (below) said it would be managed by Saggu Singh of Surrey, a hotel manager who claimed a “long and distinguished career in the military.” The document does not say for which force or country.

Herban Legends is really backed by the Sahota clan, well-known Downtown Eastside welfare hotel owners with a $130 million real estate portfolio. They also own the Sunshine Coast Cannabis Farm.

After years of doing nothing, Vancouver city hall finally shut down the Sahotas’ Balmoral Hotel near Main and Hastings. The 150 residents were relocated from the decrepit 105-year-old building which engineers deemed a risk to collapse. 

3028 Arbutus – Operational Letter & Dwgs by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Activists with the Downtown Eastside SRO

Bob Mackin

TransLink is spending $2.31 million for a committee to explore spending hundreds of millions of dollars to tax motorists who drive in downtown Vancouver and cross the region’s bridges. 

So-called mobility pricing is how the Mayors’ Council wants to fund the regional share of the 10-year plan for roads, bridges and the Broadway subway and Surrey light rail. The latter two megaprojects will cost more than $4.6 billion combined, but the 2017 cost estimates are a tightly held TransLink secret, for fear of sparking sticker shock among taxpayers. 

TransLink’s 2015 interim CEO Doug Allen (Mackin)

When interim CEO Doug Allen’s $35,000-a-month contract expired in August 2015, his exit report said TransLink should strike a committee and study the tax measure for two years, then take until 2025 to design and implement the measure. But this new committee is supposed to report and dissolve by the end of April 2018. 

Almost three years ago, Allen warned that it would be a political minefield. 

“Road usage charging can only be used to increase transit ridership [not fund roads and bridges] if it ever gets implemented in the first place,” Allen wrote in his advice to his successor. “Risks and challenges to implementation are numerous on both the technical and the public acceptability fronts — several orders of magnitude more complex than the Compass Card project.”

The Compass Card faregates and smart card project took an extra three years and doubled in budget to $200 million by the time it was launched in 2016. The road tax would require installation of networked surveillance cameras and sensors throughout the city, like in Milan, San Diego, Singapore, Stockholm and London. It cost the British capital $831 million to start-up and operate its congestion pricing system over the first decade, in order to net $1.3 billion net revenue.

Will anyone on the 14-member committee travel to see how it works, first hand? 

“At present there are no plans for the commission to travel outside of the region as part of their work,” said TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drews. 

“At present” could be the operative phrase. TransLink is notorious for junkets. Back in November 1999, chair George Puil led a 10-person, $70,000 delegation to London to explore the turnstiles on the tube. Puil’s travel buddies included: NDP MLA Jenny Kwan and her aide Ian McConnell, Millennium Line president Lecia Stewart, TransLink vice-president Sherri Plewes, ex-BC Transit boss Larry Miller, and transit consultant Jane Bird.

They enjoyed business class airfare and stayed in a $300 hotel room in the posh Mayfair district. 

Mobility pricing committee chair Allan Seckel, who was Premier Gordon Campbell’s deputy minister during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and vice-chair Joy MacPhail, the former NDP leader, are being paid $2,500 and $1,666 respectively, per month. All members of the board — including directors like ex-NPA Coun. Jennifer Clarke, ex-B.C. trucking industry lobbyist Paul Landry, and United Way CEO Michael McKnight — will be paid a $550-per meeting stipend. 

The board reads like a reunion of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, which lost the 2015 TransLink tax plebiscite: Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Iain Black, UNIFOR’s Gavin McGarrigle, Surrey Business Improvement Association’s Elizabeth Model and Counterpoint Communications’ Bruce Rozenhart. Rozenhart was in the backroom for Liberal incumbent John Yap’s re-election in Richmond-Steveston.

Bob Mackin TransLink is spending $2.31 million for

Bob Mackin

Gregor Robertson is the mayor of splitsville again. 

One day after the third anniversary of confirming he broke up with wife of 30 years, Amy, the Vancouver mayor’s office admitted to the South China Morning Post that he was no longer in a relationship with girlfriend Wanting Qu. 

The 52-year-old mayor and 33-year-old Chinese pop singer (whose civil servant mother, Qu Zhang Mingjie, may be sentenced to death for real estate corruption in China) were said to have broken-up in May.  

Cracks in their relationship were evident in late January, during Lunar New Year, when Qu posted a photograph of a flowerless plant on a black background, with lines from a James Bay breakup song on her Instagram page. During Lunar New Year in 2016, Qu posted a photo of the smiling couple with Year of the Monkey greetings in English and Chinese. 

Qu traveled frequently with Robertson while he was on civic business, including the Vatican and Paris climate party in 2015. They maintained separate residences, Robertson in a renovated Alexandra Park penthouse (which he shows-off in the current edition of upscale Montecristo magazine) and Qu in an Olympic Village condo. 

They were seen together March 12 after the Canada Sevens rugby closing ceremony. A week later, on March 19, Robertson committed apparent conflict of interest by using his @MayorGregor Twitter account to promote the Apple Music release of Qu’s “Moon and Back” single — contrary to city hall’s code of conduct. 

NPA Coun. George Affleck confronted Robertson during question period at the end of the March 28 city council meeting, where Robertson oddly distanced himself from Qu.

Affleck referred to Qu as Robertson’s “partner in life,” to which Robertson responded: “I don’t have a life partner at this point, just to be clear on that front. The Tweet was really also an opportunity to listen to a Vancouver singer-songwriter’s new song.” (Oxford defines life partner as “a person with whom one is in a long-term monogamous relationship.” Robertson and Qu began dating in summer 2014.)

Robertson and Qu at Canada Sevens (Mackin)

The news overshadowed the July 4 resignation of Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs to become Premier-designate John Horgan’s chief of staff. 

Could the by-election to replace Meggs, that Robertson said is expected in mid-October, fill a soon-to-be-announced second vacancy on city council? 

A source informed theBreaker that Robertson is in the running for a position with the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The new $35 billion, Liberal government Crown corporation will finance infrastructure projects with provincial, territorial, municipal and private partners. Robertson has been on the lookout for a federal gig since 2015, when he threw city hall support behind Justin Trudeau’s winning campaign.

Former Royal Bank of Canada chief administrative and financial officer Janice Fukakusa was named chair on July 6, a job that pays $85,000 to $100,000 a year. The Privy Council Office accepted board applications until June 30. CEO candidates have until July 21 to apply. 

Between eight and 11 directors will sit on the board and they are expected to commit at least 25 days a year. Senior executives and board members must not be employed by another government, which would mean Robertson could not continue as mayor. 

Robertson spokeswoman Katie Robb denied he was a candidate. 

“Mayor Robertson has not been in discussions regarding a position with the Canada Infrastructure Bank,” Robb told theBreaker

Meanwhile, the GregorRobertson.ca domain is back on the block. 

It was registered Feb. 16, 2016 for one year. Last summer, Robb denied that Robertson had registered the domain, but did not answer whether any effort was made to investigate who had registered it or whether Robertson would contest the registration. Vancouver’s mayor is, by far, the most famous person named Gregor Robertson in Canada.  

His GregorRobertson.com domain redirects to the Vision Vancouver website. It was registered in early 2007.

Bob Mackin Gregor Robertson is the mayor of

Bob Mackin

Onni’s Charleson.

Vancouver city hall isn’t going to send the Onni development cost levy waiver scandal to an external firm after all. 

Last fall, the developer of the 43-storey Charleson tower in Yaletown was found to have illegally received a $1.5 million break. The developer of the mixed strata condominium/rental should have paid $4.5 million in DCLs, but it got the big discount under a program reserved only for 100% rental towers. The developer-friendly, Vision Vancouver city hall called it a mistake.

Council had passed a motion Dec. 13 that said “in the interest of transparency, accountability, and openness,” it would direct staff to recommend an independent third party inquiry into the matter. 

“The scope of the inquiry should also include a review a review of all similar waivers relating to the STIR and Rental 100 programs,” said the motion.

A June 1 memo from City Manager Sadhu Johnston to Mayor and Council said the city’s chief risk officer did an internal review report Dec. 8 on the Charleson, and blamed an “administrative error.” The city’s internal auditors found no issues with the other 29 DCL waivers granted since 2009. KPMG was paid $26,771.35 to review the internal audit plan. 

Johnson estimated that it would cost $230,000 to $350,000 to hire an external firm “to replicate the full scope of the internal audit review.”

“Given the other actions undertaken to date, it is our recommendation that the significant cost of a further external review is not warranted,” Johnston wrote. 

Documents obtained by theBreaker under Freedom of Information show that bureaucrats Berg Balantzyan and Kathy Morgan were handling the file in 2014 when Onni got the DCL waiver. The company wrote a Dec. 1, 2016 cheque to city hall for $1,558,753.33. 

2017-004 – res by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_4680" align="alignright" width="259"] Onni's Charleson.[/caption] Vancouver

Some of the men detained by police on July 2.

Bob Mackin

Controversy of a different sort at the contentious Point Grey Road bike lane during Canada Day weekend. 

A reader told theBreaker about an incident east of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s $75 million mansion around 6:30 p.m. on July 2. 

A Vancouver Police spokesman confirmed it was a “roadside drug investigation.”

Man in handcuffs on Point Grey Road.

A witness who provided images to theBreaker, but declined to be indentified in print, said a police cruiser and two beach patrol all-terrain vehicles sped to the Bayswater beach access stairs.

The officers returned to street level with seven males, who were then lined-up two-to-three feet apart, except for one handcuffed male who was made to sit curbside. The handcuffs were eventually removed. The witness said police kept the males there for about two hours.  

The witness heard one of the men say: “I’m not trying to be a bad guy; I’m trying to be a good guy.”

“The men were detained during the initial investigation and then released,” Const. Jason Doucette said via email.

“A number of items were seized and a vehicle was towed. No charges have been recommended at this point.”

As such, theBreaker has chosen to obscure the faces of the men for the time being. 

UPDATE (Aug. 10): Doucette told theBreaker that no charges were laid. “The file has been concluded and would only be reopened if relevant additional information became available,” he said. 

[caption id="attachment_4674" align="alignright" width="386"] Some of the

Bob Mackin

The New Orleans company behind the bankrupt Pemberton Music Festival claims that local investors ignored its last-minute plan to keep the 2017 event alive.

That, according to Huka Entertainment’s June 23 response to the scathing trustee’s report tabled at the June 6 creditors meeting.

The 16-page response, via Jonathan Williams of Owen Bird, was quietly posted on trustee Ernst and Young’s website. It shifts the allegations of gross mismanagement back at local investors Amanda Girling and Jim Dales. The July 13-16 festival was cancelled May 18, leaving more than $13 million in unsecured creditors, mostly ticketholders. The creditors meeting heard the festival lost almost $50 million between 2014 and 2016 after initial projections of modest profits.

Huka’s written response said the concert promoter took “extraordinary and successful steps, up to the last moment, to obviate the need for bankrtuptcy” by securing a letter of intent from an unnamed high net worth individual willing to help the 2017 festival to proceed. Huka also said it proposed to move the festival to reduce costs. The alternative location was also not mentioned in the report.

“These two developments appear to have been entirely ignored by the Canadian investors,” Huka said in its response. 

Festival site owner/investor Girling, investor Dales and Huka rep Stephane Lescure voted for the bankruptcy on May 16. Huka claims Lescure voted as an individual, contrary to Huka’s “stated complete opposition to bankruptcy, if it meant failing to honour fan or artist commitments.”

The festival’s holding company reported $6.6 million in assets, including $2.9 million cash. At the June 6 meeting, Girling’s company Janspec and Dales’s 1644609 Alberta Ltd. withdrew their $3.7 million in secured creditor claims.

The Huka response claimed that Girling and Dales were operational partners from day one, who were well-informed and given complete access to financial files. “Moreover, the Canadian investors always did their own ‘due diligence’ and then repeatedly invested funds, after weighing the risks and benefits, and this was always based on full disclosure and explicit reporting by Huka, H1 and third-party accounting.”

Huka said it never accessed any funds that it was not entitled or authorized to take, nor did it receive USD$3.45 million in producer fees. 

“In fact, Huka worked for months at a time without pay, in an effort to make the events viable. By way of contrast the Canadian Investors did redirect funds intended for other purposes, including taxes owing, and instead used those funds to pay themselves and a select group of vendors.”

Huka said it only received payment for its services in order to pay the wages of two dozen full-time employees who worked year-round to produce the festival. Girling and Dales received rent revenue for the land and other fees, plus benefits in the form of tax credits “of considerable value.”

11th hour cancellation threat “false innuendo”

Huka rejected the allegation that it threatened to cancel the 2016 festival on the eve of its kickoff after demanding $3.6 million to cover cost overruns.

“This is false innuendo, arising mainly from omissions,” said the response.

A meeting did occur and additional funds were needed, but Huka said the local investors were aware of that “for a long time prior to the date here. “

“At no point after guests had arrived at the festival was cancellation ever discussed.”

Huka called the allegation that it drew monthly producer fees after the 2016 money-losing festival “completely untrue and outrageous” and demanded it be withdrawn and publicly corrected. Huka alleged that Girling’s company, Janspec, used $233,933.90 of festival funds to pay Janspec and another Girling company, Sunstone. 

“This was despite explicit reporting from Huka that funds were very limited, such that the venture could be in jeopardy.”

Huka claimed it repeatedly warned the Canadian investors that they were wasting time that should have been spent preparing for the 2017 festival. “This situation was growing more dire with each passing day. This approach by the Canadian investors was a constant theme underlying the complete history of PMF, and interfered with Huka performing its duties.”

Girling and Dales, Huka said, “continued to retard the process by repeatedly diverting attention to tangential matters that only interfered with moving forward, rather than focussing on producing PMF 17 in a timely manner. Many of these steps that delayed the process were taken without Huka’s knowledge, and contrary to Huka’s repeated pleas to move forward.”

The offer they made to take Huka out of the festival was not fair market or good faith, Huka countered: the company claimed they offered $0 for Huka’s interest in H1, “a company into which Huka infused assets that continue to be worth millions of dollars.”

Huka founder A.J. Niland and CEO Evan Harrison did not respond to theBreaker for comment. Likewise, Girling and Dales have refused comment. By email, Janspec vice-president Nyal Wilcox said “The original trustee report was based on facts, excerpts from emails and actual events. We have no comment on Huka’s version of the story.”

theBreaker revealed at the end of May that a Horseshoe Bay businessman, Joseph Spears, is leading a group aiming to salvage the festival this summer in Pemberton or at another venue. Spears told theBreaker on July 5 that he is “working out the details.”

Bob Mackin The New Orleans company behind the

Bob Mackin 

Commonwealth Games Canada’s CEO says Victoria is the country’s only bidder for the 2022 Games, despite Vancouver being mentioned by the organization’s lobbyist.

But, if Victoria is chosen by the Commonwealth Games Federation this fall, Brian MacPherson said venue sites may be subject to change, based on government support and priorities. 

MacPherson

“We’re fully committed and working with Victoria at the moment,” MacPherson told theBreaker in an interview. “If and when we can sit down with the B.C. government, and if they’re supportive of this, if they have other options, we’d be more than happy to listen to them.”

Robin MacLachlan of Summa Strategies registered June 27 with the B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, intending on “Engaging political decision-makers in government and opposition with respect to support for bids from Vancouver and Victoria for the hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.” John Horgan was listed as the only lobbying target. The NDP leader and Victoria area MLA became Premier-designate two days later when the BC Liberal government fell on a confidence vote. 

CGF fired 2022 host Durban, South Africa in March for missed deadlines. Newspaper publisher David Black announced the Victoria bid on June 7. Birmingham and Liverpool are seeking the U.K. nod, while 1998 host Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is also pondering a bid. 

theBreaker reported that Burnaby had explored a bid, but Mayor Derek Corrigan deemed it too ambitious and risky. Burnaby’s deliberations included the possibility of holding opening and closing ceremonies at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.

MacPherson said full support from all three levels of government is necessary. The bidding deadline is Aug. 31. 

“As soon as we know there’s support from the B.C. government there will be tri-level government discussions towards a multi-party agreement, starting immediately,” he said. “The federal government is supportive of having a Canadian bid and hosting the 2022 Games. That was our first step, to gauge their level of support.”

(Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists)

Capital Regional District directors voted June 28 behind closed doors to support the bid “subject to a proper business plan being presented and approved by local governments and institutions, in public.” The Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria have complained to the B.C. Ombudsperson. 

Black did not announce a budget estimate for Victoria 2022. MacPherson said the goal for bidders is something on par with Glasgow 2014’s operations budget of $700 million. He conceded that governments would bear other, non-organizing committee costs, such as regional security and cleaning of streets. The security bill for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics was $900 million.

Reusing venues from the 1994 Commonwealth Games is key to the Victoria plan, as would transforming hangars, studios and warehouses into temporary sport venues. 

“We don’t want to build anything new, unless we have to,” he said. 

A major capital expense would be the athletes’ village, which could be built at the University of Victoria. MacPherson said the CGF is open to alternatives, to avoid a $1 billion complex like the one Vancouver built for the 2010 Winter Olympics. That developer was bailed out before the Games and then put into receivership after the Games. 

The Commonwealth Games have doubled in size and scope since Victoria hosted 23 years ago when 2,557 athletes from 63 nations who competed in 10 sports. At Glasgow 2014, 71 nations sent 4,497 athletes to compete in 18 sports. By comparison, Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics featured 2,566 athletes from 82 nations in seven sports. 

Vancouver 2010 organizers claimed to have balanced a budget of nearly $2 billion, but B.C.’s auditor general never did a final report and the Games board minutes and books are hidden from the public until 2025.

Chris Shaw, the former leader of the No Games 2010 Coalition, now lives in Victoria and he said in a recent interview with theBreaker that citizens must be allowed to decide the fate of the bid in a binding referendum.

UPDATE (July 11): Black has added four big names to his committee, including ex-Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong.

Furlong has been under a cloud since September 2012 when the Georgia Straight revealed omissions and inconsistencies in his post-Olympic memoir, Patriot Hearts. Several of his ex-students accused him of abuse. Furlong was not charged, none of the abuse allegations was tested in court and he did not sue any of the accusers. He withdrew a defamation lawsuit against the Georgia Straight and writer Laura Robinson, but Robinson’s defamation trial against Furlong failed. 

Joining Furlong are ex-Victoria 1994 CEO George Heller, ex-federal sport minister Iona Campagnolo, and former Own the Podium CEO Roger Jackson. 

Bob Mackin  Commonwealth Games Canada's CEO says Victoria

Bob Mackin 

Instead of relaxing and celebrating Canada 150, Andreas and Dorte Kargut and their two sons moved away from the Wellington Court townhouse complex in Richmond, destined for a new start in Vernon. 

“Our home was no longer a home, it was just a place where we lived,” Andreas Kargut told theBreaker.

Karguts leave Richmond (Facebook)

In late 2015, Kargut made national news after he filed a discrimination complaint to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The strata council for the 54-unit complex held meetings in Mandarin and refused to hire an English translator. The new slate came to power with 30 proxy votes, and it refused to respect the English-speaking minority.

Kargut and six neighbours thought they had reached a truce last summer after settlement negotiations. But the strata council balked at the annual general meeting over the cost of a translator and reverted to Mandarin-only meetings for its convenience. Kargut said he was the target of unjustified threats and insults.

“They labelled me a racist, as a crook, none of which are true,” Kargut said. “I was only trying to make the public aware that we used to have harmony until one person came in with a whole bunch of proxy votes and had convinced the council to decide to be non-inclusive towards English-speaking Canadians.”

He appealed to civic, provincial and federal politicians, but none was willing to help his cause. He wrote letters twice to then-Housing Minister Rich Coleman, who never responded. Through the media, he shot down the idea of adding an official languages clause to the province’s Strata Property Act that would have required business be conducted in English or French.

“Here’s the housing minister not taking ownership of a serious housing issue,” Kargut said.

Kargut said his parents came from Germany, learned English and assimilated. He wonders why so many people have immigrated to Richmond from the People’s Republic of China and not embraced English. 

He moved to Richmond in 1979 when it was a small, suburban community where neighbours knew each other. Today, it is home to nearly 200,000. Half the residents are ethnic Chinese.  

“That has changed dramatically, especially over the last 10 years, where you really don’t know who your neighbour is,” Kargut said. “People are either buying or selling their places or possibly just buy a place and don’t live there at all.”

He said he doesn’t feel welcome in Richmond anymore and the cost of housing is too high. Moving to Ladner or the Fraser Valley were not viable options, because the commuting would have meant less time spent together with his family. Instead, he took advantage of a Vernon job opening at his telecommunications industry employer. The family will rent a house for the time being. Meanwhile, Kargut’s elderly mother, sister and brother remain in Richmond. 

“There is nothing left for us here, we’ve got to look for our future and have a future to look forward to rather than dealing with the past and how wonderful of a community Richmond was when I moved here as a teenager. I spent many wonderful years in Richmond watching it grow, now watching it self destruct. It’s very tough for me.”

As for the human rights complaint, he hopes it is heard early in 2018. 

“We’re fighting based on principle,” he said. “If we fight it and win it, that means other people in the Lower Mainland suffering the same issues as we are will have some sort of hope to fight it and win.”

Are you an English-speaker in Richmond, facing a similar language barrier? Do you know a Mandarin speaker in Richmond who is facing difficulties in finding English as a Second Language services? Please comment below or contact theBreaker directly. 

Bob Mackin  Instead of relaxing and celebrating Canada 150,