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Bob Mackin

Exactly 2,300 days since she was sworn-in, Christy Clark is now the ex-Premier of British Columbia.

She was first female to lead a B.C. party to election victory in 2013 and the first female to be forced out of office in B.C. in a no-confidence vote, just over four years later. In the end, the strong campaigner and weak governor was denied her wish to run just one more campaign. 

It happened on the 5,869th day of BC Liberal rule.  

Clark arrived at Government House at 5:53 p.m. on June 29, after the BC Liberal government lost the throne speech confidence vote 44-42 at 5:26 p.m.

She emerged at 7:23 p.m. and took no questions from the reporters outside Government House. She said very little, except that Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon had “retired to make her decision.”

Clark arrived on her own, after leaving the Legislature through a gauntlet of clapping and cheering well-wishers. Those included Sebastien Togneri, an aide to Deputy Premier Rich Coleman and disgraced former federal Conservative aide who was caught interfering with access to information documents sought by reporters. Also among the well-wishers was caucus communications head Nick Koolsbergen, a former issues management director for ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Dyed-in-the-wool federal Liberal Clark’s experiment to recruit federal Conservatives for key backroom positions was a flop in the end. More so after she took a sharp turn to the left on June 22. 

Clark is known for being fast and loose with the facts and that happened right after her meeting at Government House. Guichon did not actually “retire,” as Clark claimed. Instead Clark resigned and Guichon called NDP leader John Horgan and asked him to form the Green-supported NDP minority government. 

Clark later told reporters that she had asked Guichon to dissolve the Legislature and call a snap election, something that Clark had previously said she wouldn’t ask. 

This, after a bizarre week of twists and turns in the B.C. Legislature that included the Liberal throne speech that plagiarized heavily from the NDP and Green platforms that Clark had opposed on the way to May 9. 

Horgan and Weaver insist they can make their minority government work the full four years. That, of course, remains to be seen. They will need to look inside government files — those that have not already been deleted or destroyed by BC Liberals desperate to cover their tracks — and come up with a budget by September. They also face a busy summer of hiring and firing key executive and board positions.

Brad Bennett and Jessica McDonald’s days as BC Hydro chair and CEO are numbered, for example. Same for Athana Mentzelopoulos, the deputy finance minister and longtime Clark confidante. The board of B.C. Pavilion Corporation added adman Jatinder Rai and Clark’s former deputy minister John Dyble last year. They will no doubt be subtracted. It would be a shocker if the NDP kept Doug Eastwood, a civil litigation lawyer in the attorney general’s ministry, around. Eastwood co-chaired Clark’s 2011 leadership campaign with Patrick Kinsella and remained heavily involved in the party afterward.

There will be a natural tendency for the NDP to reward their loyalists for key positions, but Horgan will be under scrutiny to base most hirings on merit. Otherwise, it will be easy fodder for not only journalists, but a BC Liberal opposition that will pull no punches in Question Period.

The wheels are already in motion to replace Clark as leader. Expect a BC Liberal leadership convention before the next election. 

Stay tuned for more developments in theBreaker.  

Bob Mackin Exactly 2,300 days since she

Bob Mackin

How much did it cost to lock-up the media on the Feb. 21 British Columbia budget day, feed us lunch and ply us with documents? 

A real simple question, eh? 

First the answer. Then how difficult it was to access.

Documents released June 13 to theBreaker revealed that taxpayers were billed $61,030.20 to rent the Victoria Conference Centre, $21,408.85 for contractor SW Audio Visual, $1,117.33 for pouches, lanyards, badges and tent cards from Grand and Toy and Staples, $882.07 for media and staff catering from Savoury Chef, and $155.30 for lunch for opposition politicians. 

The grand total? $85,356.95. See the invoices and receipts below. 

A very minuscule amount, compared to the $50 billion taxing and spending plan that BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong unveiled on the day. 

Now for the making of the sausage. 

theBreaker filed this Freedom of Information request on Feb. 23:

Regarding the Feb. 21, 2017 budget lockups in Victoria and Vancouver: A list of the costs for the production, manufacture and delivery of printed products and the USB cards; The costs for audio-visual production; The costs for catered food and beverages; The cost for facility rental at the Victoria Convention Centre; A list of the names of suppliers of goods and services and the dollar values of their contracts. 

On March 31, Government Communications and Public Engagement responded, with a letter dated March 22:

“The requested records contain information that may affect the business interests or invade the personal privacy of a third party. To assist us in determining whether we may disclose this information, we are giving the third party an opportunity to make representations concerning disclosure… We will notify you of the Ministry’s decision on whether we will disclose the records by May 5, 2017.”

May 5 came and went. 

So did the May 9 election. The BC Liberals lost their majority. 

On May 11, GCPE wrote: 

“After considering all relevant factors the Government Communications and Public Engagement has decided to give you full access to the records you requested. The Third Party has 20 days to request a review with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). We will respond to you on June 9, 2017, unless the Third Party has requested a review with the OIPC.”

June 9 came and went. 

The records were finally sent  June 13. 

De Jong is not only the Minister of Finance, but he also oversees the central government FOI office, called Information Access Operations. He has long fashioned himself as a champion for transparency, a claim that some in the Parliamentary Press Gallery believe, but he is really just a censor in sheep’s clothing. 

More than anything, on such an innocuous request for information, it demonstrates the system is broken. The Liberals promised better. In their 2001 New Era election platform, they vowed to make B.C. the most open, accountable and democratic province in Canada. 

Full disclosure: Yours truly attended the Vancouver lockup in the Premier’s Vancouver Office at the Canada Place World Trade Centre. Notwithstanding the anti-democratic refusal of de Jong to take questions, via speakerphone, from Vancouver-based reporters, I did enjoy one deli sandwich and two beverages during the four hours that I was not allowed to leave. According to the Savoury Chef invoice, that would be worth $12. Staff in the Office of the Premier do read theBreaker, so please contact yours truly as soon as possible so I can arrange to deliver reimbursement to the public treasury, in-person at the Premier’s Vancouver Office.

That is, if you are able to find time between all the document deleting and expense account maxing.

GCP 2017 70800 Budget Lockup by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin How much did it cost to lock-up

Bob Mackin

How much did all those pre-election B.C. government ads cost? 

How much were taxpayers dinged for Liberal pre-election ads?

Y’know, the ones that the BC Liberals denied were taxpayer-funded campaign ads, but instead “necessary” for the public to know how to access services. Opposition politicians weren’t buying the spin and even the auditor general, Carol Bellringer, said the ad specifically hyping a balanced budget was political.

This, from a government headed by Christy Clark, the outspoken opponent of NDP government advertising waste in 1999, who said the following in Question Period: “People don’t want the government to spend 700 grand of their money so they can find out how to access services; people want this government to spend their money so that those services are there for them to access, that’s what British Columbians want.”

theBreaker knows that central government advertising doubled to $12.5 million for the year ended March 31, 2016, and that the BC Liberal cabinet decided last December to spend another $15 million by the end of March 2017, just before the official kickoff of the election. 

The actual numbers and the details are hard to come by. Nobody in the Government Communications and Public Engagement office would disclose them on a routine basis; they were under orders to refuse to tell reporters the approved budgets and told reporters to wait until the annual Public Accounts release for the final costs. The government loves to bury advertising costs inside the annual, cross-government document dump that is the Public Accounts. 

Governments stretching back to the Social Credit days of the 1980s have been under fire for spending on ads that boost the image of the ruling party and its politicians. Behind the scenes, the admen and adwomen are often handpicked for contracts based on their service to the party and friendships with those in high offices. 

Getting the numbers didn’t get any easier when Vancouver lawyers Paul Doroshenko and David Fai went to B.C. Supreme Court earlier this year to take the first steps toward a class action lawsuit. They ultimately want the BC Liberals to reimburse the public treasury. Goverment lawyers are resisting, but Doroshenko and Fai hope that will change if the NDP and Green alliance replaces the BC Liberals. 

theBreaker has been able to access some of the spending lists and invoices involving the four main contractors for the Our Opportunity Is Here ad campaign, yet the government has only disclosed information about the so-called “Services” sub-campaign which promoted the main government website, the budget and various tax breaks for seniors and families. The government is also fond of exploiting weak freedom of information laws and weak enforcement by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Several of the documents were not sent to theBreaker until after the election. 

Vizeum is the government’s advertising buyer for TV, radio, outdoor and newspapers. Between April 1, 2016 and March 15, 2017, documents show that it billed the government $5,484,771.98. 

Much of that was spent in binges. From late April to the end of May last year, it charged $750,000. There were four invoices dated Nov. 25, 2016 and Dec. 1, 2016 totalling $1.3 million. During the first two weeks of March 2017, it spent another $1.5 million. 

But that was all the government was willing to tell theBreaker, which wanted to see a breakdown of ads and dollars by media outlet and company. 

“Please note as per standard process, invoices are reviewed for accuracy to ensure receipt of service/product,” said the government’s FOI response. “As always, a breakdown by campaign / project will be available at Public Accounts. Further to your request for a detailed breakdown of advertising by broadcast media outlet, that information is not readily available.

Between Dec. 16, 2016 and March 16, 2017, Vizeum invoiced $1,749,357.91. During the same three-month period, Kimbo Design charged taxpayers $1,179,699.08. The latter company is run by Kim Pickett, the designer of Christy Clark’s leadership branding, and logos for the BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver. 

Kimbo worked on the government’s anti-B.C. Teachers’ Federation social media campaign in 2014, a gig worth $335,000. 

Between Sept. 1, 2015 and April 22, 2016, Kimbo also invoiced for $1,115,172.01. Kimbo charged taxpayers another $200,000 for April 23, 2016 to June 7, 2016, much of that was spent on Facebook. 

Creative agency St. Bernadine Mission ($461,156.15) and Response Advertising ($109,700) were the other contractors. Response president Jatinder Rai is a longtime Clark backroom advisor who scored directorships on the ICBC and B.C. Pavilion Corporation boards thanks to Clark. Between Sept. 1, 2015 and April 22, 2016, Response billed $509,950.39. 

But, back to Kimbo. It was paid $4.13 million for all of its government work for the year-ended March 31, 2016. Compare with the $666,905 during 2013-2014, the first year Kimbo worked on government projects. 

GCP-2017-70998 Vizeum by BobMackin on Scribd

GCP-2017-71008 by BobMackin on Scribd

GCP-2016-65173 OOH by BobMackin on Scribd

GCP-2017-70990 Kimbo by BobMackin on Scribd

GCP 2017 70996 Bernadine by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin How much did all those pre-election

Bob Mackin

A baby step, but not the great leap forward that British Columbia needs. 

That is the early verdict from Democracy Watch on the BC Liberals’ 11th hour, dead on arrival bill to ban big money from politics. 

The NDP and Green alliance voted 44-42 to reject the corporate and union donation ban as soon as it was tabled in the Legislature on June 26 — the 5,866th day of BC Liberal rule. The opposition parties, who won more seats and more votes combined than the BC Liberals in the May 9 election, won’t consider any government bills because they want to topple Premier Christy Clark’s administration in a non-confidence vote expected June 29. 

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher

Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher said the proposed law would not have solved political influence-buying by corporations and unions, because the $2,500 annual maximum donation to a party and $2,500 annual maximum for a constituency association are too high. Corporations and unions would have found creative ways to funnel donations to parties and politicians, he said.

“Such a high limit for donations from individuals will obscure, not stop, the influence of big money in B.C. politics, as it will be easy for any business to have, for example, 10 executives and their spouses each give the maximum, which will add up to a $100,000 donation,” Conacher said. “The media and the public will have difficulty tracing those donations back to the business, especially if the executives have common names or their spouses have different last names or are not publicly known.”

That is exactly what happened in Quebec. In 2013, the Charbonneau Commission inquiry into that province’s corruption-riddled construction industry heard about SNC-Lavalin’s political donation slush fund. Around $1 million of company money was funnelled through senior staff and their spouses into the pockets of the Parti Quebecois, Liberals and Union Montreal. 

Conacher said donations of money, goods and services should be capped at $100 to $200 each party (Quebec’s limit is now $100). The same limit, he said, should apply to candidates donating to their own campaigns, with donations being routed through Elections BC. 

“This is a democratic amount because it is an amount an average voter can afford,” Conacher said.

If parties cry poverty and argue for bigger budgets to operate, then they should get annual subsidies of $1 per vote, based on the results of the last election, Conacher said. There should also be public funding to match the first $500,000 raised by a party each year, public funding to match $25,000 raised per nomination race and $100,000 for each party leadership candidate. B.C. taxpayers already indirectly support political parties because donors are eligible for tax credits. 

Conacher was disappointed that the Liberal bill failed to require detailed disclosure of all donations and gifts of money, goods and services and volunteer labour. Such disclosure should include the identity of the donor’s employer, any board and executive affiliations, and the disclosure of anyone who assists with any fundraising or fundraising event. 

Conacher said effective campaign finance laws also need annual random audits by election, donation and ethics watchdogs and Elections BC and the Auditor General should be empowered to review and reject or order changes to partisan or misleading government advertising. Such a law should also be punctuated with stiff fines of $100,000 and up, plus jail sentences. 

In the 2001 platform, the BC Liberals promised nation-leading democracy in B.C.

NDP leader John Horgan has pledged to immediately reform campaign finance laws if his alliance with Green leader Andrew Weaver forms government. For years, the BC Liberals resisted calls to limit the size and source of donations and voted down six NDP bills to ban corporate and union donations. The BC Liberals changed their hardline stance June 22 with a throne speech that copied heavily from the NDP and Green platforms they recently ran against.

The RCMP and a special prosecutor are investigating illegal donations made by lobbyists to the BC Liberals. 

Between January 2016 and May 2017, the BC Liberals grossed $21.3 million in donations. The party was holding private, unadvertised fundraising parties where donors met face-to-face with Clark, who was paid a $50,000-a-year bonus. Last week, the NDP held a $350-a-plate dinner at the posh Hotel Vancouver which was crashed by anti-poverty activists. 

Earlier this year, theBreaker reported that Clark and Deputy Premier Rich Coleman were guests at a private February 2016 fundraiser that resulted in $1.65 million in donations. Companies related to Wall Financial donated $400,000 the same week those companies sold Chinatown land to BC Housing for $6.7 million. 

Bob Mackin A baby step, but not the

Bob Mackin

Remember that old, high school typing class drill, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party”?

Five big names connected to the “Christy Clark Clique” have popped up in media outlets in support of prolonging Liberal rule in the face of the Green-backed NDP alliance that aims to take over the B.C. government after a confidence vote on the throne speech. 

Two’s a coincidence. Three’s a crowd. Five? Either a basketball team or a political strategy.   

All in succession, after 2011 leadership runner-up Kevin Falcon gave the Vancouver Sun a highly critical post-mortem of the party’s loss of majority status in the May 9 election. 

None of the media outlets that gave soapboxes to the quintet of BC Liberal heavy-hitters provided their audiences a fulsome description of party connections. 

On June 3 in the Times Colonist, it was David Anderson, the former BC Liberal Party leader from 1972 to 1975. When he went federal, Anderson was a mentor to many west coast Liberals, including Clark. His career in Ottawa included a posting as the fisheries and oceans minister who led the 1990s shutdown of ports police.

Following June 8 in The Province was Chris Gardner, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president. Gardner, who poached the effective Jordan Bateman from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation during the election, is on a campaign to save the $9 billion Site C dam project from the B.C. Utilities Commission review promised by the NDP’s John Horgan. 

Gardner took over ICBA from longtime BC Liberal proxy Phil Hochstein in January of this year, after working as senior vice-president of North America for the work camp company Civeo. Gardner was Clark’s principal secretary for a year, from May 2014 to May 2015. 

Gary Collins opined in the Times Colonist on June 14. You might remember him as the BC Liberal finance minister who suddenly quit in December 2004 to take-up a job the next day with David Ho’s Harmony Airways.

Collins was the next witness to be heard in the B.C. Supreme Court trial of ex-Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk in October 2010, but he never had to testify in court about what he knew about the BC Rail privatization scandal.

After years of maintaining their innocence, Basi and Virk agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes. Contrary to government policy, taxpayers were stuck with their $6 million in legal bills.   

Collins is a director of Liquor Stores N.A. Inc. The company operates private stores in B.C. under the Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn brands, and has benefitted from Clark’s booze deregulation. 

In the pages of the Times Colonist on June 22, Geoff Plant added his two bits worth. 

The Attorney General under ex-Premier Gordon Campbell is a BC Liberal appointee to the Providence Health Care board. Providence’s flagship is St. Paul’s Hospital, which the Liberals plan to move to a new $1.2 billion complex on False Creek Flats by 2022.

Plant is also the chancellor of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, chair of the Land and Title and Survey Authority of B.C., director of Steelhead LNG, and director of the Resource Works Society. Resource Works is the Liberal-allied, B.C. Business Council and Teck-backed, pro-industry public relations campaign.

Finally, on June 26, CKNW’s Jon McComb sought reaction from Stockwell Day about Clark’s sudden adoption of NDP and Green policies. Day is a former cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper Conservative administration. McComb additionally identified Day as a “consultant,” but did not mention his multiple directorships on Liberal-reliant corporate boards.

That Day is an apologist for Clark cannot be a surprise.

Day is a director of Pacific Future Energy, a proposed $10 billion oil refinery on Dubose Flats between Terrace and Kitimat. PFE’s board includes Mark Marissen, Clark’s ex-husband who remains a prominent Liberal strategist. PFE would obviously have an easier ride under a Liberal administration than the Green-backed NDP. 

Day’s resume includes directorships with Western One Equity, Baylin Technologies, AWZ Ventures, Canada-India Business Council and Canada-China Business Council, prominent Liberal donor Telus and RCI Capital. The latter runs an immigrant investor scheme targeted at wealthy Chinese who want to pay for fast-track Canadian citizenship.

Good riddance?

After Walter Cronkite’s famous Vietnam commentary, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson is said to have famously sighed: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

Bill Good (Rogers)

News1130 commentator Bill Good used to be Clark’s co-worker at CKNW, when he was the most-heard voice in B.C. radio and she was girding for a political comeback. Listeners have often criticized Good for being soft on the Liberals.

Good was the moderator for the first of two debates during the election period and put her on the spot a few times. His performance was stronger than expected. Her performance was very shaky. On May 9, Clark lost southern British Columbia. Three days later, it sounded like she lost the confidence of Good. 

In his May 12 “Minute With…” commentary, Good bluntly concluded: “Her time is up.” 

On June 23, Good opined about the previous day’s so-called “Clone Speech” that plagiarized from the NDP and Green platforms that Clark and the Liberals had discredited during the election. 

“Is it any wonder people are cynical when it comes to politicians?” Good asked.

“Suddenly Christy Clark has seen the light, or is it the dark, the dark place opposition members inhabit especially when they fall from power…

“Christy Clark insisted the NDP would drive us into debt if they did what she is now promising to do. Cynical? Desperate? All I know is there are a lot of unhappy Liberals out there and the throne speech didn’t make them any happier.”

Bob Mackin Remember that old, high school typing

Bob Mackin

Summer’s here, everybody into the pool. 


A heat wave sent people of all ages around Metro Vancouver to their local community centres and outdoor pools on the first weekend of the summer of 2017. Pools have been on the minds of politicians all over the region. 

Today’s pool at Harry Jerome (NV Rec)

Burnaby is pondering a major remake of the C.G. Brown Memorial Pool at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. Vancouver just released its VanSplash strategy, which envisions a harbour deck, an outdoor leisure pool at Killarney community centre, an outdoor pool beside the Fraser River, and a new aquatic centre at Connaught Park. The land occupied by the existing aquatic centre between Sunset Beach and the Burrard Bridge is sought by tower developers. 

In North Vancouver District on June 24, the new $53.5 million Delbrook Community Recreation Centre, on the site of the old William Griffin Community Centre, opened. It includes a six-lane, 25 metre pool plus 1 m and 3 m diving boards. 

Monday night at North Vancouver City Hall, the future of the Harry Jerome Recreation Centre is on the agenda. The North Shore Aquatics Society is worried that bureaucrats want city councillors to move too fast to approve a pool too small. 

Staff recommend Mayor Darrell Mussatto and council spend $2.2 million for designs and feasibility studies for a new $130 million recreation centre with a 25 metre pool. Final project approval would be in June 2018 — four months before the next civic election.

Staff considered five options for the new community centre, but rejected a second arena ($15 million plus $200,000-a-year to operate), an eight-sheet curling rink ($19 million to build), and a 50 m pool ($11 mllion plus $1 million to operate annually).

“The recommended aquatics facility delivers a much improved leisure experience, and will be the largest aquatics facility on the North Shore,” said the June 21 report by Barbara Pearce, the strategic initiatives and services director. “Curling, a 50 m pool and second arena have not been recommended in this report due to the significant increased capital and operating costs, and limited need/demand.”

A city hall-contracted poll by Modus found 81% of respondents supported rebuilding on the same site at Lonsdale and West 23rd, 75% said swimming was their primary use and 43% wanted a 50 m pool. 

From North Shore Aquatic Association presentation

NSAS, an umbrella for North and West Vancouver’s swim clubs, has collected 4,500 petition signatures and commissioned a business case for a 50 metre pool. It would require fundraising and taxpayer grants. While British Columbians await the end of uncertainty in Victoria, NSAS can’t get the provincial funding commitment needed to unlock matching funds from Ottawa.

NSAS says a 50 m pool is a better long-term investment. Vancouver, University of B.C. and Coquitlam have 50 m pools, which means racing swimmers on the North Shore must commute to compete and train. The NSAS business case said an eight-lane, 50 m pool would cost only $200,000 more per year to operate than a 10-lane, 25 m pool. The difference could be paid for by greater use because of population growth, lease space revenue, more events, admission charges and rental income. 

“Stronger than anticipated population growth, high demand for aquatic facilities, and increasing use of waiting lists for aquatic clubs and swimming lessons means a 50 metre pool is needed to provide adequate capacity and in accordance with the City’s Regional Growth Strategy,” said the NSAS business case.

The pool would benefit swimmers, water polo players, divers and synchornized swimmers, the business case says, “and can generate more revenue by allowing the hosting of events requiring overnight stays and meals in local hotels and restaurants.” 

Bob Mackin Summer’s here, everybody into the pool.  Literally.  A

Bob Mackin

Christy Clark really wants to be B.C.’s premier still. In May, she was running on an uninspiring conservative platform that led to the loss of majority status. 

On June 22, she changed her tune. Now she wants to give British Columbians “NDP plus Site C.” 

A wise sage said to me, if a leopard can change its spots, it is not a leopard, but a chameleon. If a chameleon changes its colours, but doesn’t blend in, it’s a really bad chamelon. 

Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon channeled Clark’s blatant ripoff of the NDP and (to a lesser extent) Green platforms. Suddenly, Clark is embracing subsidized childcare, hiking welfare payments and the carbon tax, a low-cost rent-to-own housing program, ending bridge tolls and rethinking the bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel. And no, none of it is costed. 

Suddenly she has flip-flopped and is trying to be all things to all people. Aren’t those the reasons why Clark once called NDP leader John Horgan “spineless”? 

Oh, the speech included the predictable references to jobs and LNG. And Clark is still clinging to her Site C dam dream that Horgan wants the B.C. Utilities Commission to review and rebuke. But it was a tacit admission that the poorly constructed BC Liberal platform was rejected by voters. Particularly the ones in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island that didn’t buy the jobs and economy message, just like they didn’t buy it when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were selling it federally in 2015. Maybe Clark shouldn’t have imported so many out-of-work Tories from Ottawa and PCs from Alberta to work on Team B.C. 2017. 

Like 2015 federally, the 2017 B.C. election became a referendum on the leader. Six in 10 voters chose parties other than the Liberals; longtime Liberals turned their back on their own party and went Green or NDP or stayed home. The clock is ticking until the NDP-Green alliance gets its chance to defeat the Clark Liberals on a confidence vote, but expect the Liberals to filibuster and try another curveball.  . The June 22 speech began with democratic reforms, such as a vow for a referendum on proportional representation, the possible moving of fixed election dates to fall. Retired Delta independent Vicki Huntington proposed that, but the Liberals didn’t give her the time of day.

There was nothing about freedom of information, which the NDP has promised to reform after the Liberals came to treat public disclosure with utter contempt. 

The speech started with a list of campaign finance reform measures, such as banning corporate and union donations, foreign donations and in-kind donations. It said nothing about giving Elections BC the budget to hire a slew of auditors and investigators to police campaign financing. The Liberals are under investigation by the RCMP on two fronts — over illegal donations by lobbyists and allegations of pay-for-play in the Brenhill condo tower deal.

But, barely 90 minutes after Guichon finished reading the speech and exited the chamber, the Liberals were back to their usual schtick: begging members for money. 

Rookie Tsawwassen-residing, Queensborough-representing Citizens Services and Technology Minister Jas Johal used technology (e-mail, to be precise) to strike fear into voters about the prospect of another election. He urged recipients to send money now and then circulate the message to five friends. 

“The NDP are planning to take power with the support of the Green Party, and implement an agenda that’s dangerous for jobs, families, and communities throughout B.C.,” wrote Johal. “In this uncertain and unstable situation, we could be back in another election anytime.

“That’s why I’m asking you to give $43 right now – one dollar for every BC Liberal MLA we elected in May. Your gift of $43 or $5 or $300 will help us elect more MLAs so that we can offer a stable, responsive BC Liberal government that will keep our economy strong, keep creating family-supporting jobs, and address urgent affordability issues.

“… we could be back at the polls in a matter of weeks. Please help us with whatever you can afford to be ready for the road ahead – so we can keep working for the British Columbia we all love.”

During the pomp and circumstance, before the speech, Clark was conspicously absent from the steps of the Legislature for her traditional welcome to the lieutenant governor. Guichon arrived in her Lexus limousine to the sounds of protesters gathered around the inflatable Site C white elephant. “Hey hey, ho ho, BC Liberals have gotta go!” they chanted. 

Inside, Clark was surrounded by two of her replacements. 

One of them being Horgan, the prospective premier. The other, familial. Her  ex-husband Mark Marissen was seated with his new wife, Maryam Atigh. 

Marissen’s attendance was an eyebrow raiser. Three years ago, Clark claimed she was distancing herself from Marissen, a vice-president of a $10 billion oil refinery proposal. Any matters about Pacific Future Energy, she claimed, would have to go through Finance Minister Mike de Jong. 

Also on the sparse guest list were defeated transit and taxis minister Peter “Fast Spender” Fassbender and Clark’s federal Liberal mentor David Anderson, who was a senior minister in the corrupt Jean Chretien regime where Clark was an aide. Anderson’s legacy included kiboshing the ports police. 

Clark’s admission of defeat included a vague paragraph referencing the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. 

“An expanded crossing between Richmond and Delta is essential to reducing congestion, ensuring safety, and providing for future light rail. Recognizing concerns about the design, your government will listen and work collaboratively to move this project forward.”

Transportation Ministry representatives didn’t respond immediately to theBreaker about why it said neither bridge nor tunnel. Read between the lines, however, and it appears the $3.5 billion project will be rethought. The NDP revealed during the last week of the campaign that the government was contemplating $8 billion in interest payments, putting the price of the private-public partnership closer to $12 billion. 

Richmond Coun. Carol Day was eager to hear more. 

“The whole process has been flawed, it’s nice to see we finally got their attention,” Day said. “Pretty sad when it takes losing an election to get their attention. Now they have no choice. The voters finally got their way.”

The project is too complex and costly because Deas Island is packed way too deep with silt and sand. The government has stymied Richmond city council’s efforts to obtain engineering reports that are known to exist which would further confirm the difficulty of building a such bridge across the Lower Fraser. 

When the shock wears off, Clark’s about-face may ultimately spell the end of the free enterprise coalition and give new life to the leaderless B.C. Conservatives, whose annual general meeting is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Langley.

Bob Mackin Christy Clark really wants to be

Bob Mackin

The former Commonwealth Games executive who heads Vancouver’s tourism industry association told theBreaker that nobody has asked him for advice on helping Victoria get the 2022 Games. 

Ty Speer (Tourism Vancouver)

“I don’t have any particular kind of understanding on how Victoria intends to bid. I’ve not seen any sort of plans on how they want to stage the event,” said Ty Speer, the Tourism Vancouver CEO who was lured away from his job as deputy CEO of the Glasgow 2014 organizing committee. “I’m lacking quite a lot of information and, to be quite frank, nobody has contacted me and said ‘hey, how should we do this?’”

With five years to go, the Commonwealth Games Federation is searching for a host to replace Durban. The South African city won the bid by default in 2015 when Edmonton withdrew, but lost the rights in March due to disorganization. 

Community newspaper publisher David Black announced he was heading Victoria’s bid on June 7. He gave few details about the budget, except for a low-ball, $100 million estimate to build an athletes village at the University of Victoria. 

A Victoria 2022 Games would require hundreds of millions of dollars from both the federal and B.C. governments. The BC Liberals’ Vancouver Island platform for the May 9 provincial election contained a promise to back a bid, but the party held its lone seat on Vancouver Island, lost its province-wide majority and may be replaced by an alliance of the NDP and B.C. Greens. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose party holds the balance of power, supports a Games bid in principle. 

Speer said the timelines are tight, but Victoria 2022 would be possible if organizers can rely on reusing venues from 1994 when Victoria hosted the Commonwealth Games. Normally, mega-events are organized in seven-year, award-to-event cycles, owing to necessary infrastructure projects — such as competition and training venues, hotels, transit lines, and airport expansion. 

Victoria 1994 logo

“It can be done in five years, but it would be, fundamentally, a function of how many construction projects,” Speer said.

Speer noted the Commonwealth Games have grown substantially since Victoria 1994, when 63 nations sent 2,557 athletes to compete in 10 sports. Glasgow 2014 featured 4,947 athletes from 71 national teams in 18 sports. By comparison, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics had seven sports for 2,566 athletes from 82 nations. 

“It’s grown in scale, it’s grown in complexity, obviously in terms of cost. The stature of the event has grown, so has the quality and sophistication,” Speer said. “The security climate, what we all have to contemplate now, does put costs on events. That is not a good thing, but it is a reality.” 

Glasgow 2014 cost nearly $1 billion. Australia is budgeting $2 billion for the 2018 Games in the Gold Coast.

The size of the 21st century Commonwealth Games would mean Vancouver International Airport, BC Ferries and Lower Mainland hotels would inevitably play a role in Victoria planning. Would there be opportunities for Lower Mainland venues to host events, such as B.C. Place Stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and rugby sevens? One suburb already looked at making a bid, but found the prospect too ambitious. 

“We looked at it, given the information we had and determined it wasn’t the right fit for us at the time,” said Jennifer Scott, Tourism Burnaby’s senior manager of sport tourism. 

Burnaby is planning to replace its aging C.G. Brown Memorial Pool at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. It is near the privately-built Fortius Sport Centre, a state-of-the-art high performance training and sport medicine facility with on-site athlete accommodation.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told theBreaker that it was “a little bit over our heads,” at a time when mega-events are riskier than ever.  

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

“It was a lot of organization and commitment to take on, not something at this stage that I was prepared to take on,” Corrigan said. “That didn’t mean I was going to close the door to discussions with other cities.” 

Referendum demanded

The leader of the opposition to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics is now a Victoria resident. Chris Shaw said any decision to bid must be made by the public, not politicians under the influence of lobbyists and developers. 

“They claim they can’t release their budget because of fears that the competitors will see it, but that’s patent nonsense,” Shaw told theBreaker. “They really don’t want the public to see it, because the public who might be able to do math can actually go in and look at the proposed outcomes and the costs to taxpayers and probably see that it doesn’t make sense financially.”

Shaw, author of Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, said he worries that the city could submit a winning bid without considering social, environmental and security impacts. 

“It’s time to start a No Games Victoria 2022, because a lot of the stuff we saw back in the bid for the 2010 Olympics seems to be coming true in Victoria,” Shaw said. “It seems to be a developer-driven bid, and it’s remarkably short on details, on budget, a business plan and what they actually want to accomplish.

“The taxpayers are being asked to take on an enormous potential burden, for uncertain benefits, with almost complete secrecy surrounding the whole enterprise.” 

British Columbians still don’t know the real facts or stats about Vancouver 2010. Organizers claimed they balanced a $1.9 billion budget, but that was $600 million more than contemplated in the 2003 bid. B.C.’s auditor general did not conduct a final report on Games spending. It is believed the total cost of operations, construction, transportation and security was around $7 billion. The $1 billion athletes village at False Creek went into receivership after the Games.

Vancouver 2010 organizing committee board minutes and financial books are held by the City of Vancouver Archives, but those files are sealed from public view until 2025. 

Shaw said Victoria residents should be asking Mayor Lisa Helps and city council to hold “a binding referendum, on a clear question, with equal [campaign] funding for both sides, (and) a series of debates.”

Vancouver’s 2010 bid proceeded after citizens voted yes in a non-binding plebiscite after a campaign in which there were no fundraising or spending limits or disclosure requirements. 

Games critic Chris Shaw (Mackin)

Birmingham and Liverpool are jockeying for the U.K. government’s nod to bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the 1998 host, is also considering a bid. 

Toronto hosted more than 6,000 athletes for the $2.5 billion Pan American Games in 2015 and pondered a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. In late May, city staff recommend against a 2022 Commonwealth Games bid because of the tight timelines, the lack of confirmed federal and provincial support and the lack of public consultation. 

The International Olympic Committee is reeling from the aftermath of the corruption-tainted Rio 2016 Olympics and fewer cities want to host mega-events, because of skyrocketing costs. Beijing beat Almaty, Kakzahkstan for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Only Paris and Los Angeles are bidding for the 2024 summer Games. One of the cities will be awarded the 2028 Games.

Bob Mackin has covered three Summer Olympics, two Winter Olympics, two Pan American Games, two Commonwealth Games and two FIFA Women’s World Cups. He authored the Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics e-book.

Bob Mackin The former Commonwealth Games executive who

Bob Mackin

Facing the end of 16 years of power after losing their majority on May 9, Christy Clark’s BC Liberals are getting ready for a Hail Mary session in the Legislature. 

Nearly 60% of British Columbians voted for parties other than the Liberals in the May 9 election, which left the Liberals with 43 seats, one shy of a majority in the 87-seat house. The NDP (41) and Greens (3) have enough seats to become the new government, with John Horgan as premier. 

A week after the June 22 throne speech, the NDP and Greens are hoping to defeat the Liberals on a confidence motion. 

On June 2, the Liberals stopped publishing their unaudited donation lists on a weekly basis. Despite the party calling it real time, and some media outlets parroting those words, the party never disclosed its donations in real time. The Liberals now say the throne speech will include a plan to ban corporate and union donations. 

This, after more than a year of headlines about Liberal cash for access and pay to play.

This, after the Liberals raised $13.1 million in 2016 and another $8.5 million-plus by the end of May 2017.  

The devil, of course, will be in the details. Simply ending corporate and union donations is not enough to regulate what has become a legalized form of bribery. 

Quebec banned corporate and union donations, but major donors found loopholes. The Charbonneau commission into construction fraud and corruption found SNC-Lavalin reimbursed its executives for making $1 million in personal donations to the Quebec Liberals and Parti Quebecois under their names and the names of their relatives. 

In B.C., the Clark Liberals stubbornly resisted six NDP private members’ bills to ban corporate and union donations. Before the election, Clark said a re-elected Liberal government would appoint an independent commission to make non-binding recommendations. She mentioned no timeline, but said one recommendation would be rejected outright: taxpayer subsidies.

Yet, taxpayers already help parties indirectly, because donations are eligible for tax credits. 

After the April 26 leaders’ debate, Clark was emphatic. “Politicians should not be making the rules,” she said. See her entire answer in the video below. 

Now she has changed her tune and wants to make the rules.

Do you believe her? 

Bob Mackin Facing the end of 16 years

Bob Mackin

Protesters outside the Trump Tower’s February grand opening (Mackin)

President Donald Trump told the United States Office of Government Ethics that one of his holding companies received more than $5 million in royalty income through the licensing deal with Vancouver’s Trump Tower. 

Companies related to the luxury hotel and condo skyscraper, developed by Malaysian-owned Holborn Group, are among the 500-plus entities in Trump’s first public financial disclosure report as president released June 16. 

The 98-page filing, signed by Trump on June 14, includes: DT Marks Vancouver LP, DT Marks Vancouver Manager Corp., THC Vancouver Management Corp., and THC Vancouver Payroll ULC. 

The latter company is the only one registered in British Columbia. DT Marks Vancouver LP earned over $5 million in income, while THC Vancouver Management Corp. earned Trump only $21,576. 

Donald Trump Jr. (left) and brother Eric at the Vancouver Trump Hotel opening (Mackin)

THC Vancouver Payroll ULC was incorporated Feb. 20, 2015 with Donald Trump as the sole director. The June 23, 2016 annual report with the B.C. corporate registry listed its records address as P.O. Box 49130, 2900-595 Burrard Street, at the Owen Bird law firm. As of Feb. 20, 2016, the officers were: Eric Danziger, Rhona Graff-Riccio, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg. 

Trump ceased to be a director on Jan. 19, 2017, the day before his presidential inauguration. The only directors now are Donald J. Trump Jr. and Allen Weisselberg. 

Trump Jr., brother Eric and sister Tiffany were part of the entourage that visited Vancouver for the Feb. 28 grand opening of the hotel. The cost to local taxpayers to keep protesters at bay was at least $105,000.  

First Daughter Ivanka Ivanka quietly came to Whistler for a Passover ski vacation with husband Jared Kushner, a key White House advisor.

Trump, Donald J 2017 Financial Disclosure Report by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_4623" align="alignright" width="430"] Protesters outside