Recent Posts
Connect with:
Monday / August 15.
  • No products in the cart.
HomeStandard Blog Whole Post (Page 147)

Bob Mackin

Membership has its privileges and the BC Liberals have rewarded some of their most-loyal friends and insiders with recent multi-year board appointments.

A watchdog calls the unbridled cronyism an “affront” to electoral democracy.

“Such appointments should not extend beyond one year of an election cycle,” said IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis. “Specifically on the basis that an incoming government will want to keep the current system in place until they manage to get their bearings straight.”

In the final year of the current Liberal mandate, cabinet has appointed numerous party donors, aides and ex-cabinet ministers to boards of agencies and Crown corporations. Some of the appointments last until fall 2020, when another election will be a year away. Some of the gigs well, others carry community prestige and the ability to quickly expand business networks. 

Cabinet-ordered board appointments are managed by the Board Resourcing and Development Office, a branch of the Ministry of Finance. Travis said it should instead be up to an independent office, such as the Auditor General, to review applications based on merit and make recommendations. The current system does not encourage service by the best and brightest British Columbians.

Bennett and Clark in 2013 (Twitter)

“The problem is any government likes to control this and the other side of the control is some of these jobs come with pay and nice stipends and it’s a way to reward party insiders and also a way to keep control, and to make certain you don’t have any little opposition centres in the province that are fighting your government policy,” Travis said. 

Who in the “Clark Clique” scored when their leader went on a pre-election appointment spree? The members are a grab bag of Liberal donors, lobbyists and ex-Clark campaign managers. 

Brad Bennett 

The son of ex-Premier Bill Bennett and grandson of ex-Premier W.A.C. Bennett was on Christy Clark’s Debt Free BC bus during the 2013 campaign, more than a year after Clark named him a BC Hydro director. He was promoted the $36,000-a-year chair at the end of September 2015, for a term ending in fall 2020. He is back on Clark’s bus in 2017. He justified it to theBreaker by saying that there were no BC Hydro board meetings scheduled during the same period as the election. 

Barry Penner

The 16-year, ex-Chilliwack MLA was environment and aboriginal relations and attorney general before quitting in 2011 for a short-stint at a law firm in Myanmar. After he returned to B.C., he was appointed a director of the College of Physicians and Surgeons (through Sept. 1, 2019); chair of ICBC (through March 31, 2019) and member of the New West Partnership Trade Agreement tribunal that sorts out interprovincial trade disputes (through Oct. 26, 2020). The ICBC role earns him a $30,000-a-year retainer plus $750 per meeting.

John Les

Penner’s former Fraser Valley caucus cohort spent a dozen years in provincial office, but didn’t run in the 2013 election. He was named $60,000-a-year chair of the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board, an assignment renewed through Nov. 30, 2019. Les has  organized fundraisers in the Fraser Valley for local candidates and Clark. 

Colin Hansen

Hansen was Finance Minister under Gordon Campbell and co-father of the plebiscite-defeated Harmonized Sales Tax. He also didn’t run in the 2013 election. He recently received good news on Family Day when his spot on the Transportation Investment Corporation board was extended for another two years. The Crown corporation behind the Port Mann toll bridge is overseeing the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project; according to documents obtained by the NDP, interest costs will be $8 billion for the bridge between Delta and Richmond. 

Hansen was in the New York Times in the final week of the election for being head of AdvantageBC, a B.C.-funded public-funded agency, beyond the reach of the freedom of information law, that entices companies with lucrative tax breaks. Which companies benefitted from $140 million in tax breaks since 2008 are a government secret. At most, 300 jobs were created. 

Ida Chong

After Clark lost her seat in the 2013 election, the next most-shocking result was Ida Chong losing Victoria-Gordon Head to the Green Party’s Andrew Weaver. The 17-year Liberal MLA occupied multiple cabinet posts and is on the B.C. Emergency Health Services and Provincial Health Services Agency boards through 2017. She is also on the University of Victoria board through July 2019, a volunteer position. 

Mark Reder

The vice-president of lobbying firm FleishmanHillard counts Kinder Morgan and Transcanada Pipelines among his clients. He was Vancouver-Fairview candidate Gabe Garfinkel’s boss after Garfinkel quit Clark’s office to become a lobbyist in 2014. Reder has also been active in the West Vancouver-Capilano BC Liberal riding association. He was reappointed chair of the Transit Police Board through the end of 2019, which paid almost $9,800 in 2015.  

Spencer Sproule 

The former Clark aide is now the spokesman for Pacific NorthWest LNG, the Petronas-owned B.C. LNG play. While that project awaits a much-delayed final investment decision from the Malaysian state-owned oil company, Sproule was appointed to the New West Partnership Trade Agreement tribunal through March 31, 2018. 

Alan Shuster

Clark’s campaign manager in her old riding, Vancouver-Point Grey, is getting a second term on the board of governors at the University of B.C., through Feb. 27, 2020. Like UVic, it only reimburses expenses. Shuster is a former executive vice-president at the Blast Radius digital ad agency. 

Phil Hochstein 

The former spokesman for the province’s non-union construction lobby and big Liberal donor, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, was named chair of the B.C. Turkey Marketing Board (through Jan. 14, 2018) and later a provincial appointee to the Port of Vancouver board (through May 18, 2019). The latter pays a $15,000 retainer, $6,000 to $8,000 more to chair a committee, plus $1,250 per regular board meeting and $750 for ad hoc meetings. 

Jim Cessford and Steven Puhallo 

Two Liberal hopefuls lost bids to run for the party in the 2017 election, but are kept busy with appointments. Cessford retired from the Delta Police as chief in 2015 and was appointed to WorkSafeBC. When he lost the Delta nomination to municipal councillor Ian Paton, he got two more years on WorkSafeBC to Dec. 1, 2018. Not long after Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar got the nod to take over from Terry Lake in the election, Lake named Puhallo, a former aide to high-volume bloviator and ex-MLA Kevin Krueger, to the local patient care quality review board to Hallowe’en 2019. 

Dave Teixeira

Clark and friend Dave Teixeira (Twitter)

A longtime traveler in the Clark Clique, Teixeira spent two-and-a-half years as constituency assistant for former Burnaby MLA Harry Bloy, the only caucus member who supported her 2011 leadership run. Teixeira was appointed to a one-year term to the Douglas College board of governors in 2015 and then re-upped last July for a two-year term through July 2018, which comes with a $2,000 honorarium.

His bio says he co-founded the Pink Shirt Anti-Bullying Day that Clark made famous in B.C., as part of a personal brand-building exercise before her run for the premiership. (Clark has further centralized power in the Office of the Premier, rather than relaxing the archaic system of party discipline, which some call institutionalized bullying.)

Teixeira is now vice-president of marketing, public relations and communications for Dominion Lending Centres and was among the first to publicly congratulate Clark, minutes after she announced the interest-free, second mortgage scheme for first-time home buyers last December.

 

Michael Hillman

Before the 2017 election, there was one story after another about patients dying after visits to Fraser Health hospitals or being stuck on beds in hallways of overcrowded emergency rooms for days on end. 

The beleaguered board is stacked with friends of the government. One is Ernst and Young partner John Bethel, an assistant deputy minister under Mike de Jong in the Health ministry before the health firings scandal got out of control. 

Another director is Michael Hillman, who was reappointed through the end of 2018. His history with Clark goes way back. In 2005, Hillman managed her ill-fated bid to become Vancouver’s NPA mayoral candidate. Sam Sullivan got the nod instead. Hillman has also managed numerous federal and BC Liberal campaigns. In 2013, he helped veteran ad man and Langley mayor Peter Fassbender get by on a 200-vote margin in Surrey-Fleetwood. 

Bob Mackin Membership has its privileges and the

Bob Mackin 

The Duchess of Dunbar is deluged with donors’ dollars.

Christy Clark and her BC Liberals raked-in a whopping $5.2 million during the first four months of 2017, according to an exclusive analysis by theBreaker

That, after grossing $13.1 million last year.

A compilation of the party’s unaudited 2017 reports through the third week of April shows 10,159 donations of all amounts. In 2016, the party reported receiving 10,390 donations of $250 and up. Both the total dollar amount and the number of donations right before the election are jaw-dropping, according to IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis. 

Political financing has been a central issue of the 2017 campaign, which ends with the May 9 election day. Travis published the definitive e-book on B.C.’s cash for access and pay to play political culture, “May I Take Your Order, Please?” He said the money raised by the Liberals in the last four months is almost as much as the entire $5.27 million the party raised in 2016. 

“It’s not entirely comparable but demonstrates very clearly they are on a mad press to keep raising cash,” Travis told theBreaker

The top six single donations so far this year are all from corporations: Goldcorp Inc. ($100,000), The Pacific Investment Corp. Ltd. ($50,000), Polygon Homes Ltd. ($40,000), West Fraser Mills ($37,500), Concord Pacific Developments Corp. ($30,000) and Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP ($27,000).

Christy cashes-in (Mackin)

Travis said the party continues to rely on a small group of big donors. “If you look at unique donors that have given more than $10,000, this year, we’re looking at 74 corporations that have provided $1.5 million.”

The Liberals say they release unaudited information in “real time,” but actually they publish their PDF lists in intervals of 10 days to two weeks. 

The NDP and Greens say they will release their donors’ lists in accordance with Elections BC deadlines. Both parties have promised to ban corporate and union donations if they take power, but the Liberals have only committed to striking a non-binding, expert advisory panel should they win. 

B.C. has no legal limits to the size or source of political donations. The RCMP is investigating illegal donations made by lobbyists who didn’t disclose their clients. The Liberals have returned nearly $250,000 in illegal donations. 

The Liberal disclosures analyzed by theBreaker include names, amounts and apparent dates of payment processing, but the releases do not indicate whether the donations were connected to an event. Half the $13.1 million raised in 2016 came from events, many of which featured special appearances by Premier Christy Clark and cabinet ministers. 

By comparison, the NDP raised $6.2 million and the Greens $757,268. 

The Liberals are on the cusp of unleashing an unprecedented advertising barrage on the last weekend of the 2017 campaign, but they won’t be able to spend all of their money before May 9. That is because Elections BC set a $4.88 million per party limit during the 28-day writ period. Candidates in each of the 87 ridings can’t spend more than $77,674.62 each . Despite that, Travis said there is a forward-looking, method to the Clark Liberals’ money madness. 

“This is a strategy to make sure they have one campaign in the bank in the event that they lose and the NDP decides to do campaign finance reform as they promised or they make the call on their own,” Travis said. “If they suddenly decided to have a conversion on the road to Damascus and after being re-elected and bring in the ban well guess what, they’ve got the next election in the kitty and they’ve left the NDP with one hell of an election debt still to pay off.”

The danger, Travis said, is that the Liberals are “writing incredible IOUs” while they keep collecting the lucre. Donors will inevitably demand attention, if not favours. 

“They’re writing IOUs to their favourite gang, Rennie Marketing, Dueck GM, casinos, Wesbild Holdings, Peter Armstrong/Great Canadian Railtour, New Car Dealers Association. All of the pals are right here on the list.” 

The Liberal campaign has included attack ads calling the NDP hypocrites for taking $670,000 in donations from the United Steelworkers. The Liberals called that a record single-year donation in B.C., but that honour belongs to developer Rob MacDonald, who gave $960,000 to the NPA before the 2011 Vancouver civic election. (There may have been bigger civic donations in non-election years, when municipal parties are not required to publicly report their donations). 

Coincidentally, MacDonald is also a BC Liberal donor who gave $18,600 in the first four months of 2017. The spin doctor behind the Liberals is Don Millar, who also works on campaigns for Vision Vancouver. Mayor Gregor Robertson’s party attacked the NPA for MacDonald’s big money contributions. Both the BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver are coalitions that include federal Liberals and they shared the same bagman, real estate marketer Bob Rennie. 

Travis calls the Liberal attack ad a “diversionary tactic” because the Liberals raised more money from 10 major donors between 2005 and 2016 than the NDP did from labour unions. 

“The numbers say you’re bringing in more money than any political party in Canada at the provincial level, you’re bringing in more money in than you need as compared to Alberta and Quebec,” Travis said. “This has gotten to the point  where it’s not really about providing a good political operation that’s sustainable, it’s about ensuring you can always beat up your opponents in every election campaign because you can outspend them and you can outspend them between elections by running a perpetual campaign.”

In his book, Travis revealed that the top 177 donors to the Liberals over the last five years got $3.5 billion in supplier payments and $74.4 million in government transfers. 

Liberal Donations Spreadsheet by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin  The Duchess of Dunbar is deluged with

Bob Mackin

Meet Ed Coleman, Quesnel city councillor and former school teacher. 

Since 2014, he has worked as the CEO of the Barkerville Heritage Trust, which operates the Barkerville historic gold rush town, one of B.C.’s top, non-Vancouver tourist draws. BHT relies on millions of dollars of provincial subsidies in order to keep the 1862-established Barkerville from becoming a ghost town. 

Rich Coleman’s brother Ed (Quesnel)

Coleman also has a famous brother, BC Liberal campaign co-chair and B.C.’s Deputy Premier, natural gas and housing minister Rich Coleman. 

On March 19, with the 2017 election fast-approaching, the B.C. government announced it was extending BHT’s contract through 2025. It was scheduled to expire in 2020, the year before another election. 

Ed Coleman’s name was omitted from the news release. British Columbians know how to use Google. 

Some of them found a letter that Coleman wrote to the Langley Times in March 2013, before that year’s election, in which he called Rich “an excellent MLA” and “amazing brother.” 

It is not known whether his last name helped open government doors or provincial purse strings, but Forests Minister Steve Thomson decided to continue to pay $2.4 million-a-year to BHT and not look for a better deal for B.C. taxpayers.  

A Feb. 21 decision note for Thomson recommended the extension and said no other parties had expressed interest in managing the historic town site, though the government had not put anything to public tender. It listed two options: to extend to 2025 or seek proposals for tenure in 2019. 

About the latter, the document said “it would open the door to new thinking about the use of the lands.”

Over the last 18 months, the BHT had been moving away from the curatorial approach of the last 15 years “toward a more entrepreneurial approach” for year-round activities. BHT also sought to amalgamate the Cottonwood House Historic Site. 

“An extension would, however, be perceived by the trust and the region as a government commitment to continue operating assistance at the current level of $2.4M per annum until 2025.”

The $2.4 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year was a substantial increase from the $1.98 million paid the previous year. The additional five years mean at least $12 million more public funds for Barkerville. There do not appear to be any financial information documents on the Barkerville website and Ed Coleman did not respond immediately to a query from theBreaker

A business case for 2015 to 2025 that was tabled last September at a Cariboo Regional District meeting said that BHT projected a balanced budget of almost $3.042 million for 2016-2017. In 2014-2015, the most recent completed year available, BHT fell one dollar short of balancing. It counted $2.16 million in provincial operating funds and only $604,383 in earned revenues. Prices for the two-day pass are $14.50 for adults, $13.50 for seniors, $9.50 for teens, $4.75 for children. A family pass is $35. 

After May 9, at least one Coleman will continue to cash cheques from the provincial treasury. And maybe beyond the next election, too. 

FNR-2017-71128 71130 Barkerville by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Meet Ed Coleman, Quesnel city

David Berner is a longtime Vancouver media figure who has hosted radio and TV talkshows. He also has a background in operating residential treatment facilities to help drug and alcohol addicts turn around their lives. 

Dear Editor,

David Berner

In B.C., we are witnessing two asteroids on a collision course. 

The first is the Provincial election.

The second is the current opioid/fentanyl crisis.

You and I and those running for office might profit by have some acquaintance with the real issues at stake. Having candidates blathering shallow promises and spewing accepted wisdoms that don’t work is not helpful.

Our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, has a ready answer for the dreadful spike in drug deaths in recent months. Legalize everything! Lovely.

And not one candidate has been recorded demanding treatment for addicts. As if a steady supply of free drugs will change something.

Ask yourself this. Better or worse? Better or worse? Since Harm Reduction (Insite, free needles, free heroin, and replacement narcotics) has been in vogue as the preferred public policy, things have only become starkly worse. Many millions of public dollars spent and many more addicts and deaths in many more neighbourhoods. Quite a nice little industry.

Ask your candidate if he or she is prepared to invest in recovery and give addicts the real opportunity for sobriety, hope, dignity, and a place in the human community.

David Berner, Executive Director

Drug Prevention Network of Canada

David Berner is a longtime Vancouver media

Bob Mackin 

The Kelowna Liberal MLA that stepped aside so that Premier Christy Clark could win a seat in the Legislature has become a lobbyist for a company proposing two Vancouver Island liquefied natural gas plants.

Clark lost to NDP challenger David Eby in Vancouver-Point Grey the night her party won a surprise victory. Five months after Ben Stewart was re-elected and stepped aside — and Vancouverite Clark won a by-election — Clark rewarded him with a $150,000-a-year post as B.C.’s trade envoy to Asia, based in Beijing.

After three years, Stewart quit last December. 

On Feb. 27, he registered as a lobbyist for Steelhead LNG. His registration lasts until April 17, 2018. The registration says Stewart intends to introduce Steelhead’s government relations manager Jack Middleton and business affairs vice-president Ryan Patryluk “for a better understanding of progress to date with first nations to Government’s Chief of Staffs.”

During his post in China, Ben Stewart posed with a panda. (BC Gov)

He listed the aides of LNG minister Rich Coleman, aboriginal affairs minister John Rustad and advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson as target contacts. Rustad is the only minister on Stewart’s target list. Under B.C.’s lobbyist law, actual meetings between lobbyists, politicians and other public officials are not reported. 

B.C. senior bureaucrats generally have a one-year, post-employment ban on lobbying the office to which they once worked. No such ban exists for politicians or their aides. 

Steelhead is proposing plants in partnership with first nations near Bamfield and Bamberton. Steelhead LNG donated $37,200 to the Liberals between 2014 and 2016. 

Stewart’s registration lists the four different cabinet posts he held between 2009 and 2013, but did not mention his job as the Asia trade envoy. The Stewart family owns the Quails’ Gate Winery, which is run by Stewart’s brother Tony. 

The cost of Stewart’s post in Beijing came under scrutiny in research by Andrew Johns. He published a February report, based on publicly available documents, that showed taxpayers shelled out $3 million a year for Stewart, the office in Beijing Kerry Plaza and a contract with the Ho Hing Consultancy. Stewart’s assignment included five weeks paid vacation and a medical and benefits plan through Pacific Blue Cross. 

Six months after Stewart’s departure, the province hasn’t replaced him.

Stewart did not immediately return theBreaker‘s phone call.

 

Bob Mackin  The Kelowna Liberal MLA that stepped

Bob Mackin

What’s in Christy Clark’s Elections BC public disclosure file in Kelowna West? 

The statutory disclosure form shows that Clark reported interest in real property near Vancouver city hall and on Galiano Island. 

The form does not say what theBreaker has reported: Clark is living in a house in Dunbar owned by a party donor. A real estate agent close to the BC Liberal Party sold it for $3.7 million in April 2016. Clark disclosed no debts.

Clark’s residential address was obscured for the purpose of the public disclosure file. The BC Liberal office phone number was originally listed. 

She reported unspecified income as “Premier and MLA.” In January she said she stopped receiving a $50,000-a-year leader’s allowance from the party, but would instead be reimbursed for expenses. theBreaker, however, reported in April what Clark has not disclosed, that her 2016 Buick Enclave SUV from Dueck GM is paid for by the party. 

The first page is a letter from Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser to Clark, one of several MLAs whose investments are in a “hold mail” account. While she is allowed to know the balance, she is not permitted to know the contents of the portfolio.

The Fraser letter was addressed to Clark, in care of her lawyer John Esson. Bill Tieleman’s A-to-Z of the Basi-Virk/BC Rail trial says that Esson was acting on Clark’s behalf beginning in August 2009 regarding disclosure of BC Liberal MLAs’ email. 

In December 2013, the Clark administration announced Esson was among 32 lawyers honoured with a Queen’s Counsel designation. 

His bio was the shortest in the Dec. 11, 2013 news release: “John Robert Esson practises predominantly in the area of criminal law, both as defence and crown counsel. A respected practitioner, Mr. Esson has also coached, taught and mentored students.”

Esson has an intriguing connection to a friend of Clark who is a donor to the party that has benefitted from BC Liberal rule.

Esson is listed in the Federal Corporation Information registry as one of three directors of Inspirit Group, which was incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. 

The other two directors? Lisa Kerfoot and her husband, Greg Kerfoot, the owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Clark lives in the aforementioned Dunbar house registered to Greg Kerfoot’s business associate, Nevin Sangha. Both Kerfoot and Sangha have donated to the party. Sangha gave a modest $1,250 in 2010. Greg Kerfoot donated $15,000 from the Inspirit Group in 2010 and 2011. His donations have totalled almost $80,000, including $7,500 from Carrera Management Corp. Kerfoot is listed as Carrera’s only principal officer for Elections BC purposes, but Sangha is the sole director on Carrera’s company registry.

After the leaders’ debate, Clark walked away from questions from theBreaker about who really pays for her house

UPDATE, May 4: Bob Mackin spoke briefly with Clark’s lawyer, John Esson, on May 1 after sending him a detailed request by email to see Clark’s tenancy contract, cancelled rent cheques and annual conflict of interest disclosure submission. Esson did not respond to several follow-up email and phone messages. 

Meanwhile, Clark’s nominators included Forests minister Steve Thomson, ex-Conservative MP Dan Albas, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, West Kelowna Coun. Rick de Jong (younger brother of Clark finance minister Mike de Jong), Liberal youth organizer Mellisa Morphy and Liberal regional organizer Ashley Spilak. Spilak’s resume website includes an endorsement from Global BC press gallery reporter Keith Baldrey

Christy Clark’s Elections BC Disclosure by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin What’s in Christy Clark’s Elections BC

Bob Mackin

Teresa Wat is the BC Liberals’ international trade woman of mystery. 

The rookie Richmond Centre MLA is running for re-election in the new Richmond North Centre riding. She doesn’t live in Richmond, but instead resides in Burnaby and owns a condo in a Wall Financial building near the Olympic Village. Last August, Wat went missing from her constituents and didn’t reappear in B.C. until the party’s annual Westin Bayshore convention in early November. 

Wat Tweeted an Aug. 16 photograph from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Food Expo. Sometime around Aug. 23, she suffered a hip injury in a Mainland Chinese city near Hong Kong. Her annual Aug. 28 riding barbecue went on without her and a local Chinese newspaper, Sing Tao Daily, noticed she wasn’t there. It reported Aug. 30 that she “fell down and got hurt” in Zhuhai, China.

Wat and Clark with cash for access donors, including realtor Layla Yang and online banker Shenglin Xian (Yang)

When this reporter learned about Wat’s absence in late October and started asking questions, Wat didn’t respond but her assistant did, with only scant information. 

Was it a bad luck fall or did something else happen? Why was her absence not communicated proactively by her, to her constituents? 

On Aug. 23, Wat emailed her riding and ministerial colleagues from caucus, advising them that she had suffered an injury. 

“I fell during my visit in Zhuhai, China [censored for personal reasons]. I am hospitalized, stabilized and on way to recovery. Please note that so far, my official line is as follows: ‘I fell during my visit in China and am hospitalized, but on way to recovery.’ Trust things are well at the office. I hope you all have a great summer.”

Wat was in touch with Canadian Consul General Rachael Bedlington in an Aug. 27 email. 

“The medical team here at the Zhuhuai People’s Hospital assures me of a speedy recovery without after effect. I hope to walk out of the hospital in about a month.”

“I am able to use my government email for my work.”

A week later, her Aug. 30 email on her iPad to aides Jay Denney and Angela Jones said the hospital did not have wifi, “but they have made special arrangements to have a wifi box for me. But still the reception is not ideal.”

On Sept. 9, she wrote that she was “getting better day by day and am fully confident that I will be back at action soon. See you all in October.” 

A Sept. 18 email said she was using the wifi service at the hospital, but alluded to difficulties because of China’s Internet censorship. 

“Unfortunately, the wifi arrangement here does not allow me to access any internet/web sites in Canada or even YouTube videos on [Premier Christy Clark] announcements. So I have no access to what is going on back home, except the daily media summary.” 

Several meetings and briefings were understandably cancelled. 

Liberal Speaker Linda Reid, who represents the Richmond East riding, asked on Sept. 20: “Are you in China or Burnaby?” 

Roll out red carpets

Citizens Services minister Amrik Virk subbed for Wat when a group of billionaires known as the China Entrepreneur Club made a Vancouver stop on its Canada-wide tour Oct. 22 at the Telus headquarters in downtown Vancouver. The Oct. 21 briefing email mentioned that 49 members of the largest private sector companies in China would be on the trip. “Peter Wang, one member, lives here in B.C.” One of the attendees was Telus lobbyist and BC Liberal candidate Kim Chan Logan. 

Wat’s ministry was not, and did not, issue a news release. Photographs were published on the government’s Flickr page. 

Three topics were to be discussed with simultaneous interpretation with headsets: ICT digital media; consumer products, e-commerce; and clean tech. Attendees posed for a group photo, but the meeting was held under “Chatham House rules (ie not for attribution) meant to be a closed door dialogue.” 

Yes, you read that correctly. A B.C. cabinet minister and his aides went to the headquarters of a major Liberal party donor and government telecommunications contractor to meet with tycoons from China behind closed doors.

Wat’s recovery took several weeks longer than expected. There was even the odd prospect of B.C. government business being conducted virtually in China. 

On Nov. 2, Jones asked her “are you able to see and sign-off OICs [cabinet orders] on your iPad for tomorrow’s cabinet?” 

Wat responded: “I really doubt as I am out of the hospital most of the day and will have no access to wifi and I will be extremely busy packing up.”

Before she returned, Wat appeared with a B.C. delegation at the Zhuhai Airshow. She was photographed on the convention floor and that photograph was published Nov. 1.

Wat’s first known public appearance back in B.C. was the Nov. 4 kickoff of the BC Liberal convention in Vancouver. The event was the only time last fall that the BC Liberal caucus was together at the same venue as the media. Clark cancelled the last fall sitting of the Legislature before the 2017 election.

Meanwhile, when Wat returned to duty, she was not only meeting with an arm of giant state-owned conglomerate China Poly Group — the controversial spinoff of the People’s Liberation Army — but also China’s biggest payment company. 

But, first, a cash for access fundraiser at a Richmond casino that is a magnet for Chinese tourists. She hosted the Richmond Centre fundraiser Nov. 28 at the River Rock Casino Resort, with special guest Clark. The Elections BC filing shows 205 individuals and 157 corporations bought tickets for $388 or $500. The event grossed $169,800 and netted $124,450.42. More than enough to fund Wat’s re-election campaign.

Clark and Wat with Communist Hu Chunhua (BC Gov)

Before she was elected in 2013, Wat was president of CHMB radio, which broadcast Chinese state-approved programming from China Radio International. An affiliate of CRI donated to the BC Liberals. B.C. has no laws about the size or source of political donations. 

Two days later, a meeting with Union Mobile Pay (China) CEO and co-founder Bin Zhang and two others from the company was scuttled at the last minute, but rescheduled for Jan. 25, 2017. There are 5.5 billion UnionPay debit and credit cards issued in in 40 countries — more than Visa and MasterCard combined, according to Nilson Report. High withdrawal limit UnionPay ATMs are in some B.C. casinos. 

The big deal of the week was the opening of Poly Culture’s downtown gallery on West Pender Street in downtown Vancouver and a celebratory concert at the Chan Centre with the China Philharmonic. Poly Culture’s CEO Jiang Yingchun told this reporter that the real estate division of the conglomerate had its sights set on B.C. 

Despite the gallery being in downtown Vancouver, Poly Culture maintains an office in Richmond, on the very same floor of the office building where Wat’s riding office is located. HQ Vancouver, subsidized to the tune of $3.3 million by Wat’s ministry, helped lure Poly Culture to B.C. Jiang was evasive when asked why the company didn’t open in Los Angeles or San Francisco instead. Media reports indicate China Poly Group is on the radar of U.S. authorities.

The May 9 election coincides with the anniversary of Clark and Wat meeting in Vancouver with Hu Chunhua, the top Chinese Communist Party official in Guangdong province and a member of the Central Committee’s Politburo. Hu’s resume includes vice chairman of the Beijing-installed government in Tibet, where he kept the independence movement on a short leash.

The Liberal election ad campaign has pressed the “heavy up” button on TV spots that position Clark as the only party leader that will stand up to Donald Trump. 

But in an election where relations with China are conspicuously absent from the discourse, does Clark have what it takes to stand up to Xi Jinping? 

Or has she already kowtowed and sold B.C. out? 

 

MIT 2017 70049 Wat Zhuhai by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Teresa Wat is the BC Liberals’

Bob Mackin

If BC Liberal Mathew Wilson gets elected May 9 in Powell River-Sunshine Coast, it could be a while before he gets to work for constituents.

That is because the son of former Liberal leader Gordon Wilson is scheduled to face his estranged wife in B.C. Supreme Court for a 10-day divorce trial beginning May 29 in Vancouver. A pre-trial conference is scheduled just two days after the election. 

Mathew Wilson, a Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs lawyer, is representing himself in the proceedings that were initiated by Kimberly Wilson, a Sunshine Coast Community Services employee who filed for divorce last October. The Wilsons married in May 2002, but separated in December 2015. Mathew Wilson finally moved out of the family home in May 2016.

Mathew Wilson’s biography on the NewsLine360 website says he is “divorced (legally separated),” but, according to an April 7 Trial Brief that theBreaker has seen, Kimberly Wilson is asking for a court-ordered divorce and costs. She wants to continue joint guardianship of their two children, but with wants a judge to give her final decision making authority and primary custody.

She also seeks child and spousal support and the right to purchase Mathew Wilson’s interest in the former family home in Roberts Creek. The document claims Mathew Wilson “has failed to adequately disclose all relevant or producible documents and information throughout these proceedings in a timely manner, or at all. If the respondent does not produce the relevant documents and information, the claimant’s position is that an adverse inference must be drawn.”

Candidate Wilson’s Statement of Disclosure, filed with Elections BC, says he has no assets or liabilities, but has an unspecified interest in the Roberts Creek.

Reached on his mobile phone, Mathew Wilson referred theBreaker to his campaign office, after theBreaker had already called his campaign office to leave a message for him.

Kimberly Wilson also refused to comment.

Mathew Wilson is aiming to unseat incumbent NDP MLA Nicholas Simons. The Green Party’s Kim Darwin is the other major party candidate in the race. Gordon Wilson represented the same riding from 1991 to 2001 for the BC Liberals, Progressive Democratic Alliance and NDP, in that order.

The elder Wilson propelled the BC Liberals from political wilderness into official opposition in 1991, but his caucus-splitting affair with Okanagan East MLA Judi Tyabji led to his downfall. Gordon Campbell replaced him as leader in 1993. The couple eventually married and live in Powell River.

During the 2013 election, Gordon Wilson famously “came home” to the Liberals and endorsed Christy Clark. Clark rewarded him in November of that year with a $150,000-a-year job to promote her vision for a liquefied natural gas industry, that hasn’t materialized. The appointment is scheduled to last until February 2018, unless the Liberals lose and a new government decides to discontinue Wilson’s cabinet appointment.

Mathew Wilson’s birth mother, Elizabeth Kool, was a former Sunshine Coast school board member. Clark biographer Tyabji is Mathew Wilson’s step-mother and campaign manager. Tyabji’s son from a previous marriage, Kaz, faces a trial in Calgary this September for allegedly importing fentanyl from China in 2015. He denies the charges.

Bob Mackin If BC Liberal Mathew Wilson gets

Bob Mackin 

The body of a British Columbia Ministry of Health IT worker was found April 30 off McNeill Bay. 

Ronald Merner, 56, was acting director of informatics and data provisioning since December, according to his LinkedIn page. Cause of death has not been released, but Oak Bay Police say no foul play is suspected.

Merner (LinkedIn)

Merner was last seen alive at 8 p.m. on April 20 at his home. It is believed that he had gone to McNeill Bay and the Oak Bay Police news release called it “uncharacteristic behaviour for Mr. Merner and is cause for concern.” 

Merner’s body was found off the beach in McNeill Bay around 5:45 p.m. April 30. On May 1, police confirmed that it was Merner.

The 1984 University of Victoria computer science graduate had worked in the Ministry of Health since 2001. He was team lead, data acquisition and development services, from 2011 to 2016.

In 2012, eight researchers in the pharmaceuticals services division were wrongly fired over data breach allegations and the BC Liberal government claimed there was an RCMP investigation when there really wasn’t. It is not immediately known how the scandal affected Merner or if he was among the 130 people interviewed for Ombudsperson Jay Chalke’s April 6-released report, which detailed rampant bullying. Chalke only named senior officials.

One of the eight wrongly fired researchers, Roderick MacIsaac, died of suicide after he was fired in 2012. Chalke found ministry staff never contacted MacIsaac after re-evaluating their earlier, incorrect belief that he had taken data. On April 11, the day the election was called, MacIsaac’s sister, Linda Kayfish, publicly demanded Christy Clark look her in the eyes, apologize personally and take responsibility. Clark apologized at a Government House news conference, but has not apologized in-person to Kayfish or taken responsibility for the health firings or MacIsaac’s suicide.

UPDATE (June 22, 2018): The May 16, 2018 report by Coroner Courtney Cote said Merner died April 21, 2017 of drowning by means of “restrained hands and feet with zip ties and entered ocean.” Cote classified the death as suicide. 

Need help? There are many crisis centres available 24 hours a day to talk to you. Click here.

Bob Mackin  The body of a British Columbia

Bob Mackin

Betcha didn’t know theBreaker has spies at Hy’s. 

One of them spotted 20 local Tories chowing down at the posh steakhouse with visiting Alberta Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney on April 27. Proceeds from the $500-a-plate event went to the Vancouver Centre federal Conservative riding association. 

The former multiculturalism and defence minister, who hopes to beat Rachel Notley’s NDP in 2019, supped with Clark Wilson lawyer Lyall Knott, Trigate Properties  boss Alex G. Tsakumis, Kiewit business development director Glen Arthur, outgoing Vancouver Langara Liberal MLA Moira Stilwell, Kenney’s mentor and former cabinet mate Stockwell Day, and Felicity Webb, the mother of late Stephen Harper aide Shaun Webb. Reached by phone, Tsakumis refused to comment or even confirm he was at the event. 

Jason Kenney

Curious ears heard Kenney reveal that Alberta may officially unite the right as soon as this weekend. The merger with the Brian Jean-led Wildrose Party is that close. 

Kenney was shedding no tears for the departure of reality TV star Kevin O’Leary from the federal leadership race. Like Donald Trump, Kenney said, O’Leary is not a true, blue conservative. Acknowledging the prospect of a B.C. NDP win on May 9, Kenney urged all to get behind the BC Liberal party, despite many in the room being no fans of dyed-in-the-wool federal Liberal Christy Clark. 

He suggested that a BC Liberal re-election, coupled with a PC comeback in Alberta, could form a “firewall” in Western Canada with Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party.

Alas, Kenney had another engagement. His driver for the evening, Dunbar Theatre owner and Andrew Scheer campaign volunteer Ken Charko, whisked Kenney to Surrey for an Indian dinner. 

Because, the Calgarian will always be the Minister of Curry in a Hurry. 

Bob Mackin Betcha didn’t know theBreaker has spies