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Bob Mackin

Man the Twitter stations! 

That’s how BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald reacted after a Nov. 8, 2016 interview with New York Times reporter Dan Levin. 

New York Times story on B.C.’s Site C dam

Levin came to northern B.C. on assignment in late October to tour the Site C dam construction site. He later had a phone interview with McDonald, the BC Liberal insider who runs the $5.66 billion utility under chair and patronage appointee Brad Bennett. Her ex-husband, Mike McDonald, is the Liberal campaign manager and a senior associate at BC Hydro contractor Kirk & Co. 

How did those interviews go? It’s a secret. Internal reports were censored. BC Hydro claimed disclosure would harm personal privacy. 

After Levin was toured around the site by Hydro’s David Conway, Conway sent a summary on Oct. 28 to various BC Hydro spinners. The version released to theBreaker was all blacked-out. 

On Oct. 29, Conway prepared McDonald for her interview with Levin. He told the boss that he anticipated Levin would ask her about First Nations rights and title and Amnesty International’s human rights concerns, geological/geotechnical surprises, safety and the impact on the project cost. 

On Nov. 12, Hydro’s policy and reporting director Chris Sandve sent a similar email summary of McDonald’s interview to his cohorts. Same deal. All blacked-out. 

The next day, Jordan Keim wrote that “Jessica has asked us to prepare a series of tweets in advance of an NY Times article on the project…” 

Thirty-eight Tweets, to be precise. 

Levin’s story was published Dec. 10 and read, in part: 

Within a decade, water will flood a 51-mile stretch of the river, the result of a $7 billion (8.8 billion Canadian dollars) hydroelectric dam and power station, known as Site C. It will be one of the largest public infrastructure projects in Canadian history.

The project has prompted mounting opposition and legal challenges from industry experts, former government officials, local landowners, aboriginal communities and others who say Site C poses a risk to the environment and violates constitutionally protected indigenous rights.

But opponents cite another simple reason the project should be stopped: After a decade of flat demand for electricity and the emergence of cheaper energy alternatives, the dam, they say, is an enormous boondoggle that will saddle taxpayers with huge debts for generations to come.

On Dec. 13, BC Hydro responded with a letter to the editor, which McDonald also Tweeted. She seemed miffed that she didn’t wake-up to find her name in one of the world’s most-famous newspapers. How dare a journalist from a respected foreign publication question the wisdom of spending almost $9 billion of other people’s money! 

“Mr. Levin’s article leaves the reader wondering why on earth BC Hydro would even want to build this project,” McDonald wrote.

British Columbians, her ultimate bosses, might be asking two other questions: 1) Why on earth wasn’t there a referendum, for citizens to decide Site C? 2) Why on earth is the Liberal cabinet not letting the B.C. Utilities Commission do its job and review the project? 

 

2017-170_Final Response (Sent 28 Mar 2017) by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Man the Twitter stations!  That's how BC

Bob Mackin

Did Christy Clark and Rich Coleman bend elbows with BC Liberal donors, lobbyists and bidders on public contracts in a B.C. Place Stadium suite during the 2014 Grey Cup game?

British Columbians may never know.

After a two-year investigation, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner found someone inside the BC Liberal government deleted or destroyed the Nov. 30, 2014 guest list and food and beverage invoice. 

Two years later, investigation finds “records were not retained.”

According to an April 11 letter, the information and privacy watchdog found Clark’s office broke the section of the Freedom of Information law that requires the government to “make every reasonable effort to assist applicants and to respond openly, accurately, completely and without delay.” 

We do know that the premier was there to see the Calgary Stampeders beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. She was photographed with late Alberta Premier Jim Prentice in a luxury suite. Coleman, the deputy premier and natural gas minister, was also there, because the B.C. government and Malaysian-owned Pacific NorthWest LNG hosted more than 100 elementary school students from around B.C. at the game. One of the proud co-owners of the Stamps was Alberta oilman and Clark bagman Murray Edwards.

In her findings, OIPC investigator Shannon Hodge wrote that she asked the Premier’s office “how a no records response was possible as it was my understanding that the Premier and Deputy Premier Coleman attended the event.  

“[The Office of the Premier] responded and advised me that the invitee/attendance list was coordinated by Government Communications and Public Engagement (GCPE), that it had now reached out to GCPE and had been informed that the records were not retained,” Hodge wrote. “I enquired further and OOP acknowledged its oversight in failing to inform you at the time of your request that GCPE may have had responsive records.”

Hodge wrote that the Premier’s office should have transferred the request to GCPE.

”At the very least, it should have advised you that another public body may have had records responsive to your request. In failing to do so I find that OOP failed to comply with its duty under [section 6] of FIPPA at the time of your request in December 2014.”

Section 6, also known as Duty to Assist, was the same part of the FOI law that officials in Clark’s office and Transport Minister Todd Stone’s office broke multiple times, according to Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s landmark October 2015 report, “Access Denied.” They tripled deleted documents that should have been released to FOI requesters.

A B.C. Provincial Court judge fined ex-Stone aide George Gretes $2,500 in July 2016 after Gretes pleaded guilty to lying under oath to Denham. Denham investigated after a complaint by whistleblower Tim Duncan, who worked under Gretes. 

In a phone interview, Duncan told theBreaker that the deletion or destruction of the Grey Cup guest list and catering invoices corresponded with how the BC Liberal government operated while he was there. Duncan said “anything bad” was deleted. He regretted that the law is so weak, that Gretes and others weren’t prosecuted for deleting records. 

“Coming from a different province, coming from a different background, accounting, you do that at any company in Canada, you’re out the door the next day. Not even: you’re out the door same day,” Duncan said.

Duncan, who describes himself as a card-carrying Conservative, had this to say to British Columbians voting in the May 9 election.

“I would take a hard look at the Liberal party. This election should be about whether they have enough integrity to govern,” he said.

Ducking the duty

In the BC Liberals’ 2001 New Era platform, they promised to become Canada’s most open, democratic and accountable government. Clark reiterated the open government promise when she took over from Gordon Campbell in 2011. But Denham caught the Clark administration triple deleting records and running an oral government to avoid public disclosure. 

Additionally, BC Liberal campaign director Laura Miller awaits a September breach of trust and mischief trial in Ontario for mass-deleting records while she worked in Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office.

Prentice and Clark at 2014 Grey Cup (Twitter)

Before she left last summer to become the United Kingdom information and privacy commissioner, Denham urged the Liberal government to enact a duty to document law. But the one the Liberals passed in March got immediate thumbs down from the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association because it is a “law that is entirely discretionary and does not create any duty whatsoever.”

By contrast, the NDP’s proposed Public Records Accountability Act included strict requirements for creating and maintaining full and accurate government records. Anyone caught hiding or destroying government information under the NDP bill would be fined up to $50,000. 

Without the list of who Clark and Coleman treated, citizens are left to wonder which friends and insiders they were bending elbows with and how much it cost taxpayers. 

Citizens are also left to wonder why Clark’s administration deleted the 2014 guest list only three years after it properly released the one from the 2011 Grey Cup.

Clark took her son Hamish and brother John to see the B.C. Lions win the 2011 championship over the Edmonton Eskimos. She also hosted 25 other guests, including Alberta Premier Alison Redford and her aide Ryan Barbeiro, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod, federal NDP leader Nicole Turmel, and Abbotsford Conservative MP Ed Fast.

Other suite-goers included Clark’s principal secretary Dimitri Pantazopoulos, outreach directors Pamela Martin and Lorne Mayencourt, sport minister Ida Chong and her aide Matt Stickney. Clark also hosted 10 executives of charities, including the Canadian Cancer Society, Variety Club and United Way, as well as Canadian rugby great Gareth Rees and hotel and spa owner Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia. Clark named Liberal donor Lisogar-Cocchia to the B.C. Lottery Corporation board of directors in late 2013. 

B.C. Place hosted the 2014 game after Clark gave Lions’ owner David Braley a $2.7 million taxpayer subsidy before the 2013 election to buy hosting rights from the Canadian Football League. Stadium construction delays made it impossible for Winnipeg to host the game until 2015. 

Findings OIPC April 11 by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Did Christy Clark and Rich Coleman

Bob Mackin

The BC Liberal backroomer who was caught charging bottles of scotch to taxpayers while he chaired Kwantlen Polytechnic University is the financial agent for Mary Polak’s re-election campaign in Langley. 

Gord Schoberg is also a local government lobbyist with FortisBC, the natural gas company that donates to the BC Liberals and received environment minister Polak’s green light last August to build the $520 million pipeline to the controversial Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish. Schoberg was listed on Fortis’s provincial lobbying registration in 2010 and 2011. The only municipality in B.C. with a lobbyist registry is Surrey, but that is limited to land development.

Gord Schoberg (LinkedIn)

A Tweeted photograph of a Preston GM-sponsored Polak campaign vehicle shows Schoberg’s name as the campaign’s financial agent. theBreaker revealed on April 3 that another GM dealer, Dueck, donated the use of four vehicles to three Liberal candidates and also supplies Premier Christy Clark with a party-leased Buick Enclave SUV. 

Schoberg’s formal title with FortisBC is senior manager, municipal and aboriginal relations. He is a veteran BC Liberal and Surrey First operative. Schoberg, who chaired KPU from 2012 to 2014, was named to the KPU board in 2008 while he was president of then-Transport minister Kevin Falcon’s Surrey-Cloverdale BC Liberal riding association. In 2013, Schoberg was the financial agent for Polak and Peter Fassbender and listed his fortisbc.com email address on the official financing report submitted to Elections BC.

“FortisBC does not second staff for political campaigns,” Fortis spokeswoman Amy Bunton wrote in an email to theBreaker. “FortisBC staff are free to participate as they see fit for any political campaign on their own time.”

Bunton did not respond to clarify whether Schoberg’s work on Polak’s campaign is being treated as a donation of services to the Liberals. 

Elections BC’s database shows that Fortis donated $186,024 to the Liberals through 2016 and $69,340 to the NDP.

Schoberg did not return theBreaker’s calls to his Fortis office or his mobile phone. Nobody answered the phone at Polak’s campaign office and nobody responded to theBreaker’s voice mail message. 

In 2015, Schoberg pledged to pay back $4,000 in expenses, including $180 for the two Glenfiddich scotch bottles, after an internal review by the Advanced Education ministry. Surrey Liberal MLA Amrik Virk was KPU vice-chair under Schoberg and shuffled out of the Advanced Education Ministry and into Citizen Services, the ministry that handles government procurement, among other duties. 

Polak’s Preston vehicle (@takesthelane)

The Fortis Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline would feed the planned liquefaction plant near Squamish. Woodfibre LNG is vital for the BC Liberals’ face-saving LNG spin. It is the only export terminal that may be built in B.C. before 2020. Clark campaigned in 2013 on three plants built by 2020, despite Russia, Qatar and Australia dominating the global market. Since then, the global oil and gas glut has delayed B.C.’s ambitions.

Last October, Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman visited Woodfibre LNG owner Sukanto Tanoto in Singapore to sign a letter of understanding that the government has refused to publish. 

The $520 million FortisBC pipeline project would generate 832 person years of employment in construction, but would employ only 10 workers once it is operating.

Despite Clark’s unabashed optimism, there remain major global headwinds for a made-in-B.C. LNG industry.

The Fortis plan to ship 800,000 tonnes of LNG a year from its Tilbury plant in Delta to Hawaii fell through last summer when the Aloha state nixed a public utility’s takeover by Florida’s NextEra. The proposal conflicted with the Hawaii government’s long-term goal to shift from fossil fuels to wind and rooftop solar.

In March, Japan’s Resources Energy Inc. consortium cited depressed gas prices for scrapping its plan to build an LNG terminal in Cook Inlet, Alaska. It would have exported 1 million tonnes of LNG a year to Japan, half the amount contemplated by Woodfibre LNG.

 

Bob Mackin The BC Liberal backroomer who was

Bob Mackin

Ladies and gentlemen, Pamela Martin and Steve Darling. 

Just two folks who used to make their living in the news business. They were best-known for sitting on chairs in front of TV cameras and lights, smiling while they read the headlines written by someone else, before letting other people tell the stories. 

Pamela Martin

They are now trying to make it big in what Frank Zappa called the showbiz wing of industry: politics. Martin as the BC Liberal Party’s liaison to leader Christy Clark. Darling as the rookie candidate in Burnaby-Lougheed. He was recruited as the star candidate after his unceremonious disposal last fall from Global TV after an 18-year run. Darling’s campaign is managed by George Psefteas, a federal Conservative protege of BC Liberal power broker Patrick Kinsella. Psefteas most-recently worked as Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s chief of staff. 

On April 2, they tried to make reading from talking points sound like a real, live conversation in what was billed as a phone call for BC Liberal volunteers. It was not a phone call with volunteers, because it was a listen-only event. It was not clear whether it was really live or just pre-taped. Listen to the excerpt. 

For a party that thrives on selfies, there aren’t any on Martin or Darling’s Twitter accounts about this event. There is a photo from moderator Dylan Kruger’s account showing a microphone in a studio. 

The call lasted 24 minutes and 30 seconds and it test-marketed several Liberal messages. One that you’ll see and hear often during this campaign is that “(insert candidate name here) is listening.” 

Martin and Darling only listened to themselves. They didn’t give volunteers a chance to be heard on the listen-only call.

Steve Darling

It included riveting exchanges like this: 

Pamela: “Do you have any advice for the volunteers who are on the line who are starting out volunteering and maybe they don’t such a nice reception possibly?”

Steve: “You run into people all the time that don’t want to be part of our party or not voting for us or are not fans of whatever it is. Everyone has an opinion. I’ve run into fans of ours and not fans of ours.

“The one most important thing I can say to everyone is something that I learned a very long time ago when I first got into broadcasting. And Pamela you know this as well. The number one thing is be a good listener and say ‘I understand you have concerns, so tell me what those concerns are’ and listen to them and understand why they have those concerns. Trust me, you’re not on the doorstep to solve everybody’s problems, but you’re there to say ‘here’s what we’re about, here’s what we think, tell me what you think.’ If they don’t agree with you that’s fine, but listen to them, take their feedback, write it down, and move on.”

To do their job, TV news readers must listen… to the directors that direct them, via a small earplug. It is not an easy thing to do while reading the teleprompter and looking into the camera. But it is vastly different from listening to citizens, the true bosses of a politician.

Darling claimed that he was “as hard on the government as when you were a journalist as well.”

He gave no examples. 

“Nobody’s perfect,” Darling said. “We’re safe to say nobody is perfect and as long as you get up in the morning, you listen to people, work hard and try to do your best, that’s all people can ask.” 

Not everyone loves us

The duo did concede that there is not unanimous support for the BC Liberals across the province. 

Pamela: “After four terms, there is bound to be some people that aren’t going to like some things that our, the BC Liberal Party government, have done. But it’s still our job to listen to know what the public is thinking and to respond to them the best way that we can.

Steve: “There’s been some good things as well, some positive things. You look at the economy alone and how well it’s doing.” 

Darling knows that is not entirely true. The news he read to Global viewers included headlines about foreign cash causing an overheated real estate market and construction industry, displacement of people with lower incomes and increasing homelessness across the province. The perceived prosperity train is not stopping for all British Columbians. 

As the campaign progresses toward May 9, you are bound to hear more of the above from Pamela, Steve and the rest of the Team B.C. 2017 Laura Miller Campaign College graduates.

Millar (right), Clark and Robertson’s spin doctor.

You might even hear an apology. Yes, you read that correctly. 

In Vancouver’s 2014 civic election, Mayor Gregor Robertson was staring defeat in the face. Two days before the Nov. 15 vote, he issued a surprise, yet vague, apology to Vancouverites on a CBC debate and pledged to do better to listen to their concerns. He also made an appeal to voters supporting the left-wing COPE party to vote Vision Vancouver, rather than splitting the vote. It worked. Robertson won a third term and Vision kept its majority on city council. 

Robertson’s key campaign advisor, Don Millar, is also a longtime Clark spin doctor.

So, when the going gets tough, watch for Clark or — more likely — a proxy, to play the sorry card. Something like this: Mistakes were made, but don’t let them overshadow the good work done. We’ll do better to earn your trust in the next four years. We’ll listen. We promise. Vote for us.

Why it’s more likely to be a proxy is obvious. Clark’s recent apologies for falsely accusing the NDP of hacking the BC Liberals website and the wrongful firing of eight health researchers were reluctant, feeble and insincere. She’s known widely as a master campaigner, but nobody has ever accused her of being genuinely contrite. 

Claiming to have a plan for a “bright future” while bashing the NDP for its 90s misdeeds can only take the Liberals so far in an era of change. Informed voters know that the contemporary Liberals have a long, dark past past since 2001. The NDP’s platform contains a handy guide to the scandals since 2001. Privately, the Liberals are worried a portion of their base might not vote or hold its nose and vote NDP or Green. 

The Liberals have what the NDP didn’t have: the stigma of the suicide of a wrongly fired Ministry of Health researcher, who was bullied to death under a government whose premier wears a pink shirt once a year for an anti-bullying flash mob photo op. 

When that Clark proxy apologizes, will voters tell the Liberals, in George Costanza fashion, to stuff their sorries in a sack? 

 

 

 

Bob Mackin Ladies and gentlemen, Pamela Martin and

Bob Mackin

More about how the sausage is made. 

This time, the BC Housing edition. 

That’s the Crown corporation controlled by Deputy Premier Rich Coleman. Its mandate is to house the poor, but it is under fire for apparently enriching BC Liberal donors. 

Coleman (Mackin)

Two downtown Vancouver projects involving $80 million of public money are under the microscope. The RCMP is investigating one of them.

On March 9, NDP critic David Eby tabled a leaked report in Question Period about BC Housing’s non-tendered, private-public partnership in Chinatown with Wall Financial Corp. theBreaker found BC Housing paid almost $7 million to buy the land, only days after Bruno and Peter Wall donated $400,000 to the BC Liberals in February 2016

On April 5, Postmedia’s Sam Cooper reported the RCMP is investigating the Brenhill land swap after a complaint by South Vancouver Parks Society’s Glen Chernen. Liberal bagman Bob Rennie was on the BC Housing board when the deal was made and his company later marketed the luxury tower component of the land swap.

A March 28, not-for-attribution technical briefing by BC Housing chief financial officer Dan Maxwell at Burnaby headquarters left reporters with more questions than answers about both the Brenhill and Wall deals. 

Coleman was not in attendance, nor was he made available over the phone.  

theBreaker noticed timing inconsistencies in the minutes of a Nov. 23, 2015 board meeting that were provided to reporters. The board rubber-stamped a recommendation to spend $7 million to buy the Wall land, loan Wall $36 million to build 172 units and then pay Wall $15.4 million to buy 104 units for social housing rentals. 

Ramsay (BC Housing)

The minutes say that BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay “left the room at 3:56 p.m. due to a conflict.” Ramsay is married to Atira CEO Janice Abbott and the report on the Wall proposal said Atira was the preferred operator of the building. 

The minutes also say Ramsay returned to the meeting four minutes later at 4 p.m.

But, on the first page of the minutes, it says the meeting was called to order at 4 p.m.

The board also gave provisional approval to loan Townline Ventures $23.2 million for its 84-unit, mixed use project at 2513 Clarke Street, the Strand. Townline owner Rick Ilich donated $100,000 to the Liberals on the same February 2016 day as the Walls gave $400,000.

theBreaker asked BC Housing for clarification of the timing discrepancy in the minutes and details and documents about the Townline project. 

BC Housing dawdled and dawdled for almost two weeks until the day the election writ was issued. It used that as an excuse to shut the door on theBreaker

Questions remain unanswered about dubious board minutes and another non-tendered, P3 deal between a Coleman Crown corporation and a big Liberal donor. 

Coleman refused to comment after he was approached by theBreaker, on-camera, outside the April 10 BC Liberal Leader’s Dinner fundraiser. 

The BC Liberals doubled BC Housing’s budget to $1.33 billion for the election year. 

BC Housing’s lack of responsiveness to routine media questions in 2017 recalls similar secretive behaviour by B.C. Pavilion Corporation and Liquor Distribution Branch when those taxpayer-owned companies were controlled by career politician and ex-Mountie Coleman before the 2013 provincial election. 

Below is theBreaker’s March 30-April 11 email exchange with BC Housing’s communications department.

MARCH 30

From: Bob Mackin [mailto:bob@thebreaker.news]
Sent: March-30-17 9:41 AM
To: Ally Skinner-Reynolds; dfreeman@bchousing.com
Subject: media request – Nov. 23, 2015 minutes and Towline

Hello, 

Regarding the Nov. 23, 2015 BC Housing board minutes, would you be able to confer with John Bell to clarify and correct the timing of the meeting?  

It says the meeting was called to order at 4 p.m.

Under Capital Review Committee, it says Shayne Ramsay left the room at 3:56 p.m. due to a conflict. 

It says on the next page that he returned to the meeting at 4 p.m. (before the Townline Ventures agenda item). 

Could Mr. Bell explain the inconsistency and correct the timing, if he is able? 

On the matter of the BC Housing financing for Townline Ventures’ project at 2513 Clarke St., Port Moody — for $23,228,253 — what is the status of that project and that financing?  

Would you be able to share with me documents about the Townline Ventures matter, similar to those about Brenhill and Wall that were provided at the media briefing? 

Specifically, the board submission, board minutes and agreement with Townline?  

Sincerely,

Bob Mackin

reporter, theBreaker

Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org> Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 9:49 AM

To: “bob@thebreaker.news” <bob@thebreaker.news>

Hi Bob,

Ally sent your request my way, so I’ll work on getting the answers for you. Can you please tell me your

deadline?

Thanks,

Cindy Kralj

Senior Communications Specialist

Corporate Communications|BC Housing

Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news> Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 10:06 AM

To: Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org>

5 p.m. today. Thank-you.

Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org> Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 3:13 PM

To: Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news>

Hi Bob,

Thanks for letting me know your deadline. We’re working on it and I hope to have a response for you by 5 p.m.

If I don’t end up sending you something (I’ll be leaving around 4 p.m.), you’ll get a response from Ally.

Thanks,

Cindy

MARCH 31

Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news> Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 11:50 AM

To: Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org>

Hi,

Any info yet?

Thank-you,

—bob

Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org> Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 12:05 PM

To: Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news>

Hi Bob,

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to send you anything yet. We’ve been quite busy. I’ll get you something as soon as I can though.

Thanks,

Cindy

APRIL 5

Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news> Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 9:31 AM

To: Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org>, mloup@bchousing.org

Any info yet?

Mat Loup <mloup@bchousing.org> Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 9:55 AM

To: Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news>

Nothing yet, I will follow up.

APRIL 10

Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news> Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 3:40 PM

To: Mat Loup <mloup@bchousing.org>, dfreeman@bchousing.com, Ally Skinner-Reynolds <asreynolds@bchousing.org>,

Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org>

Hello,

I have not had a reply to my queries about the inconsistency in the November 2015 minutes and the loan to Townline.

It has been almost two weeks. Please see the bottom to refresh your memory.

On a separate matter, in the Statements of Financial Information, there was a $3.4 million payment to Central Park Development Ltd., which is a Bosa company. What was that for?

Sincerely,

Bob Mackin

APRIL 11

Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org> Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 9:31 AM

To: Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news>

Hi Bob,

I’m sorry for the delay on this one. I’ll work to get you something as soon as I can.

Thanks,

Cindy

Cindy Kralj <ckralj@bchousing.org> Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 3:58 PM

To: Bob Mackin <bob@thebreaker.news>

Hi Bob,

As background information for you, as you know, the provincial government has entered into a writ period. During this period, we do not provide comment on the campaign promises of any political party, or make comments about government programs, policies and services. Further, as part of our obligation to remain impartial during this time, we will not be offering support beyond pointing you to publicly available data or information.

Thank you,

Cindy Kralj

Senior Communications Specialist

Corporate Communications|BC Housing

 

Nov. 23, 2015 BC Housing by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin More about how the sausage is

Bob Mackin

It is called putting lipstick on the pig. Or polishing the turd. 

And the BC Liberals are among the best in the business because they are addicted to other people’s money. They rely on tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers and donors to fuel their modern message-massaging and manipulation machine. 

It works. They got a hat trick of re-elections. Will they make it a grand slam on May 9?

From 2017 Liberal platform.

They published their road map April 10, with Premier Christy Clark pretending to be a mother of a little girl. Skip forward to page 75 of the platform for the headline “modern, transparent, accountable government.”

Like Voltaire said about the Holy Roman Empire, the BC Liberal government is not really modern, transparent or accountable. If Clark wins another mandate, don’t expect change. 

Page 30 of the party’s New Era platform in 2001 promised: 

“BC Liberals will reform how government works from top to bottom, to create the most open, democratic and accountable government in Canada.

“British Columbians know that our institutions need to be reformed, to ensure all MLAs are accountable first and foremost to the people who elected them.”

Clark’s pre-premiership mug appears before it, as well as a quote from NDP’s Corky Evans, ruing the fact that power corrupts. 

That was 16 years ago and this government has taken steps — no, leaps — backward. Even after Clark pledged in 2011 that she would run an open government because, as she said, after all, it’s taxpayers’ money and taxpayers’ information. 

From the 2001 Liberal platform.

For starters, there is this lie that the NDP wants to put the cost of political campaigns entirely on the shoulders of taxpayers:

“We don’t support a system that will take taxpayer money to fund political parties, like the BC NDP would.”

Reality: The NDP tabled a private members’ bill aimed at banning corporate and union donations, which means the system would rely on individual donations. It wound up on the scrap heap of private members’ bills. The Alberta NDP did ban corporate and union donations after its 2015 election. What the Liberals won’t admit is that the B.C. system is already indirectly supported by taxpayers. It says so on the BC Liberals website. 

The myth is that elections are expensive. But they don’t need to be so. What better way for politicians to audition for holding the public purse than demonstrating that they can be frugal in their extended job interview period? 

Donors to political parties are eligible to get more money back than they would if they donated to a registered charity. For every $100 cheque the Liberals cash, the donor gets a receipt that he or she can use for a $75 credit on their tax return. A donation of $1,150 gets the maximum $500 tax credit. By comparison, donors to charities can get only $20.06 in tax credits for a $100 donation. 

The cost to the public treasury is about $4 million a year in foregone tax revenue. 

How many paramedics, teachers or cops could be hired with another $4 million in the provincial budget? 

“…we have also dramatically improved how British Columbians interact with government online, and are providing more consultation and engagement opportunities than ever before.”

Reality: The Government Communications and Public Engagement office spends about $38 million a year, primarily to tell the public how good a job the government thinks it’s doing with taxpayers’ funds. 

There are more people employed in public relations for ministries than there will be at the Vancouver Sun and Province after the latest round of Postmedia layoffs. That doesn’t count ministers’ offices, agencies and Crown corporations.

Clark bashing NDP ad waste in 1999

The recent $15 million Our Opportunity Is Here ad campaign was spun as a public engagement exercise, yet some of the ads were slammed as partisan and unnecessary by the Auditor General. Lawyers Paul Doroshenko and David Fai have sued and they want a judge to order the BC Liberal Party to repay the public treasury. (Doroshenko, by the way, is a Campbell-era Liberal who worked on three campaigns and he has turned his back on the Clark Liberals.) 

Heck, even Clark herself admitted government ad spending is wasteful, way back when she was in opposition in 1999 and the NDP was in power. If you didn’t see the video of her slamming the NDP, here it is.

The section also lists three “accomplishments”: 

Established the Auditor General for Local Government to enhance transparency and accountability of local governments.

Reality: In two words (and apologies to Chuck Barris) gong show!

The Auditor General for Local Government is an unmitigated failure. The first one, Basia Ruta, was fired. Ruta had finished only two audits during her three years on the job and not a single one looked behind the curtain at the biggest, most-secretive city that spends the most taxpayers’ money in the province: Vancouver.

Why don’t the Liberals want taxpayers to know about Vision Vancouver’s misdeeds? Is it because they share some of the same campaign strategists, such as Don Millar and Don Guy? 

The website shows that the most-recent audit was of the City of New Westminster, from January 2016. 

It prompted Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s Jordan Bateman to write a column comparing the office to the historical effectiveness of Vancouver Canucks’ first round draft picks. (Who can remember Alex Stojanov, Dale Tallon, Rick Blight or Dan Woodley?)

Ruta even shut down investigations before the 2014 local government elections, lest they influence voters to toss an incumbent for, you know, wasting taxpayers’ dollars. 

“Given the delays in releasing any AGLG reports, this is ludicrous,” Bateman wrote. “What better time for taxpayers to get a report into their city hall than when they can take action to vote their council in or out?

“Why shouldn’t taxpayers have access to as much information as possible?”

Number two? 

First Canadian province to legislate a duty to document, improving open government and best practices in information management.

Reality: When they weren’t triple deleting tens of thousands of emails, they weren’t even writing things down. Well, maybe on post-it notes. 

The government moved its Information Access Operations department into the Ministry of Finance under Mike de Jong in 2016, just in time for the appointment of Clark’s hyper-political bridesmaid, Athana Mentzelopoulos, to become Deputy Minister. Mentzelopoulos is the former head of GCPE.  

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wised-up to the BC Liberals tricks in October 2015 with her watershed Access Denied report on the triple deleting scandal centred in the offices of Transport Minister Todd Stone and Clark. Stone aide George Gretes was charged with lying under oath about destroying email that should have gone to FOI requesters, later pleaded guilty and was slapped with a $2,500 fine. 

Denham faced interference from government lawyers before she released the report. She took a better job with as the U.K. information and privacy commissar and was replaced by the de Jong-installed, retired Telus vice-president Drew McArthur. The committee charged with replacing Denham couldn’t agree on a replacement, so McArthur remains through the election.

The OIPC website shows that McArthur has made no significant rulings in favour of the public’s right to know, but has issued a report about surveillance at a medical clinic and how poorly the government manages smart phones, tablets and laptops. He has announced an audit of ICBC’s information sharing agreements, but the lead investigator, Tanya Allen, told theBreaker that ICBC’s controversial police line will not be one of them. 

De Jong and company took almost three years to agree to Denham’s recommendation to publish ministers’ and senior bureaucrats’ calendars and expense reports. But no credible transparency advocate ever recommended publishing a list of active FOI requests or publish the documents. They did it anyway. 

Government communications offices routinely stall reporters’ simple and reasonable requests for facts and stats and deny more interview requests with ministers than they approve. Heck, reporters aren’t allowed to talk to bureaucrats anymore. What is this, a corporation?  

As for that duty to document, it’s a hollow law. On March 8, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association’s executive director Vince Gogolek had this to say: 

“Despite demands from the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), the Information Commissioner’s office and the recommendations of a Special Legislative Committee, the BC government has introduced a law that is entirely discretionary and does not create any duty whatsoever.

“The government has been feeling the pressure to do something, and this is as far as they are willing to go. The people of this province will soon be judging them on their performance, and on this issue they deserve a failing grade.”

The last “accomplishment”? 

Modernized the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.

Reality: Just like the above, another law that did nothing for the cause of democratic reform. 

The act was so wishy-wash that CityHallWatch dubbed it B.C.’s Unfair Elections Act for Local Government and made a top 10 list of all the things wrong with it:

  1. “The sky is the limit” – no spending limits for candidates and local political parties (elector organizations)
  2. No caps on donations from a single source
  3. No bans on corporate or union donations
  4. Four year terms of office, an increase from current three year terms, done without any public consultation
  5. No tax receipts to be allowed for donations used in municipal elections
  6. No spending limits on third party advertising
  7. Donors are not limited to B.C. (bill does not prohibit outside money)
  8. More red tape: extra paperwork and administrative burdens on campaigns
  9. No ongoing reporting for municipal political parties in non-election years; this enables parties that take big money contributions to hire several permanent staff members and not have transparency between elections
  10. Very weak controls for accurate reporting of campaign spending; it appears easy to circumvent the rules

So, 16 years after promising to be the most open, democratic and accountable in the country, the BC Liberals haven’t delivered such a government. They have let citizens down. 

They want you to pay them to insult your intelligence for another four years.

Remember that on May 9… or if you vote early. 

Advance polls open April 29. 

Bob Mackin It is called putting lipstick on

Bob Mackin noticed Rich Coleman leaving the Vancouver Convention Centre, after the pre-election Leader’s Dinner on April 10.

Here is what happened, raw and uncut.

The Deputy Premier, Natural Gas and Housing Minister claims he has issues with the veracity of Mackin’s stories about him. Mackin has never received a demand for a correction or retraction from Coleman or his staff. Mackin stands behind his work.

Coleman has never agreed to a one-on-one interview with Mackin, despite countless requests by Mackin about public interest topics involving Coleman. Issues like the kiboshed Liquor Distribution Branch privatization of 2012 to Coleman’s role in a Feb. 23, 2016 private fundraising event at which real estate tycoons donated more than $1 million.

On March 29, via Twitter, Mackin publicly challenged Coleman to sit down for a live, webcast interview before the May 9 election.

That invitation still stands.

 

Bob Mackin noticed Rich Coleman leaving the

Bob Mackin

Paul Oei is a prominent businessman and socialite in Vancouver’s Chinese community, who impressed by driving expensive cars, rubbing elbows with politicians and donating to charities.

So said the lawyer prosecuting fraud charges against BC Liberal donor Oei in front of a B.C. Securities Commission tribunal on April 10. 

Mila Pivnenko, representing BCSC executive director Peter Brady, told the tribunal that Oei ran a fraudulent scheme connected to the sale of shares in Cascade Renewable Carbon Corp., Cascade Renewable Organic Fertilizer Corp., and Organic Eco-Centre Corp. 

Oei enters B.C. Securities Commission tower in Vancouver (Mackin)

Pivnenko alleged that Oei used two numbered companies and his Canadian Manu Immigration and Financial Services Inc. to raise $13.3 million from 64 investors, but he used $6.9 million for himself. 

Oei met Gerald Salberg in 2009 and Oei agreed to raise money in the Chinese community to help Salberg build a plant to recycle organic waste into topsoil and fertilizer. But Pivnenko said Oei kept his investors in the dark and exploited their lack of understanding of English and the Canadian investment process.  

“How was Mr. Oei able to keep more than half of the investors’ money and not be caught? Paul Oei exploited the looseness of his arrangement with Cascade management, various weaknesses of the investors, and by layering investor funds with his personal funds and those of his other businesses,” Pivnenko said. 

“Oei tailored his sales pitch to what would be most persuasive to each investor. He told investors that the Cascade investment was approved by the B.C. government,” she said. “He told some investors who wanted to immigrate to Canada that they could immigrate if they invested in the Cascade project.”

Oei and Salberg had a falling out in 2012. Oei took over the company, but Cascade Renewable Carbon Corp. declared bankruptcy in May 2013. 

The hearing couldn’t come at a worse time for the incumbent BC Liberals. The hearing began the day before the provincial election writ is issued and the case involves immigration consultant Oei, who paid for access to Premier Christy Clark and told investors that his company was endorsed by her government. 

Elections BC’s database shows that Oei donated $55,787.85 between 2011-2015 to the BC Liberals, plus $680 through his Canadian Manu Immigration and Financial Services Inc. His wife, Loretta Lai, gave the party $13,565 between 2012 and 2016.

Pivnenko said in her opening statements that Oei took advantage of his investors who spoke little or no English and were unaware of Canadian investing regulations. She said Oei layered funds and used many accounts, and that he commingled investors funds with his personal funds. 

Paul Oei (left) with Premier Christy Clark and John Yap at a 2015 Liberal fundraiser. (Twitter)

Oei boasted in interviews with Chinese media outlets that he wanted to build 100 composting plants.

Pivnenko said nine investors would be called to testify. The case will be complicated by the death two weeks ago of BCSC star witness Salberg. Pivnenko said he was interviewed under oath a year and a half ago and she would submit a transcript for the panel’s consideration. 

Defence lawyer Teresa Tomchak said Oei denied the allegations and mentioned Joe Peschisolido as the lawyer who gave advice and drew up documents for investors. She said evidence will be introduced to show Oei’s ex-business partner, the late Salberg, was terminated for mismanaging investors’ funds.

“So, the respondents agree that Mr. Oei was the guiding mind of all of the respondents.

However, they say that he solicited investments on behalf of Cascade in a manner that accorded with his agreement with Cascade and pursuant to legal advice,” Tomchak said. “The respondents deny that Mr. Oei made the representations that are alleged in the Notice of Hearing.”

She said Oei denies using investor funds on expenses unrelated to Cascade. 

“The respondents say that they, in fact, used funds in excess of $13.3 million in relation to Cascade. And the respondents say that they used the Canadian Manu bank accounts to receive investors’ money in accordance with the instructions from those investors.”

Oei, Lai and Peschisolido were named in a March 2014 lawsuit by Cascade investors Wei Chen and Junping Zhen, who claim they were victims of fraud and breach of trust. 

Peschisolido is a Richmond Liberal MP elected in 2015 and has denied any wrongdoing.

Chen and Zhen claim Oei told them his scheme was supported by the B.C. government. 

Before the hearing, theBreaker asked Oei for comment on both the case against him and his BC Liberal donations. He declined. 

The hearing is scheduled to run through April 25. 

Bob Mackin Paul Oei is a prominent businessman

Bob Mackin

One year ago, on April 7, 2016, real estate agent Tina Oliver posted a photo on Facebook. It was her sun-splashed Dexter Associates Realty sign on the lawn outside a house on a pleasant, tree-lined street in Dunbar.

“SOLD in 6 days, way over ask, super happy Seller and Buyer!” Oliver wrote about the four-bedroom, four-bathroom house. 

(Facebook)

BC Liberal insiders know that Oliver is a friend of power broker Patrick Kinsella and his wife Brenda, and was a campaign worker on Premier Christy Clark’s 2011 leadership win. Oliver’s website said the 2005-built house was listed at $3.488 million, but sold for $3.688 million. 

It caused more than 30 seconds of commotion on Facebook, when several of her followers offered their congratulations throughout the day. 

“This market is absolutely crazy!” wrote Jatinder Ardhawa. 

“This sold to a local buyer, so I feel somewhat saintly,” wrote Oliver in a reply before midnight. 

A Blueshore Financial Credit Union mortgage for the property was registered July 11, 2016. 

Later in the summer, a famous new tenant moved in: Christy Clark. 

Clark had lived in a house less than a kilometre south of Vancouver city hall, since she moved in 2005 from Port Moody with hopes of becoming Vancouver’s mayor. She was listed on the deed as “Christina Joan Clark, businesswoman.” She still hasn’t fulfilled her promise to buy a house in Kelowna after winning a 2013 by-election. She does have a half-interest in Galiano Island recreational property with her brother, Bruce Clark.

As reported in November, Clark’s Dunbar house is registered in the name of Nevin Sangha. Sangha is a close business associate of longtime Clark friend and Vancouver Whitecaps principal owner Greg Kerfoot. Sangha and Kerfoot played together on the same Hollyburn Country Club hockey team in 2004.

The Dunbar house, where Clark parks her party-leased, Dueck-supplied Buick SUV that theBreaker was first to tell you about, is also used as a meeting place for the BC Liberals’ inner circle. A source told theBreaker that Bruce Clark, her ex-husband Mark Marissen and Liberal adman Jatinder Rai have attended campaign strategy sessions there.

Aspects of Sangha and Kerfoot’s business affairs are intermingled. The B.C. Registry Services database shows Sangha is the sole director of Carrera Management Corporation. The Carrera website shows it does business from the same office as Landing Holdings Corporation, whose only director is Kerfoot. 

Landing Holdings owns the Gastown heritage building where the Whitecaps souvenir store and offices are located. Kerfoot and Sangha both moved their corporate records to the same Langley law firm last summer.

Elections BC shows that Kerfoot was the principal officer of Carrera when he made a  $7,500 donation to the BC Liberals on April 14, 2014. Sangha donated $1,250 in August 2010.

First page of secret Whitecaps rent deal.

British Columbia laws do not require the registration and reporting of beneficial owners of land or companies. In its No Reason to Hide report last December, Transparency International said it is harder to get a library card than to register real estate or a business in Canada. “Public libraries typically require proof of address and photo identification,” the report said. “No corporate registry in Canada asks for either.”  

B.C. Assessment’s latest valuation pegs the house at $3.426 million, a whopping $921,000 jump from 2015.

While Clark was MLA for Vancouver Point Grey in 2012, her cabinet approved a $14.5 million grant to the Whitecaps, primarily to build a training centre at the University of B.C.’s main campus. Kerfoot has donated almost $80,000 to the BC Liberals since 2005. The Bell sponsorship of the Whitecaps was one of the reasons why the government scrapped the $40 million Telus naming rights agreement for B.C. Place in early 2012. Taxpayers got a $15.2 million bill instead for Telus goods and services.

On Nov. 4, 2016, the Whitecaps and taxpayer-owned B.C. Pavilion Corporation signed a new B.C. Place rent contract, but the terms are a secret. The copy PavCo provided to theBreaker under the freedom of information law was illegally blacked-out. theBreaker has filed a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. 

In 2015, the OIPC ordered PavCo to release its full contract with the B.C. Lions.

Clark’s new income source

In the same month that Clark said she swore-off her $50,000-a-year party stipend — she said the party would pay her expenses instead — she reported a new source of income. 

theBreaker has learned that Clark filed a material change to her 2016 Public Disclosure Statement with Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser on Jan. 12. The summary version for public eyes, filed Jan. 16 with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, said Clark is receiving rental income on a residential property. That would most likely be the Mount Pleasant house she vacated last summer. 

Clark reports undisclosed rental income.

Last fall, her spokesman Ben Chin claimed, without showing any proof, that Clark was paying $5,500 to $6,500 per month to rent the Dunbar house. Chin said Clark went beyond her legal obligation and mentioned it to Fraser. 

When this reporter tried to confirm that, he met a wall of secrecy. Fraser’s office said that, beyond the documents already provided by the Clerk’s office, “members’ files are otherwise confidential.” 

theBreaker also made repeated requests to the Office of the Premier for permission to inspect full copies of the disclosure and material change forms that Clark submitted to Fraser. theBreaker also wanted to inspect Clark’s tenancy agreement for the Dunbar house and see the cancelled rent cheques. 

Clark’s press secretary, Stephen Smart, did not reply to any of theBreaker’s repeated email and phone messages since March 16. Clark walked away from theBreaker’s questions after the April 26 televised leaders’ debate (see video below).

The requests to Clark’s office were similar to one made by this reporter to the NDP in 2014 and 2015 to inspect Jenny Kwan’s Vancity banking records in the wake of the Portland Hotel Society expenses scandal. In 2015, Dunbar-dweller Clark ridiculed Kwan as the “member for Disneyland.”

A B.C. government-commissioned audit found that Kwan’s ex-husband, senior PHS manager Dan Small, had charged PHS for their trips to Disneyland and Europe.

Premier Christy Clark (Mackin photo)

The NDP granted this reporter a supervised inspection of Kwan’s cancelled cheque and her related bank statements. The documents showed that she did reimburse the Downtown Eastside charity for $32,992.57. Former B.C. NDP MLA Kwan is now the NDP MP for Vancouver East. 

IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis said Clark should go beyond the letter of the law and set an example for transparency and accountability. 

“She should be proactively disclosing it, even if the law doesn’t require it, to set a standard that people can look up to, rather than do this little wiggle routine when she’s caught out,” Travis told theBreaker.

Instead of setting the standard, Travis said Clark is taking “the sneaky route” that leads to public distrust of politicians.

“You shouldn’t be in a situation where people are starting to talk about maybe we need to force premiers to disclose their tax returns. But that’s the position that all of her glib answers, all of her glib filings, have put us in,” Travis said.

Conflict of interest scandals involving the homes of two previous B.C. premiers led to the resignations of Social Credit’s Bill Vander Zalm in 1991 and NDP’s Glen Clark in 1999. 

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. 

Advance voting began April 29 for the May 9 British Columbia election.

 

Bob Mackin One year ago, on April 7,

The BC Liberal government was wrong to fire drug researchers Ramsay Hamdi, Robert Hart, Roderick MacIssac, Dr. Malcolm Maclure, Ron Mattson, David Scott, Dr. Rebecca Warburton and Dr. William Warburton. Whistleblower Alana James’ s allegations weren’t credible and the lead internal investigator, Wendy Taylor, went rogue. The RCMP never was investigating. 

No evidence of political interference was found, but the 512-page report issued April 6 by Ombudsperson Jay Chalke paints a damning picture of systemic bullying, under the ultimate watch of Premier Christy Clark, Minister Mike de Jong and his hastily named replacement, patsy Margaret MacDiarmid. 

Clark dons a pink shirt once a year for anti-bullying day, but an office of the Ministry of Health became a year-round toxic work environment under dark clouds of fear, anxiety, loss of productivity at work, risk-aversion and, for some, health problems. It was an attack on science and scientists and nobody has been held accountable. 

Innocent workers had nightmares police would raid their homes in the middle of the night. MacIsaac couldn’t take the shame of losing his job and died of suicide. Evidence shows that, when his performance was reappraised, nobody called to tell him so. In hindsight, it could have kept him alive.

Chalke’s report Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Other Matters, is a long report, which you can find at this link, but theBreaker is publishing excerpts below. Many questions remain, but we are better informed than yesterday. 

Every British Columbian needs to know about this dark chapter in the province’s history before they vote in the May 9 election. –Bob Mackin

Page 1: At about 2:30 p.m. on September 6, 2012, newly appointed Minister of Health Margaret MacDiarmid held a news conference to announce that her ministry had “asked the RCMP to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct, contracting and data management practices involving ministry employees and drug researchers.” 

The minister announced that an internal investigation had resulted in four employees being fired and three more being suspended. In addition, the contracts of two contractors were suspended and later cancelled. All access to data and research on drug and evidence development in the Pharmaceutical Services Division of the Ministry of Health were suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation. Government indicated this was a serious situation that had been uncovered through an internal investigation. The minister stated that she was “profoundly disappointed” to be dealing with this “very concerning set of circumstances.” 

In the more than four years since that announcement, the individuals impacted by these decisions, including their families and colleagues, suffered significantly. Although government settled all legal proceedings with the fired employees, significant questions about the firings remained. Without clear information about why the firings occurred or about who made those decisions, various theories have emerged in the public discourse. 

There have been reports issued related to certain aspects of the matter. A report released by the Information and Privacy Commissioner in June 2013 detailed apparent data breaches that had been reported to that office by the Ministry of Health. A review report by outside lawyer Marcia McNeil, delivered to the government in December 2014, shed some light on the internal investigation that led to the employee termination decisions, pointing to a process that was “ awed from the outset, as it was embarked upon with a pre-conceived theory of employee misconduct.”

Health minister briefed

Page 133: On August 3, 2012, Mr. Whitmarsh briefed then-Minister of Health Michael de Jong about the investigation. In a draft letter summarizing the meeting, Mr. Whitmarsh wrote: 

Career politician de Jong

This is further to our discussion on August 3, 2012 when I briefed you on an investigation that was actively under way under my direction. This investigation into inappropriate data access arrangements and intellectual property infringements; irregular procurement, contracting and research grant practices; and standards of conduct policy conflicts and preferential treatment in employee-contractor relations within the Ministry of Health (primarily its Pharmaceutical Services Division – PSD) commenced after our being contacted by the Office of the Auditor General. 

The letter further noted that Minister de Jong had directed Mr. Whitmarsh to “take all necessary actions to identify and address the risk, ensure compliance with government policies and pursue employee disciplinary actions if warranted.” Minister de Jong remembered being told that a serious data breach had taken place, which was some- thing taken seriously by the government. Mr. Whitmarsh told us he warned the minister that this “had the potential to be a really significant issue” both in terms of privacy and contracting. 

Clark did not have a specific recollection

Page 134: At some point after his meeting with Mr. Whitmarsh and before the employee terminations on September 6, 2012 Mr. Dyble briefed Premier Christy Clark on the issue. He recalled mentioning it to her as an issue which might possibly come up. However, he told us that he kept the briefing high level and focused on the alleged privacy breach, on the basis that any related human resources issues were a public service matter in which politicians should not get involved. He recalled the discussion as follows: 

I mentioned that we had a data breach to the Premier and that there was an investigation going on – and that is the level I would have dealt with the Premier on it. Because there was a potential human resource role in here – I would have kept her away from it … whether or not you believe that’s the right thing to do but I believe that the public service should – the politicians shouldn’t get involved in human resources. Most of what I would have told her about was the data breach ‘cause that’s where the politics went in. 

Premier Clark did not have a specific recollection of being briefed on the matter prior to the terminations. 

“It started out with no paper”

Page 199: On September 5, 2012, Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid became Minister of Health, replacing outgoing Minister Mike de Jong, who became Minister of Finance. By this time, both the news release and the accompanying communications materials were in the final drafting stages. 

Margaret MacDiarmid

According to Minister MacDiarmid, Minister de Jong told her that he had left her with a “pretty big problem” and apologized in advance. Immediately after she was sworn in, Mr. Whitmarsh told Minister MacDiarmid that he had to brief her. Minister MacDiarmid was “horrified” by the situation Mr. Whitmarsh described. He explained how a “whistleblower” had come forward, was ignored within the ministry, and then took her complaint to the Auditor General. The resulting “complex investigation” by the Ministry of Health had uncovered many problems. Minister MacDiarmid recalled that the problems were described in two ways. First, researchers were allegedly finding ways to work around the policies and regulations that governed access to health data. This included transferring personal health data onto unencrypted devices and possibly selling data. Second, contracts were allegedly being direct-awarded at a low rate, but the contracts’ costs then increased significantly, as a way to circumvent direct-award rules. 

Minister MacDiarmid’s executive assistant, who had also started in the ministry that day, recalled being taken aback at the substance of the briefing and surprised by the way Mr. Whitmarsh briefed the Minister – he provided her with no options about the best way to proceed, which was inconsistent with her previous experience. This individual observed that Mr. Whitmarsh was very much directing the Minister on the next steps to take. 

Minister MacDiarmid’s shock at the contents of this briefing arose in part from her time at the Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government, where she had 

seen the conscientiousness with which public servants performed their duties. Given this experience, she was surprised that a group of public servants would – as was described to her – be “bending the rules and going around the rules.” She believed that the matter was reported to the RCMP because two unencrypted flash drives that were believed to have data on them could not be found – and thus were presumed stolen. 

Minister MacDiarmid recalled that, from her perspective, “one of the things that I was really gobsmacked by was that people were being fired. I didn’t remember anyone being fired. People got severed and they got huge piles of money.” 

At the briefing on September 5, 2016, Mr. Whitmarsh provided Minister MacDiarmid with a verbal overview of the investigation. She did not see any of the underlying evidence supporting the allegations, nor did she receive a copy of the Relationship Web that Mr. Whitmarsh had used to brief the Deputy Minister to the Premier Mr. Dyble. Instead, Mr. Whitmarsh provided most of the information about the investigation verbally. In our interview with her, Minister MacDiarmid reflected on the lack of documentation that was presented to her once she became minister: 

… I never saw, like, any of the interviews or anything like that at all. And … those pieces of information, I feel like those were verbal… It was, you know, people walking me through and of course that’s why I then have to count on my memory because you can’t provide me with a briefing note that says this is what happened. 

And now that I reflect on that, it’s unusual. You know, it started out with no paper because I’d just started today. There’s no time for people to give me, you know, 48 hours. This is a big explosive issue, we’ve got to deal with it now. So I – I didn’t even question. 

But as time went on, this stands out for me. Other things that I would have met with Graham and other ADMs and so on with, I would have always had paper on them. It would be very unusual. Whereas this one continued to be verbal, and Graham and I talked about it frequently. 

And I don’t remember getting a lot of paper on this. 

When we interviewed her, Minister MacDiarmid took responsibility for her decision to appear at the press conference on September 6. She believed that she had to be accountable for what had gone wrong. However, it is clear that at the press conference, and in subsequent media appearances, she was operating on very little information. 

“Because I assumed that it was true”

Page 204: Ms. [Athana] Mentzelopoulos told us she would have supported the mention of the RCMP referral as long as it was true. In her view, government needed to demonstrate that it was serious about dealing with the privacy breaches, and describing the referral to the RCMP would show such leadership. However, in the interview with us, she said she had misjudged how news of the privacy breach would quickly be overrun by the news of the dismissals and the RCMP referral In the end, the final news release stated in the first line, “The Ministry of Health has asked the RCMP to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct, contracting and data-management practices involving ministry employees  and drug researchers.” 

Athana Mentzelopoulos

Despite the intensive discussions about the content of the news release, Minister MacDiarmid was unaware until years later that there had been internal debate or legal advice about including mention of the RCMP in the news release. No one shared the concerns we have described above with the minister. She told us: 

I just did not understand the consequences of even breathing the letters RCMP. I had no idea and no one told me…… 

It is clear that there was considerable confusion on September 6, 2012 over the content of the press release and, looking back, who had the final say as to the contents. Whatever the general practice was, the rushed events of that day meant that the issue was being actively considered until only a few minutes before the public release. It is important to note that GCPE supported the communications approach up to and including the Deputy Minister level. Ms. Mentzelopoulos conceded that she thought that it was important to have the RCMP in the press release, “because I assumed that it was true.” The GCPE Communications Manager had already confirmed the RCMP involvement to the Vancouver Sun, which had reported the fact that morning. 

The decision to make a public announcement about this investigation was driven by senior public servants wanting to demonstrate that the government was fulfilling its duty to inform people whose information may have been compromised, and to reassure the public that it was in control of the issue. However, this was a problem that government created for itself. The fact that employees were suspended without pay so early in the investigation led Mr. Whitmarsh to be concerned that there would be a leak about the investigation. This prompted him to ask GCPE to become more involved in the matter, going so far as to have GCPE representatives join the weekly meetings in August 2012, where he and investigators discussed the impending dismissal decisions. 

MacIsaac should not have been dismissed

Page 208: It is our conclusion that Mr. MacIsaac’s employment dismissal was wrong. We base this conclusion on the following: 

The interviews were conducted unfairly 

The dismissals were based on incorrect or incomplete evidence about Mr. MacIsaac’s PhD research and his access to and use of ministry administrative health data 

It was inappropriate and unfair to infer from Mr. MacIsaac’s conduct in the interview or his refusal to sign the data declaration that he was attempting to mislead the investigation team 

Mr. MacIsaac should not have been dismissed from his employment. 

Late Roderick MacIsaac, one of the health researchers wrongly fired.

After his dismissal, an investigator reviewed Mr. MacIsaac’s communications with respect to data access. On November 27, 2012, he determined that it was highly unlikely that Mr. MacIsaac had taken any data away from the ministry: 

Roderick worked a fair bit at home, but it appears that there was an understanding that he had to work at the office when working with sensitive data. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t be working in a vacuum, and there would have been government documents that he either developed at home or that he took home to work with. 

While he was provided copies of CCH survey and administrative data on his PC at the office which provided an opportunity to copy the data and bring it home, I have never found anything that suggests that he ever brought home any sensitive data, either PI or anonymized, or sent any of this data to UVIC accounts. Rather I found that he was adverse to the idea of handling this information at home and also that Rebecca instructed him to only work with “CCHS” and “admin data” at the office. 

As far as we can determine, the ministry did not contact Mr. MacIsaac to inform him of this reappraisal of his conduct. 

“I lost faith in the government” 

Page 362: The investigation affected individuals differently. There were, however, some common themes: fear, anxiety, loss of income and resulting financial uncertainty, harm to reputation and careers, harm to relationships, and, for some, health problems. 

One witness told us, “I was excessively worried about being able to continue to provide for my family, my reputation.” In some cases, the family members of the individuals under investigation had to cease their own work or educational commitments to provide emotional support. As one witness told us she “couldn’t keep up” her business because “my husband needed me.” One witness told us his spouse described him as “absent, unhappy, stressed.” 

Another witness explained that the stress she incurred by being treated unfairly through the investigation process and the loss of a job she loved caused her to break down physically and emotionally and was the “tipping point” for the dissolution of her marriage. 

Another witness told us that they suffered from recurring nightmares. One witness said that she was unable to return to the Ministry of Health building for almost a year due to the anxiety and trauma she suffered. 

A number of witnesses related instances of colleagues – locally, nationally and internationally – questioning their integrity as a result of their public connection to this matter and the implication that they had engaged in criminal conduct. They described how this affected their ability to participate fully in their communities. 

Some of the affected employees and contractors have cited significant difficulties finding other sources of employment. Some individuals described the impact of the 2012-2013 investigation as career-ending…

Many expressed frustration that their years of contributions to the public service or work in the public interest had ended so abruptly and

Clark and caucus mates in 2013. (BC Gov)

negatively. One witness explained how his experience with the investigation had undermined his belief in the values of the public service. Another witness told us, “I lost faith in the government … when it’s your own government that’s really unsettling. Not just any government. This is a government in Canada. This is Canada.” Another witness expressed how  “hard it is to raise teenagers to believe in government when this is going on, and we had a house full of teenagers at the time that this is all happening … and they are interested. How do you defend the role of government when this is going on?” 

The decision to refer publicly to police involvement contributed significantly to the negative impacts we have described above. It created a sense of fear and undermined people’s reputations in the community. 

One of the fired employees told us, “we were always scared … when the doorbell rings, I get a jolt of I’m scared … I never used to feel that way. It’s just very bizarre.” This witness described how another fired employee returned home from work to see police cars on his street and thought the RCMP had come to arrest him. This witness continued, “we were all petrified. I had nightmares for months.” 

Even those who were not connected to the public announcement, and who had not been part of the initial investigation, told us they wondered “if the RCMP were going to appear at the front door and remove all the computers from our home.” This witness told us, “I was surprised how stressed I was” and decided to end all ties with the ministry…

Following the initial media coverage and the government news release, this matter has remained in the public sphere. In addition to continued media attention, matters relating to the investigation were publicly reported on by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and as part of the McNeil review. Issues relating to the legal proceedings were the subject of media attention and government press releases. The leak of the Office of the Comptroller General report gave renewed life to allegations against some of the employees. Similarly, our investigation and the release of this report will continue to keep this matter in the public domain…..

Many staff across the Ministry of Health were negatively affected by the investigation, the dismissals, and the aftermath. Common impacts included fear, anxiety, loss of productivity at work, risk-aversion and, for some, health problems. 

A number of projects in the fields of health research, evaluation, health education and public health were delayed or never completed due to suspension of data access.

 

The BC Liberal government was wrong to