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For the week of April 3, 2022:

The B.C. NDP government doesn’t say so out loud, but it is surrendering to the coronavirus pandemic and putting the lives of the very young, very old and immunocompromised at risk. 

The testing and tracing program collapsed before Christmas, amid the omicron wave. It took another two months before anyone who wanted one could get a rapid test kit.

Dr. Lyne Filiatrault (PoP BC/YouTube)

The mask mandate was cancelled in March and, on April 1, it shut down the website that took reports of positive tests. 

The NDP has contracted a trio of ex-bureaucrats to examine the government’s response to the pandemic. They’ll report this fall. But the cabinet and provincial health officer are off-limits for the investigation. 

That, Dr. Lyne Filiatrault says, means it’s a sham. 

The retired Vancouver General Hospital emergency physician — instrumental in B.C.’s victory over SARS in 2003 — is the featured guest on this week’s Podcast with host Bob Mackin.

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For the week of April 3, 2022: The

April Scherz 

If the NPA’s John Coupar wins the mayoralty in October’s election, city hall could have a new “dome.”

Is Vancouver city hall for sale if NPA wins mayoralty?

According to a leaked version of the party’s platform, including photographs, the three-term park board politician wants to sell Cambie and 12th to a condo developer and transform the Bloedel Conservatory into the new seat of government. 

In 2011, Coupar led the campaign to save the 1969-built tropical paradise attraction atop Queen Elizabeth Park. “It’s the eighth wonder of the world,” he once proclaimed.

The 1936-built Art Deco city hall tower and surrounding campus were assessed last year at $142.8 million. The precinct extends from 12th to 10th and Cambie to Yukon and has one of the best views of downtown skyscrapers and the North Shore mountains.

John Coupar helped save the Bloedel Conservatory. Could it become city hall?

The NPA proposal says 1,000 units of social housing could be built on-site. The tower would be transformed into a new five-star hotel. 

“City hall is already like a jungle, so why not be in a real one?” reads a script prepared for Coupar. “Affordable housing, a windfall profit to reinvest in parks and public safety, and a new hotel. What’s not to like?”

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth Park also figures in the platform of incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart, which has also leaked. 

Stewart proposes a contest to find a new name for Queen Elizabeth Park.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart could change Queen Elizabeth Park’s name

“It’s time to decolonize,” according to Stewart’s speaking notes. “We thank the Queen, who has graced our city on several occasions, for her leadership and service to the Commonwealth. But when the day comes that the crown is transferred to someone else, her name will be retired from the signs and maps for our beloved park.”

Though the election is almost six months away, both Coupar and Stewart are planning news conferences on April 1, just before noon. 

April Scherz  If the NPA’s John Coupar wins

Bob Mackin

Costs for City of Vancouver to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be much higher than Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s proposed $5 million grant, based on cost estimates by the City of Toronto.

British Columbia and FIFA flags in 2015 outside the Westin Bayshore host hotel (Mackin)

A Toronto staff report to the March 30 executive council meeting estimates hosting five matches could cost $290 million. Organizers of the joint U.S.-Canada-Mexico tournament are expected to name the 16 host cities in May.

Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal were among 23 candidates in the winning 2018 bid. Vancouver was excluded after the B.C. NDP government couldn’t reach an agreement over extra costs to taxpayers at BC Place Stadium. When Montreal withdrew last July over rising costs, Premier John Horgan said his government had reopened talks with FIFA.

Toronto city officials estimate almost $94 million in direct costs to city taxpayers, so they are asking the Ontario and federal governments to cover two-thirds of the budget, or $177 million. They contemplate only $12.7 million revenue from FIFA.

In 2018, the City of Toronto estimated taxpayers would be only the hook for only $30 million to $45 million. Since then, the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA have shifted more hosting requirements onto city hall, Exhibition Place, Destination Toronto and the owners of Toronto FC.

“This exercise – which considered the full breadth of the host city agreement – saw a rise in costs in several areas such as security, stadium adaptation and expansion, and preparation of training sites,” the report said. “City staff anticipate that there are areas where savings can be secured given that there is time available for lower cost alternatives to be identified and for FIFA requirements to be negotiated.”

Toronto has committed to providing FIFA with BMO Field, training sites, a 34-day FanFest and transportation and safety and security services. FIFA is also demanding an addendum to the 2018 agreement for upgrades and rental costs at BMO Field.

“Signing the contractual addendum has been identified by FIFA as mandatory to remain in contention for host city selection,” the report said.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart (Mackin)

It could take until the end of the year, however, for federal support to be announced because of the required national safety and security concept. Toronto already estimates the cost of police, fire and ambulance service will be $40 million.

Provincial and civic officials were asked to comment on the Toronto cost estimates. Vancouver city hall’s sport hosting manager, Michelle Collens, referred a query to the communications department, which declined to comment on costs. A statement from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture said it has “all the levels of government at the table discussing requirements and assessing costs.”

In return for spending $290 million, Toronto estimates a $307 million economic impact, with 3,300 jobs and 174,000 overnight visitors, resulting in $3.5 million municipal accommodation tax revenue. The report, however, did not include methodology.

Prof. Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., is one of the world’s leading researchers of mega-events. He cautioned that boosters tend to overstate the benefits and downplay the costs, by relying on input-output modelling in order to attract or defend public subsidies. Matheson’s research has found large sporting events like World Cups and Olympics supplant, rather than supplement, the regular tourist economy.

Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)

FIFA, Matheson said, can afford to pay the full bill on its own. At the end of its last World Cup cycle in 2018, FIFA reported US$5.35 billion revenue from the Russia-hosted tournament contributed to its record US$6.42 billion, four-year haul. It called Russia 2018 “the most-profitable edition to date.”

At the end of 2020, FIFA boasted US$3.31 billion in assets and US$1.88 billion in reserves.

“There’s no reason that again, taxpayers in Vancouver or in Boston, where I am, should be subsidizing a private entity run by millionaires generating billions of dollars,” Matheson said.

Stewart said March 15 that he wants city council to commit $5 million. In 2015, city hall gave Women’s World Cup organizers $1.2 million for a fan festival at Larwill Park. The province granted FIFA $2 million, which amounted to free rent at B.C. Place Stadium.

FIFA’s hosting requirements for 2026 also demand governments provide it a tax holiday, exemptions from labour laws and permit the import and export of foreign currency.

The next World Cup kicks-off Nov. 21 in Qatar. Canada has qualified after a 36-year absence.

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Bob Mackin Costs for City of Vancouver to

For the week of March 27, 2022: 

Mega-event boosters in Vancouver want another Winter Olympics in 2030.

It could be closer than you think. The International Olympic Committee is replacing bidding wars with closed-door, fast-track negotiations. The lords of the rings have even awarded two Games at once. It’s all because too many cities are opting out, due to high costs and corruption risks.

NPA Coun. Collen Hardwick (Mackin)

There are no cost estimates for 2030 yet and the costs of Vancouver 2010 are not really known. The organizing committee archives are off-limits to the public until 2025, two years after the IOC wants to name the 2030 host. 

This week’s guest on Podcat, Coun. Colleen Hardwick wants the under-exploration 2030 bid added to the ballot. Olympics came from Greece, the same place that invented democracy.  

“Why would we be afraid of it, why would anyone be reluctant to have this question asked? If the supporters of the Olympics bid are enthusiastic and feel that they have a strong case to be made, then they should be making it and they will be successful,” Hardwick said. “Or, if they’re not, they will hear the will of the people. I think this is a big enough question that the decision should be made by the people themselves.”

Hear the full interview with Hardwick. Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.

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For the week of March 27, 2022:  Mega-event

Western hemlock looper moth (Mackin)

Bob Mackin

The Ministry of Forests is awaiting approval to stop the spongy moth, formerly known as the gypsy moth, in eight municipalities. 

But there will be no program to eradicate the Western Hemlock looper moth, which could ravage the North Shore and turn forests an orange hue again this summer.

“The Ministry isn’t planning to do any spraying for looper this year, nor did we last year,” said a statement from its communications office. “Most of the infestations falls in the management responsibility of Metro Vancouver and we are not aware of any treatment plans.”

According to Jesse Montgomery, Metro Vancouver water services environmental manager, dramatically fewer moths were observed in summer 2021. He said the moth cycle peaked in 2020, but forest monitoring will continue in 2022. 

The ministry is, however, planning to battle spongy moth larvae by using the biological insecticide Bk (Bacillus thuringensis variety kurstaki), the active ingredient in Foray 48B, to spray isolated areas of Burnaby, Surrey, Mission, Langley, Chilliwack, View Royal, Nanoose Bay and Cowichan Lake between mid-April and the end of June. Foray 48B is only toxic to the stomachs of caterpillars, and prevents harm to forests, fruit orchards and urban trees. 

The government’s spongy moth spraying program follows the trapping of 98 male moths in the eight specific areas.

Western hemlock loopers attack their namesake as well as Douglas fir and western red cedar trees. “When populations are high, looper caterpillars also feed on other hosts such as subalpine fir, amabilis fir, grand fir and spruce,” said a September 2021 briefing note to Minister Katrine Conroy from provincial entomologist Jeanne Robert, obtained under freedom of information.

The briefing note said localized outbreaks were observed in 2019 in the Sunshine Coast’s Rainy River and Brittain River drainages and the Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam watersheds. Outbreaks can last three to four years, meaning 2021 may have been the last or the penultimate year of the cycle. 

“The Ministry received a number of inquiries from residents of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, municipalities (District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver), Metro Vancouver (watersheds), the Powell River Community Forest, B.C. Timber Sales in Sunshine Coast District and Western Forest Products (FL 39). They all expressed concerns about the impacts of this outbreak,” said the briefing note.

NDP Minister Katrine Conroy BC Leg)

Historically, the Ministry has not attacked loopers from the sky and, based on 2019 and 2020 defoliation, aerial application of Bk was not deemed necessary on crown lands. The provincial forest entomologist’s July 2021 detailed survey of 2019 and 2020 looper outbreaks confirmed the outbreak had not extended past Pitt Lake. 

The looper moth populations build and crash every 11 to 15 years. Trees typically survive light to moderate defoliation, but growth reduction, top kill and tree mortality are the worst-case scenarios. Patchy mortality can recharge eco systems by allowing younger trees to emerge. 

“Looper populations fluctuate based weather conditions, the level of natural parasitoids (insect larvae that feed on a host, eventually killing it), and the level of naturally occurring viruses and/or predators. No management or treatment is recommended at this time.”

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[caption id="attachment_12030" align="alignright" width="300"] Western hemlock looper

Bob Mackin

A city councillor running for mayor in this October’s civic election wants Vancouver voters to decide whether the city should bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Coun. Colleen Hardwick plans to table a motion at the March 29 city council meeting aimed at getting a yes/no plebiscite on the ballot. Hardwick, elected in 2018 on the NPA ticket, was acclaimed March 15 as the mayoral candidate for the TEAM for a Livable Vancouver party.

NPA Coun. Collen Hardwick (Mackin)

“Why would we be afraid of it, why would anyone be reluctant to have this question asked? If the supporters of the Olympics bid are enthusiastic and feel that they have a strong case to be made, then they should be making it and they will be successful,” Hardwick said. “Or, if they’re not, they will hear the will of the people. I think this is a big enough question that the decision should be made by the people themselves.”

Last Dec. 10, Mayor Kennedy Stewart and his Whistler counterpart, Jack Crompton, announced what they called an indigenous-led bid exploration involving chiefs of the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Lil’wat bands. In February, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would help fund a feasibility study aimed at entering exclusive talks with the International Olympic Committee. 

Mayor Kennedy Stewart tweeted March 24 “I will not second this motion.”

His tweet said that support for the motion contravenes the Oct. 29, 2021-dated memorandum of understanding, which was agreed in secret and not revealed until the Dec. 10 news conference. 

The MOU, which mentions the goal of advancing reconciliation with First Nations, said that the assembly of two municipalities and four First Nations agreed to pursue discussions with senior governments to seek funding. A recommendation whether a formal bid is feasible is required “no later than March 2022 in accordance with 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games timelines.” The fifth and final clause of the MOU said it is not legally binding on any of the parties.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Dec. 10 (City of Vancouver)

The IOC wants to award the Games by 2023 under a new procedure to replace bidding wars with closed-door negotiations. Other potential hosts include Sapporo, Japan, Salt Lake City, Utah, and a joint French/Spanish group.

The Vancouver 2030 bid was originally hatched by ex-Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong at a Board of Trade breakfast in February 2020 to mark 10 years since the Vancouver Games. Competition venues from Vancouver 2010 remain, but would need extensive renovations or retrofitting for 2030. City council delayed a motion to support the bid exploration by a year due to the pandemic. But, when it was passed in March 2021, no public speakers were allowed.

“Other municipalities and all local governments in British Columbia are on the same election cycle,” Hardwick said. “And so maybe what Vancouver can can be is an example to other municipalities that they might add a similar question to their ballots.”

The motion is formally titled “Plebiscite to Measure Public Support for a 2030 Winter Olympic Bid Held Concurrently with the 2022 Civic Election” and mentions Vancouver won the 2010 bid in July 2003 after 64% of voters passed a February 2003 plebiscite. Since then, Games TV ratings have dipped. The controversial Beijing 2022 Winter Games had 42% fewer viewers in the key U.S. market than PyeongChang 2018. 

In 2018, more than 56% of voters in 1988 host city Calgary rejected a bid for the 2026 Games that would have cost $5.2 billion.

BC 2030 Olympic bid logo (BC Gov/FOI)

“The public shoulders significant financial costs,” Hardwick’s motion states. “The 2010 Olympics showed that unforeseen circumstances and unbudgeted items do come up.”

Those unforeseen circumstances were the Great Recession of 2008 that led to bankruptcy of sponsors General Motors and Nortel, cutbacks by others and the bailout and eventual receivership of the $1.1 billion Vancouver Olympic Village. 

When it dissolved in 2014, the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (aka VANOC), said it balanced a $1.9 billion operating budget that included at least $188 million additional from the federal and B.C. governments. It never held a public meeting, was exempt from B.C.’s freedom of information law and B.C.’s auditor general cancelled a post-Games report.

The total cost to operate and secure the 2010 Games, and build venues and related transportation infrastructure is estimated at more than $7 billion. That includes $554 million borne by city taxpayers according to an April 2010 report to council. 

Actual costs are believed to be hidden in the board minutes and financial records at the City Archives, which are not to be opened until fall 2025 under the agreement signed in 2011 by then-city manager and VANOC director Penny Ballem.  

Hardwick said access to those files is essential in making up her mind about the 2030 Games and she hopes the agreement can be amended to allow for necessary transparency.

“I want to make an informed decision,” She said. “If I can’t see the books from 2010 until 2025, that’s still three years from now, how am I supposed to make an informed decision?”

How much would the vote cost? The 2003 standalone plebiscite was $575,000 and a by-election to fill a vacant council seat in 2017 cost $1.2 million. But the city is already going to the polls on Oct. 15 to elect council, park board and school board politicians and seek approval on three capital spending measures.

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Bob Mackin A city councillor running for mayor

Bob Mackin 

Too many emergencies in too many places and not enough people trained to warn the public. 

That is why the B.C. NDP government says it failed to implement local alerts via mobile phones and radio and TV stations last summer, according to an Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) briefing note for Deputy Minister Tara Richards.

The November 2021 flood that closed the Trans-Canada Highway (City of Abbotsford)

“The lack of subject matter expertise and defined scope has resulted in little progress being made toward implementing a Public Alerting Solution,” said the July 29, 2021 document, obtained under freedom of information. “Specifically, the focus on alerting for all emergencies, rather than those that were most significant, overcomplicated the problem set resulting in no clear path forward.”

The province did not issue localized “broadcast intrusive” (BI) alerts during the record June heat dome, July forest fires or November floods. The National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination System uses Alert Ready from contractor Pelmorex. B.C. began testing Alert Ready in 2018, but it was not used in a real situation until Nov. 25, 2021 by Vanderhoof RCMP to warn of a shooting rampage in the town centre.  

By comparison, in 2019 alone, Alberta used Alert Ready to warn of wildfires (17 times), tornados (11), AMBER alerts (five), train accidents (two) and a dangerous highway condition. This year’s B.C.-wide system tests are scheduled for May 4 and Nov. 16.  Local governments and First Nations are responsible for notifying the public about imminent or unexpected threats to life by severe weather, natural disasters or other emergencies via door-to-door, sirens, social media, signage or subscription-based notifications. But EMBC has not developed a program for them to deploy BI alerts for disasters in their jurisdictions.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth (BC Gov)

“EMBC has been working to implement BI alerting since 2014 over which time the capacity of alerting solutions has matured. The B.C. alerting environment is complex as there are 193 local authorities and 203 First Nations for a total of almost 400 alert issuers,” the briefing note said. “Many local authorities and First Nations have invested in their own subscription-based notification services which are used for a variety of purposes including emergency related messaging.”

Operational considerations for administering a BI system include the scope of hazards, jurisdictional overlap and centralized versus decentralized program delivery. 

EMBC is working on a new incident management system, called WebEOC, to manage local alerting programs. The briefing note suggested a time-limited regional pilot would allow EMBC to develop and test alerts in a phased manner so as to reduce risk and complexities. It did not give timelines. 

“Initial consultation with the Pelmorex Corporation as of July 27, 2021, have provided contacts across Canada. EMBC staff are in the process of connecting with other provincial government’s public alerting staff to evaluate approaches and identify potential resources which could be retained to support advancing this work.”

The March 26, 2022 AMBER Alert, the first province-wide emergency notification of its sort.

EMBC said in a prepared statement on March 25 that it would implement the National Alert Ready system in time for the 2022 freshet and wildfire seasons. “This will provide an excellent learning opportunity and will advance the sophistication of our alerting program with our Indigenous and local government partners.”

A day later, the B.C. RCMP issued an AMBER Alert via mobile phones and broadcast outlets about two children allegedly abducted March 24 in Fort St. John by Jason Dalrymple. It was the first province-wide emergency alert of its type.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s three-year service plan, released on budget day in February, says priorities include expanding Alert Ready for additional hazards to enhance First Nations and local government preparedness and response, and to enhance provincial coordination and information sharing about natural disasters with First Nations and local governments. 

At least one community is taking matters into its own hands. On March 22, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District announced a $30,000 early warning system for residents of Wiseman Creek in Sicamous. The system is the result of a BGC Engineering study that found slopes above the Sicamous Creek mobile home park are so unstable that experts believe a landslide is inevitable within the next two years.

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Bob Mackin  Too many emergencies in too many

Bob Mackin

The B.C. NDP government is refusing to disclose the budget for a review of the pandemic response, prompting one expert to call it a waste of time.

Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced March 16 that a trio of former senior bureaucrats would review the B.C. government response to the pandemic and report back this fall.

Mike Farnworth announces $2,000 fines on April 19 (BC Gov)

“This review includes decision-making processes, which will help as we prepare to review other sectors involved in this response and do even better when the next emergency happens,” said a statement from Emergency Management BC.

Instead of reviewers Bob de Faye, Dan Perrin and Chris Trumpy conducting public hearings, there is a questionnaire through April 20. Their terms of reference do not allow a review of the decisions made by cabinet and the provincial health officer.

“It’s an exercise in futility,” retired emergency physician Dr. Lyne Filiatrault said in an interview. “It is sham, it’s going to be nothing useful.”

Filiatrault is on the steering committee of the Protect Our Province (POP) BC coalition. In March 2003, she helped identify and contain the first case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) at Vancouver General Hospital in a patient who had returned from Hong Kong. She said there needs to be accountability for those in public health who discounted the airborne spread of COVID-19, in favour of so-called “droplet dogma,” and promoted public use of cloth masks instead of N95 respirators.

“The pandemic is a complicated problem and you cannot break the response in parts to try to simplify its evaluation,” Filiatrault said. “You need to have a multidisciplinary team to look at different aspects of the response. It has to be representative of the people that were affected.”

Filitrault said bad public health policy led to each successive wave of the pandemic and noted the NDP government’s lack of transparency, embodied by the Canadian Association of Journalists’ code of silence award for outstanding achievement in government secrecy.

Dr. Lyne Filiatrault (PoP BC/YouTube)

She said a proper review needs to include experts such as aerosol scientists, engineers, and behavioural scientists.

“It can’t just be white privilege, prior public servants looking at the pandemic response, when they have no expertise, either, in diversity, equity and inclusion. So they’re not going to represent the voice of immunocompromised people, they’re not going to represent the voice of parents, with kids that weren’t being told about outbreaks in school.”

The standard for a pandemic review was set by the Ontario government, which struck a judicial public inquiry into the 2003 SARS pandemic, headed by Justice Archie Campbell.

Campbell, for instance, found Filiatrault and her cohorts at VGH were among those who did everything right to contain the virus and Ontario did not. His 2007 final report credited “robust worker safety and infection control culture, with better systemic preparedness” in B.C.

Campbell found Ontario’s response lacked proper communication, preparation, accountability and resources. His key recommendation was to adopt the precautionary principle across the entire healthcare system. “Safety comes first,” Campbell concluded. “That reasonable efforts to reduce risk need not await scientific proof.”

Mario Possamai was senior advisor to Campbell from 2003 to 2007. When he appeared on a POP national edition podcast in January, he said that B.C. would have been better off had public health officials relied on the precautionary principle in dealing with COVID-19.

“We were met with with hubris, with our infectious disease and public health leaders saying, ‘No, no, you’re wrong, we don’t have to worry about airborne transmission, surgical masks are okay, Plexiglas is okay,’” Possamai said. “And, you know, they’ve not apologized, and I hope the time comes when they finally apologize for what they’ve done.”

The Campbell report examined the role of public health officials, including B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. At the time, Henry was the associate medical officer of health for Toronto. Campbell’s report included excerpts from Henry’s testimony to the Ontario legislature’s Justice Policy Committee.

Dr. Bonnie Henry Nov. 16, 2020 (BC Gov)

“I think one of the things we learn over and over again in a crisis is that you can never do just enough,” Henry told the committee. “If you stop the outbreak, you’ve done way too much and you overreacted; if you don’t stop the outbreak, you clearly didn’t do enough.”

In a Feb. 10, 2021 web conference clip shared widely on social media, Henry quipped: “I think there’s going to be lots of time — I’ve said this before many times — lots of time for the recriminations, the class action lawsuits, and the public inquiries.”

When it came time for one such inquiry, neither Henry nor her medical health officer subordinates participated. Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie’s October 2021 review of the pandemic’s toll on long-term care homes said Henry and others were invited for interviews in June and July 2021, “but were unable to participate due to urgent pandemic-related responsibilities.”

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Bob Mackin The B.C. NDP government is refusing

Bob Mackin

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded more than $20,000 to Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Canada Corp. in a countersuit against a Richmond father and son.

Mathematician Jinzhong Sun and law student Tong Sun unsuccessfully claimed $49 billion in damages, alleging breach of lease, defamation and loss of a gold watch and pen. The Mercedes Metris passenger van they used in their short-term rentals and furniture importing business was confiscated and the lease cancelled in May 2020 after Vancouver Police seized the vehicle following a crime spree.

Mercedes-Benz Metris passenger van (Mercedes-Benz)

“The police advised that on April 19, 2020, an individual was witnessed smashing vehicle windows at multiple auto dealerships before fleeing from the police in the Metris,” wrote Justice Simon Coval in the Feb. 10 verdict, which was published March 17.

“The police had to tactically intercept the Metris in order to bring it to a stop, including laying out a spike strip and pinning the Metris between police vehicles, causing damage to the Metris. Mr. Tong Sun was the primary suspect…. He was believed to have mental health issues or possibly be on drugs, due to his actions, and the Metris had been delivered to the police department’s civil forfeiture unit for investigation.”

The 1989-born Sun, a.k.a. Heintz Sun, was charged with three counts of mischief to property over $5,000 and dangerous operation of a conveyance. The B.C. Prosecution Service said he has pleaded guilty and sentencing is scheduled for April 29 in Richmond Provincial Court.  

The Suns did not pay the more than $21,000 that was owing on the lease, so Mercedes sold the vehicle in September 2020 through ADESA Auctions Canada’s Richmond location to Pioneer Chrysler for $19,500.

Coval ruled that Mercedes was entitled, under the lease contract, to terminate the lease, sell the vehicle and seek damages for breach of lease terms, which stipulated the vehicle was not to used in an unintended, injurious or unlawful manner.

Tong Sun represented himself at the Feb. 3 hearing. The judge rejected his assertion that he was studying law at King’s College in England when the incident occurred — because Sun admitted to police in a June 4, 2020, email that he was driving the vehicle.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

“His explanation that it was another person with his identical name that was driving is beyond belief,” Coval wrote. “He provides no evidence of being out of the country at the time of the incident, such as stamps on his passport showing international travel. Instead, he provides only letters confirming his enrolment and residence accommodation at London University. Obviously, this does not establish being there in April 2020, particularly given COVID and online studies.”

The judge also threw out the claim that Tong Sun lacked capacity and/or the contract and its small print were too complicated.

“I recognize that the evidence does suggest the plaintiff, Mr. Tong Sun, may well struggle with certain mental health challenges, and of course I have sympathy for that. But his affidavits, written and oral submissions, and academic record indicate high intelligence far beyond the threshold for legal capacity.”

Coval dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims and granted Mercedes judgment on its counterclaim “in an amount to be determined based on the damages that I have described in these reasons totalling $20,056.84, less a reasonable adjustment for the time value of money.”

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Bob Mackin A B.C. Supreme Court judge has

Bob Mackin

If you think you’re seeing more NDP government advertisements than usual, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. 

There are four campaigns running via central government ministries. Four Crown corporations are also competing for attention on TV, radio and the web. It’s part of the perennial trend to exhaust budgets before the March 31 fiscal year-end, for fear of a reduced allocation in the next 12 months.

From the B.C. NDP government’s StrongerBC ad campaign (BC Gov/Now Communications)

The flagship is StrongerBC “Taking Care,” promoting the 2022 provincial budget and the related training and investment economic plan.

“Those investments include shortening surgical wait times, training people to fill high-demand jobs of the future, fighting climate change and reducing childcare fees for parents,” said a statement from the Ministry of Finance, which includes the government’s $28 million-a-year communications department.

The March 7-launched campaign is scheduled through March 31, with an approved budget of $1.8 million.

It is also spending $2.35 million on the three-phase CleanBC Better Homes campaign, $1.52 million to promote the WorkBC job listings website, and $500,000 for BC Parks licence plates.

BC Hydro’s February to April conservation and heat pump campaign is costing $1.525 million through media buyer iProspect and agency Rethink. B.C. Securities Commission is spending $1.13 million of its $1.3 million quarterly budget on ads running in February (RRSP deadline month) and March (fraud prevention month). Wasserman and Citizen Relations were picked through an advertised tender process, said BCSC spokeswoman Elise Palmer. 

From the B.C. NDP government’s StrongerBC ad campaign (BC Gov/Now Communications)

Destination BC and B.C. Lottery Corporation, however, both refused to comment on their contractors and ad budgets. BCLC told a reporter to file a freedom of information request to find out about the gambling monopoly’s animated brand campaign.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says governments should only spend ad money to communicate to the public about emergencies. 

“Not whatever they decide to declare an emergency for political purposes or whatnot — but an emergency like flood or a fire, obviously, immunization, all that stuff, that’s fair,” said B.C. director Kris Sims. “But if they’re pushing, like their latest fads, or promoting their own budget, which basically is like a big hug to the government, that’s it, that’s a waste of taxpayers money.”

Sims said the licence plate sales are especially wasteful, because ICBC is a monopoly.

In January, the government said it sold 300,000 of the nature scene licence plates over five years, netting $20 million for the program to benefit provincial parks. It will need to sell more than 10,000 of the $50 plates to break-even on the current ad campaign. BC Parks gets a $20 cut and the government $18. It costs $7 to manufacture, ship and handle each plate and brokers get a $5 commission. 

The Ministry of Finance said Advertising Standards Canada “independently determined” that the government ad campaigns meet non-partisan criteria.

While the government’s media buyer is iProspect, part of the Japanese giant Dentsu, the creative contractors are definitely not non-partisan.

NDP finance minister Selina Robinson on Feb. 22, 2022 (BC Gov)

Now Communications and Captus Advertising are behind the StrongerBC campaign. 

Now was formed by members of Mike Harcourt’s 1991 campaign team. It billed the party $1.78 million for work on Premier John Horgan’s 2020 re-election campaign. Multicultural specialist Captus received $498,787 for its work on the 2020 NDP campaign. 

BC Parks licence plate ad shop Point Blank Creative billed the party $108,959.13 for 2020 campaign work.

Normally, government procurement rules require open, public tendering for contracts $75,000 and up. Agencies that work for government ministries are chosen from a preferred suppliers list created by NDP-appointed political aides.

In a November 2015 interview, then-opposition leader Horgan slammed the BC Liberals for “padding the pockets of their political pals” when the government hired party-aligned ad agencies.

“They spend countless dollars, time and energy withholding information that the public asks for, but when the public’s not looking for information they’ve got mountains of money to spend, to bury us in self-congratulatory promotion,” Horgan said at the time.

In February’s budget, the NDP forecast $13.3 billion in deficits through 2025 and a $125.7 billion debt by 2025.

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