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Bob Mackin

The Crown corporation that the BC Liberal Party’s campaign co-chair oversees is breaking the law to hide the contract with Premier Christy Clark’s favourite sports franchise. 

On March 24, B.C. Pavilion Corporation sent theBreaker a blacked-out copy of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 27-page, Nov. 4, 2016 lease for B.C. Place Stadium. 

Todd Stone, the minister responsible for PavCo, did not respond for comment. 

When theBreaker applied under the freedom of information laws on Dec. 9, it explicitly reminded PavCo of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s landmark March 2015 ruling that forced PavCo to release its entire negotiated contract with the B.C. Lions. 

Adjudicator Vaughan Barrett ordered disclosure of the full contract, because there was no evidence its release would harm the business interests of either PavCo or the Canadian Football League team. In his ruling, Barrett cited the words of ex-OIPC commissioner David Loukidelis from a 2009 IT contract ruling: “[The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act] should be administered with a clear presumption in favour of disclosure… Businesses that contract with government must fully appreciate that the transparency of those dealings has no comparison in fully private transactions.”

Taxpayer-owned, money-losing B.C. Place is the only suitable permanent venue in B.C. for CFL or Major League Soccer games. The Lions and Whitecaps have market monopolies from their respective leagues. 

A source told theBreaker that whenever the two sides reached an impasse in negotiations, the Whitecaps would seek intervention from Clark’s office. The same source said the Whitecaps’ 2016 contract is more favourable than the previous one.

Rachel Lewis, chief operating officer of the Delaware-incorporated Whitecaps, did not respond to an interview request. A copy of the censored contract below. 

Canadian Taxpayers Federation director Jordan Bateman said there is no excuse for a public-owned agency to withhold a contract from British Columbians, who paid $126 million to build the stadium in 1983 and $514 million for its renovation in 2011.

“Black is the colour, hiding is the game,” said Bateman, to the tune of the team’s ‘White is the Colour’ theme song. “The sneaking suspicion is if they don’t want to share it, chances are there’s something in it that they want to hide from the public. And what that means is probably bad news for the taxpayers who are likely on the hook for more money for this private sports enterprise.”

Clark and veteran Liberal campaigner/Attorney General ministry lawyer

Bateman also said the timing is suspicious, because PavCo’s shareholders are also voters in the May 9 provincial election.

“This is typical of the games that government FOI folks are playing now, trying to drag things out past the election,” he said. “If they can punt it past May 9, that’s considered a win for them and their political masters.”

Last year, PavCo admitted to theBreaker that it spent almost $35,000 of taxpayers’ funds to hire outside lawyers in seven of its failed FOI disputes, including one over the real attendance counts for Whitecaps and Lions games. The documents that the OIPC ordered to be released proved that the Whitecaps and Lions had overstated their attendance by a combined 500,000 fans over a four-year span

PavCo lost $4.165 million in 2015-2016 and forecast another $8.2 million in red ink for the year ended March 31, 2017. Next year’s projected deficit is $15.07 million. 

Information released under a separate FOI request showed PavCo charged the Whitecaps $339,618 in fiscal 2016 rent and the Lions $219,273. Besides ticket sales, both teams rely on revenue from media contracts with TSN, which does not black-out home game telecasts in the Vancouver market.

The April 2015-released Lions contract showed the team is charged no rent on the first $9 million of net ticket sales, but it pays royalties of 10% to 20% on successive increments of $1 million.

Clark is a rabid Whitecaps’ fan and longtime friend of principal owner Greg Kerfoot, the secretive tech billionaire-cum-real estate investor. Last summer, Clark moved into a $3.7 million Dunbar house that is registered in the name of Kerfoot business associate Nevin Sangha. Clark frequently hosts Liberal campaign planning meetings at the house and Tweeted a photo of her inside the house, sporting a Lions’ jersey last fall.

Between 2005 and 2016, Kerfoot donated $80,000 to the Liberals.

In 2012, the Clark cabinet approved spending $14.5 million on the Whitecaps’ University of B.C. training centre. The government refused to publish the business case for the subsidy. At the time, Clark represented the Vancouver-Point Grey riding.

UPDATE (April 30): On April 4, OIPC ordered PavCo to provide it an unredacted copy of the contract. On April 28, OIPC informed theBreaker that it had assigned investigator Wade Raaflaub to the case. 

BCPC – 499 by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The Crown corporation that the BC Liberal

Bob Mackin

Premier Christy Clark drives a Buick Enclave sport utility vehicle supplied by a BC Liberal Party donor’s auto dealership.

But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the public version of her annual conflict of interest disclosure. 

Clark’s 2016 public disclosure statement, filed last November, said she received a leader’s allowance from her party, but no gifts or benefits. Not even the Buick.

The form Clark submitted to Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser is officially confidential, but a summary is published once a year through the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. 

Clark’s 2016 form omits Buick

The annual forms that MLAs are required by law to submit annually to Fraser include a section that says MLAs must disclose personal benefits connected directly or indirectly with the performance of their official duties “immediately, if the value of the gift or benefit exceeds $250.”

Dueck Auto Group CEO Moray Keith told theBreaker that Clark’s vehicle is leased for her by the party.

The party admitted in 2016 that it paid Clark a $50,000 annual stipend, over and above her $195,000 salary as premier and MLA for Westside-Kelowna. In January, she announced that she would no longer take the stipend, but would instead be reimbursed by the party for expenses. 

In a 2012 interview with The Tyee, Clark said she did not know the amount of her party stipend, but called it a “car allowance.” 

“I do a lot of driving,” Clark told Andrew MacLeod. “I do a lot of driving for party events and those kinds of things.”

Clark is usually chauffeured by RCMP bodyguards in a full-size Chevrolet SUV to and from the $3.7 million Dunbar house in which she is a tenant.

Liberal spokesman Emile Scheffel did not respond to requests for comment.

“Just because B.C. has probably the weakest conflict of interest legislation for MLAs in the country is not an excuse for not being compliant,” IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis told theBreaker. “The premier, who has consistently promised us the most open and transparent government in Canada, should not just stop where the law requires, but set a standard so that there are no suspicions of any particular preferential treatment being given to a party donor, whether it’s a cash donation or a donation in kind.”

Meanwhile, Keith said he is donating the use of four vehicles from Dueck GM to cabinet ministers Peter Fassbender and Andrew Wilkinson and rookie candidate James Lombardi for the duration of the election campaign. 

Vancouver-Quilchena’s Wilkinson and Vancouver-Point Grey’s Lombardi have both Tweeted photos of the advertising-wrapped Chevy Volts they are driving. Neither mentioned Dueck in their Tweets, but the dealership’s decal was visible in Lombardi’s photo. 

“We’ve got some friends who are Liberals, carrying the Liberal flag,” Keith, a Liberal-appointed B.C. Lottery Corp. director, said. “I like their economic policies, I like the fact that we’ve got the best economy in the country.”

Keith said Dueck’s loans of cars and trucks to candidates are worth $750 to $1,000 each. “We give them a note and they turn around and put it on their election form for what we value it at.”

They are probably not the only candidates driving donated cars on the road to May 9.

Blair Qualey, president of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C., said his organization will, if asked, connect candidates and charities to dealers in their area. 

“We get asked for support from all sorts of folks, we leave it up to the dealer to do what they want in their own ridings,” Qualey said. “We have dealers that do business in strong NDP ridings. We encourage our members to be active in their own communities.”

From 2005 to 2016, Keith and his Dueck Auto Group donated $143,811.47 to the Liberals.

The New Car Dealers, which counts Keith as a member of its board of directors, are among the biggest supporters of the Liberals. Between 2005 and 2016, they donated $1,274,879.58.

In February, the BC Liberal government announced another $40 million in public funding for the New Car Dealers to dole out $2,500 to $6,000 subsidies for buyers of electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles worth up to $77,000. The Liberals are promoting electric vehicles to help justify BC Hydro’s $9 billion Site C dam development. 

Qualey said the association administers the program based on cost-recovery, “so customers don’t have to chase a bureaucrat in Victoria to find where their $5,000 is. They get it at the point of sale.”

For the year-ended March 31, 2016, the New Car Dealers received $5.87 million in transfers from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which is responsible for BC Hydro. 

What the rules say

B.C. has no laws regulating the size or source of donations to provincial or municipal political parties or candidates. Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said there are rules around how candidates and parties report donations of goods and services.

Dueck owner Moray Keith (Mackin)

“For goods and services, the value of the contribution is equal to the market value which is defined by the Election Act as the lowest price charged for an equivalent amount of equivalent property or services in the market area at the relevant time,” Watson said. 

“If a vehicle is provided for free of charge to a campaign, the value of using that vehicle is a permitted political contribution. The value of using the vehicle during the campaign period, as well as any additional costs incurred to add signage, would be an election expense subject to the limit.”

For the 2013 election, the Liberals told Elections BC that they received $8,096,474.55 in contributions of money and $206,660.97 in goods, services and discounts (including contributions through loans and debts). The NDP, meanwhile, reported taking in $9,126,970.95 in money and $202,842.29 in-kind.

During the Vancouver civic election of 2014, leaked documents from CUPE Local 1004 indicated that it paid $10,000 to workers who took time off to volunteer on political campaigns endorsed by the union. The union’s B.C. and national offices matched the political action fund, dollar-for-dollar. 

New Car Dealers’ Qualey (Mackin)

“Under section 186(2)(a) [of the Election Act], if an employer provides compensation to an individual for their services on a campaign, the value of their services is a permitted political contribution made by the employer,” Watson said. “The value of their services may also be an election expense subject to the expense limit depending on the nature of the services used during the campaign period.”

On the topic of campaign financing laws, Qualey said “ultimately it’s up to the people of B.C. to decide what’s good for them. At the moment we don’t see any problems with the way it is now.”

One of the association’s two registered lobbyists, Mark Jiles, was mentioned in a Globe and Mail story last month about lobbyists breaking one of the few campaign finance rules by donating in their names and being reimbursed by their clients. Qualey said he has “no question, no concern that there’s been anything done untoward” by Jiles.

Ex-Liberal MLA Doug Horne is the association’s other lobbyist. 

On March 10, Elections BC handed its investigation of lobbyists’ donations to the RCMP. Two weeks later, on March 24, the BC Liberals said they would refund $93,000 in illegal donations. That was the same day Attorney General Suzanne Anton participated in a $1,000-a-plate Surrey fundraiser for Citizens Services Minister and ex-RCMP officer Amrik Virk. 

The Criminal Justice Branch retained special prosecutor David Butcher on March 29 to assist the Mounties. 

The party said in January that it grossed $12.4 million in 2016 donations, but has stubbornly resisted calls by the NDP, Greens and independent Vicki Huntington to ban corporate and union donations.

Bob Mackin Premier Christy Clark drives a Buick

Bob Mackin

The taxpayer-owned Transportation Investment Corporation deliberately withheld safety documents about the $3 billion-plus Port Mann/Highway 1 Project from theBreaker

Bureaucratic bumbling at TI Corp meant a Freedom of Information request for the required safety audit of the Dec. 1, 2012-opened Port Mann toll bridge was denied. 

The denial was the basis for a Feb. 11 story. Five days later, TI Corp spokesman Greg Johnson claimed that documents did exist, but he said they weren’t sent to theBreaker because they were created before the Sept. 1, 2012 to March 1, 2013 range for the FOI request. 

theBreaker demanded the documents and an explanation. It took until March 24 for Johnson to finally send an Aug. 1, 2012 report, with apologies. 

“The record should have been sent to you as part of your original request,” Johnson wrote. “It wasn’t included because of a too literal interpretation of the dates you specified. I recognize now that wasn’t in the spirit of the [Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy] Act and we’ll take a look at processes here at TI Corp to make sure we’re assisting as best we can in future.”

Winter storms in December 2012 and December 2016 caused accumulation of ice and snow on the bridge’s cables and towers, some of which fell and smashed the windshields of moving vehicles below. 

A source with knowledge of major bridge projects suggested theBreaker find out whether a standard, government-mandated safety audit had considered the risk of so-called “ice bombs” while construction workers finished the bridge. 

Government FOI contractor Hooper

The records show that it did not. 

The mandatory safety audit is about the project in general, rather than the bridge specifically. 

Three engineering experts from Canadian Highways Institute Inc. carried out an audit that covered “the geometrics and laning, typical sections, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and barrier types, signing and pavement markings, which may affect road user safety.”

The scope of the audit, which sought to find potential safety hazards, did not include the cables and towers. John Morrall, Gerald Smith and Robert Dewar’s letter also came with a disclaimer: “no guarantee is made that every deficiency has been identified.” 

Further, it said that if all the suggestions in the report were addressed, it would not confirm the highway as “safe”; rather, the suggestions should improve the level of safety.

Hooper changes her tune

Behind the scenes

When Johnson finally sent the audit, TI Corp’s outsourced information and privacy manager, Bev Hooper, sent theBreaker an email just two minutes later with a $30 invoice to see an estimated 300 pages of internal correspondence about the file. After the Feb. 10 denial, theBreaker asked to see how TI Corp processed and handled the original request. 

theBreaker refused to pay, because government offices and public agencies are not supposed to charge for records created and stored electronically. Hooper’s company eventually sent the 286 pages of partly censored internal correspondence by email, at no charge, on March 29. 

One of the pages shows that Hooper had recommended releasing the report without any redactions. 

“These responsive records do not contain sensitive information that would be harmful to TI Corp.,” Hooper wrote on Jan. 18. “Recommend the records be released in their entirety.” 

Some time between Jan. 18 and Feb. 7, however, someone decided not to follow that recommendation. Hooper was in regular communication with TI Corp officials, including Johnson. 

Hooper’s original Feb. 7 proposed response letter said “…we have completed a thorough search of our records and have not located any records that are responsive to your request within the timeframe noted above. If you wish to revise the timeframe, we will reopen your request at that time.” 

Instead, theBreaker received a Feb. 10 letter that said: “Please be advised that we have completed a thorough search of our records and have not located any records that are responsive to your request.”

It is not clear why the change was made, because many of the emails are censored under an exception that covers advice and recommendations. 

A sign-off form names Hooper, and five TI Corp executives who decide what gets released, including CEO Irene Kerr and vice-president of tolling, Max Logan. Logan is married to Kim Chan Logan, a Telus lobbyist who is running for the BC Liberals against NDP incumbent Mabel Elmore in Vancouver Kensington.

An online FOI manual for public workers says that public bodies, such as TI Corp, are bound by a legislated duty to assist FOI applicants, “to make every reasonable effort to assist applicants and to respond openly, accurately, completely and without delay.”

Rulings by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner have said public bodies must handle the wording of requests liberally, rather than literally, and clarify requests that may be vaguely worded. “The duty to assist obliges the head of the public body to defer to the applicant’s wishes.”

“The access ‘partnership’ between public bodies and applicants covers both the formal rights and duties under the Act and the informal contacts during the request process. Employees, members and officials of public bodies must work with applicants in a partnership to process every request: both parties have an interest in the efficient, timely processing of requests. Informal contacts between both parties should extend well beyond the formal duties imposed by the Act and regulations.”

TI Corp is also the Crown corporation in charge of the controversial, $3.5 billion-plus Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. Late last year, Premier Christy Clark appointed her former chief of staff, retired Highways Deputy Minister Dan Doyle, as TI Corp chair. 

SMN 2473 Rev 00 – P0 – HW Road Safety Audit Highway 1 Accelerated Tollin… by BobMackin on Scribd

Combined Files Redacted Reduced by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The taxpayer-owned Transportation Investment Corporation deliberately

Bob Mackin 

Moray Keith (Mackin)

That the B.C. Lions are for sale is not news, but owner David Braley’s video on the Lions’ website has Canadian Football League fans talking. 

Ontario auto parts magnate Braley bought the team in 1997. The former Hamilton Tiger-Cats boss also owned the Toronto Argonauts from 2010 to 2015. The 75-year-old set no sale deadline, only to say that he does not want to own the Leos when he’s 95. 

Braley did not say who is vying to take-over the 1954-established club, which has suffered an attendance slump at B.C. Place Stadium over the last three years. The actual 17,533 attendance for last November’s West semi-final win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was a record low for a Lions’ home playoff game.

A source leaked a list of the suitors for the six-time Grey Cup champs to theBreaker

  • Luigi Aquilini – Aquilini Investment Group
  • Roberto Bosa – Bosa Ventures
  • Alex G. Tsakumis – Trigate Properties Group
  • Moray Keith – Dueck Auto Group
  • Mark Woodall – Special Risk Insurance Managers
  • David Sidoo – East/West Petroleum 

David Sidoo

University of B.C. Thunderbirds booster Sidoo played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1983 to 1987, retired as a Lion in 1988 and embarked on a career as an investment banker. 

The Aquilini family owns the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena. It also has extensive farming, real estate and industrial holdings. 

Eldest son Francesco Aquilini counts reigning Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady as a friend and has dreams of owning a National Football League franchise someday. 

Alex G. Tsakumis

Developer Bosa is a prominent Lions sponsor with development holdings in Canada and the U.S. Insurance executive Woodall is also a Lions’ booster. 

Tsakumis was a multimedia commentator on politics, but three years ago returned to a family company with an extensive real estate portfolio spanning two provinces and five states. 

Keith’s Dueck GM is Canada’s biggest car dealership. He is also a driving force behind the Lions’ Waterboys’ business booster group, which met for breakfast at the Vancouver International Autoshow on March 29.

“Other than confirming I’ve had very cordial conversations with Mr. Braley, I can’t provide you with anything further at this point,” Tsakumis said to theBreaker. “Anyone should be privileged to own a sports asset like the B.C. Lions.”

Roberto Bosa

“I just adore the Lions, a wonderful community asset,” Keith told theBreaker. “Whoever is lucky enough to be the owner of the Lions, this isn’t something you’re going to make a lot of money on, this is something you’ve got to have a passion for.”

Last year, Braley’s price tag was rumoured to be around $40 million, but has since come down to $20 million. 

“What’s the right number on the team? I don’t know,” Keith said. “If you do it as a business proposition it’s going to be a lot lower than it is if you buy it on a valuation that’s done from your heart.” 

Lions’ training camp begins May 25 in Kamloops. Regular season kicks-off June 24 at B.C. Place with a visit from the Edmonton Eskimos. 

Bob Mackin  [caption id="attachment_4355" align="alignright" width="221"] Moray Keith

Bob Mackin 

Ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a chorus of former Conservative MPs in mourning the March 26 death of aide Shaun Webb. 

“Shaun has been a longtime friend and trusted advisor whose immeasurable knowledge, dedication, quick wit and gentle manner will be long and sorely missed,” Harper wrote on a website in memory of Webb. “Shaun was blessed with intellectual curiosity, an encyclopedic memory, and an impressive capacity for bringing facts and original insight to bear on complicated issues.”

Shaun Webb

Webb, 34, suffered a leg injury on vacation in Panama and died from post-surgery complications at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Webb was an assistant in North Vancouver Conservative MP Andrew Saxton’s office in 2008 and worked five years in the Prime Minister’s Office as Harper’s regional affairs advisor for B.C. and the three territories. He joined Harper and Associates last year and most recently was a communications and media buying consultant on Future Prosperity B.C.’s anti-NDP attack advertising campaign. He told theBreaker in January that the campaign was not related to his Harper and Associates duties.

“Quite insightful, he was a quick study on the issues and surrounding environment, very political. Somebody that was helpful to us, for sure,” John Winter, Future Prosperity B.C. spokesperson, told theBreaker

Webb came to Canada in 1999 from South Africa, graduated from Cariboo Hill secondary in Burnaby and earned a mathematics bachelor’s degree from Simon Fraser University, where he was vice-president of the Young BC Liberals club. He is survived by his mother, Felicity.

The website includes tributes from Stockwell Day, John Reynolds, Ryan Leef, John Weston and John Duncan. A memorial is scheduled for April 7 at the Vancouver Club. 

Winter said he did not know Webb was involved with Harper’s firm when he hired him for the now-completed “Say Anything John” campaign. Winter said the March 29 wind-up was unrelated to Webb’s death. He declined to say how much was raised or how much was spent for the South Park-style animated ad critical of B.C. NDP leader John Horgan. 

“We met our goals,” Winter said. “I’m not going to tell you how much it was. We were quite pleased with the diversity and the amount of the money from the various sources.”

When the ad hoc group launched in January, Winter told reporters the campaign was planning to spend around $2 million by the end of March. Third-party political ad campaigns that end before the April 11 election writ are not required to register with Elections BC or report their financials. 

Winter’s silent partners were ex-B.C. Maritime Employers Association CEO Frank Pasacreta and ex-Independent Contractors and Business Association of B.C. chair Jim Laurence. 

Coincidentally, an Insights West survey released March 28 found 55% of respondents believed Premier Christy Clark would say anything to get elected, versus only 18% for Horgan. 

British Columbia votes May 9. 

Bob Mackin  Ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a

A. Brian Amadan

A British Columbia success story is coming home. 

The electioneering BC Liberals will today announce the $4.01 billion acquisition of controlling interest in Flickr, the free online photo gallery developed in Vancouver in 2004 and acquired by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo in 2005. 

Headquarters will return to Vancouver and co-founders Stewart Butterfield and Catherina Fake will return in senior executive roles. 

B.C. government’s Lickr plan

U.S. telecommunications giant Verizon acquired depressed search engine Yahoo last summer. Negotiations took place in mid-March with Verizon executives who were visiting Vancouver for the government-sponsored #BCTECH Summit. Verizon will retain a minority interest and the app will stay within the Yahoo content universe.

The big surprise, however, will be the subtle, yet strategic, rebranding.

A leaked copy of the B.C. government’s photo gallery shows the new word mark “Lickr” — Flickr without the F — on a page featuring photographs from beer, wine and spirits industry events attended by Premier Christy Clark and others. According to a briefing note for Liquor Distribution Minister Coralee Oakes, the post-acquisition business plan will involve increased promotion of the province’s beverage alcohol industry. 

Since winning a surprise re-election in 2013, the deregulation and expansion of the liquor industry across the province has been the only major Liberal policy that has unfolded as planned.

The world natural gas glut has prevented Clark’s LNG vision from blooming. The party’s loosely regulated fundraising regime has become a key election issue and spawned an RCMP investigation into allegedly illegal donations by lobbyists. 

Critics have pointed to a litany of social problems, such as small town school closures, criminal trial delays, deaths of abused and neglected foster children, senior citizens left to languish in hospital hallways, and homeless camps. But the Liberals are hoping voters see beyond all of that when they go to the polls on May 9. The liquor modernization strategy spurred the proliferation of independent wineries, breweries and distilleries in urban and rural areas. B.C. bars finally got happy hour in 2014, government liquor stores are now open Sundays and many boast refrigerated beer.

The acquisition of Flickr and rebranding as Lickr will be formally announced at a noon news conference on April 1 at the B.C. Liquor Store on Cambie Street near 41st in Vancouver.

The event will feature a reunion of Liberal liquor ministers Rich Coleman, Suzanne Anton, John Yap and Oakes, and free samples from Penticton’s Laughing Stock Vineyards

A. Brian Amadan A British Columbia success story

Bob Mackin

A North Vancouver highway project meant to alleviate traffic jams, and help federal and B.C. Liberals get re-elected, is scope creep central.

Jan. 28: $150 million

In April 2015, the Harper Conservative government threw its support behind the project, which was estimated to cost $100 million.

By early 2016, with the Trudeau Liberals in power, the cost rose to $150 million. A sign with that figure, but missing the federal government logo, was erected at the top of The Cut.

It was still standing on Jan. 28, the day after politicians — including the four North Shore Liberal MLAs — announced a fourth phase for the project and a new $198 million price tag.

That’s conveniently $2 million shy of $200 million.

For all intents and purposes, this fledgling project has doubled in cost. A new sign was spotted March 25, and it includes the Liberal-ordered, politically strategic message “600 new jobs.”

The scheduled completion date of 2021 is also strategic. That’s a B.C. election year.

March 25: $198 million

On March 31, workers were busy erecting another sign on the opposite side of the highway, touting more highway improvements.

No doubt, North Shore drivers deserve to be ignored no longer. The afternoon traffic jams to depart the North Shore for Vancouver and points east have become bigger than those in the morning. But North Shore residents also deserve transparent and fiscally responsible infrastructure projects that aren’t engineered for vote-buying.

Blacktop politics is a B.C. tradition and, in the spirit of Socred legend Flyin’ Phil Gaglardi, that’s what the BC Liberals hope can drive them to another sweep of the four North Shore ridings.

Bob Mackin A North Vancouver highway project meant

Bob Mackin

Three days after the BC Liberal Party says it recorded $400,000 in donations from companies associated with Wall Financial Corp., president Bruno Wall signed over Chinatown land to BC Housing for almost $6.7 million. 

BC Housing released documents on March 28 about the sale and development of an 11-storey, 172-unit project at 288 East Hastings. Rents will be as low as $375 a month for low-income residents of 104 units, but Wall will offer the other 68 for between $1,242 to $1,972 a month. NDP critic David Eby had challenged Housing Minister Rich Coleman to release the documents after tabling a leaked report about the project in the Legislature on March 9. Coleman had vowed to provide them by March 23.

Bruno Wall-signed land title transfer

The Liberals unaudited donors’ list for 2016 showed that the Walls gave the party $400,000 through three companies on Feb. 26, 2016: $200,000 from 2300 Kingsway Residences and $100,000 each from PWO Investments and BJW Investments. But a source told theBreaker the donations were connected to a Feb. 23, 2016 private dinner attended by Premier Christy Clark and Deputy Premier Rich Coleman. 

Unlike other jurisdictions, B.C. has no laws regulating the size or source of donations to provincial or municipal political parties or candidates. 

PWO and BJW were named in minutes of BC Housing’s Nov. 23, 2015 board meeting as the Wall companies that would provide development guarantees for the $39.5 million East Hastings and Gore project. The BC Housing board voted to spend $7.07 million to buy the land and loan Wall $35.93 million to develop the site, at an interest rate just under 1%. The Walls, in turn, hired builder ITC Construction. 

Wall Financial founder Peter Wall gave $4,000 through the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel on Nov. 12, 2015. Wall Financial donated $12,000 on Dec. 31, 2015. 

The board report said the property had a $3.9 million mortgage outstanding and BC Assessment valued the land at $4.792 million, “which is considered a low or conservative estimate of value versus formal appraisal.” The Wall-owned 292 East Hastings Holdings Ltd. bought the land in 2014 and proposed the private-public partnership to BC Housing in August 2015. Options to redevelop the land are limited by a City of Vancouver Downtown Eastside zoning bylaw that requires at least 60% of units to be non-market rentals. 

The board spent four minutes on the matter and BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay left the room because of a conflict of interest. His wife, Janice Abbott, heads Atira Women’s Resource Society, the potential operator of the building.

BC Housing board minutes, Nov. 23, 2015

BC Housing already owned the Orange Hall at the northwest corner of East Hastings and Gore and Vancouver Coastal Health has plans to redevelop the former Buddhist temple on the northeast corner. First United Church is on the southeast corner. 

“Together this intersection, or the so-called four corners of the Hastings and Gore intersection, if viewed from a global context, can play an integral part in the fabric and services that are being offered to the local community and for BC Housing’s mandate to serve homeless and those at risk of homelessness,” the report said. 

A BC Housing official conducted a not-for-attribution technical briefing for reporters on March 28. Reporters asked why the Crown corporation did not buy the land and seek competitive bids from other developers, who could have built more units for less cost to taxpayers.

“If Wall was interested in selling us that parcel and then exiting the deal, it could’ve proceeded on that basis,” the official said. “But that wasn’t what this deal was about. Wall wanted to be involved in it.”

Demolition began March 2016 and site work was underway last spring. BC Housing says it anticipates completion in February 2018.

Coleman did not attend the briefing and did not respond to theBreaker. Bruno Wall did not respond for comment. 

No BC Housing officials answered a reporter’s question about why the site contains no signage identifying Wall as the developer or BC Housing as the funder.

 

Wall 288 E. Hastings BC Housing by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Three days after the BC Liberal

Bob Mackin 

B.C. government Facebook, March 27

Did a real jihadist hijack the British Columbia government’s Facebook page on March 27 or was it the work of a premature April Fool’s Day prankster? 

The site briefly featured images of fire, a person wearing military fatigues, and Arabic script meaning “we are the government.” 

Awkward Tweets after account hacked

First, the B.C. government Tweeted that it was “vandalized” and later that it was “compromised.” On Tuesday, it used the latter word again. 

“The B.C. government’s Facebook page was compromised but the issue has now been resolved,” said a prepared statement sent by Rodney Porter. “The province is in contact with Facebook to determine how best to mitigate or prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future. This was a matter related solely to Facebook. We worked with Facebook to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.”

Porter did not answer whether the government is investigating the incident internally or whether police had been contacted. 

A representative of Facebook, who refused publication of their name, told theBreaker “their page got hacked, we were able to restore access after they filed a complaint.”

The Facebook representative recommended users pick a strong password, not share it with anyone, and read Facebook’s security features and security tips pages. 

The B.C. election is May 9 and, like the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook will be a battleground. The Liberals have produced Facebook video profiles of their candidates. NDP has two attack ads so far, the latest using the image of rotting strawberries as a metaphor for Liberal government corruption. 

Bob Mackin  [caption id="attachment_4332" align="alignright" width="415"] B.C. government

Bob Mackin

In 2013, he was on Premier Christy Clark’s much-maligned #DebtFreeBC bus. A British Columbia political celebrity, the grandson of Social Credit legend W.A.C. Bennett and son of Bill Bennett.

Except for Dave Barrett’s brief NDP interlude from 1972 to 1975, a Bennett was the B.C. premier between 1952 and 1986.   

Bennett and Clark in 2013 (Twitter)

Kelowna’s Brad Bennett, the Clark-appointed BC Hydro chair since 2015, is going out on the campaign trail again, “from writ day to e-day.” 

But will he temporarily step aside from his role atop the province’s biggest Crown corporation, which is building the $9 billion Site C dam?

No, he told theBreaker.  

“Needless to say, the 28-day campaign is a very limited period of time, but it’s one I am prepared to give my attention,” Bennett said via email. “The BC Hydro board and its committees are not meeting during this period.

“As I’ve said before – I encourage all citizens to become involved in the democratic process in the way they are comfortable and able to participate.”

During the 2013 election campaign, Liberal candidates Peter Fassbender and Suzanne Anton remained on the B.C. Pavilion Corporation board, only resigning after they were elected. Fassbender even did an interview at his campaign office to oppose an NDP promise aimed at privatizing B.C. Place Stadium. Fassbender is the municipal affairs minister and Anton the attorney general, both running for re-election.

The code of conduct for provincial board appointees says: In general, a conflict of interest exists for directors who use their position at the organization to benefit themselves, friends or families. A director should not use his or her position with the organization to pursue or advance the director’s personal interests, the interests of a related person, the director’s business associate, corporation, union or partnership, or the interests of a person to whom the director owes an obligation.

BC Hydro has long provided positions of prominence to friends of the party in power. Premier Mike Harcourt appointed NDP-friendly lawyer John Laxton as chair in 1993. Laxton resigned in disgrace amid the 1996 “Hydrogate” scandal. Reporters David Baines and Jeff Lee discovered that Laxton was an investor in British Virgin Islands companies that held shares in a private subsidiary of BC Hydro that was developing a power project in Pakistan. Then NDP-premier Glen Clark turned to former Socred Attorney General Brian Smith to take over from Saxton in 1996. 

Today’s Premier Clark is under fire for exempting the Site C project from a B.C. Utilities Commission review, costly BC Hydro contracts with run-of-river power projects, and rising electricity rates for British Columbians.  

Clark represents a riding in Kelowna, but lives in a $3.7 million house in Dunbar registered to a business associate of part-time Kelowna resident, Greg Kerfoot. Clark has not disclosed where she stays in Kelowna, on the rare occasions that she does not fly home to Vancouver after daytime photo ops. 

Bob Mackin In 2013, he was on Premier