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Bob Mackin

As swan song speeches in the British Columbia Legislature go, Gordon Hogg’s has to go down as one of the more memorable. 

The Surrey-White Rock BC Liberal is not running in the May 9 provincial election after a five-term career that included four undersecretary portfolios. He was the first minister of children and family development under Premier Gordon Campbell from June 2001 to January 2004. His successor in the most-mismanaged part of the B.C. government? Future premier Christy Clark. 

Hogg has taken to waxing philosophical in his statements to the Legislature. Near the end of this final installment, on March 15, he thanked friends, family, constituents and others.

“Do I have time to mention the rest of the people I wanted to mention?” he said.

I will quickly try and find where I wrote them. I’ll hum for you a little bit. I’m a really good…. I’ve got a rap song that’s on YouTube, if you’d like to hear a couple bits of that.

He’s so fly, rapping with your bling.

He’s so fly, rapping when you sing.

My homies and my peeps are happy in the hood.

My homies and my peeps are doing what they should.

Find out what you’ve got. Give it up. Take it home.

Gee, where did all those papers go?

Watch the clip below.

Clark, who became premier in 2011, was not in the Legislature for the last Wednesday sitting before the election, so she did not witness “hip hop Hogg” in person. Her excuse was a photo op at the B.C. Tech Summit in Vancouver. Was the real reason rooted in superstition, to avoid her caucus mates on the Ides of March? 

Hogg, a former 10-year White Rock mayor, earned his doctorate in criminology from Simon Fraser University last year and is an adjunct professor there. According to numbers crunched by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, he will earn $82,607 in his first year as a pensioner. By the time he is 80, he will have been paid $805,800. 

Which would buy a lot of bling. 

Bob Mackin As swan song speeches in the

Bob Mackin

The Vancouver office of KPMG is back in the news.

The recent CBC Fifth Estate documentary, “The Untouchables,” described KPMG’s 1999-hatched Isle of Man tax-avoidance scheme. 

Now KPMG comes under the microscope of theBreaker for large donations made to the BC Liberal Party. Specifically, the $150,203 listed in the Elections B.C. database from 2005 to 2010. 

The donations ranged from a single contribution of $65 on April 8, 2005 to four for $20,000 (Dec. 31, 2007; Oct. 29, 2008; Dec. 10, 2009; and Dec. 28, 2010). David McShane and Eric Watt were named as KPMG’s principal officers in the Elections B.C. political donations database. 

Who are they? 

Watt was Premier Christy Clark’s financial agent for her 2011 leadership campaign. He retired from the firm as a senior partner in 2012. In 2014, he was named to the Knowledge Network board via cabinet order.

McShane was the managing partner of the Vancouver office, but never was involved in making any of the 24 separate donations spanning five years. He died of cancer on July 17, 2004 at age 49. 

How did the name of a deceased accounting executive end up in the B.C. Liberal Party’s disclosures to Elections B.C. for so many years after his death? 

“This was an inadvertent administrative error,” KPMG national spokeswoman Tenille Kennedy told theBreaker. “We have been in touch with the Liberal Party, who administers the information, to have this corrected with Elections B.C. as quickly as possible.”

On March 10, Elections B.C. said it called in the RCMP after a Globe and Mail story about big donations to the BC Liberals by lobbyists. IntegrityBC said March 14 that it will send the RCMP a list of 727 suspicious donations by 118 BC Liberal donors totalling nearly $1.6 million.

Watt’s name, meanwhile, is attached to another $173,450 in donations to the Liberals through Jan. 1, 2016, mostly with CEO Elio Luongo. There were also three KPMG donations to the NDP for $8,700. Watt also donated $3,500 to the Liberals under his own name at the end of 2009.

KPMG is the official auditor retained by BC Hydro and B.C. Lottery Corporation. The head of KPMG’s global infrastructure practice is Gary Webster, who has been contracted to review aspects of the $3 billion-plus Port Mann toll bridge and the nearly $9 billion Site C dam.

For the year ended March 31, 2016, the central government’s Public Accounts show that KPMG billed taxpayers $2,581,843, plus another $109,346 through April 2016. 

Bob Mackin The Vancouver office of KPMG is

Bob Mackin

The Vancouver real estate tycoons who donated $400,000 to the BC Liberals on one day in February 2016 got a sweetheart deal to build a Downtown Eastside social housing tower, according to the NDP’s housing critic.

In Question Period on March 9, David Eby quoted from a leaked August 2015 Provincial Rental Housing Corporation [PRHC] report that recommended a $35,928,300 development agreement with Wall Financial Corp. to build an 11-storey project on East Hastings and Gore on the edge of Chinatown. The report  budgeted $3,316,000 for “consultants” and recommended the division of taxpayer-owned B.C. Housing also pay Wall Financial $6,391,350 for the land. 

Architect’s drawing of 288 East Hastings (BC Housing)

“It’s no wonder that the Wall Corp. and its principals donated $400,000 to the B.C. Liberals in 2016,” Eby said in Question Period. “They had an extra $3.3 million [developer’s fee] in B.C. Housing money to spend. This is money that was supposed to be spent to house the poorest of the poor, and it was given to a B.C. Liberal donor to do something they had to do anyway, under the zoning bylaws.”

Rich Coleman, the Housing Minister and Deputy Premier, appeared surprised at Eby’s question.

“It would be unusual for us to do what the member described, but it is not unusual for us to enter into an agreement to take affordable rental units that we can subsidize in the marketplace for people that need housing in Vancouver or anywhere else in the province of British Columbia,” responded Coleman, who also co-chairs the party’s 2017 election campaign.

According to public documents, Wall Financial founder Peter Wall and president Bruno Wall and two of their relatives showered the BC Liberal Party with six-figure donations, the week before the land sale was registered.

The party’s unaudited report for last year shows Feb. 26, 2016 donations from two Peter Wall companies, 2300 Kingsway Residences ($200,000) and PWO Investments ($100,000), his nephew Bruno Wall’s BJW Investment ($100,000), plus John Redekop Construction ($200,000) and Peter Redekop ($100,000).

In January, theBreaker reported that the donations were actually connected to a Feb. 23, 2016-held, Patrick Kinsella-coordinated private fundraising dinner at the Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver. Coleman and Premier Christy Clark were special guests. More than $1 million was raised for the party’s 2017 re-election campaign.

Unlike other provinces, British Columbia has no limit on the size or source of political donations. The Liberals reported raising more than $12.4 million last year.

A search by theBreaker of the Land Title and Survey Authority of B.C. database showed a March 1, 2016 application to transfer ownership of the site from Wall-owned 292 East Hastings Holdings Ltd. to PRHC. The declared value was $6,699,984 — $1.9 million higher than the 2015 assessment. 

Vancouver city hall’s development permit board approved rezoning at the end of January 2016 for the property, now known as 288 East Hastings. Last June, city council approved a $1.04 million subsidy for 104 social housing units. The other 68 will be secured market rental units. Construction of the $39.5 million project began last August. No signs for Wall, PRHC or B.C. Housing were visible outside the site on March 10.

“B.C. Housing has estimated that the cost associated with the social housing component is ~$19.2 million,” read the civic report. “B.C. Housing is responsible for the design, construction and financing of the project, including any take-out financing.”

288 East Hastings under construction, March 10 (Mackin)

Eby told theBreaker in an interview that he was unhappy with many aspects of the deal, including glaring omissions from documents released under freedom of information by Shayne Ramsay, who is the CEO of both B.C. Housing and PRHC.

“I don’t like that when I ask for a list of B.C. Housing-financed projects that this one was left off the list,” Eby said. “I don’t like that the Walls were obligated to build this housing under the zoning and yet B.C. Housing appears to have picked-up the carrying costs of that property and all the construction charges for the Walls, and I don’t like that the Walls seem to be getting some sort of administration fee from B.C. Housing all for doing something they would have had to do under the zoning any way.”

The PRHC report mentioned that Atira Women’s Resource Centre was the preferred agency to operate the social housing. Atira’s CEO Janice Abbott is the wife of Ramsay. Ramsay did not respond for comment.

Bruno Wall also did not respond.

ITC Construction Group, which donated $60,000 to the Liberals on Feb. 26, 2016, is the builder. Rent for the 104 social housing units would range from $375 to $912 per month.

In its annual report for the year-ended Jan. 31, 2016, Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Wall reported a $23.7 million profit on $133.2 million revenue, with $900.3 million in assets. Elections BC’s database shows Peter and Bruno Wall gave $474,795 to the Liberals between 2005 and 2015.  

PRHC Board_Executive Committee Submission by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The Vancouver real estate tycoons who

Bob Mackin

Fassbender: has a cupcake and eats it too

After more than a year of promising a “made in B.C. solution” to legalize ride-hailing services, B.C.’s minister for transit and taxis unveiled what is instead a “made for the B.C. election strategy.” 

On March 7, Peter Fassbender announced Uber and Lyft would be welcome in B.C., but not until Christmastime. 

For the remaining nine months, which includes the May 9 election and the lucrative spring-to-fall cruise ship season, the taxi cartel will continue to enjoy its monopoly. The Liberals pledge to give the cartel $1 million from taxpayers to create a B.C. taxi app and another $3.5 million to install crash avoidance technology in cabs. It will also get to pick-up and drop-off passengers across any municipal boundary.

This, just over a year since Fassbender told a Vancouver meeting of taxi drivers: “We as a government are concerned about the future of the taxi industry first and foremost. And why is that? That is because all of you in this room, all of the companies represented, all of the individual drivers in this province have invested their lives into this industry and families’ lives are at stake in terms of the future of the industry.” 

Make no mistake, this is an election campaign strategy more than an economic development move. The Liberals want to dangle a carrot in front of tech-savvy millennial voters who are demanding Uber, but they don’t want to turn their backs on voters from the large South Asian community that supplies many of B.C.’s taxi drivers.

Fassbender was the first Liberal to open a campaign office last September. He won the Surrey-Fleetwood riding in 2013 by only 200 votes over the NDP’s Jagrup Brar. Surrey is a nine-riding battleground for the May 9 election, home to many taxi drivers and owners. Likewise for Abbotsford and South Vancouver. 

Between 2005 and 2015, the NDP counted more donations from cab companies than the BC Liberals: $120,300 to $96,415.

In the Liberals’ unaudited 2016 list of donors, the Vancouver Taxi Association kicked-in another $27,450.

Taxi activism 

Taxi drivers in other cities around the world, from London to Rio de Janeiro, have met 21st century ride-hailing competitors with protests. 

Vancouver hasn’t seen a coordinated taxi strike since April 3, 1998, when 150 drivers parked their cabs on Sea Island, creating gridlock around Vancouver International Airport.

Some flustered travellers hauled their luggage from Vancouver, across the Arthur Laing Bridge, to the terminal. As a reporter covering the protest for the Richmond News, it was like finding myself on the freeway brought to standstill in REM’s “Everybody Hurts” video. Instead of song, I was surrounded by spoken Punjabi. 

At issue was the airport authority’s requirement that drivers take the TaxiHost course, drive cars less than nine years old and pay $1 per pickup. Even though their $1,440 a year licence fee was dropped to $300, the pickup charge would result in $3,500 in additional costs for drivers already forced to work overtime to scrape by. 

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered the cabs to move. They continued to boycott until the airport authority agreed to soften its stance. The industry has never been the same since the Canada Line opened in August 2009, giving passengers a cheaper option to reach downtown Vancouver. 

Monark

While Fassbender and the Liberals dillied and dallied, one of their friends cleverly jumped into the market. 

Surrey’s Monark Ventures is behind the Uber-inspired Kater app that matches car owners with $25-an-hour freelance chauffeurs. 

Monark donated $61,900 from 2014 to 2016 to the Liberals — including $28,000 on Dec. 23, 2014. 

Monark vice-president since last November is Kareem Allam, a former aide to ex-Finance Minister Kevin Falcon. Allam has donated $12,718 to the party between 2008 and 2014. He was appointed to the Fraser Health board of directors in January. 

Four years ago, when the Liberals spent $11 million of taxpayer funds on the Times of India Film Awards at B.C. Place Stadium, Monark was a bulk ticket reseller. 

TaxiLink?

Why was TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond at the Fassbender news conference? 

TransLink’s Coast Mountain Bus Company is a big cab user. Really big. 

During the 2015 calendar year, it paid 16 companies $2,500,810, mostly to act as substitutes for the HandyDart minibuses for people with disabilities. 

Yellow Cab Co. Ltd. ($367,411), Bonny’s Taxi Ltd. ($296,814) and Black Top Cabs ($285,639) were the top three suppliers. Half the companies on the list billed in six-figures. 

Advocates for the disabled have repeatedly slammed TransLink for shoddy HandyDart service and the increasing reliance on taxi drivers untrained to deal with special needs passengers. 

Let’s all go to the lobby

Lobbyist Pantazopoulos

Hill and Knowlton vice-president Sarah Weddell is the hired gun for the B.C. Taxi Association. For the Vancouver Taxi Association, the cartel of Yellow, MacLure’s, Black Top and Vancouver Taxi, it’s Craig Jangula.

Jangula was aide to ex-Liberal cabinet minister Mary McNeil for four years. 

Weddell is a former BC Liberal staffer who was campaign manager for George Abbott’s unsuccessful bid to become premier in 2011.

On the other side, Maple Leaf Strategies is the lobbying company for Uber. Its Vancouver office is headed up by Dimitri Pantazopoulos, the Ontario Conservative who came west to be a top aide to Clark and later the 2013 campaign’s internal pollster. He’s reprising his role for the 2017 campaign. Pantazopoulos donated $2,770 in 2016.

Pantazopoulos opened his lobbying shop in summer 2013 in an office just two floors down from Clark’s Vancouver office in the World Trade Centre at Canada Place.  

Lyft is represented by Ginny Movat of Crestview Strategy in Toronto. 

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Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_4253" align="alignright" width="259"] Fassbender: has

theBreaker has obtained a copy of the Vancouver School Board’s Feb. 17 report by a lawyer hired to investigate allegations that elected trustees bullied senior staff.

The report was released via freedom of information just four days after VSB awkwardly released an executive summary that did not name names.

Mike Lombardi

Though Roslyn Goldner’s report is heavily censored, it is critical of chair Mike Lombardi and ex-chair Patti Bacchus, two of the four Vision Vancouver trustees re-elected in 2014. All nine trustees were fired Oct. 17 by Education Minister Mike Bernier after months of bickering over a budget deficit, a government-ordered audit and an aborted study of cost-saving school closures. 

Goldner’s report also cited the bungled implementation of the PeopleSoft payroll program, a “shared services program with the Department of Health and Public Service that was shepherded by Telus. The project was complex and according to some [censored] staff was implemented too soon resulting in confusion, overpayments and near pay fails.”

As for the allegations of a toxic work environment, Goldner wrote that the “board… was dominated by partisan politics and the advancement of a political rather than district agenda.”

Patti Bacchus

“While witnesses described the events of 2016 as creating a perfect storm, which led to the unprecedented situation in which all members of the senior management team left the workplace on leave, the majority of witnesses described a history of board dysfunction and bullying and harassment in the workplace. The consistent view expressed by witnesses, a view supported by the audit, was thea the systemic issues within the district created an environment in which board dysfunction was the norm and was tolerated, condoned and even rewarded.”

“Some trustees engaged in yelling, name calling and table pounding while others responded to their colleagues with eye-rolling and audible sighs. Some trustees routinely tweeted throughout meetings, conduct that was described by many witnesses as disruptive and disrespectful. While witnesses agreed that not all trustees behaved badly the board did nothing to intervene or to indicate that this conduct was inappropriate and unacceptable. This behaviour manifest at committee meetings and in private and public board meetings.”

Roslyn Goldner

The Sept. 26 public meeting was when things came to a head, Goldner wrote.

“According to witnesses, Trustee Bacchus then asked a series of questions related to other budget expenditures pointing out that many processes were undertaken without a dedicated budget and if this were the case then why could this not be done for the additional consultation. Witnesses reported that Trustee Bacchus paused after her questions as the audience laughed at the discomfort of the Superintendent. There was no intervention from any trustees and no attempt to restore order by trustee Lombardi in his capacity as chair…”

Goldner wrote that all nine trustees agreed to be interviewed and were interviewed after they were fired and replaced by an appointed trustee.

“Ex-trustee Lombardi had been criticized in his role as Chair of the Board for his failure to maintain order in meetings and a failure to promote respectful exchange of ideas and information.

“Several trustees acknowledged that the conduct of Trustees, both NPA and Vision Vancouver trustees, in private board meetings was disrespectful and rude. Several Trustees noted that the stakeholder representatives who attended committee and board meetings were also highly partisan and used these meetings to promote their agenda to ‘get rid of the Liberal government.” It was noted that there was a lack of objective, independent people at meetings.”

The report described meetings with consultants over the proposed school closures. (The name of the consultant, Context Research Ltd., does not appear in the version of the report that was released.) 

“Several [censored] trustees advocated for the use of town hall meetings to facilitate public input. Several witnesses reported that the consultants strongly recommended against this approach as not being an effective way to engage the public or to gather reliable and representative input. The consultants noted that this forum largely attracts a partisan and politicized audience that is already decided and not representative of a cross section of the affected population.

“Several witnesses reported that staff were not in favour or town hall meetings… also , some staff expressed concern about security at these meetings but this was dismissed by the board.” 

Read the Goldner report below.

Rosyln Goldner Report-Mackin FOI by BobMackin on Scribd

theBreaker has obtained a copy of the

Bob Mackin

The Prince George Cougars’ $5,950 donation to the BC Liberals was the biggest in the party’s unaudited report for Feb. 17-22. 

The Cougars donated almost exactly a year after Prince George-Valemount Liberal MLA (and notable Cougars’ fan) Shirley Bond signed a cabinet order excusing B.C.’s six Western Hockey League team owners from paying the scholarship-eligible players $10.85-an-hour.  

WHL team owners are battling a class action lawsuit aimed at forcing them to pay players the minimum wage, which would add $280,000 in costs to each team. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that the 16-to-20-year-old players are entitled to more than a $250-a-month stipend and room and board because the teams are multimillion-dollar, for-profit businesses that rely on the sale of tickets, souvenirs and advertising as well as proceeds from broadcast contracts.  

Greg Pocock leads the Cougars’ six-man ownership group, which includes Cougars’ alumni Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis, that paid $6.4 million for the franchise in 2014. He refused to comment on the lawsuit because it is before the courts. By email, Pocock told theBreaker: “I am proud to support any political or non-political group that works tirelessly for the betterment of our province.”

The Cougars are not Pocock’s primary business. He owns industrial cleaning contractor Prince George Hydro Mechanical and co-owns the Forest Power Sports recreational vehicle dealer.

A Feb. 1 review of KPMG’s WHL financial summary by forensic auditor Ronald Smith says that the Cougars had $2.4 million in revenue, but lost $785,000 last year.

“Notwithstanding that the team lost an average of approximately $711,000 per year during the fiscal years/periods ended June 30, 2012 and 2013 and March 31, 2014, the purchaser appears to have paid $6,381,133 for goodwill, based on its balance sheets,” Smith wrote about the Cougars. “The team had losses of approximately $1,057,000 and $785,000 in fiscal years ended June 30, 2015 and 2016 respectively and the goodwill is still on the balance sheet in the amount of $6,381,133.

“It does not appear that team believes that there has been an impairment in the value of goodwill.”

Internal B.C. government documents, released under freedom of information, show that Pocock and co-owner John Pateman, along with WHL commissioner Ron Robison, first met with Labour Minister Bond in 2014 to lobby for the minimum wage exemption. 

“We very much appreciate that you are in support of our position to preserve the amateur athlete status of WHL players who participate on our B.C. based WHL teams,” Robison wrote on Sept. 3, 2014. “We are also very appreciative of the fact that you are prepared to have your staff address this matter at the upcoming provincial Labour Minister meetings later this week in Halifax. It is also our understanding you will be reviewing your current employment and labour legislation to determine if it adequately addresses the status of  of amateur athletes in your province.” 

Robison continued his lobbying. In an April 27, 2015 letter to Bond’s assistant deputy minister Trevor Hughes, he mentioned that Washington had excluded the state’s four WHL teams from minimum wage laws. 

B.C. WHL jersey crests outside the Premier’s Vancouver Office. (Mackin)

“The current class action lawsuit against the WHL may not only threaten the viability of our B.C. based franchises, but also have serious implications on the amateur sport system as a whole in the province. It is therefore extremely important this matter be addressed as soon as possible by the cabinet,” wrote Robison.

Kelowna Rockets’ owner Bruce Hamilton emailed his local MLA, Norm Letnick, on Aug. 5, 2015, to seek a meeting. 

“This is an issue that could have a terrible impact in all WHL Team Cities in B.C. Ron Toigo from Vancouver has kept Shirley and the Premier up to date. I just want you informed before this item gets to you,” Hamilton wrote.

The Cougars’ recent donation pales in comparison to the support from Vancouver Giants’ owner Toigo and his companies. The Liberals reported receiving $194,625 from the White Spot restaurants owner between 2005 and 2016. 

Bond submitted a request for cabinet’s priorities and planning committee in late September 2015 to endorse the ministry recommendation to amend the Employment Standards Act to exclude WHL players from minimum wage laws. 

“Workers in a variety of industries, including oil and gas, agriculture, silviculture, trucking and taxis are currently excluded from select parts of the Act,” read Bond’s submission. “Certain professional occupations where individuals are licensed by statute or are self governing by statute — such as physicians and lawyers — are excluded from all of the Act, as are sitters, students and other participates in certain work study or workplace training programs and newspaper carriers who are still in school.”

The minimum wage exemption that the WHL lobbied for was rubber-stamped by cabinet on Feb. 15, 2016.

Bob Mackin The Prince George Cougars’ $5,950 donation

Bob Mackin

Remember that week last November when Premier Christy Clark went to London to meet the Queen and then to Ottawa for a summit on the fentanyl crisis? 

Health Minister Terry Lake and then Solicitor General Mike Morris were tasked with running interference for Clark, after she caught senior bureaucrats, cops and doctors off-guard with these Nov. 17 comments: “Regulating marijuana is even more important now, when we’re finding fentanyl in marijuana. Vancouver Police did a major seizure.”

Vancouver Police had vaguely claimed in March 2015 that fentanyl was showing up in marijuana, but that had never been confirmed. Documents obtained under freedom of information by theBreaker show that Clark’s comments in the nation’s capital set-off a behind-the-scenes flurry as government spinners sought to craft a coherent message on Nov. 18.

Clark and Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair. (BC Gov)

Wrote Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at 7:55 a.m.: “…we don’t know if fentanyl is in cannabis vs. people taking both. We do know most deaths involve multiple substances.”

VPD media spokesman Sgt. Brian Montague said via email at 8:23 a.m.: “I can’t speak for other police departments and I can’t say that fentanyl has not, is not or couldn’t be placed in marijuana, but I can tell you that the VPD has not seized marijuana that has been tested and shown that it has been laced with fentanyl.”

B.C. Director of Police Services Clayton Pecknold added his voice at 8:28 a.m. He copied a statement from Masset RCMP on Nov. 8 that said the Mounties had “reason to believe that there is marijuana available for sale in Masset that is laced with fentanyl.”

(RCMP North District Cpl. Madonna Saunderson told theBreaker in February that “RCMP have been unable to corroborate, either through investigations or drug seizures, of the presence of fentanyl in marijuana.”)

Dr. Perry Kendall, the province’s Chief Medical Officer, chimed-in at 11:18 a.m.: “How would the police, or anyone for that matter, know that fentanyl was in cannabis absent any confirmation through lab testing? And had testing occurred we would have been informed of it wouldn’t we?”

The government, through contractor LifeLabs, said Feb. 1 that it found carfentanil, which is 100 times more powerful a than fentanyl, “in the illegal drug supply in the Lower Mainland and being ingested,” based on 57 of 1,766 urine tests in January. It did not say whether it was found laced with marijuana.

There were 922 deaths by illicit drug overdose in 2016 in B.C., up from 513 in 2015. 

Kendall declared a public health emergency on April 14, 2016.

PSS-2016-64808 records by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Remember that week last November when

Bob Mackin

In midday on March 1, Premier Christy Clark and members of her caucus left the Legislature — while they’re paid by British Columbians to govern — for a campaign photo op at a Victoria construction site with members of the Local 97. (The campaign for the May 9 election isn’t scheduled to officially begin until April 11.)

Doug Parton, the business manager of the 1,800-member union, threw Local 97’s support behind Clark and the Liberals. Clark stood by with a smile under her hardhat as Parton called-out NDP leader John Horgan for siding with Metro Vancouver mayors, who would rather have a subway in Vancouver and light rail in Surrey than a $3.5 billion bridge replace the tunnel from Richmond to Delta.

“In our budget, we’ve got about 24-and-a-half-billion dollars, including Site C, devoted to infrastructure development,” Clark said. “Ironworkers are gonna be a big part of making sure that happens.”

So, how did this union endorsement of a corporate party come about? How much have the BC Liberals promised Local 97?

theBreaker emailed Local 97 president Cecil Damery on March 2 hoping to find out. No reply, so theBreaker called Damery on March 3.

Here is how it went.

theBreaker: “I was hoping to find out more about how the endorsement came about?”

Damery: “No. We’re not going to comment to newspapers.”

theBreaker: “I was wondering if there was a vote done by the general membership or if it was the executive committee that made the decision?

Damery: “That’s none of your business. Are you a member here?”

theBreaker: “No. I’m a reporter.”

Damery: “No. I said no comment.”

theBreaker: “When did you start talking to the BC Liberals? When was the decision made?”

Damery: “Is that any of your business?”

theBreaker: “It’s a reasonable question.”

Damery: “No comment.” (click)

In 2014, during the Vancouver civic election campaign, a recording of a meeting by the civic outside workers’ union was leaked to me.

At the meeting, four Vision Vancouver candidates, including two city councillors, made their case for votes and donations from the 1,600-member CUPE Local 1004. If re-elected, they promised not to contract-out work. Later in the meeting, the three-dozen or so union members in attendance voted to donate $34,000 to Vision, which would automatically be matched by CUPE’s B.C. and national headquarters. The ensuing controversy became one of the dominant issues of the election. 

Ironically, in 1997, the BC Liberals successfully defended themselves against a defamation lawsuit by Local 97.

The party was in opposition, under leader Gordon Campbell, when it issued a news release in May 1994 headlined “B.C. Liberals Reveal Another NDP Kick Back Scheme” in reference to donations to the NDP by unionized workers on the Island Highway project.

“The official opposition (indeed, any member of an opposition party) and its leader have both a duty and an interest to investigate and expose any impropriety or irregularity in the management of government monies by the government of the day, and to communicate their findings to the electorate. The electorate has a corresponding interest in receiving such information,” wrote Justice B.D. Macdonald in his verdict.

Bob Mackin In midday on March 1, Premier Christy

Bob Mackin

Only three of 70 email messages to Premier Christy Clark obtained by theBreaker were in favour of her pre-election scheme to help first-time home buyers.

Two of those messages came from people who regretted they were ineligible and the third from the enthusiastic CEO of the B.C. Real Estate Association.

Clark often referred to notes. (BC Gov)

Clark giddy at photo op. (BC Gov)

“Congratulations and thank you,” wrote Robert Laing in a Dec. 15 letter, with an attached news release. “The BC HOME Partnership is a constructive, tangible measure that will directly benefit many first time homebuyers.”

The rest of the email from Dec. 15 to 19, 2016, released under freedom of information, was harshly critical of the three-year, $700 million program that offers five-year, interest free loans up to $37,500 to first-time buyers. Personal names were censored by the government.

Many correspondents said the program would cause them to vote against the Liberals in the May 9 election and several branded it a vote-buying scheme that could backfire and further harm British Columbians seeking their first house.

“I am a 5th generation Victoria [resident] on one side of my family and a 4th generation on the other side and I’ll never be able to afford to buy a house anywhere on the Island never mind Victoria, but Christy, oh Christy, you can’t buy my vote,” read a Dec. 15, 5:10 p.m. email.

Wrote another on Dec. 16, at 2:11 p.m.: “Are you buying votes in advance of the next election? It would seem so. Given your government’s mismanagement of the incestuous real estate industry and blind eye to corrupt foreign investment in B.C.’s housing industry, you should be ashamed and apologize to the B.C. electorate for your abysmal failing in this regard!”

“You take reserves from ICBC and BC Hydro to create a pre-election surplus then spend it on free (for 5 years) down payments for first time home buyers,” said one received at 10:51 a.m. Dec. 16. “So you push house prices higher and increase debt on those already overburdened with it. Then you raise BC Hydro and ICBC rates (really a tax) and jack up MSP premium for seniors!! I can’t wait until May!”

Several threatened to vote NDP.

“I have always been a Liberal/Social Credit voter. The program makes me consider whether I can vote Liberal in the next election,” said a Dec. 19, 10:49 a.m. message. “The person who has been making the most intelligent sense regarding real estate is David Eby. The NDP critic. It is a sad state when I am agreeing with an NDP person. Sigh.”

And another, from Dec. 19, 3:38 p.m.: “I am very disappointed and I don’t know what I will do in May. I can’t imagine voting for the NDP but that is where I am headed.”

Others observed that the program undermined the progress Clark made with the market-cooling, 15% foreign buyers’ tax, announced last July.

“As fiscal conservatives, the government should minimize government intervention except where most needed. The last place tax dollars need to do is helping more people jump into our bloated housing market… it is not a sin to rent,” said a Dec. 15, 9:03 p.m. email.

“We have kids dying because they are aging out of foster care, a massive drug addiction problem, traffic congestion which can be alleviated by transit/highway development, understaffed/funded provincial parks and despite your government’s good efforts, a large provincial debt outstanding.”

Several writers said the new program would benefit Liberal friends and insiders, first and foremost.

“The market was correcting, the best thing you could have done for us first time buyers was to simply leave it alone. Your decision today has solidified the fact that I will not be voting Liberal in 2017,” according to a Dec. 15, 10:09 p.m. writer. “You have made me feel like your developer friends (Rennie — someone who gains incredible amounts of wealth when the housing market is high) are more important than the young people in this province.”

“FINTRAC did not do its job and neither did the CRA. The realtors have had a field day — while turning blind eyes to fraud — including your good friend and large contributor, Mr. Rennie,” said the message received at 8:11 p.m. Dec. 15.

Others believed it would do nothing to stem the flow of foreign money that is powering the real estate market.

“Shame on you, you have lost my vote with this policy. I hope you reverse it and focus on increasing to limit and eliminate foreign funds coming into the B.C. region,” according to one received Dec. 16 at 3:32 p.m.

The government claimed in a Feb. 4 news release that it handed out $1.1 million in loans after receiving 340 applications since the program opened Jan. 16. Some 67 buyers, it said, had already reached a contract.

The government is refusing to release the cost-benefit analysis and business case for the program. BC Housing is the Crown corporation managing the BC HOME Partnership, but its CEO, Shane Ramsay, said in response to an FOI request that he does not have such records.

Read the email to Clark below. 

Bc Home Email OOP-2016-65275 by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Only three of 70 email messages