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For the week of March 6, 2022:

It took Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to cause Canadian telecoms to remove Russian state-owned RT America from their channel menus.

Before the invasion, and before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission notified a Chinese state-owned company that it was considering banning CCTV-4 and CGTN from Canadian cable.

Laura Harth of the human rights group Safeguard Defenders joins theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin to explain the complaint about the Chinese Communist Party propaganda organs.

Plus, Victor Matheson, sports economist from the College of the Holy Cross, returns, to discuss the equal rights lawsuit settlement for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the Major League Baseball lockout. 

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

Now on Google Podcasts!

Have you missed an edition of theBreaker.news Podcast? Go to the archive.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast
TheBreaker.news Podcast: Putin propaganda gone today, CCP tomorrow?
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For the week of March 6, 2022:

Bob Mackin

The fraud and breach of trust trial of the former B.C. Legislature clerk is over. 

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes heard final arguments from lawyers for Craig James and the Crown on March 3. She said she did not know how long it will take to reach a decision and prepare her reasons for judgment, but scheduled a March 30 telephone conference to provide an update.

Portrait of Craig James outside the Clerk’s Office at the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

When the trial began Jan. 24, James, the BC Liberal-appointed clerk from 2011 to 2018, pleaded not guilty to three charges of breach of public trust and two charges of fraud over $5,000. He did not testify. 

Special prosecutors David Butcher and Brock Martland advanced a case that James broke the law in three ways: claiming $258,000 in a February 2012 retirement allowance to which he was not entitled; filing travel expense claims throughout his tenure for clothing, luggage and souvenirs to which he was not entitled; and buying a $13,000 woodsplitter and trailer that he stored at his home for a year.

James’s lawyers said the Crown did not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Defence lawyer Gavin Cameron characterized his client as inept, instead of corrupt. 

The woodsplitter became the symbol of the corruption scandal uncovered by then-Speaker Darryl Plecas and his chief of staff Alan Mullen, and revealed via the Legislative Assembly Management Committee in late January 2019. 

James’s other lawyer, Kevin Westell, relied on the testimony of Legislature worker Randy Spraggett who said it was his idea to buy the woodsplitter and that the confusion over where to park it on-site was out of James’s control. 

“There’s no evidence before the court of any material personal benefit to Mr. James coming out of his possession of the wood splitter or the trailer, or that he himself used or operated the items, or authorized anyone else to do the same,” Westell told Holmes. “There is no direct evidence in that regard. We say though, that in any event, that the wood splitter and trailer may have been briefly operated during the period between November 2017 and November 2018 does not prove he breached any standard.”

Clerk Craig James swore Christy Clark in as Westside-Kelowna MLA in 2013, near Clark’s Vancouver office. (Facebook)

Cameron said that after James was marched off the property and forbidden from coming back, his wife returned various items, some of which had been kept at his home office where he sometimes did Legislature work. 

“Seventeen books, two suitcases, one backpack, one pair of shoes, nine dress shirts, a suit, one box opener, which wasn’t used… and three whiskey cakes. That’s that’s the extent of it. And the returned items show no evidence of personal use, beyond clothing having been worn to work and taken home to be washed, or luggage being used on business travel and taken from the airport to home,” Cameron said.

The Crown, he said, “simply asked the court to infer criminality based on geography, which the court ought not to do.”

In the Crown’s closing arguments, which began March 1, Martland told the court James was incapable of passing by a souvenir store without buying personal items on the public dime and that he “cleverly maneuvered” a windfall payment for himself after only five months as clerk. He had worked long enough at the legislature to know the weaknesses to exploit, yet he should have known being the CEO of the Parliament Buildings meant his duty was to protect taxpayers. 

“We trust leaders to lead, we trust the people on the public payroll will not embezzle or steal or misappropriate money or things,” Martland said. 

Instead, Martland said, James continuously breached the public trust. 

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Bob Mackin The fraud and breach of trust

Bob Mackin 

The lawyer for the ex-clerk of the B.C. Legislature told B.C. Supreme Court that the special prosecutors have not proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that he should be acquitted of fraud and breach of trust charges.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

“He’s guilty of bureaucratic ineptitude. That’s not a crime,” his lawyer, Gavin Cameron, said March 2 on the second day of final submissions. 

Cameron told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that James is not a felon, motivated by corruption or deceit. 

“After more than three years of what can only be millions of dollars of investigative effort, leaving no stone or document unturned, the Crown cannot credibly suggest there was a personal collection of coins or stamps at Mr. James’s home, or a forest in the backyard of his strata lot which was chopped for benefit or gain. There were no fictitious or fake trips or acquisitions, which is what one would normally see in a fraud or breach of trust case.”

Cameron called the Crown’s case weak and said it shifted targets, focusing on incidents of James buying souvenirs, clothing and luggage for personal benefit and then made it a case about overbuying.  

“It’s effectively a negligence case, you bought too many things and didn’t give them out. That’s why they were unopened,” Cameron said. 

He said the court could find James to have been unreasonable, behaving improperly and not compliant, but “that does not come close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that his actions at the time they took place, were motivated by corruption and animated by deceit.”

Cameron called the $258,000 retirement benefit that James allegedly crafted for himself “only an allegation of breach of trust” and the $13,000 woodsplitter and trailer, “a bit of a moving target.”

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court.

Cameron said ex-Speaker Bill Barisoff tasked James to find a lawyer to advise on the grandfathered long-service award program. He also called the documentation behind the benefit “unclear and vague.”

“A lawyer advised Mr. James, he was entitled to the retirement benefit, full stop,” he said. “And this is not a breach of contract or solicitor’s negligence case.”

The case is expected to wrap on March 3. Holmes is also expected to offer an estimate of how long she will need to reach a verdict. 

On March 2, special prosecutor Brock Martland recounted testimony from 20 witnesses and some of the 535 exhibits as evidence that James had intentionally fleeced taxpayers for his own personal gain. “Our position is that the public’s trust was violated repeatedly and extensively by Craig James,” Martland said.

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended immediately by vote of the Legislature on Nov. 18, 2018 and escorted away from the Parliament Buildings. They were under RCMP investigation after then-Speaker Darryl Plecas and chief of staff Alan Mullen found evidence of corruption. James and Lenz demanded their jobs back and claimed they did no wrong. But, after separate investigations in 2019, they resigned. They did not repay taxpayers.

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Bob Mackin  The lawyer for the ex-clerk of

Bob Mackin

One of the special prosecutors in the fraud and breach of trust trial of Craig James described the former B.C. Legislature clerk as a corrupt official who should have known better than to breach the public trust.

Portrait of Craig James outside the Clerk’s Office at the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

Our position is that the public’s trust was violated repeatedly and extensively by Craig James,” Brock Martland said March in B.C. Supreme Court. 

During the first day of closing arguments, Martland said that James, only five months into the job, “cleverly maneuvered to engineer a quarter-million dollar windfall payment, so-called retirement benefits.” 

James had worked at the assembly since 1987 and was appointed by the BC Liberal majority, instead of an all-party committee, in June 2011. He formally began in September 2011.

“He was far from the newcomer, he was far from a new arrival or a junior. He had a long knowledge of the operations of the [Parliament] buildings and the systems that were in place, including the weaknesses of those systems,” Martland said. “He was clerk from 2011 to 2018. Our position is that in that time, he used his senior-most position to enrich himself in a manner that is glaring and outrageous.”

Martland said that James took steps that were “strange and unconventional for the equivalent of a CEO.” Such as driving off in his truck to pick up a $13,000 wood splitter and trailer that he took to his house for roughly a year, instead of storing them at the Legislature where they were allegedly needed in case of catastrophic emergency. 

“In doing so, he put his own personal interests ahead of the Legislature’s and ahead of the interests of the people of this province. He violated the public’s trust.”

Furthermore, Martland told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, James seemed to have been “constitutionally incapable of walking past the gift shop without going in and purchasing souvenirs, which he kept for himself, but charged to his employer.”

Brock Martland (vancrimlaw.com)

Martland said James violated the most basic kinds of rules, so self-evident they did not need to be articulated in a policy manual. 

“Work purchases are for work. They must presumptively be for the workplace. You must be honest about making claims for reimbursement. You cannot ignore obvious conflicts of interest. You cannot involve yourself in the process that sees you unjustly enriching yourself anyway, let alone to the magnitude of a quarter-million dollars.”

James, he said, had a particular duty to guard public funds and not abuse power. But he did the opposite. 

“As the top permanent officer of the Legislature, he was entrusted with managing money, making sure it was probably spent. We say that he breached that trust over and over again.” 

Martland said public trust is critical to a proper functioning democracy. Citizens rely on trust for systems and institutions to operate properly, whether it’s a public or private entity.

“We trust that when someone says they took a step, they did actually do that. You’re not telling a story or spinning out something untruthful,” Martland said. “We trust that when an official is assigned to do something, they will do their best to try and do it properly and ethically. We trust workers to work, we trust leaders to lead, we trust the people on the public payroll will not embezzle or steal or misappropriate money or things.”

Clerk Craig James swore Christy Clark in as Westside-Kelowna MLA in 2013, near Clark’s Vancouver office. (Facebook)

Martland said that he, and David Butcher, introduced 535 exhibits and 20 witnesses, in order to present a case against James that is beyond a reasonable doubt. 

James pleaded not guilty on Jan. 24. Through his lawyer, Gavin Cameron, James opted Feb. 22 not to testify in his own defence. 

Martland expects the Crown to finish its final submissions on the morning of March 2. 

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended immediately by vote of the Legislature on Nov. 18, 2018 and escorted away from the Parliament Buildings. They were under RCMP investigation after then-Speaker Darryl Plecas and chief of staff Alan Mullen found evidence of corruption. James and Lenz demanded their jobs back and claimed they did no wrong. But, after separate investigations in 2019, they resigned. They did not repay taxpayers. 

James, but not Lenz, was charged criminally in December 2020. 

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Bob Mackin One of the special prosecutors in

For the week of Feb. 27, 2022:

The world’s two biggest authoritarian leaders dominated the news last week. The end of Xi Jinping’s Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sports economist Victor Matheson  (Mackin)

Sports economist Victor Matheson of the College of the Holy Cross joins host Bob Mackin to ponder the legacy of Beijing 2022 and the impacts of the invasion of Ukraine.

The former went ahead despite brutal human rights conditions for Uyghur Muslims in China. The latter was condemned for violating the Olympic Truce.

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

Now on Google Podcasts!

Have you missed an edition of theBreaker.news Podcast? Go to the archive.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Xi's Olympics lead to Putin's invasion
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For the week of Feb. 27, 2022:

Bob Mackin

Budget documents presented this week demonstrate a strong increase in the size and spending of the BC NDP government.

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

Premier John Horgan government’s own projections forecast a 93% increase in government debt by the end of the 2025 fiscal year since it assumed power in 2018. And by this time next year, the public service will have added 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs, an expansion of nearly 25%.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s three-year economic blueprint forecasts more than $13.3 billion in deficits by the end of 2025 when B.C.’s debt is expected to reach $125.77 billion.

One of the reasons the BC NDP is spending more is because it is hiring more, to expand the size of government.

In 2017-18, the government employed 32,865 full-time equivalents at ministries, special offices and service delivery agencies. Over the next 12 months, the government will have boosted that number to an estimated total 42,508.

A statement from the Ministry of Finance omitted numbers and costs, but offered year-by-year categories in which employment increased. The 2020 budget was the only year that FTEs remained static.

“Broadly, these staffing increases have been in priority areas like child care, wildfire response, COVID-19 response, mental health services, CleanBC implementation, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” said the statement.

Since coming to power, the BC NDP opened the first Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, which has steadily grown in budget, but not, its critics say, in effectiveness. It’s getting more than $3 million extra to spend on crafting policy and research, for $24.6 million in 2022-23. Services are actually delivered via the Ministry of Health, which is growing 6.5% to $25.45 billion.

Horgan created the new B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Crown corporation in 2018 to prioritize union hiring for major infrastructure projects, like the Pattullo Bridge and Broadway subway. BCIB is expected to triple annual spending to $244.4 million in 2022-23 and increase further to $318.4 million a year later.

Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)

New in this year’s budget is a $3.2 million secretariat to implement recommendations from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Ministry of Forests, Land, Resource Operations and Rural Development is split in two, with Forests going one way with a $832.5 million budget and the rest becoming Land, Water and Resource Stewardship at $92 million this year. (Plus, the awkward acronym, Land WARS).

Last August, the BC NDP announced it would hire back 4,000 cleaners and food service workers at hospitals. The jobs were privatized 20 years ago under the BC Liberals.

Sooner than later, there will also be more MLAs. As many as six could be added after the next election, for a total 93 under amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act.

Even before that happens, the Legislative Assembly receives another $6 million budget boost to $92 million for 2022-23. That’s $10 million more than in 2017-18.

The government is also doing away with the 10% salary penalty for ministers who exceed annual budgets.

The end of the holdback provision, which effectively amounts to a pay increase for cabinet, “sent the wrong message,” Robinson said Feb. 23 in Question Period. “What it says is that it prioritizes austerity and cuts over investment, even in an emergency. It forces government to balance books on the backs of British Columbians.”

Despite the spending scandal that led to Clerk Craig James being charged and tried for fraud and breach of trust, Horgan did not deliver on BC NDP house leader Mike Farnworth’s 2019 promise to add the seat of government to B.C.’s freedom of information law. That move would have given citizens a full spending picture, rather than the periodic reports that the Legislative Assembly Management Committee deem suitable for public consumption.

Horgan voted the Office of the Premier a $3.3 million annual hike last year, to $14.68 million per year. When she was asked on budget day in April 2021, Robinson hinted that Horgan would use some of the new funds for post-pandemic travel around the province. Until he won a majority in the October 2020 snap election, Horgan had to stay close to the legislature for fear that the minority government might fall.

“We’re attempting to make sure that he has access to British Columbians,” Robinson said last year.

By comparison, in the last budget under Christy Clark’s BC Liberals, the premier’s office was allotted $9 million. Back then, Horgan was a harsh critic of Clark’s spending on a staff videographer and charter flights to travel the province. So much so, that the BC NDP turned the “Air Christy” scandal into an animated campaign ad.

Horgan has a bigger trip on the horizon. Last year, Horgan told several B.C.-based diplomats that his first post-pandemic trade mission would be to European Union nations.

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Bob Mackin Budget documents presented this week demonstrate

Bob Mackin

Russia’s honorary consul general for British Columbia suddenly resigned.

Venture capital and mining executive Erin Campbell said Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was the reason.

In 2016, Russian Ambassador Alexander Darchiev (left) with Ltd. Gov. Judith Guichon and honorary consul Erin Campbell (Government House)

Campbell declined an interview request, but said by email: “This is a very sad day for those who tried to bridge the divide.”

Campbell is the CEO and founding partner of ECMB Capital, mergers and acquisitions and corporate restructuring partner with Raiven Capital and vice-chair and co-founder of Kanata Clean, a First Nations-led natural gas-powered electricity plant in Alberta.

She is also well known in B.C. politics, as a strategist on several federal Conservative, BC Liberal and Vancouver Non-Partisan Association election campaigns.

In December 2016, Russia’s Ambassador to Canada, Alexander Darchiev, introduced Campbell to Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon and told a Vancouver Club ceremony that her “extensive business background both in Russia and Canada would contribute to enhancing bilateral trade and investment, as well as regional and people-to-people contacts, especially between British Columbia and Russian Far East.

“This will surely benefit Russian Canadians as a vibrant and important community in multicultural Canada,” Darchiev said.

At the time, Campbell was president of Rare Capital Corp., chair of Global Energy Metals Corp. and director of Khot Infrastructure.

Oleg Stepanov, the current ambassador to Canada, assumed his position last September. Nobody from the embassy responded for comment.

The honorary consul of Ukraine in B.C. is lawyer Lubomyr Huculak.

B.C. Investment Management Corp., the province’s public sector pension fund, won’t comment on the status of Russian investments in its $66.6 billion public equities portfolio.

The inventory of holdings through March 31, 2021 showed $103.25 million worth of shares in state-owned bank Sberbank, $83.85 million in Lukoil, $32.2 million Rosneft Oil, and $19.16 million in Gazprom.

Photo from the Feb. 26 pro-Ukraine protest in Vancouver (Twitter)

“We’re respectfully declining to comment as we do not publicly discuss our investment strategy or specific holdings,” said Gwen-Ann Chittenden, BCI’s vice-president of corporate stakeholder engagement.

Paul Finch, who is the treasurer for the B.C. General Employees Union and a director of BCI, declined comment.

A statement from the Ministry of Finance said BCI “by design” operates independent of government to avoid conflict of interest. “BCI is accountable to its clients for investment returns and the investment of each client’s funds.”

The NDP cabinet appointed three of the seven members of the board, including former BC Liberal deputy finance minister Peter Milburn as chair, University of Victoria vice-president Gayle Gorrill and retired former Ministry of Finance chief operating officer Sheila Taylor.

The other four are appointed by the College Pension Plan, Public Service Pension Plan, Municipal Pension Plan and Teachers Pension Plan.

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Bob Mackin Russia’s honorary consul general for British

Bob Mackin

After almost seven years, the contract that shows how British Columbia taxpayers subsidized one of the world’s richest, most controversial sports organizations is finally revealed.

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

An adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled in July 2021 that the B.C. Pavilion Corp. (PavCo), must release its agreement with Canadian Soccer Association Inc. (CSA) for hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 at BC Place stadium. CSA dropped its court challenge earlier this month and disclosed the contract to this reporter.

The agreement called for total payments between $1.725 million and $1.975 million to PavCo.

The maximum amount in the contract was just under the $2 million earmarked by BC Liberal tourism and sport minister Ida Chong in April 2012. Chong did not specifically say at the time how FIFA would spend taxpayers’ money.

The agreement gave the FIFA event exclusive use of the stadium from May 31, 2015, through July 7, 2015, two days after the United States beat Japan in the final.

CSA had control of the stadium – even lounges and every private suite, save for the BC Place Suite and one other. There were clauses to remove all advertising, so that FIFA could display its own sponsors’ logos and messages, and a ban on the stadium hosting any other event during the period. The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, which features exhibits on B.C.’s soccer history, was prohibited from opening on match days. The stadium kept food and beverage revenue, but FIFA decided the menu.

CSA agreed to pay a $50,000 deposit upon execution of the contract and the balance seven days after the conclusion of the exclusive use period. The rent was $75,000 per match day, for a total $525,000, plus a lump $625,000 sum for exclusive use of the stadium and a $400,000 contribution to the new artificial turf pitch. The CSA also guaranteed between $300,000 and $400,000 in per-ticket facility fees.

Sepp Blatter’s video greeting to Canada 2015 (Mackin)

The contract shows CSA officials didn’t actually sign the Stadium Use Agreement until June 10, 2015, two days after BC Place hosted its first tournament doubleheader. Canada was awarded the tournament by default when the only other bidder, Zimbabwe, withdrew in March 2011 and Vancouver named one of six host cities in May 2012.

FIFA took over exclusive use of BC Place just four days after Swiss and American police arrested senior FIFA officials in Zurich for corruption related to awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 World Cup to Qatar. An office had been created for embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter at BC Place, but he did not travel to Canada for fear of arrest.

The ripple effects of that scandal influenced the BC NDP government’s March 2018 disagreement over a proposal to co-host matches during the 2026 World Cup at BC Place.

In correspondence with the U.S.-led bid, PavCo CEO Ken Cretney had flagged FIFA’s list of demands that B.C. agree to pay unknown costs of host city security, secure land near the stadium for related events, pay for a temporary grass pitch and backup field, absorb inflation and face the possibility of FIFA and CSA unilaterally amending the contract. FIFA’s hosting requirements for 2026 also demanded governments provide it a tax holiday, exemptions from labour laws and permit the import and export of foreign currency.

In late 2020, lawyers for the CSA told an OIPC adjudicator that release of the Canada 2015 contract would threaten Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton bids to co-host 2026 World Cup matches with the U.S. and Mexico. The OIPC adjudicator rejected the argument as speculative. Before the August 2021 deadline to disclose the contract, the CSA’s lawyer with the Lawson Lundell firm filed for a BC Supreme Court judicial review aimed at overturning the decision or having it kicked back to the OIPC for a new inquiry.

The CSA based the application on fresh evidence, specifically Montreal’s July 6, 2021, withdrawal and Premier John Horgan’s July 13 announcement that the B.C. government had reopened talks with CSA about 2026.

B.C. Place Stadium’s Polytan Ligaturf synthetic pitch installed for the Canada 2015 Women’s World Cup (Mackin)

In a Feb. 7 appearance on CHEK TV, Horgan said that matches in 2026 could be part of B.C.’s long-term, pandemic recovery strategy. “This is, again, not a done deal, it’s still not a blank cheque,” Horgan said.

Besides B.C.’s $2 million payment for Canada 2015, the City of Vancouver spent $1.2 million on a FIFA Fan Zone at the Larwill Park parking lot and the Government of Canada contributed $15 million.

The Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance’s estimate claimed Canada 2015 matches in Vancouver generated $20.1 million in federal, B.C. and municipal taxes. Research by sports economist Victor Matheson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, has consistently cautioned that mega-event promoters and industry lobbyists rely on input-output modelling in order to attract or defend public subsidies.

In one of Matheson’s reports, Mega-Events: The Effect of the World’s Biggest Sporting Events on Local, Regional, and National Economies, he found that many large sporting events “simply supplant, rather than supplement the regular tourist economy.”

“In other words, the economic impact of a mega-event may be large in a gross sense but the net impact may be small,” Matheson concluded.

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Bob Mackin After almost seven years, the contract

Bob Mackin

Last summer’s legalization of single-event sports gambling in Canada is turning into a good news, bad news story for B.C. Lottery Corp. (BCLC).

According to its three-year service plan, published Feb. 22 with the provincial budget, the Crown gambling monopoly predicts seven per cent revenue growth in the 2022-23 fiscal year through its PlayNow branded division. However, competition from elsewhere will pose a challenge.

(BCLC)

“While we are projecting continued growth, online gambling sites that operate illegally in B.C. (characterized as ‘grey market’) are increasing their investments in sponsorships and advertising here and across the country,” said the BCLC service plan. “As a result, it is becoming more costly for PlayNow.com to compete for advertising and sponsorship opportunities that enhance the brand’s presence and draw players to the only legal option in our province – the only one that delivers profits to fund healthcare, education and community programs.”

BCLC specifically pointed to Ontario, where that province’s regulator, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, is licensing online gambling companies. One of those companies, BetRivers, was a heavy advertiser on CBC’s Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics coverage. 

“In preparation for their legal entry into the Ontario gambling market, some operators are developing national partnerships with media companies and sports leagues, resulting in further competition and challenges for PlayNow.com when it comes to B.C.-based media and marketing partnerships,” the service plan said.

At casinos, BCLC forecasts 3,906 reports of potential crimes by the end of the current fiscal year, as per internal reporting on its iTrak database. BCLC market research found only 54% of British Columbians perceive gambling at BCLC-partnered casinos to be safe and secure.

BCLC said it had insufficient data to assess the impact of the omicron variant on casino operations, but it does forecast a 2022-23 decrease of lottery revenue by seven per cent at a time when it is replacing 3,500 lottery terminals across the province.

BC Hydro headquarters (BC Hydro)

BCLC reported $430 million net income in 2020-21, but hopes to improve to $1.225 billion this year and $1.452 billion by the next.

Meanwhile, B.C. Pavilion Corp., which operates B.C. Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre, is eager for international business travel to return, but it admits the recovery won’t begin until the second half of 2022-23. It is facing a major new competitor for corporate bookings: the computer screen.

“As a response to the pandemic, the global meetings industry has seen an increase in virtually hosted events. PavCo will need to balance the expectations of its clients to incorporate virtual, hybrid and live events; however, it is unknown how much of an influence this trend will continue to have as the sector stabilizes.”

PavCo forecasts $77.5 million in losses through 2024-25. The deficits are mainly due to B.C. Place Stadium and the debt from the 2011 renovation. The 2024-25 tally assumes $15 million in net proceeds from the potential sale of land on the east side of B.C. Place Stadium.

The province’s biggest infrastructure project cost $8.4 billion through Dec. 31.

BC Hydro’s three-year plan said Site C would cost a further $7.64 billion to complete by the end of 2024.

On Feb. 26, 2021, the BC NDP government admitted the dam would cost $16 billion and take longer to build. In 2014, the BC Liberal government set a $8.775 billion budget. The NDP blamed cost overruns on pandemic slowdowns and geotechnical challenges.

The BC Hydro report estimates $2.52 billion will be spent in the fiscal year beginning April 1, $2.56 billion in 2023-24 and $1.13 billion in 2024-25.

From ICBC’s $3.3 million ad campaign by PSDDB (ICBC)

Auto insurer ICBC is forecasting $1.9 billion in net income by the end of March, substantially higher than the $154 million forecast and an improvement on the $1.54 billion for the previous year.

“The forecasted net income for 2021/22 is $1.75 billion favourable to plan, mainly as a result of higher investment income and lower claims costs; in addition to a lesser extent higher premium revenue and lower operating expenses also contributed to the favourable net income,” said ICBC’s service plan.

The Liquor Distribution Branch is expecting $1.15 billion net income for this fiscal year and $1.66 billion for the next.

The number of private retail cannabis stores supplied by LDB’s wholesale division grew by 101 during this fiscal year. As of last Nov. 24, the province had licensed 384 stores and 370 of them had registered and placed orders for non-medical pot.

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Bob Mackin Last summer’s legalization of single-event sports

Bob Mackin

The former BC Liberal-appointed clerk of the B.C. Legislature will not testify at his B.C. Supreme Court fraud and breach of trust trial.

Portrait of Craig James outside the Clerk’s Office at the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

On Feb. 22, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes heard another half hour of testimony from the final Crown witness, the Legislature’s chief financial officer Hilary Woodward, before adjourning the case four hours. 

Craig James’s lawyer, Gavin Cameron, said more time was needed to decide the defence’s next steps. 

After the trial resumed from lunch break, Cameron simply said: “Having taken instructions, Mr. Westell and I have met with Mr. James. The defence is not calling a case.”

Special prosecutors David Butcher and Brock Martland will begin closing submissions March 1. Cameron and Kevin Westell for James will respond during the two-day hearing. It is expected that Holmes will reserve her verdict, though it is not known how many weeks she will ponder her decision. 

When the trial opened Jan. 24, James pleaded not guilty to three charges of breach of public trust and two charges of fraud over $5,000. 

“Mr. James was no ordinary employee,” Butcher told the court on Jan. 24. “As the parliamentary equivalent of the CEO, he had responsibility to the institution, the people of British Columbia to manage the affairs and resources of the legislature in an exemplary manner. The Crown alleges that Mr. James’s conduct at different times, and in different ways, was a marked departure from the standard of responsible management expected of a person occupying one of the highest offices in the province.” 

The infamous wood splitter, photographed on the Legislature grounds on Nov. 20, 2019. (Mackin)

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended immediately by vote of the Legislature on Nov. 18, 2018 and escorted away from the Parliament Buildings. They were under RCMP investigation after then-Speaker Darryl Plecas and chief of staff Alan Mullen found evidence of corruption. James and Lenz demanded their jobs back and claimed they did no wrong. But, after separate investigations in 2019, they resigned. They did not repay taxpayers. 

James, but not Lenz, was charged criminally in December 2020. 

Butcher said the case against James has three facets, because the Crown alleges he broke the law by:

Making a claim for more than $250,000 in February 2012 for a retirement allowance to which he was not entitled;

Filing travel expense claims throughout his tenure for clothing and souvenir purchases to which he was not entitled, and;

The 2017 purchase of a woodsplitter and trailer that he stored at his home in Saanich for a year.

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Bob Mackin The former BC Liberal-appointed clerk of