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For the week of Feb. 20, 2022:

Beijing 2022 is over, the most-controversial Olympics since 1936. 

Human rights activists concerned about the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers boycotted NBC and CBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics. The TV ratings were a disappointment.

David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China (Mackin)

On this edition of Podcast, special guest David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, says China was the dream host for the International Olympic Committee, which cares only about running the Games on time and being paid on time. 

“[The Chinese government will] literally move mountains, cut down forests, pump water into a desert — wastewater in a desert — to create snow,” Mulroney said. “Because they will suppress any rights to make sure that the city is quiescent, the people, there are no protests.” 

What was Xi Jinping’s message to the world?

“We can be committing a genocide, and you’re still going to come because we’re that powerful,” Mulroney said. “We’re so big, that if we have these Games, everybody better turn out and everybody will turn up.”

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.

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Now on Google Podcasts!

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Pondering the legacy of Beijing 2022, the "Genocide Games"

For the week of Feb. 20, 2022:

Bob Mackin 

In early December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government would follow allies and not send politicians or diplomats to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, because of “repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.”

Wilson Miao (left), Parm Bains, Tong Xiaoling, Lam Siu Ngai, Taleeb Noormohamed and Michael Lee. (PRC consulate)

But Liberal MPs and other politicians in Metro Vancouver are continuing to engage with officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government on Canadian soil. Two Richmond politicians even expressed support for the Games and told a state-affiliated TV outlet that politics and sport should not mix. 

David Mulroney, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, called it a “blot on the record” of those politicians disregarding the diplomatic boycott.

“The fact that local politicians are really dancing to the tune of China’s senior official in the region is, to my mind, just unconscionable and it should not happen,” Mulroney said in an interview. “There should be Canadian solidarity on issues around human rights.”

The annual Chinatown parade was cancelled due to the pandemic, but Consul General Tong Xiaoling, People’s Republic of China’s top diplomat in B.C., attended a private Jan. 30 Lunar New Year of the Tiger ceremony Chinatown. She wore a Beijing 2022 scarf and delivered a speech about the Games and the CCP’s centennial.

The Jan. 30 Lunar New Year of the Tiger event featured an Olympic-style parade of flags led by China (Phoenix TV/YouTube)

Tong also posed for photos with 2021-elected Liberal MPs Taleeb Noormohamed (Vancouver Granville), Parm Bains (Steveston-Richmond East) and Wilson Miao (Richmond Centre), Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Vancouver city councillor Pete Fry, and BC Liberal MLA Michael Lee. Also in attendance were NDP Minister of State for Trade George Chow and Burnaby Coun. James Wang.

A Phoenix TV clip shows an Olympic-style parade of national flags led by a large Chinese flag. Smaller Canadian flags were carried behind it. The official Government of Canada protocol states: “When flown or paraded, the National Flag of Canada takes priority over all other national flags.”

Miao and Noormohamed did not respond to interview requests. 

Bains was seated to Tong’s right during the ceremony. According to a statement attributed to him: “While Canada and China have differences with one another, I believe that open dialogue is more helpful in how we approach our diplomatic relations with China. I will continue to share and promote Canadian values and be a vocal advocate for human rights with all diplomats that are stationed here in Canada.”

Xi Jinping’s top Vancouver diplomat, Tong Xiaoling, wearing a Beijing 2022 scarf (PRC consulate)

Bains subsequently admitted he did not actually discuss human rights with Tong, but “I did indicate to the CG that it was very important to continue dialogue to discuss our differences.”

Fry said that he attended in his role as deputy mayor and did not know that Tong would attend or be a speaker. 

“I support Canada’s diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, but there is no boycott of Vancouver’s Chinatown that I am aware of or that I would support,” Fry said.

Ivy Li of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said the event organizers, the Chinese Benevolent Association and Guangdong Community Association of Canada, have close ties to the consulate, which represents a foreign government rather than B.C.’s diverse ethnic Chinese community.

There’s no way those politicians didn’t know about the nature of these two groups, and that this event would be propaganda for CCP,” she said.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s only publicized Lunar New Year ceremony was the launch of Lunarfest Vancouver, a Taiwan government-sponsored Lunar New Year lantern festival.

In November, Tong made international headlines when she publicly opposed Vancouver city hall exploring a friendship city arrangement with Taiwans second-largest city, Kaohsiung. 

Last April, Stewart turned down meetings with Chinese diplomats when Beijing sanctioned friend and Conservative MP Michael Chong after the House of Commons condemned the mass-detention of Uyghur Muslims as genocide. 

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Coun. Alexa Loo starred on an edition of Phoenix TV’s Talk With World Leaders program titled “Political Differences Cannot Hinder the Beijing Winter Olympics!” (Fengshows/YouTube)

On Jan. 24, Tong headlined a 10-day countdown to the Games ceremony that included guests Brodie, Richmond Coun. Alexa Loo, and ex-Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan. 

Brodie told Phoenix TV that he hoped politics “doesn’t get in the way of a very successful Olympic Games.”

Said Loo on the same broadcast: “It shouldn’t be the athletes’ job to tell other governments how they should run their country. And it’s not, you know, the politicians’ job to tell us whether or not we get to compete.”

Brodie did not respond to an interview request. Loo said she did not have time to answer questions.

Human rights activist Li said it is disingenuous for politicians to suggest politics and the Games should be separate, especially when it is the same politicians whose careers have benefitted from their attachment to the Games. Brodie has enjoyed 20 years in office and was re-elected twice since Richmond hosted Olympic speed skating in 2010. Loo was first elected in 2014 on a campaign that promoted her past as a Canadian snowboarder at Vancouver 2010.

“They’re essentially helping the regime to sugarcoat their brutal behaviour, and their genocidal behaviour in East Turkestan (aka Xinjiang), as well as to the majority of the people in China and also their aggression to us,” Li said. “I mean, we have to remember the two Michaels and as well as there’s two other Canadians on death row.”

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Bob Mackin  In early December, Prime Minister Justin

Bob Mackin

B.C. government liquor store managers were too busy last November during the annual high-end spirits promotion to report potential money laundering to head office, as they had been directed.

The Premium Spirit Release last Nov. 13 offered a $200,000 Dalmore Decades No. 4 Collection Set 19, $38,000 bottle of GlenDronach 50-year-old and many other rare and pricy potent potables for sale.

B.C. Liquor Stores CEO Blain Lawson (LDB)

In a Nov. 12 email, obtained via the freedom of information law, the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) director of store operations told managers at three stores in Vancouver, West Vancouver and Richmond that all cash transactions above $10,000 must be witnessed and documented by the manager on duty. Under provincial policy, B.C. Liquor Stores had no limit on the amount of cash they would accept.

Jonathan Castaneto ordered managers of the Cambie and 39th outlet in Vancouver, Park Royal outlet in North Vancouver and Brighouse outlet in Richmond to email the executive director of corporate services if and when processing a large cash transaction during the Nov. 13 promotion. 

“With the upcoming Spirit Release and holiday season, stores may encounter large cash transactions,” warned Castaneto. “Please be reminded that, as per the large cash transactions policy, all cash transactions in excess of $10,000 (or a group of sequential transactions from the same customer totalling in excess of $10,000 in cash) must be counted twice: First, in front of the customer and then, immediately upon completion of the sale, in the cash room.”

But the plan fizzled out.

Three suspicious transactions under $10,000 were under review, according to a censored Nov. 16 briefing note from LDB CEO Blain Lawson to Finance Minister Selina Robinson. 

(BCLDB)“On Monday morning it was discovered that the real-time alert notification process was not followed during the event,” said the Lawson briefing note. “Store managers explained they were busy with the Premium Spirit Release and assumed that they could update on Monday if they were following the established policy process.”

A day later, on Nov. 17, Deputy Minister Doug Scott sent a memo to Lawson to immediately ban all cash transactions above $5,000 during a review by the Crown Agencies Secretariat. Scott cited “several large transactions in excess of $10,000.” 

Details of the suspicious transactions were withheld by LDB. Lawson did not respond for comment.

A statement from LDB said the agency continues to review the policy and intends to make permanent changes to strengthen the policy.

According to the briefing note to Robinson, in 2018 LDB explored reporting large cash transactions to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC). However, LDB’s information and privacy and legal departments “indicated at that time there was no clear legal authority for the LDB to lawfully collect and disclose the information FINTRAC requires from designated reporting entities.”

Trade-based money laundering expert John Zdanowicz, who testified in December 2020 at the Cullen Commission on money laundering in B.C., said governments can print money, but they can’t make additional bottles of rare wine or liquor. 

“There would be some rational reasons to purchase these things as an investment, consumption, and inflation hedge, but also can be used to launder money,” Zdanowicz said in an interview.

He said criminals use liquor to disguise the proceeds of crime by under-invoicing or over-invoicing.

Trade-based money laundering expert John Zdanowicz (MVCC)

“It’s selling something for nothing, or buying nothing for something,” explained Zdanowicz, professor emeritus at Florida International University. “Selling a rare bottle of bourbon that’s worth $15,000, and then invoicing it at $5, is a way to move the money out of the country, because once it’s in the foreign country, it can be resold for its true market value. You do just the opposite, if you want to move money into the country, you overvalue your exports and you sell something that’s only worth 50 cents, you sell it for $500.”

Zdanowicz’s analysis of Statistics Canada trade figures for 2019 found $90 billion Canadian worth of all types of goods moved out of Canada and $44.4 billion moved in. U.S., China, Germany, Mexico and Japan were the top five countries by dollar amounts. 

Zdanowicz’s trade analysis for the same year found $16.5 billion was moved into B.C. and $8.5 billion moved out of B.C. by price manipulation.  

The NDP government has long known that B.C. Liquor Stores were at risk of money laundering. 

A manager at the Cambie and 39th Vancouver location in May 2015 contacted head office after workers became concerned about suspicious large transactions over $10,000. An LDB senior investigator told the workers to report concerns to management, not to police or FINTRAC, according to email leaked to the then-opposition NDP.

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Bob Mackin B.C. government liquor store managers were

Bob Mackin 

The former clerk of the B.C. Legislature is expected to decide Feb. 22 whether to testify at his fraud and breach of trust trial. 

Craig James pleaded not guilty of five counts when the trial opened Jan. 24. Two more weeks are scheduled in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. The final Crown witness, Legislature chief financial officer Hilary Woodward, is expected to finish testimony on the morning after the Family Day holiday.

B.C. Legislature beancounter Hilary Woodward (BC Leg)

Woodward testified Feb. 18 about approving the expense claims submitted by James, who was the equivalent of CEO from 2011 to 2018. Special prosecutors David Butcher and Brock Martland have built a case around James’s spending of taxpayers’ money to buy souvenirs, clothing, jewelry and suitcases for himself, as well as a wood splitter that he stored at his house.

Woodward testified that she was “put in an untenable situation” to be asked to sign-off James’s expenses. 

She said she expressed her concerns about James’s post-trip expense claims, first to Arn van Iersel, the former auditor general who was a consultant to the Legislative Assembly, and then to Speaker Linda Reid. 

I would say that was the most challenging portion of my job was dealing with the travel claims and expenses that came through,” Woodward said.

During cross-examination, James’s lawyer Gavin Cameron questioned Woodward about her relationship with Reid and James. She admitted she once visited Reid at her constituency office at Reid’s request. 

Linda Reid (left) and Craig James (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

“And, as I understand it, your understanding of the situation is that Miss Reid was no friend and Mr. James and she didn’t care for him too much,” Cameron said. “That’s fair?

I can’t comment on her feelings on Mr. James, the clerk,” Woodward said. 

She later agreed with Cameron that Reid “was no fan of Mr. James.” 

Cameron also noted an internal email from Woodward to the director of human resources at the Legislature, the day after Speaker Darryl Plecas’s January 2019 report accusing James of corruption. Woodward asked that her car allowance be removed from her benefits package, retroactive to Dec. 24, 2018.

“You were concerned that you were going to be next, if you didn’t start taking steps to get rid of some of the benefits that Speaker Plecas was railing against?” Cameron asked.

Woodward denied that, but said several officials canceled their car allowance, including Plecas. 

“Because you were worried you were going to be next. If you didn’t fall in line, you were either with him or against him,” Cameron charged.

Gavin Cameron (Fasken)

No, I don’t agree with that,” Woodward answered. 

Cameron finished the Feb. 18 hearing by prodding Woodward about her late disclosure of documents to the special prosecutors — “in dribs and drabs” last week, and in a suitcase this week.

“You want to be ready for your testimony, make sure you had the kitchen sink of everything, which I stayed up and read,” Cameron said. 

Woodward replied: “That’s correct.” 

Cameron said he saw almost no evidence among thousands of pages that Woodward documented her concerns about James’s expenses.

“Would you agree with me that those three emails are the extent of the paper you have documenting any issue at all the five years of expenses that you testified about over the past day and a half? 

“Yep,” she said. 

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Bob Mackin  The former clerk of the B.C.

Bob Mackin

One more witness for the Crown’s breach of trust and fraud case against the former B.C. Legislature clerk. 

But there could be dozens, or even hundreds, more surprises in the B.C. Supreme Court trial of Craig James.

B.C. Legislature beancounter Hillary Woodward (BC Leg)

The Legislative Assembly’s executive financial officer, Hillary Woodward, is scheduled to testify for two days beginning Feb. 17 at the Vancouver Law Courts.

But, near the end of the hearing on Feb. 16, special prosecutor David Butcher dropped a bombshell. He told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Woodward had brought a suitcase full of documents with her from Victoria. 

This comes two months after Woodward led prosecutors to discover 11 boxes of documents in the Parliament Buildings basement containing previously undisclosed records about James’s expense claims. 

Butcher said he met during the evening of Feb. 15 with Woodward for an hour to prepare for her court appearance.

“She also told me that she had brought a suitcase of documents with her that were in her hotel room,” Butcher said.  

He said police came in the morning to review the documents in the suitcase to see which ones were new and which ones weren’t. 

“Our next step in the process is to determine whether the new documents are in fact relevant to this case,” Butcher said. “I certainly got the impression that some of them weren’t. So it may be a small amount of paper. It may not be a small amount of paper.”

Special prosecutor David Butcher (Mackin)

Butcher conceded that the defence lawyers get exasperated and he gets exasperated back with him. 

“That’s not surprising. It’s not a situation that any of us wish. But we are, I think that causes difficulty with Miss Woodward tomorrow,” Butcher said. 

So, what do you suggest?” Holmes asked. 

He said he wanted to start with Woodward’s direct testimony and give the defence as much time as it needs to respond to any of the new documents, if they are relevant. 

Said James’s lawyer, Gavin Cameron: “So far, the defense has kept the train on the tracks and will keep the train on the tracks. I’ll have problems if documents are pulled out of suitcases in the middle of examinations in chief, but, if [Butcher] thinks he can get some ways, then I think we ought to go.”

Cameron asked for a transcript of the police interview of Woodward. Butcher said she was asked to provide an additional written statement created on her own. 

I went over there at lunchtime, there were two police officers there in a very small boardroom. I thought they might be trying to bring some more in, to just match the contents of the suitcase with the contents of the 4,000 documents in the disclosure,” Butcher said. “But I think we play it by ear and if [Cameron] says I need some time, I’m not going to object to that.”

Gavin Cameron (Fasken)

Meanwhile, earlier on the day, the court heard from a lawyer who said he advised Speaker Bill Barisoff in 2011 that payments under a retirement scheme to James and three others were legal. James received $258,000 under the grandfathered “long service award” program for legislature table officers, one of the charges to which he has pleaded not guilty. 

Don Farquhar testified that he met with Barisoff and James for 15 minutes and gave an oral legal opinion to end the program and make the final payments. He said he did not offer advice about James’s eligibility. 

“I remember that Mr. Barisoff looked at his watch and said, Craig, how about a bite of lunch?” Farquhar told the court. “And that’s how it ended. You know, that sorta describes the whole atmosphere, so to speak. In other words, okay, let’s let the lawyer have his say and then let’s get out of here.”

James joined the Legislature in 1987 and was appointed the $259,000-a-year clerk in 2011 by the BC Liberal caucus.

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Bob Mackin One more witness for the Crown’s

Bob Mackin

The Crown expects to wrap its fraud and breach of trust case against Craig James this week, Special Prosecutor Brock Martland said in B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 14. 

It is not yet known if James, the Clerk from 2011 to 2018, will testify on his own behalf or if his the defence lawyers will call any witnesses.

Then-Speaker Bill Barisoff (left) and Clerk Craig James during a Feb. 14, 2012 ceremony at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. That was the same week Barisoff approved a $258,000 payment to James. (BC Gov/Flickr)

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes heard Feb. 14 from Bill Barisoff. Barisoff, a BC Liberal MLA who was speaker from 2005 to 2013, appeared via video link from a courtroom at the Penticton Provincial courthouse. 

In 2012, James and three others took so-called long-service award payments under a pension scheme that had been discontinued. Kate Ryan-Lloyd, James’s successor, turned hers back in early 2013 before a scathing report by the Office of the Auditor General. James kept his $258,000 package, which is the subject of one of the five charges to which he has pleaded not guilty. 

Martland asked Barisoff whether he was concerned about the ethics of the payments. 

“Were you concerned at the time about the appearance, the optics of Mr. James having been involved in the process of moving forward the payment of these large payments and then receiving one in short order himself?” 

Barisoff: “If I remember right. My biggest concern at the time was what was happening was [clerk assistant] Robert Vaive…  that he was dying of cancer and was attached to this money as we’re going around in circles.”

Martland asked Barisoff if he sought any advice, including from the conflict of interest commissioner, Paul Fraser. He said he had no recollection of speaking to anyone, including Fraser. 

Martland: “Did you trust and rely on the integrity of the people who dealt with this issue? Why?”

Barisoff: “Because if you didn’t have to trust the people that you work with, it’s pretty difficult to run the operation.”

Martland also asked Barisoff about James’s visits to his house, which were revealed in then-Speaker Darryl Plecas’s 2019 bombshell report that exposed corruption at the Legislature. 

Martland: “With respect to your relationship with Mr. James, I think you said earlier that you had not been to his house, has he been to your house? How many times?” 

Barisoff: “I can’t remember, but I always think of that was on business.”

Martland: “Give us a ballpark sense of whether that’s five times, 10 times, two times, 20 times Five? 

Barisoff: “Five.”

How many were during versus after his tenure as speaker? Sorry, I just can’t. I can’t remember,” Barisoff said. 

Martland said that there are documents on some of the visits, including June 2013 and April 2017. Martland prompted Barisoff to recall a delivery of items stored in his Legislature office during the former visit. He did not recall how many days James stayed. 

In the Plecas report, there was evidence of a $370 cheque dated June 26, 2013 from Barisoff with a memo “wine purchase” after James had trucked a quantity of alcohol worth as much as $10,000 from the Legislature to Barisoff. The haul also included a desk and chair. James stayed overnight at the Penticton Lakeside Inn, which was billed to taxpayers. 

The trial continues. 

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Bob Mackin The Crown expects to wrap its

Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP government spent $47.66 million last year on the contract with Telus for the province’s vaccine booking hotline, documents obtained under freedom of information law reveal.

The hotline, plagued by initial problems, was designed to assist the first wave of those eligible for vaccines to easily book appointments at provincial clinics and sites. The documents reveal some of the early growing pains, including some challenges in tracking the hours worked by call agents.

NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix and Telus CEO Darren Entwistle in 2012 (Mackin)

The first invoice, for $20.4 million, was dated May 28, 2021 and reflected the initial setup of the Telus Elements call centre platform and costs for service from Feb. 28 to April 30. The actual number of hours billed was withheld under a clause in the freedom of information law that protects proprietary information, such as unit pricing.

Telus also charged $7.71 million and $8.27 million for May and June, respectively, and $4.4 million for July. The latter invoice, dated Sept. 29, included a $1.03 million correction for May and June agent hours. 

“The September audit was done to ensure good housekeeping,” according to a statement from the provincial branch of Government Communications and Public Engagement (GCPE). “The provincial call centre service was organized quickly, and some errors were detected by Telus and reported to the Ministry of Health in the recording of hours by call agents in the initial months. These were subsequently corrected, resulting in the invoice reduction.”

The system crashed almost as quickly as it launched on March 9, 2021. Only 369 senior citizens in the Vancouver Coastal Health region were able to get through the busy signals and hours-long waits to book appointments. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Telus “let us down.” 

“It wasn’t just technical problems, there was insufficient staff,” Dix said at the time. 

Telus CEO Darren Entwistle issued a public apology. 

“We are sorry for the frustrations that British Columbians have experienced trying to connect to the call centres,” Entwistle said. “The provincial government and health authorities asked us to support them, as we have let them down. We can and will do better, and we will make this right.”

Telus responded by nearly doubling the number of phone agents to 550. 

“No refund of hours worked and billed by call agents was expected or necessary,” said the GCPE statement. 

Government rules call for contracts worth more than $75,000 to undergo an advertised competition, except when there is an unforeseeable emergency or if a competitive process would interfere with a ministry’s ability to protect life or health. The vaccine call centre contract was negotiated by the province’s five health authorities through the government’s telecommunications master service agreement with Telus.

Telus, Bell, Rogers and Shaw were involved in a two-year bidding process for nine separate contracts. But the BC Liberal cabinet suddenly halted tendering in June 2011 and bundled all the work into a $1 billion, 10-year package with options to extend and gave it to Telus amid protests from the other bidders. The agreement is up for renewal in 2023. 

Public accounts for the year-ended March 31, 2021 show six divisions of Telus billed the province $82.4 million during the fiscal year.

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Bob Mackin  The B.C. NDP government spent $47.66

Bob Mackin

Documents obtained under the freedom of information law show that Penny Ballem, the head of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, charged taxpayers $405,000 last January through September for her services.

VCH chair Penny Ballem (BC Gov)

Ballem was originally given the $250-an-hour, no-bid contract in January 2021 for 10 months at a maximum $220,000 through her numbered company that does business as Pendru Consulting. However, the program went into overtime when a children’s vaccine received approval and the Omicron variant led to a booster shot campaign for adults. 

When asked for the cost of the more recent payments to Ballem, as well as the overall budget for the ImmunizeBC mass-vaccination program, Art Aronson of the government’s Communications and Public Engagement branch refused to answer. Instead, he said it would be necessary to submit a $10 freedom-of-information request, a move that could take weeks and perhaps months to be answered.

Ballem is a former deputy health minister under the BC Liberals from 2001 to 2006 who spent seven years as Vancouver’s city manager under Mayor Gregor Robertson. She did not respond for comment. 

In December, Health Minister Adrian Dix rewarded her with three more years as chair of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. For the year-ended last March 31, she was paid $55,309, which includes a stipend, meeting fees and expense reimbursement. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry (BC Gov)

Meanwhile, the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is refusing to explain how Dr. Bonnie Henry was allowed to co-author a book about her work as the Provincial Health Officer during the pandemic’s first wave. The title, “Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe: Four Weeks That Shaped a Pandemic,” was published in March 2021. 

A copy of Henry’s Provincial Health Officer (PHO) contract, obtained under the freedom of information law, includes clauses about confidentiality, conflict of interest and intellectual property belonging to the province. The contract sets the terms of her secondment to the Ministry of Health, where she became PHO by NDP cabinet order in early 2018. 

PHSA communications officer Andrea Visscher referred questions to the Ministry of Health communications office, which did not respond by deadline. 

Last November, the NDP government imposed a $10 application fee for public records after ramming through controversial amendments to the openness law that the party created 29 years ago. 

Publisher Allen Lane, a Penguin Random House Canada subsidiary, said in late 2020 that Henry would donate her advance payment to First Book Canada, a charity that distributes books to underprivileged children. The dollar amount was not disclosed and Henry refused to release her contract after an FOI request. 

She claimed to have written the book as a private citizen, but she promoted the book with national media interviews during office time and with the help of a public relations contractor paid via the Ministry of Health. 

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Bob Mackin Documents obtained under the freedom of

For the week of Feb. 13, 2022:

The circus is back in town. On the heels of Kevin Falcon’s controversial election as BC Liberal Party leader, the spring session of the Legislative Assembly opened in Victoria.

The two Green Party MLAs were busy. They questioned the NDP government why it doesn’t accept airborne spread of the coronavirus and whether a cabinet minister deliberately misled lawmakers about taxing freedom of information requests. 

Meanwhile, a polarizing, coast-to-coast protest by truckers has caught politicians off-guard and B.C.’s biggest commercial border crossing was blocked on Feb. 12.

Hear the sounds of the week that was in B.C. and federal politics.

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 Podcast? Go to the archive.

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Political upheaval, from Ottawa to Victoria

For the week of Feb. 13, 2022: The

Bob Mackin

A former Comptroller General and Auditor General of B.C. said nobody ever raised a concern about ex-Clerk Craig James’s spending to him.

Arn van Iersel, who later worked as an advisor to the Legislative Assembly, said “that never came up.”

Veteran auditor Arn van Iersel (BC Gov)

“I wasn’t even aware of it, except for the special retirement allowance,” he testified Feb. 8 in B.C. Supreme Court under cross-examination by James’s lawyer, Gavin Cameron. 

That’s because it appeared in the auditor general’s 2013 management letter that questioned why the amounts paid to four officials were not shown in public accounts, he said.

James is charged with fraud and breach of trust stemming from expense misconduct found by Darryl Plecas, who was the speaker from 2017 to 2020. One of the charges is about taking a nearly $258,000 “long service award” payment under a program that had been discontinued. James has pleaded not guilty to all five counts. 

Van Iersel concluded in a 2007 report that the Legislative Assembly’s financial framework was “sound,” but still needed strong controls. Even though it was small compared to Crown corporations, it was still a $50 million operation. 

Van Iersel was the predecessor to John Doyle, who issued a scathing report in 2012 about the lack of financial reporting in the Legislative Assembly, the year after James was appointed Clerk by the BC Liberal caucus. 

Van Iersel agreed with Special Prosecutor Brock Martland that public confidence matters, because “once you lose confidence in a major part of an organization, you start to question the ability of the organization to do its job and what the problem is.”

He said Plecas’s 2019 report raised significant issues and questioned the creditability of the office of the clerk.  

Martland asked whether the pace of change and reform changed after the Plecas report. 

“Over my time there as a consultant, it did change,” van Iersel said. “Because of the early auditor general observations, there is a plan, there is an incentive, a desire to meet all those requirements to involve them.”

Van Iersel said the 2012 auditor general report also had an impact, causing the Legislative Assembly Management Committee to “make sure that their credibility was restored.” 

With the release of the Plecas report, “it picked up again, making sure that the issues were being addressed.”

Van Iersel said the involvement of the all-party LAMC was not as strong as it should have been, in terms of a governance role. 

“LAMC needs to act more like a management board, which, as I already said, the auditors said start with a set of financial statements. That’s not the end of it. They need to be more involved,” he said. “And that’s why we created the finance and audit Committee. My understanding now is that additional committees, subcommittees are being created under LAMC, to deal with not only financial issues, but personnel and so on and so forth.”

The trial continues before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. 

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Bob Mackin A former Comptroller General and Auditor