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Bob Mackin

Premier John Horgan’s legacy when he steps down this fall will include his record as a job creator in his own office, where millions of dollars have been spent on new hires.

In the 2021 budget, the Office of the Premier was allotted $14.68 million, a whopping $3.34 million increase from a year earlier. The office got a further $14,000 top-up in the 2022 budget.

Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)

The total number of people employed a year after the snap 2020 election grew to almost 100, according to a payroll list obtained under freedom of information. Horgan’s office includes the intergovernmental relations secretariat, cabinet operations, executive and support services and the planning and priorities secretariat.

The latter was created after the 2020 election, costs $1.6 million a year and includes 10 new hires tasked to work with ministries on cabinet social, economic and environmental initiatives.

The heart of Horgan’s office is the executive branch, which includes political staff and correspondence clerks. A background note for 2021 budget estimates hearings said there were 27 political staffers as of June 2021 and eight others in the correspondence unit.

“Salary costs for executive operations of the Premier’s Office are approximately $2.7 million,” said the briefing note. “In July 2017 under the BC Liberal government, the executive branch had a total of 21 [full-time equivalents] and salary cost of $1.77 million.”

Documents show that there were 86 people on the payroll in August 2020, the month before the snap election. In October 2021, which had three pay periods, there were 97 employed and the total gross payroll for that month was $1.072 million.

The reason for the hiring spree? “To meet the needs of a majority government and respond effectively to COVID and recovery,” the briefing note said.

The highest-paid employee in October 2021’s payroll was Lori Wanamaker, the Deputy Minister to the Premier ($38,438), followed by special advisor John Allan ($34,929) and Deputy Minister of Special Initiatives Jill Kot, ($29,244). The top two officials in the intergovernmental relations secretariat and the assistant deputy minister of policy and coordination were the other bureaucrats making more than $24,000 in October 2021.

Meanwhile, Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs was the highest-paid political appointee, at $24,051, along with Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Issues Eric Kristianson ($18,507), Assistant Deputy Minister of Planning and Priorities Secretariat Donna Sanford ($18,435) and Deputy Chiefs of Staff Amber Hockin ($18,073) and Don Bain ($17,979).

Premier John Horgan in the $15,000-a-month virtual studio (BC Gov)

There were seven people titled deputy minister or assistant deputy minister, nine executive directors, 12 directors and 14 assistants.

During the 2022 budget estimates hearing on June 1, Horgan said that the planning and priorities secretariat is similar to other jurisdictions in Canada and was created “to better support cabinet operations, to ensure timely understanding of issues as they emerge and to make sure that the appropriate work can be done.”

BC Liberal opposition leader Kevin Falcon said he struggled to understand the spending increase, because an additional office was not needed when he was in cabinet between 2001 and 2012.

“Quite frankly, it sounds to me like a lot more people just spending a lot more time pushing a lot more paper and having a lot more meetings without a discernible improved outcome,” Falcon said on June 1.

The estimates note also said the Office of the Premier spent $259,000 on contractors in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2021, including $138,493 on strategic advisor Robert Dewar and $50,000 on five, short-term, no-bid agreements for an unusual, post-2020 election transition team.

Transition teams are traditionally struck only when there is a new premier.

Premier John Horgan with chief of staff Geoff Meggs on a February 2019 trip to Washington State (BC Gov)

In Horgan’s case, he hired Robert Chamberlin ($1,750), Roshan Danesh Law Corp. ($8,000), Raj Sihota ($14,945), Emily Rose White ($14,374) and Stewart Group Strategic Consulting ($10,000). Sihota was the NDP’s executive director through the 2020 election. Stewart Group president Lecia Stewart was the NDP-appointed chair of BC Ferries.

NDP finance minister Selina Robinson is expected sometime this month to release the government’s public accounts for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Horgan has continued his public lobbying for billions of dollars of additional federal healthcare funds. He flippantly suggested the purchase of a newspaper ad to convince the federal Liberal government to send more money after Order of B.C. recipient Nadine Mort bought space in the Victoria Times Colonist in a desperate measure to find a doctor to write a prescription for her husband.

On June 28, Horgan announced he would retire from the premiership when the NDP chooses a successor. Party members are scheduled to vote Dec. 3. The only declared candidate is David Eby, who could be acclaimed if nobody else enters by Oct. 4.

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Bob Mackin Premier John Horgan’s legacy when he

Bob Mackin

A B.C. Court of Appeal tribunal dismissed a man’s bid to stop his extradition to the United States, after he failed to convince a lower court judge that police violated his constitutional rights. 

The Vancouver Police Department’s gang crime unit arrested Wayne Steven Hollaus in an Oct. 24, 2014, sting that also nabbed another man, alleged ex-Hells Angel David James Oliynyk. 

The two men picked up a suitcase containing 26 kilograms of what turned out to be fake cocaine and loaded it on the flatbed of a pickup truck. The VPD officers used a traffic stop as a ruse to seize the suitcase and arrest the duo as part of an ongoing U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigation.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

Hollaus contended he was also subjected to unreasonable search and seizure and arbitrary detention, because he claimed the arresting officer did not have proper grounds for his arrest. B.C. Supreme Court rejected his arguments in 2020. 

Hollaus’s appeal was heard on April 29. Justice Peter Voith wrote the Aug. 3 appeal decision. Justices Mary Newbury and Peter WIllcock concurred.

“The police had reasonable grounds to arrest the appellant based on information from the operation, shared with the arresting officer, that the appellant had picked up a suitcase which he believed contained cocaine,” said the verdict. “At that point, he was arrestable for the Canadian offence of attempted possession for the purpose of trafficking.”

The appeal court said Hollaus’s rights were not breached, because he was advised that he was under arrest for possession for the purpose of trafficking, as opposed to attempted possession for the purpose of trafficking. 

The identities of the police officers are protected by a publication ban. The judgment said they planned tell Hollaus and Oliynyk that a 9-1-1 call from an unknown source reported they had transferred a suitcase from one vehicle to another. The first officer to stop the vehicle and be in contact with Hollaus improvised, using the fact that the Chevy Silverado was missing a validation tag on its rear licence plate in an effort to coax Hollaus out of the vehicle. 

Both men were handcuffed outside the vehicle and told they were detained for a suspicious vehicle check. Another officer searched the flatbed and found the suitcase containing the fake cocaine before Hollaus’s arrest.

“The use of the ruse was short-lived. Four minutes after the police first stopped Mr. Hollaus, he was advised he was being arrested for possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking,” Voith wrote. “Certainly, another aspect of the ruse was to conceal the DHS investigation, but there was no need, as I have earlier explained, to advise the appellant of the ongoing American investigation.”

On June 8, Oliynyk lost his appeal of a U.S. bid to extradite him on a conspiracy to smuggle cocaine case.

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Bob Mackin A B.C. Court of Appeal tribunal

Bob Mackin

The most-visible foreign diplomat in B.C. has left her post after almost five years. 

People’s Republic of China Consul-General Tong Xiaoling bid farewell on July 28 to Vancouver, where she was the 13th person to hold the post, in a letter published in Chinese on the consulate’s Chinese language website.

China consul general Tong Xiaoling, left, and Premier John Horgan on Feb. 4, 2019 in Richmond (BC Gov)

“Although the international situation is ever-changing, and the relationship between the two countries has been ups and downs, it cannot change the historical trend of peaceful cooperation, nor the realistic logic of local exchanges,” Tong wrote in the letter, translated to English. “I wish the friendly cooperation between the consular district and China will continue to achieve fruitful results.”

Tong also thanked the “vast number of overseas Chinese for building bridges for China-Canada friendship and contributing to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Beijing-born Tong, 60, arrived in Vancouver in late November 2017. She had previously been China’s ambassador to Brunei and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and deputy commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong. The consulate media office has not responded to questions about Tong’s replacement or her next career move.

“The fact that her posting extended for an unusually long period of five years, suggests that the Chinese Communist Party felt that her job performance was furthering China’s agenda in the Vancouver area very well,” said Charles Burton, a former diplomat in Canada’s Beijing embassy and a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute think-tank. 

Tong Xiaoling receiving a plaque from B.C. NDP Minister Bruce Ralston (PRC Consulate)

Just over a year after Tong’s arrival, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant alleging fraud in the United States. That began a period of almost three years in which Vancouver and the Chinese consulate were in the foreground or background of international and domestic geopolitical intrigue and upheaval. 

Tong often publicly demanded Meng’s release and criticized the Canadian government, which was bound by the terms of Canada’s extradition treaty with the U.S. She sometimes observed extradition hearings in court and delivered gifts to Meng’s residences, while Chinese state-friendly media outlets watched. 

In early 2020, when the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Tong demanded the Province newspaper apologize for using the words “China virus” in a headline. Meanwhile, the consulate became involved in exporting bulk shipments of personal protective equipment to China and outfitting Chinese students with masks and gloves at Lower Mainland universities. After Canadian supplies were exhausted, Tong helped arrange a donation to B.C. hospitals from sister province Guangdong. 

Tong was often photographed with municipal, provincial and federal politicians who sought to maintain ties with China, despite the kidnapping of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, an international diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics and Xi Jinping’s alliance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Tong Xiaoling (standing) with NDP Minister George Chow (right) and Liberal MP Wilson Miao (left) during her last-known public appearance in Vancouver on July 10. (PRC Consulate)

Tong’s tenure also included coordinating local celebrations for the 70th anniversary of dictator Mao Zedong’s founding of modern China in 2019, the centennial of the CCP in 2021, and Beijing 2022. The consulate became a lightning rod for protests by groups demanding China release the Two Michaels, free Uyghur Muslims interned in Xinjiang and stop the crackdown on human rights in Hong Kong. Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West led a boycott of the Tong-hosted cocktail party at the 2019 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. The UBCM voted to ban foreign-government lobbying events at future conventions. 

Last November, Tong lashed out at Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart for a proposed “friendship city” arrangement with Taiwan’s third-largest city, Kaohsiung. Earlier in 2021, Stewart had indefinitely cancelled all meetings with Chinese government officials after former colleague and Conservative MP Michael Chong was among the Canadians that China sanctioned in retaliation for sanctions aimed at condemning the Uyghur genocide. 

At the end of May, Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents warned Stewart that the upcoming civic election could be a target for Chinese government meddling. 

Despite the controversies, Burton said Tong was “exceptionally effective” in furthering the political objectives of China’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) foreign influence program. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s watershed 2020 report called UFWD the “exportation of the CCP’s political system” that undermines social cohesion, exacerbates racial tension, influences politics, harms media integrity, facilitates espionage, and increases unsupervised technology transfer.

“Her departure is probably something that we would welcome as this kind of United Front work engagement of people, particularly persons of Chinese origin, who have Canadian citizenship, is not really consistent with normal diplomatic functions,” Burton said.

Consul-General Tong Xiaoling visiting Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1, 2019. (Phoenix TV)

“So one hopes that we will see someone coming into the job who will be more oriented towards diplomatic activities consistent with their mandate as as a consul general, like other consul generals in Vancouver, and not one who has such an explicitly political role in seeking to divert the loyalty of Canadians towards a foreign country, that being China.”

Burton wondered if Tong’s next post will be diplomatic or somewhere else in the Communist Party regime. “It’d be interesting to watch where her career goes from here,” he said. 

The consulate’s Chinese website also includes a photograph of NDP Energy Minister Bruce Ralston presenting Tong with a B.C. government plaque on the deck outside the Canada Place cabinet office.

Ralston is the cabinet liaison to B.C.’s foreign diplomatic corps. He did not publish a version of that photo to his Twitter account, as he normally does when he meets, greets or says goodbye to a diplomat.

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Bob Mackin The most-visible foreign diplomat in B.C.

Bob Mackin

The CEO of BC Housing is retiring, less than a month after the board was replaced in the wake of a damning report about mismanagement of the Crown social housing corporation. 

Shayne Ramsay, who spent 26 years with BC Housing, and was CEO since May 2000, said he celebrated his 61st birthday in July and wants to spend more time with family. His last day will be Sept. 6.

Ramsay (BC Housing)

In a 10-part Tweet thread midday Aug. 2, Ramsay said “something shifted” on May 7, after a neighbour was bowled over by two men who had allegedly committed murder at the CRAB Park homeless camp. He said the last straw was the July 30 Vancouver Police shooting of a man alleged to have seriously injured a police officer on the Downtown Eastside. 

“I think the shooting on Hastings Street, surrounded by the encampment and during another heat wave, finally did it for me,” Ramsay wrote. “I no longer have confidence I can solve the complex problems facing us at BC Housing.”

Ramsay also referred to the July 25 rampage shooting in Langley, which killed a homeless man and a man in social housing, and the July 26 public hearing on the controversial Arbutus social housing tower. He claimed he was swarmed and threatened by opponents after he spoke with reporters. A majority of Vancouver city council approved the project two days later.

It took housing ministry officials four hours to respond to a query for comment on Ramsay’s announcement, but they did not indicate in the four-paragraph statement whether there had been a board of directors meeting.

“The BC Housing board will immediately begin work to identify a new CEO to lead the organization into the future,” said the statement, attributed to Murray Rankin, the Acting Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing.

“Shayne Ramsay has dedicated many years to the challenging work of CEO at BC Housing. In his retirement announcement today, he mentioned his desire to spend time with family,” said the statement. 

The other two paragraphs were about the NDP’s housing strategy since taking power in 2017 and aspirations to expand affordable housing. Rankin, coincidentally, was officially designated the housing minister on Aug. 2, almost two weeks after predecessor David Eby said he was stepping down in a bid to succeed the retiring John Horgan. 

While Ramsay referred to a litany of external turmoil for his retirement decision, there was no shortage of problems inside BC Housing under his watch. 

On July 8 at 6:35 p.m., Eby announced the firing of a majority of the board and the immediate appointment of two current and two former deputy ministers and a former acting auditor general to implement the recommendations of a May 10 report by Ernst and Young. Eby has since resigned in a bid to become NDP leader and succeed John Horgan as premier. 

Attorney General Eby (Mackin)

The Ernst and Young report, called Financial Systems and Operational Review of BC Housing, was dated May 10, but kept secret until June 30. 

The report said BC Housing suffers a siloed approach to delivery, has made limited investments in IT infrastructure and resources, and its project administration is largely undocumented and does not include a risk-based approach.

The report also described a perfect storm of increased homelessness and encampments along with demands to house mentally ill and addicted clients amid a competitive job market.

BC Housing’s budget grew from $782 million in 2017-2018, the first year of the NDP government, to $1.9 billion in 2020-2021. The NDP committed to $7 billion more over 10 years

and expanded borrowing power from $165 million to $2.8 billion. Despite the funding windfall, BC Housing became one of the first major Crown corporations to adopt the controversial, non-refundable $10-per-application freedom of information fee enacted last fall by the NDP majority.

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth ordered B.C. Coroners Service on July 21 to hold an inquest into the deaths of two people in the April 11 fire at the Winters Hotel in Gastown. 

The demolished property was funded by BC Housing and managed by Atira, an organization run by Ramsay’s wife Janice Abbott. 

For more than a decade, Ramsay has been dogged by questions about his marriage to Abbott. They disclosed their relationship to the BC Housing board in 2010 and managed the conflict of interest according to a June 2010 protocol that was updated last November. 

Under that protocol, Ramsay agreed not to communicate with any employee or board member about Atira and to recuse himself from, and avoid any discussions or decisions about anything directly related to Atira. He also agreed not to access any BC Housing information directly related to Atira, except that which is of general application or already in the public domain.

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Bob Mackin The CEO of BC Housing is

For the week of July 31, 2022:

Meet Leo Seewald, Taiwan’s newest video star.

Leo Seewald, the Happy Fisherman on TaiwanPlus, at Go Fish in Vancouver on July 13, 2022 (Mackin)

He is the Happy Fisherman on the TaiwanPlus show of the same name.

The former Vancouverite is now Taiwanese, speaks Mandarin and has an ambitious goal: to sail in all 250 of Taiwan’s fishing harbours and document his journeys, the people he meets and the seafood he catches and eats.

When Leo visited Vancouver in July, Podcast host Bob Mackin caught up with him for a seafood lunch at Go Fish and walk around the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf.

On this edition, hear the story of how Leo became the Happy Fisherman. 

Also, headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest. 

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
The Podcast: Catching up with Taiwan's Happy Fisherman in Vancouver

For the week of July 31, 2022: Meet

Bob Mackin

In one of its final moves before the civic election campaign’s official kickoff, Vancouver city council decided to give up the $500,000 deposit paid by the Montreal-based promoter of the cancelled electric car race and festival, on the condition that it use the money to refund ticket buyers, suppliers and/or sponsors.

The 2018-2022 Vancouver City Council (City of Vancouver)

Officially known as Canadian E-Fest, the event was scheduled for June 30-July 2 and it was to include a Nickelback concert, an environmental conference and the ABB Formula E World Championship race.

Promoter One-Stop Strategy Group (OSS) failed to secure all necessary permits to use land around East False Creek, so the event was cancelled in late April. OSS lost its contract in June with U.K.-based Formula E, which did not include Vancouver in the 2023 race calendar.

“Questions about funds being paid or refunded by OSS to ticket-holders, suppliers, sponsors, and/or other potential creditors should be directed to OSS,” said city hall’s July 29 announcement. 

OSS CEO Matthew Carter declined comment when reached by a reporter. He recently said ticket holders would receive refunds, but refused to say when, citing unspecified legal restrictions.

Clauses in the Jan. 26 contract between city hall and OSS, obtained under freedom of information, allowed city hall to keep the full sum.

“It is correct that, according to the Host City Agreement, OSS’s performance security payments were not refundable to OSS, whether the July 2022 event took place or not,” confirmed city hall senior communications specialist Kai-lani Rutland. “However, because the event did not ultimately take place, it was city council’s view that it would be appropriate to return these funds so that they could be applied to refunding and/or paying ticket-holders, suppliers, sponsors and other creditors involved with the cancelled event.

OSS Group’s Matthew Carter (LinkedIn)

The agreement said the city was entitled to draw down on the deposit “at any time and from time to time” to reimburse taxpayers for any and all costs under the agreement. In the event of termination of the agreement due to the promoter’s default, the portion of the deposit intended to subsidize local musicians and as many as 20 car charging stations for community centres was non-refundable.

Had the event happened, the city would have been obliged to return any remaining balance within 180 days after the event. 

OSS was responsible for all costs of producing the event, including city engineering and policing. The choice of summer’s first long weekend meant OSS was also on the hook for city staff overtime costs.

“[OSS] recognizes it is a ‘late-comer’ event that has selected a location and date typically blacked out for new major events; specifically, the downtown core on Canada Day long weekend and has declined recommendations by the city to select a date that is not ‘blacked out’,” said the contract.

Map of the proposed route for the Vancouver Formula E race.

“Furthermore, the organizer recognizes that it was informed that the selection of the Canada Day long weekend could increase costs due to resource constraints and has selected the event dates knowing that risk.”

The parties agreed to “maintain an open book policy towards each other” and provide each other full inspection rights to all records relating to the event. But the financial terms and timelines in the contract were redacted from the copy released by the city hall FOI office, under a section of the law dealing with fear of harm to a third-party’s business interests. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has consistently upheld the public’s right to see entire government contracts with private companies. 

OSS was also required to create a community benefits agreement. The city suggested that include affirmative action hiring of women in trades and Indigenous people and procuring of goods and services from “social impact and/or equity-seeking businesses.” To measure the community benefits agreement and the tourism and economic impact of the event, the city also required hiring independent third-party monitors to conduct separate reviews. Had Canadian E-Fest gone ahead, city hall ultimately wanted to know whether it aligned and supported council priorities about affordability, diversity, equity, reconciliation and climate change. 

Coun. Michael Wiebe (left) and Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung in 2018 (Mackin)

In return for all that, OSS agreed to give city hall space for community engagement and fundraising activities with a footprint of no less than 20 feet by 20 feet, “in a location having comparable frontage, visibility and accessibility as that of the organizer’s sponsors.”

Green Party Coun. Mike Wiebe and ABC Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung co-sponsored the April 2021 city council motion to bring Formula E to Vancouver. They did not immediately respond for comment.

The deposit refund announcement came the day after the 2018-elected city council held its last scheduled meeting before the Oct. 15 civic election. 

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Bob Mackin In one of its final moves

Bob Mackin

A scathing independent review of the Canadian Soccer Association found national women’s under-20 head coach Bob Birarda operated without oversight and had too much power.

Bob Birarda in 2005 (CSA)

Birarda, 55, awaits the completion of his Provincial Court sentencing after pleading guilty to three counts of sexually assault players and one count of touching a young person for sexual purpose. In June, a Crown lawyer asked a judge for two years less a day.

In the 125-page report released July 28, world-renowned University of Western Ontario sports law professor Richard McLaren said part-time CSA employee Birarda’s unilateral control was described by several players on the 2008 squad as being “God-like.”

“With no one directing or overseeing him, and given his expansive personality, power, influence, and control over the U-20-Women’s National Team and its players, Birarda ran the team as he saw fit, moved players around at his whim, and engaged in what should have been identified by CSA as highly questionable if not flatly proscribed relationships, communications, and activities with his female players (e.g. sexting, flirting, discussing personal relationships, making sexual overtures, going out at night with players, total disregard for the rule of two, and blurring of other professional boundaries).”

In an early 2019 blog report, former player Ciara McCormack blew the whistle on Birarda’s return to coaching youth soccer, which led to the criminal investigation of Birarda and the review by McLaren. McLaren is best-known for investigating widespread, government-sanctioned Russian doping at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Richard McLaren (UWO)

“Quite damning on the conduct of those in leadership in Canada Soccer in 2008,” McCormack said. “And, honestly, sickening on a human level that so many could cover up and minimize such egregious behaviour for so many years despite being warned many times.” 

At the time, Birarda was also an assistant on the Beijing 2008 Olympics team and the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps W-League team. McLaren found senior CSA officials in 2008 had a complete lack of familiarity with the CSA harassment policy. They also gave players no training or education to identify or report harassment.

McLaren said there was no written operating agreement between the Whitecaps and the CSA women’s team program that year while the association was going through executive leadership upheaval. Governance was characterized by a “dangerous lack of attention to planning and accountability matters.”

The CSA was in the late stages of a three-year agreement made in 2006 with the Greg Kerfoot Family Trust to provide financial support to the women’s national team program. Kerfoot paid players $20,000 a year, which was topped up to $38,000 to $40,000 with Sport Canada funding.  

“The strength of the relationship between the Whitecaps and the CSA was not simply predicated on a financial arrangement. It also benefitted from the CSA moving the WNT  program from Toronto to Vancouver,” McLaren wrote.

Senior team head coach Even Pellerud and his wife rented a West Vancouver mansion owned by Kerfoot. The Whitecaps and CSA were located on the same floor of an office building owned by Kerfoot in 2007. As many as 25 players listed on the 2008 Whitecaps roster were affiliated with the U-20 team and many of them lived in a Vancouver apartment building called the Monteray. The Whitecaps also provided a unit for team and coach meetings, in which Birarda temporarily lived. 

A player on both teams complained in May 2008 that Birarda was sending inappropriate, sexually-charged emails. The CSA’s general secretary told Pellerud to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Whitecaps’ owner Greg Kerfoot (Santa Ono, Twitter)

Lawyer Anne Chopra was retained to conduct an investigation from late August 2008 to early October 2008. Chopra did not cooperate with McLaren’s investigation. McLaren found her review took place over 11 days and many former players on the under-20 team were not invited to participate and others claimed a lack of followup. The CSA and Whitecaps jointly suspended Birarda on Oct. 3, 2008, but McLaren found no written minutes of CSA board decisions about Birarda. 

Chopra verbally recommended Birarda no longer be allowed to coach the teams “based on a continuing pattern of harassing behaviour and power imbalance.” Five days later, Birarda sent a written resignation on Oct. 8, 2008 and the parties agreed to a mutual parting of ways, rather than firing.

“The generic public statement issued by the CSA following Birarda’s departure did not acknowledge Birarda’s harassment or the recommendations of the Ombudswoman,” McLaren wrote. “The CSA Executive Committee’s intent to terminate Birarda was communicated as a ‘mutual parting of ways’ which mischaracterised,. if not glossed over, the real circumstances surrounding his departure.”

Little information was shared with players, though some went to a meeting where new coach Ian Bridge read a Birarda-drafted “self-serving statement” that referred to family and health challenges, but not the real reason for his departure. Players were left angry and taken aback as to Chopra’s investigation process and outcomes, McLaren wrote. 

McLaren made 38 recommendations, including a whistleblower policy, better regulation, oversight and discipline of coaches, and governance reform, including better record-keeping and “complete transparency, and thus accountability, of Executive Committee and Board and Judicial Committee decisions in all Safe Sport matters.” 

In a July 28 statement, recently appointed CSA general secretary Earl Cochrane unequivocally apologized for letting players down in 2008.

“We accept the findings outlined in the McLaren Report, and more importantly, we accept all recommendations and commit publicly to review, adopt, and enhance those recommendations,” said Cochrane’s statement. 

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Bob Mackin A scathing independent review of the

Bob Mackin

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia spent $23.98 million on salaries and expenses for claims lawyers, paralegals and assistants in the fiscal year ended March 31, a drop of $2.01 million from the first year of the pandemic.

ICBC’s North Vancouver headquarters (LinkedIn)

Documents obtained via freedom of information from the public-owned basic auto insurance monopoly showed there were 343 people employed in the claims legal services department between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 at a cost of $25.99 million. Last year, the number employed dropped to 299. 

Despite that, the top 10 highest-paid senior managers received pay raises, four of them in the double-digits.

Director of claims programs and strategies Christopher Ryan topped the pay parade at $224,386 in salary. He filed only $46.39 in expense claims. Director of claims and legal services Robert Warner’s salary was $210,538, followed by the manager of claims legal services knowledge management, Robert McCullough. His $194,672 salary was a whopping 24% more than the previous year.

“Any increases in salary for individual employees can be tied directly to promotions and performance-based increases,” said ICBC spokesman Brent Shearer.

Shearer said ICBC is not alone with challenges to attract and retain employees in a tight labour market, but changes in staffing levels were not directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

David Eby, who led ICBC’s switch to no-fault insurance. (BC Gov)

“Where possible, we moved to a virtual working environment and continued operating business as usual,” he said. “That said, our expenses during the pandemic went down as a result of more litigation activities being conducted virtually rather than in-person.”

Budget and staffing numbers for the current fiscal year are comparable with the last, he said.

The department’s 2021 organization chart covers 24 pages, while 2022’s totals 21 pages. 

The total cost of claims services was $395.09 million through March 31, 2021, down from $406.47 million in 2020.

Richard McCandless, a retired senior B.C. government bureaucrat who analyzes performance of Crown corporations, said ICBC continues to grapple with a multiyear backlog of claims, even after changing its business model in May 2021.

“They’re not talking about no-fault resulting in a significant drop in their claims staffing and I interpret that to mean that they’re trying to keep the people there to to reduce the backlog of claims, because we’ve got quite a buildup of claims pending,” McCandless said.

In an April analysis, McCandless noted the decline in settled property damage claims in 2020-2021 reflected the reduction in claims due to COVID-19. But the increase in settled injury claims last year may reflect the lower intake of new claims which allowed ICBC staff to focus on the pending claims.

ICBC is also exploring alternative means to reduce the backlog, such as the 25-case pilot project through the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre for disputes valued at no more than $200,000. 

“In their presentation to the Utilities Commission, they weren’t really forecasting any kind of major reduction in the claims business — both staffing and other operations,” McCandless said. “I think they’re taking the opportunity to go after the backlog.”

In the most-recent fiscal year, $7,040.08 was the highest expense tab for one employee. Otherwise, expenses in the department averaged $1,106.44. A total of 141 employees, mostly paralegals and legal assistants, had no expense claims for the year. In 2020-2021, the highest was $11,740.98. But the department-wide average was $845.16 and 148 staff had no expenses charged. 

In 2021, there were  47 vacancies, including 18 legal assistant litigation jobs, seven in paralegal and six in the “Counsel IV” designation. At the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2022, 17 of the 37 vacancies were in legal assistant litigation and five in paralegal.

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Claims Legal Services Org Chart by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

Bob Mackin

A Surrey woman described in an Instagram video how she discovered the gunman who went on a deadly rampage in Langley over six hours early Monday was the same, troubled 28-year-old who lived on her property. 

Charity Ciszek said that after receiving the broadcast text message from the RCMP at 6:19 a.m., she had an eerie feeling it was Jordan Daniel Goggin, the tenant of the coach house at her two-storey house near Shannon Park in the East Clayton North neighbourhood.

Jordan Daniel Goggin (IHIT)

“Then I thought to myself, oh my god, I wonder if it’s him. And then the SWAT team shows up at my house, and then cops show up my house,” Ciszek said.

Goggin was killed in a shootout with police at RioCan Langley Centre near 200th Street and Highway 10, after he was alleged to have killed two people and wounded two others. The Independent Investigations Office is probing Goggin’s interaction with police. 

Ciszek said that Goggin had been recently acting erratically. She had noticed he was “going a little bit crazy” during his last two weeks, “like saying ‘I’m f’d up, I’m f’d up’.” 

“You know, it just breaks my heart because I could feel the pain in him, I could see he was so lost, and I obviously didn’t do anything about it,” she said. “And it’s really tragic what happened to him, but at least he’s at peace now. And the two people that passed away, you know, I send them love as well, and the two people in critical [care], I hope that this changes their life around for the better.”

Ciszek hopes the tragedy is a wakeup call to say hello to neighbours and care for their mental wellbeing.

“I just hope that he’s peaceful now in a better place. Because from what I saw, he was really broken and really hurt and very confused.”

Police have not commented on Goggin’s whereabouts prior to the first shooting scene outside Cascades Casino, but Google Maps show that his residence was six kilometres, or a 12-minute drive, from the Cascades Casino.

Cascades Casino (Google Maps)


Four individuals were shot, two fatally at Creekstone Place and the Langley City bus loop, during the rampage, which began around midnight. No information has been released about the weapon he used. 

On Tuesday afternoon, IHIT said that Goggin, who drove a white, four-door Mazda sedan, was six-foot-one, 68 kilograms with light brown hair and a slight goatee. He wore a black t-shirt and board shorts before changing into brown overalls and a short-sleeve, camouflage t-shirt. IHIT is hoping additional witnesses will come forward and to learn the motive for the rampage. 

Victim services teams from Langley RCMP and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) are hosting a community outreach event Tuesday at Nickomekl Elementary School today. Crisis counsellors will be on-hand. 

Goggin’s name does not appear in the province’s online criminal courts registry. Lee said he was known to police, but vaguely described it as “non-criminal contact.” 

While Goggin had no apparent criminal charges prior to July 25, he was the defendant in a vehicle crash lawsuit scheduled for a five-day B.C. Supreme Court trial in February 2023 in New Westminster. 

A woman claimed in civil court filings that she suffered knee, leg, shoulder and arm injuries and accused Goggin of driving a 2010 Dodge Journey negligently on Sept. 15, 2018. Goggin allegedly crossed over a pedestrian island at an intersection and struck the front of the plaintiff’s vehicle. Goggin, who was represented by an ICBC lawyer, denied the allegations. Goggin’s address listed on the November 2020 lawsuit is at a residence beside Don Christian Park in Cloverdale.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Paul Formby, said he was on holiday and did not recall the details of the case or anything about Goggin. 

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Bob Mackin A Surrey woman described in an

Bob Mackin

A former cabinet minister who oversaw B.C. Corrections says the North Fraser Pretrial Centre escape of Rabih Alkhalil and how the RCMP has communicated about the incident have dealt another blow to public confidence in the justice system.

Escaped gangster Rabih Alkhalil (RCMP)

Coquitlam RCMP said Alkhalil, 35, was dressed in a black jumpsuit and high visibility vest when he left in a white Ford Econoline van at 6:48 p.m. July 21 with two men posing as contractors. The next day, RCMP released photographs of the alleged accomplices and claimed they had identified them. RCMP was forced to admit July 23 that the photographs were not of the suspects, but stock photos published around the internet that resemble the suspects. 

“I have never in my 32 years in policing, and my time since policing, seen such an inept investigation on a suspected murderer that has escaped from one of our secure institutions,” said Kash Heed, the Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister in 2009 and 2010. 

“I visited that institution, you just have to look at the incredible surveillance system that they have there, the quality of that system, and how could you not have images of individuals that assisted in that escape not available to the public,” Heed said. “But you have photos taken off the internet, that are not even them, that you publish as accomplices to the escape?”

Heed said there are overlapping security systems and checks and balances. 

Kash Heed (Mackin)

“For you to get into the facility or anywhere near where some of the prisoners would be, especially some of these high risk prisoners, you will have gone through several surveillance systems or you ought to have gone through several surveillance systems, which would have captured your image,” Heed said.

The public deserves a full explanation, including for the delay in issuing the original bulletin about the escape and the confusion created by the publication of fake identification of the suspects.

“[Alkhalil] obviously had a well-planned escape plan, and who knows where he is right now, whether he is sitting low and waiting for things to calm down, or he’s already made his way to another country,” Heed said. “Will we ever know? I’m not sure. But do we have confidence that the investigation will lead us or give us the answers? No, I don’t have the confidence in it.”

Alan Mullen, who was chief of staff to former Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas, spent 10 years as a correctional manager for Kent Institution and frequently visited North Fraser Pretrial Centre for inmate transfers between the federal and B.C. systems.

Fake ID released by RCMP (upper left and lower right) compared with images found on obscure websites.

“We definitely have more questions than answers at this point, it’s not clear whether these two accomplices even entered the institution, it’s not clear whether they were on the compound or just outside the fence, whether they were in the building, we don’t know, how deep they actually got in,” Mullen said. “We do know if given the reports that a blowtorch was used and one of the fences was compromised.”

While Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has said there will be an investigation, Mullen said it needs to be independent and conducted by someone who is from out of province and who knows the corrections system, in order to prevent another escape.

In November 2007, it was an inside job. Omid Tahvili escaped North Fraser Pretrial Centre with help of guard Edwin Ticne. Tahvili was sentenced to 11-years in absentia for kidnapping. Ticne was sentenced to three years in prison.

Mullen said Alkhalil’s escape should also spark dialogue about whether to hold violent criminals and gang associates for long periods of time in a place like suburban North Fraser or at a higher-security federal institution in a rural area. 

“I think there’s an opportunity to house them at a facility that’s better equipped to handle that level of, inmate high-profile, whether it be at Matsqui Institution or Kent or Mountain. You can still be on pretrial status, you can still be on a provincial status, you’re not, inhibiting their rights or freedoms, any more than you would at North Fraser, they just happen to be housed at a facility that’s better equipped.” 

A key question for an investigation would be inmate-to-officer ratio. The more crowded a facility, the more officers are needed to prevent an escape. 

Alan Mullen, who was chief of staff to ex-Speaker Darryl Plecas (Mackin)

“How did this individual happen to be at that fence, at that specific time? I mean, the timing is impeccable. This was well-planned. This was well thought out, and it was well executed,” Mullen said. “It’s scary that this can happen.”

Alkhalil was one of four men convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a 2012 murder in Toronto’s Little Italy during a Euro soccer watch party at a cafe. He was arrested in Greece in 2013.

Alkhalil’s first degree murder trial will go on without him on July 27 in B.C. Supreme Court. He is charged with the Jan. 17, 2012 killing of gangster Sandip Duhre at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver. Hells Angel Larry Ronald Amero is also standing trial for conspiring to murder Duhre.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Maisonville told the jury that Alkhalil had absconded and said she would instruct them later how to handle that fact. She also warned jurors to ignore any media reports about the case and reminded them that Alkhalil remains presumed innocent until the Crown has proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Bob Mackin A former cabinet minister who oversaw