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Bob Mackin 

B.C. Legislature Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd testified in B.C. Supreme Court Jan. 28 that she felt “uncomfortable” in early 2013, so she returned money received in 2012 under a discontinued retirement scheme.

Kate Ryan-Lloyd (left) and Darryl Plecas (Twitter)

Her predecessor, Craig James, has pleaded not guilty to all five charges for which he is being tried. One of the charges is breach of public trust for improperly obtaining and keeping $257,988 under a program intended for the three 1984-employed senior clerks employed when they eventually vacated their jobs.

James had been hired in 1987 as clerk of committees, two months before the executive benefit plan ended. The BC Liberal caucus appointed James the new clerk in June 2011. By early 2012, Speaker Bill Barisoff triggered the payments when he signed a memo for James that also provided $202,385.41 to clerk assistant Robert Vaive and $80,224.17 to law clerk Ian Izard.

Ryan-Lloyd, the deputy clerk in 2012, was allotted $118,915.84 under the so-called long-service award program.

“I was very concerned about the size of the payout and very uncomfortable with it,” Ryan-Lloyd said before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. “Indeed, I had heard as well that Mr. Vaive, who was also in receipt of the allowance, should not have received it, but it was provided to him on compassionate grounds. I could not see a logical extension of eligibility or liability to Mr. James or myself.”

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, sworn-in by Clerk Craig James in April 2018 (BC Leg/Twitter)

Ryan-Lloyd said the scathing July 2012 auditor general’s report into legislature finances influenced her about-face. (Her husband Ken is a longtime employee of the office, and is currently the manager of compliance, controls and research). 

By early 2013, she returned the $83,235 she had received for personal reasons, according to a formal letter addressed to James. 

“Did you have a discussion with Mr. James before this letter was sent to him?” Special Prosecutor David Butcher asked. 

“I did,” Ryan-Lloyd said.  

Butcher: “What was his response when you told him that you were going to return the money?”

“Mr. James, I think he thought I was going to think about it a bit more,” Ryan-Lloyd said. “I did confirm to him that I had made a decision. I recall that he said ‘well, you can do what you want, but I’m keeping mine’.”

Ryan-Lloyd said she believed there had been a thorough process to approve the payments, including legal advice to determine eligibility. 

“I concluded by 2013, that my understanding was not correct.”

“I thought very much that my colleagues throughout the assembly work very hard in the service of the house,” she said. “And it was not right to hold on to these funds… I could not see rationale for holding them.” 

The trial is expected to last five more weeks and hear from 26 more witnesses.

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Bob Mackin  B.C. Legislature Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd testified

Bob Mackin

For the second time in six weeks, the special prosecutors in the fraud and breach of trust case against former B.C. Legislature clerk Craig James have surprised the court.

Special prosecutor David Butcher (Mackin)

In a Jan. 6 case management conference, Brock Martland told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that 11 boxes of evidence were found in the Parliament Buildings before Christmas. Three weeks later, on Jan. 27, David Butcher revealed that executive financial officer Hillary Woodward told him the night before that she found two more documents.

“One of the documents would be exculpatory in nature,” Butcher said. “It is copied to Ms. Ryan Lloyd.”

“Exculpatory” means it could prove guilt or innocence. “Ms. Ryan-Lloyd” is Kate Ryan-Lloyd, the first witness in the six-week trial and James’s successor as the Legislative Assembly’s chief executive. 

James’s lead lawyer objected to admission of the new document and called it “grossly unfair.” 

“I’m shadow-boxing right now,” Gavin Cameron told Holmes. “I’m concerned with where I think we’re going, but I don’t know where we’re going.”

Butcher gave no hints about the contents of the document. Holmes called a time out for the defense and prosecution to confer. Butcher successfully asked for adjournment until 2 p.m. so that a police officer could conduct a taped interview of Ryan-Lloyd about the documents. 

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

When the trial resumed for the afternoon, Butcher said “we are on our way to solving the problem.” Ryan-Lloyd had been interviewed for 49 minutes but neither side had finished reviewing the recording. Butcher said he would carry on asking Ryan-Lloyd questions about working under James, without touching on the newly discovered documents. 

The six-week trial opened Jan. 24, when James pleaded not guilty to all five charges. One of the charges is about his $13,230.51 purchase of a Wallenstein WX450-L wood splitter and P.J. D5102 dump trailer with taxpayers’ money. He kept the equipment at his house in the Cordova Bay area of Saanich, rather than in the Legislative precinct, more than 13 kilometres away. 

Ryan-Lloyd revealed in court that she is pondering what to do with the combo, which became symbols of the scandal that was revealed by then-Speaker Darryl Plecas in a scathing January 2019 report about corruption under James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

Speaker Darryl Plecas (left), interim clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and the black binder of evidence in January 2019 (Mackin)

“I have been in discussions to Speaker [Raj] Chouhan to ensure that, although public funds had been used to purchase equipment, that we would be able to find an appropriate way to dispose of the equipment,” she said. “There is no need, in my view, to retain these items of equipment.”

Ryan-Lloyd told the court she knew the combo had been purchased as part of spending on emergency preparedness in fall 2017. In the spring of 2018, she said, Plecas mentioned to her that the Legislature had these items, but instead of being on-site, they were stored at James’s house.

Ryan-Lloyd said there was no policy that allowed the off-site storage of equipment. 

“It did not make any sense to me at all,” she said. 

Both items were licensed and insured, but the trailer hitch was not compatible with work trucks at the Legislature precinct. 

“So there were many questions that surfaced in the fullness of time, but clearly, in October of 2017, I needed to ask more questions,” Ryan-Lloyd conceded.

The trial continues. 

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Bob Mackin For the second time in six

Bob Mackin 

Bus drivers on routes through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are facing another challenge to their safety.

A Coast Mountain Bus window shattered by an apparent pellet gun shot on the Downtown Eastside.

A source told theBreaker.news that there were 22 cases of projectiles striking Coast Mountain bus windows on East Hastings, between Main and Cambie streets, from Jan. 19-23.

Some of the windows were shattered and the buses taken out of service. A driver, who asked not to be named, said the weapon was a pellet gun. 

Transit Police Const. Amanda Steed said officers are investigating multiple incidents of mischief-caused broken bus windows. 

“Early investigation indicates that low impact force was used in each occurrence, causing damage to the bus exterior,” Steed said in a prepared statement. “At this stage, there is no indication that the windows were broken by any form of firearm and the incidents are occurring in an isolated area.”

A Coast Mountain Bus window shattered by an apparent pellet gun shot on the Downtown Eastside.

Nobody has been arrested and a suspect has not been identified, Steed said

“We understand how concerning this may be for those using Transit, specifically travelling on a bus, but our investigation to date has not suggested the public are at risk and there have been no reported injuries,” Steed said. 

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Bob Mackin  Bus drivers on routes through Vancouver's

Bob Mackin

The former clerk of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly went on trial at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Jan. 24, three years and three days after then-Speaker Darryl Plecas and chief of staff Alan Mullen’s damning report alleging corruption at the seat of government.

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

Craig Harley James, who was charged in late 2020, formally pleaded not guilty to three charges of breach of public trust and two charges of fraud over $5,000 before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. Holmes is expected to hear 27 witnesses over the next six weeks.

“Mr. James was no ordinary employee,” Special Prosecutor David Butcher told the court. “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.” 

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;

Special prosecutor David Butcher (Mackin)

  • 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. 

Butcher said the woodsplitter was bought under the guise of emergency preparedness when the assembly had a budget surplus. But, he said, “Mr. James took both pieces of equipment his house in suburban Victoria, which is 13.4 kilometres from the legislature. The equipment would have been utterly useless in an emergency once stored in his residence.”

Butcher pointed to the “scathing” July 2012 report by then-Auditor General John Doyle that found assembly financial reporting for 2009-2011 to be insufficient. 

“He found that the LABC fell well short of the financial management and accounting standards established for the rest of government. He said that the internal control deficiencies were serious and pervasive,” Butcher said.

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

“If Mr. James’s response to the allegations is that there were no or insufficient policies or standards to guide his conduct, the Crown says that he was a career parliamentarian who was on full notice of the institutional shortcomings. And as the most senior person he had the ability and obligation to correct the deficiencies identified… if that is his position, the Crown says he has full knowledge of the absence of effective control took advantage of that by using public funds for personal benefit.”

The first witness is scheduled to be Kate Ryan-Lloyd, who was James’s successor after serving as deputy clerk under him. Ryan-Lloyd took a $180,000 retirement allowance in early 2012, but returned the money a year later. 

The list of witnesses also includes former speakers John Reynolds and Bill Barisoff, but not Plecas, who did not run in the snap 2020 provincial election.

James was appointed clerk in June 2011 by the B.C Liberal majority. Then-NDP house leader John Horgan and NDP leader Adrian Dix expressed their disapproval of the partisan departure from the traditional hire by an all-party committee.

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were immediately suspended and escorted out of the Legislature on Nov. 20, 2018. On that day, British Columbians learned that Plecas and Mullen called-in the RCMP and that two special prosecutors had been appointed.

James and Lenz both demanded their jobs back, but they retired in disgrace in 2019 after separate investigations found they committed wrongdoing. They kept their pension entitlements, but they were not forced to repay taxpayers. 

Lenz was not charged.

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Bob Mackin The former clerk of British Columbia’s

For the week of Jan. 23, 2022:

Drew Neilson is ashamed of the Games.

Two-time Olympic snowboarder Drew Neilson hopes athletes in Beijing 2022 will make a subtle, C-shaped gesture for “change” (Mackin)

The 2007 world cup snowboard cross champion competed for Canada at the Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The North Vancouverite is one of a few athletes to call for a full boycott of Beijing 2022 over China’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hong Kongers. 

“Being an Olympian, the IOC holds you to very high standards of social responsibility and equality and things to live your life in Olympism, and I feel I’ve been cheated by the IOC taking the Games to places like this,” said Neilson, the featured guest on this week’s theBreaker.news Podcast. “I don’t want to be called an Olympian anymore because I don’t want to be associated to that committee anymore, the International Olympic Committee, because they’re doing dirty business with the devil.”

Neilson said China is also not a safe place for athletes to compete, due to the ongoing pandemic that originated in China and because of China’s surveillance state where athletes are threatened with arrest should they speak out.

“It’s very evident how deeply entrenched the IOC is with the [Chinese Communist Party] to make this happen and make as much money as possible,” he said.

Listen to Neilson’s interview with host Bob Mackin.   

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Beijing 2022 makes Canadian snowboarder ashamed of the Games
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For the week of Jan. 23, 2022:

Bob Mackin

Dr. Bonnie Henry is officially employed by the Provincial Health Services Authority and seconded to the B.C. Ministry of Health, according to her contract obtained by theBreaker.news.

Dr. Bonnie Henry (BC Gov)

Released under the freedom of information law, Henry’s provincial health officer agreement commenced Feb. 1, 2018 and was subject to cabinet approval.

PHSA, which includes the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, pays Henry’s salary and benefits and the Ministry reimburses for expenses. The contract called for a gross annual salary of $301,078 plus a $12,000 payment for the Ministry’s public health on-call rate, up to $5,000 to pay for professional membership and licensing fees, and medical, dental, insurance and pension benefits. 

The contract is capped at $384,316. For the year ended March 31, 2021, the PHSA sunshine list shows Henry received $342,292 plus $9,758 expenses.

Henry remains, at all times, an employee of PHSA “and not be a servant or employee of the province.” She is required to provide advice in an independent manner and liaise with the Deputy Minister while bound by the terms and conditions of the public service standards of conduct and oath of employment. 

Henry swore to put the interests of the public and public service above personal interest, including avoiding all conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived, and to serve the government impartially, honestly and ethically, “in a manner that maintains and enhances the public’s trust and confidence in the public service and does not bring it into disrepute.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry (Russell Books/Instagram)

The contract raises questions about how Henry was allowed to co-author an autobiographical book about working as B.C.’s PHO during the first wave of the pandemic. After a late 2020 FOI request, Henry unilaterally blocked release of records about the March 2021-published “Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe” when she claimed she wrote the book as a “private citizen.”

The contract states all working papers, reports, documents, computer materials and equipment provided by the province to the secondee are exclusive property of the province, and that she “waives in favour of the province” all moral rights, as provided for in copyright law.

The contract also contains an indemnity clause to pay Henry’s legal bills, a confidentiality clause and a 90-day termination clause with a severance provision, unless the firing is for just cause. 

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DBH Secondment PHSA by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Dr. Bonnie Henry is officially employed

Bob Mackin

Why did the City of New Westminster’s fire chief retire with only six days notice and receive no official public recognition for serving 12 years? 

When theBreaker.news began asking about the sudden retirement of Tim Armstrong, Mayor Jonathan Cote and Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Spitale referred queries to Richard Fong, the Royal City’s human resources director.

Fong provided copies of two memos. One sent by Spitale on Oct. 22, informing staff that Armstrong decided to retire after 12 years as chief, effective Oct. 28.

“During that time period [Armstrong] has brought forward many improvements to the Fire and Rescue Services in New Westminster,” Spitale wrote. “Kindly join me in wishing Tim Armstrong good wishes in his retirement.”

Fong also provided a letter to staff from Armstrong dated Oct. 28, that said he decided to retire, “after some much needed holiday time and reflecting on what the next chapter in life might look like.”

“Having served 40 years this month in the fire service and public safety, it has been a difficult decision, but it is time for a change,” Armstrong’s letter said.

He thanked “all the staff for their dedication and support over the years,” but made no mention of senior managers or city council. Nor did the letter explain why there was only a six-day gap between the memos. 

There was no official public announcement of Armstrong’s departure, including on the city’s social media channels. There also did not appear to be any mention at the Nov. 1 city council meeting. Interim fire chief Curtis Bremner was introduced without fanfare during a council budget workshop, but there was no mention of Armstrong.

When theBreaker.news asked why there was no official public announcement of Armstrong’s retirement and whether he received any departure payments, in addition to holiday pay and a pension, Fong clammed-up. 

“Issuing public announcements to accompany retirements is not a normal city practice,” Fong said. “Any details about retirements are personal information and the city does not discuss personnel issues publicly.”

That is not true. The New Westminster Police Department website still shows a Jan. 5, 2011 announcement of chief Lorne Zapotichny’s retirement, which was effective at the end of February 2011.

Cote, coincidentally, announced on Jan. 1 that he would retire from the mayoralty at the end of his term next fall. He did not respond to a second query about whether there are additional costs to taxpayers and why Armstrong left the job with fewer than two weeks notice. 

Spitale did respond, but she said “any details about retirements are personal information and the city does not discuss personnel issues publicly.  I have nothing further to add.”

New Westminster chief administrative officer Lisa Spitale (New Westminster)

Coincidentally, the chief of a fire department in a suburb of Denver, Colo., with a career trajectory akin to Armstrong, announced his retirement on Jan. 10. 

Chief Doug Hall said his 43 years in firefighting, including 10 years as chief of the Westminster Fire Department, will end July 3. 

For 2020, the most-recent year available, New Westminster taxpayers paid Armstrong $194,802. He billed $3,827 in expenses. 

In early 2020, the Justice Institute of B.C. awarded Armstrong an honorary doctor of laws degree. Armstrong joined Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services at age 21 and rose the ranks over 28 years to become Deputy Chief. He became New Westminster’s fire chief in 2009 and also served as the Royal City’s director of emergency management. His career also included training firefighters in Canada, U.S. and Taiwan. 

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Bob Mackin Why did the City of

Bob Mackin 

Four out of 10 new BC Liberal memberships sold in Abbotsford South may be illegitimate, according to a document leaked to theBreaker.news.

Kevin Falcon (left), Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Stan Sipos, Gavin Dew, Val Litwin and Ellis Ross (BC Liberals)

The Jan. 6 spreadsheet for the leadership election organizing committee (LEOC) shows that before the leadership race, there were 264 memberships in the riding, represented since 2020 by rookie BC Liberal MLA Bruce Banman.

Another 637 were sold in time for the Dec. 17, 2021 cut-off. In total, LEOC is auditing 41.4% of the new memberships, the highest percentage of all 87 electoral districts. The province-wide average is 17.62%.

The colour-coded spreadsheet shows more than 32,000 new memberships were sold province-wide. The party had 6,606 members before the race began.

The Abbotsford South growth pales in comparison to Surrey-Panorama (1,960 new memberships), Surrey-Green Timbers (1,351), Abbotsford West (1,093) and Surrey-Newton (1,287). The party is auditing between 21.4% and 29.23% of new memberships in those ridings.

More than a third of new memberships are also subject to additional vetting in Surrey-Whalley (36.2%), New Westminster (35.39%), Chilliwack (33.56%), and Burnaby North (33.3%). By comparison, West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky has a high rate for audit of 29.12%, after it added 467 new memberships to its existing 136. West Vancouver-Capilano, the home riding of perceived frontrunner Kevin Falcon, had 90 before the leadership race, and added 467 new memberships; 19.43% of them are under audit. 

Neither LEOC co-chairs Colin Hansen and Roxanne Helme nor party president Cameron Stolz responded to theBreaker.news.

On Jan. 11, Hansen and Helme released a statement to party members that said 3,025 of the current 43,000 active party members remain flagged, but no memberships had been cancelled or members expunged. They denied the Falcon campaign’s allegations that a racist algorithm was targeting new members of South Asian or Chinese heritage for audit.

“The criteria used to identify memberships for further review is based on a number of objective measures,” the statement said. “It does not use any form of demographic characteristics to identify individuals for audit.”

Red flags sparking followup included anonymized IP addresses, missing email addresses and phone numbers, credit cards that don’t match the member’s name or address, non-Canadian IP addresses, and overuse of a single IP address. LEOC said the party has been contacting members directly to verify their membership data. 

“Members will be given every opportunity and supported through the end of the party’s registration period to address any issues concerning their membership data.”

The auditing is vindication for the managers of candidates Gavin Dew, Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Ellis Ross and Stan Sipos. theBreaker.news was first to report about their joint Jan. 5 letter to LEOC, expressing concern about potential voter fraud and “the risk of catastrophic reputational damage” to the party and its staff, executive and volunteers. 

The party already planned to randomly audit 10% of memberships, but the five managers said their independent reviews of the membership list suggested between a third and half of all memberships should be flagged for audit for a variety of irregularities.

Eligible BC Liberals will vote for a new leader in an online, preferential ballot election Feb. 3-5. The new leader will replace Shirley Bond, who took over on an interim basis after Andrew Wilkinson quit following the 2020 election.

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Bob Mackin  Four out of 10 new BC

Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP government is hiding even more data about the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. COVID-19 ventilator inventory from November 2021 (BC Gov/FOI)

In May 2021, the Vancouver Sun reported on the leaked BCCDC Weekly Data Summary that included detailed infection and vaccination maps kept secret for months by officials in the Ministry of Health and B.C. Centre for Disease Control. After the scandal erupted, BCCDC began to routinely release the report.

theBreaker.news has now obtained copies of the Daily COVID-19 Report, which is produced by the Ministry of Health’s COVID Response and Health Emergency Management Division. The records from the first week of November were disclosed under the freedom of information law on a two-month delay, in early January. 

Occupancy rates at B.C. COVID hospitals in November (BC Gov/FOI)

The report is marked “confidential and not for distribution” in bold, red letters. While some of the data is announced regularly, much of it is not, including the number of patients battling to stay alive on mechanical ventilators. 

Highlights: 
  • The Nov. 10 spreadsheet showed 88 of the 117 patients in critical care were mechanically ventilated. As of Nov. 5 at 12:30 p.m., there were 704 ventilators deployed and in service out of the 1,154 level 1 inventory. There were 364 of the 428 level 2 monitors in use;
  • As of Nov. 9 at 4 p.m., there were 19 patients under active home health monitoring, for a total to date of 18,542;

    B.C. COVID-19 case counts from November 2021 (BC Gov/FOI)

  • Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and East Kootenay Regional General Hospital were both at 100% occupancy as of Nov. 9 at 11:59 p.m. Royal Inland (95.2%) and Vancouver General Hospital (91.8%) were the others among the 20 COVID-designated critical care hospitals with little space to spare.
  • Internal data under the heading “facility and community outbreaks” shows long-term care, assisted living and independent living outbreaks for residents and staff, including cases and deaths. There is also a column for “students,” suggesting the same method is used to tabulate school outbreaks when those happen.
  • The stats through Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. said 10 staff and eight residents at Amica Lions Gate comprised the worst outbreak in the province; two residents died; 
  • B.C. COVID lab testing from November (BC Gov/FOI)

    Lab testing as of Nov. 9 at 11:59 p.m. showed 15,230 completed tests (of a capacity 21,186) with 552 positive. The rest were deemed “non-positive,” which means negative, indeterminate and invalid results. There were 5,286 lab samples pending, with a median 18.5-hour turnaround time. 

  • As of Nov. 9 at 11:59 p.m., 6,022 tests had been collected at testing sites, of a 7,483 capacity. 

An outspoken advocate for transparency said the public needs as much information as quickly as possible during the pandemic, in order to make the right decisions to stay safe and healthy. 

“Giving people the power to see for themselves, the raw data, could be very helpful during a time of crisis, and during this particular crisis,” said University of Victoria journalism professor Sean Holman in a February 2021 interview. 

The costs of not providing information are severe in the post-truth era, said Holman, who is the Wayne Crookes Professor in Environmental and Climate Journalism. Information gaps are often filled with misinformation and disinformation, which inevitably fuel protests against vaccines and masks, Holman said.

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DOWNLOAD the Ministry of Health COVID Daily Report for November 10 ,2021

 

 

Bob Mackin  The B.C. NDP government is hiding

Bob Mackin

The Jan. 7 incident that claimed the life of a longtime City of Vancouver worker involved a front-end loader that collided with a tandem truck, according to a WorkSafeBC inspector’s notes.

Case front-end loader, similar to the one from a Jan. 7 fatal incident in Vancouver (Case)

 “The equipment was being operated beside the salt storage sheds at the National Works Yard. The employer immediately began an investigation into the incident,” said Mark Phifer’s preliminary report about the incident at the National Work Yard, obtained by theBreaker.news. 

Truck driver Gord Dolyniuk, 64, died in the incident. He had worked 32 years for the city.

WorkSafeBC has “reasonable grounds to believe” that the tandem truck was either not in safe operating condition or was not in compliance with Occupational Health and Safety regulations. 

“The Case 721G front-end loader Unit #D2134 and the tandem truck with spreader Unit #E1209 were in use in the works yard on Jan. 7, 2022 (at 2:10 p.m.). The front-end loader collided with the tandem truck resulting in damage to both vehicles. The employer has not determined that the tandem truck is capable of safely performing the functions for which it use used.”

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Bob Mackin The Jan. 7 incident that claimed