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For the week of May 9, 2021:

Listen to highlights of doctors Anthony Fauci, Mike Ryan and Penny Ballem, who were all guests on the Genome BC COVID-19 web forum last week.

Epidemiology all-star and White House advisor Fauci pondered what went wrong with the U.S. preparation and response to the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci (left) and Dr. Mike Ryan (GenomeBC)

The World Health Organization’s Ryan gave a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over and sounded the alarm about vaccine inequity.

ImmunizeBC lead Ballem revealed some of the secrets of B.C.’s delayed vaccine rollout and took stock of key learnings so far.

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

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: What's up, docs? Trio ponders the good, bad and ugly of the pandemic

For the week of May 9, 2021:

Bob Mackin

Almost five months after officials in Toronto and Washington state mandated masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19, British Columbia finally required mouths and noses be covered at indoor public spaces in late November.

But Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry resisted through much of the fall, just as she had in the spring when she discouraged mask-wearing before reluctantly suggesting homemade versions.

Dr. Bonnie Henry Nov. 16, 2020 (BC Gov)

Henry made one last bid to keep the status quo, in a Nov. 16-released opinion-editorial that the NDP government hoped would be published by media outlets. Vancouver Sun and CTV printed the 565-word piece.

The column, attributed to Henry, claimed masks were already mandated in B.C. under business COVID-19 safety plans, healthcare facility operational policies and public institution restart policies. The column suggested British Columbians take personal responsibility to wear masks, instead of wait for a legal order that Henry had declined to issue.

“Ordering universal mask use in all situations creates unnecessary challenges with enforcement and stigmatization,” said the op-ed. “We need only look at the COVID-19 transmission rates in other jurisdictions that have tried using such orders to see what little benefit these orders by themselves have served.”

Email released to under the freedom of information law shows that a government communications staffer, a public relations contractor and possibly Henry’s sister Lynn were involved in creating the op-ed, which did not stand the test of time.

The drafts were withheld under a controversial section of the B.C. FOI law that allows bureaucrats to keep secret their advice and recommendations to other bureaucrats and politicians.

Ministry of Health communications director Jean-Marc Prevost sent Henry a draft with a file called “OpEd_Masks_Nov_15_430pm.docx” attached at 4:33 p.m. on Nov. 15.

“For your consideration following our discussion this afternoon DrH. Please let us know of any concerns or suggestions,” Prevost wrote. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry email (BCGov)

At 5:50 p.m., a message from public relations contractor Nicola Lambrechts to “J.M. and Bonnie.”

“I have also been working on the mask op-ed over the weekend. Used the Friday version as a basis, but made quite a few edits. Here’s what I put together. Thanks, Nicola.”

(Correspondence from Nov. 13 was not provided to, suggesting it was either deleted or conducted on another platform not searched by bureaucrats in the government’s FOI department.)

Henry replied at 11:04 a.m. Nov. 16.

“Hi all, Here is a revised oped. Let me know what you think. My best, Bonnie.”

The filename of the attachment: “masks OP ED LH edit.docx”.

Henry and her FOI coordinator in the Provincial Health Officer’s department, Michelle Sullivan, did not respond to questions from about the meaning of the “LH” in the filename.

At the time, Henry was finishing her memoir about the first wave of the pandemic with sister, Lynn Henry, the publishing director of Knopf Canada. The book, Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe, was eventually published March 9, during the third wave.

Before 5 p.m. on Nov. 16, the op-ed was posted on the government communications website and sent to media outlets. It did little to quell the increasing calls for a mask mandate as B.C.’s second wave accelerated.

TransLink mask mandate sign (TransLink)

It finally happened, just three days after the op-ed.

On Nov. 19, Henry announced an about-face on masks. The mandate, however, would be imposed five days later. Not by Henry, but by Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, under the Emergency Program Act (EPA).

Masks were required to be worn by anyone 12 and up at a long list of places, including stores, restaurants, churches, buses and offices. But not elementary or high schools. Fines for refusal to wear a mask were set at $230.

The news release about the long overdue mask mandate did not quote Henry. It mentioned her by title, but not by name.

“We’ve entered a second wave of COVID-19 in British Columbia and additional steps need to be taken to protect our health,” Farnworth said. “This new order under the EPA will ensure we have the tools necessary to enforce the mask mandate as recommended by the PHO.”

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Bob Mackin Almost five months after officials in

Bob Mackin

Despite widespread criticism of its pandemic communications, the B.C. NDP cabinet promoted the bureaucrat in charge on April 28.

Jeffrey Ferrier (left) and Don Zadravec (LinkedIn)

Don Zadravec dropped the assistant from his title, to become Deputy Minister of Government Communications and Public Engagement. He had been in charge of the department since last fall, when Donna Evans departed after a year-and-a-half in the job. The last entry in Evans’s calendar was the day before Premier John Horgan’s Nov. 26, post-election swearing-in.

GCPE was budgeted $28.3 million for the 2021 fiscal year.

Zadravec was part of the NDP cabinet’s day one communications appointees on July 18, 2017 as an executive director under GCPE Deputy Minister Evan Lloyd. He handled ministry support and media relations for Crown corporations and special projects before becoming the ADM of communications and media relations in September 2019. 

The promotion will mean a significant pay raise. For the year ended March 31, 2020, Evans was paid $207,084 and Zadravec $146,404.

The third wave of the pandemic has heralded the end of the Horgan government’s honeymoon, as reporters across B.C. have called for more transparency and less confusion. Latest examples include the bungled announcement of the regional leisure travel ban, Horgan’s quip suggesting people in their 20s and 30s weren’t doing enough to battle the pandemic and various government websites errantly downplaying the airborne spread of the virus.

Zadravec is in his second tour of duty as an NDP-loyal bureaucrat. His previous stint was 1993 to 2000. He worked August 1999 to May 2000 in the Premier’s office, where interim NDP leader Dan Miller’s aide was future premier Horgan.

Zadravec later spent 10 years at National Public Relations. While there, he was registered to lobby for pipeline company Veresen.

Premier John Horgan, April 19 (BC Gov)

National PR was also the previous career stop for the April 9-hired Jeffrey Ferrier. Ferrier is now executive director of communications for the Ministry of Health.

Ferrier, a former Ontario NDP operative, had been with National for two years as vice-president after five years at FleishmanHillard.

Ferrier’s lobbying client list boomed when the pandemic began. L’Oreal Canada, Uber, Sport Maska Inc., Sobeys Inc., Whirlpool Canada and Dollarama hired him to be their go-between with the NDP government on COVID-19-related issues.

Ferrier’s appointment by cabinet came several weeks after the government’s embarrassing “Self-Care Bingo” Tweet in late February. The lighthearted attempt to lift the spirits of pandemic weary British Columbians fell flat and led to an apology after gaining nationwide media attention.

Among the suggestions for peace of mind on the satirical bingo card was to build a blanket fort.

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Bob Mackin Despite widespread criticism of its pandemic

For the week of May 2, 2021:

The BC Liberal politician who transformed gambling from charity fundraisers to big business was on the virtual stand April 28 at the Cullen Commission. 

Rich Coleman, who was in Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark’s cabinets, was asked what he knew and when he knew it about money laundering and loan sharking in B.C. casinos.

On this edition of Podcast, hear highlights of Coleman’s testimony under oath at B.C.’s money laundering public inquiry.

The inquiry is heading toward its scheduled May 14 completion. Commissioner Austin Cullen has until December to deliver his findings and recommendations to the NDP cabinet. 

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

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: Coleman testifies in Cullen Commission climax

For the week of May 2, 2021:

Bob Mackin

The NDP government is paying the head of British Columbia’s troubled coronavirus vaccine rollout $22,000 a month. has learned that Vancouver Coastal Health chair Penny Ballem received the $220,000, no-bid contract on Jan. 13 to be executive lead of the Immunize BC program through October.

Penny Ballem (left) and Premier John Horgan (BC Gov)

The existence of Ballem’s contract was confirmed the same week the program was thrust into chaos again, when Fraser Health Authority hosted pop-up vaccination clinics in Surrey and Coquitlam. Prompted by social media, people from outside the hotspot areas flocked to the lineups — some even camped out overnight. But many went home disappointed.

Ballem’s contract is more lucrative than what a retired general got from the Ontario government in late November. Rick Hillier was paid $20,000-a-month, plus expenses, through March 31 to begin the rollout in Canada’s most-populous province.

Ballem was contracted the same day that she appeared with Health Minister Adrian Dix on a hastily organized teleconference to announce she had taken over the job from Ross Brown, the VCH director of pandemic response. Premier John Horgan introduced Brown as the province’s vaccine czar on Dec. 9.

Clockwise from upper left: Terry Wright, Marnie McGregor, Dena Coward and Mary Conibear

On Jan. 17, four days after the shakeup, former Vancouver city manager Ballem hired her former city hall assistant communications director, Marnie McGregor, and three ex-Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics executives: executive vice-president of transportation Terry Wright, managing director of Games operations Mary Conibear and Paralympics director Dena Coward. Ballem joined the VANOC board when she was hired as city manager in 2008.

The four contracts are each worth $56,000 and run through April 30.

Wright’s responsibilities with VANOC included procuring a fleet of motor coaches for Vancouver 2010. After the Games, VANOC reported a $40 million cost overrun for chartering buses and drivers from as far away as Florida.

Dix appointed Ballem chair of VCH at the end of 2018. Ballem, who received $43,000 plus $4,605 expenses in 2020, replaced Brown just two weeks after a key meeting was called to organize the Immunize B.C. operations centre command team.

“The purpose of this committee is to establish oversight and governance for the planning, implementation, and administration of mass COVID-19 vaccination to ensure the province is fully prepared to immunize key populations in B.C. by Jan. 1, 2021,” said the Zoom meeting notice, obtained under the freedom of information law.

Dr. Ross Brown (right) and Dr. Bonnie Henry (BC Gov)

Pfizer/BioNTech announced their vaccine candidate Nov. 9. Health Canada approved its use in Canada on Dec. 9. Six days later, on Dec. 15, Vancouver General Hospital care aide Nisha Yunus became the first British Columbian jabbed.

On March 9, the first day seniors were eligible to book appointments, the Telus phone system crashed. The company apologized.

As of April 29, almost 1.66 million British Columbians had received their first vaccine dose, but only 90,296 are fully immunized. Washington state, by comparison, has delivered 5.2 million jabs.

Meanwhile, a former labour leader scored a $50,000 no bid contract just before Christmas.

Jim Sinclair, the Dix-appointed chair of Fraser Health in September 2017, was given the contact Dec. 20 to chair a COVID-19 workplace safety working group. Sinclair spent 15 years as chair of the B.C. Federation of Labour, which donated $1.4 million to the NDP between 2005 and 2017.

Sinclair was paid $33,239 by Fraser Health for the year ended March 31, 2020.

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Bob Mackin The NDP government is paying the

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s top Mountie accused the Surrey Police Service’s chief of poaching.

B.C. RCMP commander Jennifer Strachan (left) and Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski.

In a March 11 letter, obtained via the freedom of information law, Commanding Officer Jennifer Strachan told Surrey Chief Norm Lipinski that she had received complaints from numerous RCMP personnel receiving calls at work from Surrey Police recruiters, asking if they would consider retiring from the RCMP and joining the new police force.

“I want to share my concerns that these calls are coming into colleagues via their RCMP phone numbers and during work hours. A number have expressed their discomfort,” wrote Strachan, who runs the Surrey-headquartered B.C. division. “I fully support you and your team in accomplishing the enormous task of recruiting new employees, but would respectfully request that your human resources team adjust their approach to avoid further complaints.”

Strachan wanted Lipinski to be mindful that the transition is stressful for those directly impacted, particularly those that work at the Surrey RCMP detachment.

“Ultimately, our two agencies will need to work together in the future, and I know that you are as committed to encouraging positive working relationships among all our employees, as I am.”

When he finally replied March 23, Lipinski denied Strachan’s allegation and delivered a zinger in return.

“I have discussed this issue with my deputy chiefs, and we are not aware of anyone at the Surrey Police Service making the phone calls in such a manner as you indicated. It would be helpful if you could provide specific details,” wrote Lipinksi, a former senior Mountie. “Also, I totally agree that cooperation between the two agencies is important. To that end, it is our view that the RCMP can improve in this realm.”


The Surrey Police Service recruitment website says that years of prior policing will be recognized in its salary and annual vacation formulas and it includes documents about “pension options for RCMP officers.” Specifically, the transfer from the Federal RCMP Pension Program to the B.C. Municipal Pension Program. Surrey is offering $75,488-a-year for rookies to $145,584 for staff sergeants, plus a benefits package.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum promised the new police force would be up and running by April 2021, but could take until the end of 2023 or start of 2024. The transition is costing Surrey taxpayers $63.7 million.

The force is expected to employ 1,500 people, including 800 officers. As of April 22, Lipinski had hired three superintendents and 10 inspectors. Another 11 who are sergeants or staff sergeants are starting this month or next.

Most of Lipinski’s announced hires are former Mounties.

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Bob Mackin British Columbia’s top Mountie accused the

Bob Mackin

More mixed messages from B.C.’s Minister of Health.

Just days after postponing all non-urgent surgeries, Adrian Dix told reporters April 26 that there is more space in hospitals. But he did not elaborate.

Royal Columbian Hospital (Fraser Health)

“The number of base beds that are currently vacant has increased since April 21 from 719 to 912 across the hospital system, and the number of critical care beds that are vacant has increased from 95 to 131,” Dix told reporters on April 26. has obtained a Fraser Health Authority memo that indicates at one major hospital the increased space is not because of decreased sickness. Royal Columbian Hospital has opened a satellite unit on the fifth floor to treat more coronavirus-infected patients.

The April 26 memo, titled “RCH Critical Care Pandemic Response Escalation,” says there are 46 beds available, including a four-bed high acuity unit on level 5N. The other 42 beds are spread across intensive care, cardiac surgery intensive care, and post-anaesthesia care units. The total number of beds available is eight more than the previous week.

From an April 26 Fraser Health memo.

“As the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, critical care resources within Fraser Health are challenged,” the memo says. “We continue to work regionally to expand care capacity across Fraser Health while we continue to meet the [higher level of care] mandate of RCH. To achieve this we have moved away from ideal staffing assignments and are working in a team model of care. This is not ideal but is a functional requirement at this stage of our pandemic response.”

On April 26, B.C. government officials announced 484 people hospitalized province-wide, including 158 patients in intensive care. Of that, Fraser Health accounts for 256 hospitalized and 82 in critical care. The true numbers in both categories are likely higher, because the B.C. government does not count those who remain in hospital but are no longer actively infected.

The memo says impacts include the need for sourcing additional supplies and equipment, adjusted pharmacy set-up and limiting the cardiac surgery ICU to four beds.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix (BC Gov)

“Last week the next level of our critical care pandemic plan was activated given the ongoing and increasing need for additional COVID capacity. Planning has actively been occurring as we take the next steps to create additional incremental capacity. We know this is challenging and are working to ensure we support er teams to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic response.”

The New Westminster hospital has plans to scale-up to 54, 57 and 71 beds if needed, including double-bunking in intensive care and setting up three beds in an operating room.

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Bob Mackin More mixed messages from B.C.’s Minister

Bob Mackin

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has declared that a child being brought up in a polyamorous household has three parents.

A child, known only as Clarke in the verdict, was born in fall 2018 to biological parents known only by their first names, Eliza and Bill. They sought a declaration that there is a third legal parent, Olivia, and that Clarke’s birth registration be amended accordingly.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

The petitioners told Justice Sandra Wilkinson that they live in a “triad” — that each has a relationship with one another and each of their relationships is considered equal.

Bill and Eliza lived together since the early 2000s. They met Olivia in 2013, sparked a romance in 2016 and Olivia moved in with them a year later. 

“Although Eliza’s evidence is that the petitioners agreed prior to conception that Olivia would have the role of parent to the child, it is unclear whether all three of the petitioners were committed to Olivia being Clarke’s ‘full parent’ prior to Eliza becoming pregnant,” Wilkinson wrote. “However, on the whole of the evidence, it is clear that at some point during Eliza’s pregnancy, the petitioners agreed Olivia would be involved in Clarke’s life as a ‘full parent’.”

Since Clarke’s birth, the petitioners shared parenting duties. The court heard Olivia was the first parent to feed Clarke after he was born. 

“It is not disputed that Clarke is being raised by three loving, caring, and extremely capable individuals,” Wilkinson wrote. “Unlike many family law matters which come before the court, this is not an instance of family members taking adverse positions. The petitioners are in agreement that Olivia should be recognized as Clarke’s legal parent, alongside Eliza and Bill. It is their family makeup which brings them before the court.”

Lawyers for the Attorney General were concerned that declaring Olivia the third legal parent would open the floodgates to similar court applications. They also submitted the difference between a parent and a guardian is nominal and Olivia would not achieve “many more, if any more, substantive rights.”

“I do not accept this position,” Wilkinson wrote. “There are clear and tangible differences between being a parent and being a guardian, evidenced, in part, by the legislature’s decision to distinguish between these two roles with separate designations. A parentage declaration is also a symbolic recognition of a parent-child relationship. This difference should not be minimized.”

The judge ultimately found that there is a gap in the Family Law Act regarding children conceived through sexual intercourse who have more than two parents.

“Put bluntly, the Legislature did not contemplate polyamorous families.”

“As the petitioners point out, it is uncommon for an individual to come to court wanting a parentage declaration. In fact, in many family law cases that come before the court, parents are trying to skirt their responsibilities, instead of secure them.”

So Wilkinson ruled that Olivia is a legal parent and she ordered the birth registration be amended by the Vital Statistics Agency.

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Bob Mackin A British Columbia Supreme Court

For the week of April 25, 2021:

The Cullen Commission on money laundering in British Columbia had its first marquee witness on April 20, former Premier Christy Clark.

Clark was asked, under oath, what she knew and when she knew it about corruption in B.C. casinos and the real estate market. She was also asked about donations from casino companies to the BC Liberal Party while she was premier.

On this edition of, hear the highlights of her testimony. 

Plus commentary and Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines.

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: What did Christy Clark know about corrupt casino cash?

For the week of April 25, 2021: The

Bob Mackin

Email obtained by under the freedom of information law shows how closely mayors of four Northern Vancouver Island municipalities worked behind-the-scenes with salmon farming lobbyist John Paul Fraser.

John Paul Fraser (BC Gov)

After Liberal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced Discovery Islands fish farms would be phased-out by mid-2022, North Island-Powell River NDP MP Rachel Blaney sent a letter to Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams.

“I’ve reached out to the industry to discuss next steps,” wrote Blaney on Dec. 21. “Now is the time for us to work together to make plans that will facilitate this change to protect our wild salmon but to do so in a way that doesn’t leave workers and their families struggling to make ends meet.”

“JP, have you seen this???”Adams wrote to Fraser, the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association executive director, about Blaney’s letter. “Kinda fells like being stabbed in the back, and then pulling it out and saying sorry, followed by being stabbed in the chest.”

Wrote Fraser: “Have not seen, nor do I think any of us been ‘reached out to’.”

(Blaney is married to Homalco First Nation Chief Darren Blaney, who opposes the industry.)

Adams and mayors of Port McNeill (Gaby Wickstrom), Gold River (Brad Unger) and Port Hardy (Dennis Dugas) prepared joint letters to Blaney and other federal politicians to boost the industry. Fraser helped write the letters and advised on timing, while keeping executives of fish farming companies Cermaq, Grieg and Mowi in the loop.

(via FOI/Campbell River)

Adams suggested Dec. 28 that “industry leaders and workers flood the Facebook sites on every post [Blaney] puts out. Can’t let her get away with this BS.”

Fraser replied: “Folks will definitely pile on. This will happen.”

On the same day, Adams suggested short, mid and long term strategies involving letter writing, petitions and Facebook posts in anticipation of a snap spring federal election. The best outcome, he opined, would be more Liberal MPs, especially on Northern Vancouver Island.

“I am not advocating for any particular party, but the likelihood is that it will be a Liberal majority, and an NDP and PC candidate will not be effective, and as a result we need to have a Liberal candidate that is winnable and can work from the inside in Ottawa,” Adams wrote. “This not about party politics or affiliation, it’s about having our voice heard. Just my 2 cents for thought.”

Fraser sent the mayors a revised version of the letter they planned to send Minister Jordan. “We made a few adjustments to the earlier draft given this is a co-signed letter,” Fraser said.

On Dec. 29, Adams wrote to the other mayors: “JP suggests that we get the letter to Minister Jordan out today, and the letter to [Jordan’s Parliamentary Secretary] Terry Beech tomorrow, and JP is going to make sure that industry employees start filling the Facebook in the newspapers and wherever else its needed. He is also suggesting that we call for an economic summit later next week.”

Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams (YouTube)

On the afternoon of Dec. 30, Adams sent Wickstrom’s draft of the Beech letter to Fraser, who replied: “I’ll have something back to you in the A.M., then we get it off to Terry to really make his New Year’s Eve.”

The mayors’ letters claimed Jordan’s plan would put 1,500 jobs and the $1.6 billion-a-year industry at risk. On April 5, a Federal Court judge ruled Mowi and Saltstream should be allowed to restock farms in three locations, because the economic harms would outweigh any environmental harms. Mowi claimed it would lose $26 million and lay-off 78 people without the injunction.

Fraser was the BC Liberal government’s deputy minister of communications under ex-Premier Christy Clark. He is also the son of Paul Fraser, the late the conflict of interest commissioner who never found an MLA broke the law during his more than a decade in office.

At the end of the BC Liberal dynasty in July 2017, John Paul Fraser scored a $396,000 golden parachute when the incoming NDP government replaced BC Liberal political staff.

Last September, the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists fined John Paul Fraser $500 for failing to report that he had been the assistant deputy minister of labour, citizens’ services and open government.

Fraser is co-hosting a virtual question and answer session with the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce at noon April 22.

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Bob Mackin Email obtained by under the