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Bob Mackin

And then there was one.

Melissa De Genova is the last Non-Partisan Association councillor left from the five elected in 2018, after Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung quit the party on April 21.

Their decision was prompted by the Easter Monday bombshell that the board of directors secretly chose Park Board Commissioner John Coupar as the mayoral candidate for the next election in October 2022.

Sarah Kirby-Yung (left), Lisa Dominato and Colleen Hardwick say goodbye NPA

The trio will sit as independents, just like Coun. Rebecca Bligh, who left the NPA in late 2019 in a disagreement with the right-leaning board.

“We have heard loud and clear from NPA members and supporters that the actions of the board and John Coupar do not reflect the standards of transparency, integrity and accountability we all expect from the NPA and each other,” said Hardwick in a prepared statement.”

Hardwick took issue with the board’s decision not to run a fair and democratic mayoral nomination process. 

“The NPA board and John Coupar sidelined the elected members of the NPA and made a backroom deal. By any measure, it was about as old-boys-club as it gets,” she said.

NPA mayoral candidate John Coupar (NPA)

The dispute highlights a culture clash: the three dissidents are Liberal-leaning women, while the board is predominantly Conservative-leaning men.

That board responded with a statement late in the afternoon on April 21, calling the trio hypocrites.

“Each of the three departing councillors were appointed to their role as candidates for the NPA in the exact same manner as our current Mayoral candidate, Mr. John Coupar,” said the board statement.

In an open letter to party members and supporters, the trio said the NPA “as it stands today cannot be trusted to govern fairly or responsibly and that it does not represent the values and standards that Vancouver residents and NPA supporters expect and deserve.”

Dominato called the board out of touch, while Kirby-Yung hinted toward the potential for a new party. “This story is far from over,” she said.

The anointment of Coupar triggered 2018 NPA-backed runner-up Ken Sim’s decision to seek the nomination from the newly formed A Better City party. Mark Marissen, the ex-husband of Christy Clark and founder of the Yes Vancouver party, also said he is running for mayor.

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Bob Mackin And then there was one. Melissa De

Bob Mackin

A B.C. Supreme Court judge is charging a Flat Earth, anti-mask protester only $750 in costs after ruling Mak Parhar wasted the court’s time with a “patently absurd and nonsensical” lawsuit.

Parhar sued B.C. Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Attorney General David Eby in New Westminster last November. Parhar had been arrested and jailed four days for ignoring federal quarantine laws upon his return from a Flat Earth convention in the U.S. last October.

Anti-masker Mak Parhar (centre) at a Flat Earth convention last fall in the U.S. (Facebook)

Except, Parhar deliberately used an Internet boilerplate not recognized by any Canadian court of law.

The Attorney General of B.C. sought $1,000 in costs against Parhar, but Justice Murray Blok decided April 16 on the $750 lump-sum instead.

Blok heard the case for several hours on April 8. It involved two lawyers for the B.C. government, another for the federal government and another for the New Westminster Police Department. The B.C. government lawyers successfully argued that Parhar’s case should be thrown out because it is a version of what an Alberta judge called an “organized pseudolegal commercial argument.”

That is a fancy way of saying Parhar’s case wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. 

“The plaintiff rejects any suggestion that he is bound by, or that this proceeding is any way subject to, the Rules or, for that matter, even most societal conventions, including how he is to be referred to or addressed,” Blok wrote.

“For the sake of simplicity I will refer to him as the ‘plaintiff’ and to the other set of parties as the ‘defendants’ although I fully appreciate that he rejects those terms and in his initiating document he utilized his own terms. Similarly, he rejects the use of the name that was bestowed upon him at birth (Makhan Singh Parhar), viewing it as an artificial construct that does not identify him as a person. Instead, he stylizes his name in a fashion associated with OPCA litigants (i:man:Mak of the Parhar family).”

Parhar called himself a prosecutor and demanded to use a courtroom in New Westminster for his so-called “Parhar Court” trial against those that caused his arrest for violating the Quarantine Act. He also claimed the four lawyers for the defendants in the hearing on April 8 had no standing and that the B.C. Supreme Court was a fraudulent entity.

New Westminster courthouse (B.C. Courts)

“The plaintiff interrupted his submissions at one point in order to yield the floor to a colleague [Ontario’s Christopher James Pritchard], who made a few remarks, though the colleague emphasized he does not act for the plaintiff. These comments were generally to the effect that the plaintiff has a right to a trial by jury so that he may be judged by the people, and that this Court and its rules have no jurisdiction. He said ‘contract makes the law’ and the plaintiff had not consented, which I took to mean the plaintiff had not consented to be subject to the provisions of the Quarantine Act or the Rules.”

Blok ruled that Parhar abused the court process by filing documents “to utilize this Court’s infrastructure for the purposes of his fictional court.”

As for Parhar’s arrest, the judge said “it was a hard way to learn that laws do not work on an opt-in basis.”

Parhar still has an opportunity to challenge the Quarantine Act charges, Blok wrote, “which hopefully he will do on more conventional grounds” during a Provincial Court trial.

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Bob Mackin A B.C. Supreme Court judge

Bob Mackin

Former B.C. Premier Christy Clark claimed April 20 at the Cullen Commission on money laundering that the BC Liberal Party received big money donations from those it regulated, because they simply shared the party’s ideals.

Christy Clark testified April 20 at the Cullen Commission (Cullen Commission)

Commission counsel Patrick McGowan asked Clark whether she was aware that casino companies Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casinos had donated to her party. Elections BC’s database shows $220,304 from Gateway Casinos from 2015 to 2017 and $127,274 from Great Canadian Gaming during the same period.

Clark downplayed big money donations, like $100,000, as a small portion of a party’s $10 million campaign war chest.

“My view of the reason people gave money to my party, wherever they were from, was because we believe in a strong economy, we believed in lower taxes, a smaller government, more jobs for people,” said Clark, premier from 2011 to 2017.

McGowan asked whether she had a viewpoint on the governing party taking donations from those that it regulated. But Clark’s answer indicated she may be unaware that the NDP government prohibited donations from corporations and unions when it took over in 2017.

“Government, political parties take still to this day take donations from organizations and businesses across the province that we regulate, forestry companies donate to political parties, that’s a regulated business, mining as well, liquor companies also regulated,” Clark said. “I mean, you could go right across. Pharmaceutical companies, also regulated. There’s a lot, that exists right across government. It’s not unique to gaming by any stretch of the imagination.”

For much of her time on the virtual stand, Clark claimed she ran a hands-off approach, leaving it to cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and executives to run their own departments.

“I wasn’t involved in the day to day operations of ministries and Crown corporations, it’s not something a premier would be normally advised about. The premier is siting atop 20 ministries each of which have tons of really important issues and not everything can be reported or is reported back directly to the premier.”

She said her government was “profoundly concerned about public safety and controlling crime in B.C.,” but hers was not a government “always trying to just get more revenue.”

Evidence introduced earlier in the Cullen Commission showed that Clark’s cabinet was indeed exerting pressure on B.C. Lottery Corporation to increase its profitability.

Clark was evasive for a lengthy stretch. McGowan asked whether she was aware or even concerned that casino patrons arrived with shopping bags full of cash.

“If you’d been told that somebody was dropping off a shopping bag at midnight containing $200,000 in $20 bills and that was then being accepted by [a casino] … would you have intervened?” he asked.

Christy Clark testified April 20 at the Cullen Commission (Cullen Commission)

“I can’t answer questions about what might have happened, but I can say that we took significant action in the years that I was [in office],” Clark said.

Clark later said she felt “all crime needs to be addressed appropriately” and that her priority was battling guns and gangs.

She was also asked to recall any specific action taken to counter money laundering. She gave no example, but instead pointed to the 2016 formation of the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team after cash transactions spiked in mid-2015 at River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond.

Clark also shrugged at evidence that money laundering contributed to skyrocketing real estate prices during her tenure. She said it was instead a function of B.C.’s attractive environment, low interest rates, a booming economy and high immigration rates from other Canadian provinces and other countries.

Clark testified under oath to Commissioner Austin Cullen via web conference. But, shortly after she swore she would tell the full truth, she was asked her full name and omitted her middle name (Joan) and failed to mention she spent four years as an executive for an immigrant investor fund’s international education subsidiary (RCI Pacific Gateway Education Inc.) and lobbied for other clients of her then-husband Mark Marissen’s Burrard Communications. McGowan did not notice either omission.

Since quitting politics in 2017, Clark has become a senior advisor to the Bennett Jones law firm (she is not a lawyer), and a director on the boards of Shaw Communications, Constellation Brands and Recipe Unlimited, the parent company of The Keg and several other restaurant chains.

Former gambling ministers Mike de Jong (April 23) and Rich Coleman (April 28) are scheduled to testify.

The list of witnesses does not include Clark’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell, who reorganized B.C.’s gambling industry in 2004. Likewise, Patrick Kinsella is not on the docket.

Kinsella is a central figure in B.C. politics who masterminded Campbell and Clark’s rise to power and became one of the most-powerful lobbyists. His clients included Great Canadian Gaming.

Witness testimony is expected to end May 14. Cullen has until December to report to the NDP cabinet.

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Bob Mackin Former B.C. Premier Christy Clark claimed

Bob Mackin

B.C. NDP Finance Minister Selina Robinson tabled a budget forecasting a record $9.7 billion deficit and $102.8 billion debt April 20.

B.C. NDP finance minister Selina Robinson tables the 2021-22 budget on April 20 (BC Gov)

The pandemic budget was delayed two months, because of last fall’s unscheduled election.

The outlook improved from the fall 2020 update, citing better retail sales, housing starts, home sales, exports, wages and salaries than forecast. Economic activity is forecast to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022, but the recovery is expected to be uneven. The main risk is the duration of the pandemic and its lasting provincial, national and global economic impacts.

The $33.7 billion anticipated tax revenue includes $11.17 billion in personal income tax, $7.87 billion in sales tax and almost $5 billion in real estate-related taxes — $2.97 billion property tax and $1.975 billion in property transfer tax.

  • John Horgan’s office is getting another $3.3 million, leapfrogging the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, which is getting only $23,000 more.

The budget includes $14.68 million for the Office of the Premier, a $3.3 million increase from last year’s $11.33 million. Mental Health and Addictions saw just $23,000 more to $12.74 million.

Horgan’s office is growing with a new planning and priorities division. Minister of Finance Selina Robinson was asked why it needs such an infusion.

“As a government and as leader of the government, the premier it’s really important that the premier hears from British Columbians from all regions of the province, that he’s able to engage with all stakeholders and that he talks to regular British Columbians, who are very focused on taking care of their families, they need to hear from him,” Robinson said. “That’s absolutely critical, we’re attempting to make sure that he has access to British Columbians.”

Premier John Horgan, April 19 (BC Gov)

Robinson said Mental Health and Addictions Minister Selina Robinson delivers services through the Ministry of Health, which is getting another $500 million as part of its overall $26.1 billion envelope. 

  • The B.C. Public Service is expected to grow by 350 full-time equivalents to 32,750. There are nearly 490,000 people in B.C.’s public sector, with government and Crown corporations, schools ,colleges, universities and healthcare. Of that, 385,000 are union members.
Commercial Crowns ups and downs 

Commercial Crown corporations are expected to bring $2.87 billion.

The budget was delivered April 20 — or 4/20 for marijuana aficionados.

The Liquor Distribution Branch service plan says it has sold only $400 million in wholesale cannabis since the weed was legalized in October 2018, $250 million of which in the last fiscal year.

“Prices have steadily declined, making legal products more competitive with illicit offerings,” said the LDB service plan. “The number of different products listed and available to our customers increased to 1,362, from 971 in the prior year. As selection grows so does the complexity of delivering that product to both wholesale and retail customers.”

“Legalizing cannabis we’ve always had known it would take time to shift over from the black market, and we’re seeing it, we’re seeing it grow year after year,” Robinson said. “Enforcement is still there, that hasn’t changed, but moving the market over to a legal market and keeping children safe has been our priority.”

LDB is forecasting $1.15 billion net income for the year ended March 31, 2021, on sales of $4.15 billion. Next year’s forecast is $1.09 billion net income on $4.22 billion revenue. It estimates the cost of wholesale pricing for the hospitality sector will reduce revenue by $71 million.

“It is anticipated that a majority of British Columbians will have received a COVID-19 vaccination by fall 2021. This will assist the recovery of the hospitality industry with increased dine-out and social events.”

ICBC is forecasting $709 million net income after a $376 million loss a year earlier, “mainly as a result of favourable COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 claims trends, as well as improved investment income,” said its service plan.

B.C. Lottery Corporation net income plummeted to an estimated $394 million, according to its service plan. The Crown corporation hopes to rebound to pre-pandemic levels of $1.31 billion by 2022-2023. The closure of casinos in March 2020 devastated the gambling monopoly.

The service plan assumes reopening of casinos in late June at limited capacity, scaling up to normal capacity sometime by the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Any delay would mean a loss of $20 million per week.

B.C. NDP finance minister Selina Robinson tables the 2021-22 budget on April 20 (BC Gov)

Robinson was asked whether that is realistic, due to the worsening pandemic in B.C.

“If casinos do open in June safely, then that’s a possibility, if it has to wait it has to wait,” Robinson said.

B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Crown operator of B.C. Place Stadium and Vancouver Convention Centre, expects a loss of almost $5 million from last year and $24.8 million this year. Gatherings and events have been banned since March 2020. The Vancouver Convention Centre has hosted a B.C. Centre for Disease Control contact tracing centre, vaccination centre and field hospital. The latter has yet to be activated.

Even after the green light is given to hold conventions and sporting events, PavCo faces another curveball.

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

BC Hydro expects at $712 million net this year, to stay the same through 2023-24.

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Bob Mackin B.C. NDP Finance Minister Selina

Bob Mackin

Delta Police Department spent almost a year keeping secret the name of a company it hired for damage control when the chief’s wife confronted a jogger with a garden hose and spewed insults.

Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord’s wife Lorraine in a still photo from Kiran Sidhu’s video.

On April 19, the force finally disclosed to, under the freedom of information law, that it hired 1689986 Alberta Ltd. (operating as Navigator Ltd.) for the $42,000 crisis communications contract.

But the Delta Police refused to release a copy of the contract and invoices, claiming those were commercially sensitive.

Concerned about the rising Centennial Beach tide last June 6, jogger Kiran Sidhu scaled boulders outside Chief Neil Dubord’s $3.8 million luxury compound. Dubord’s wife Lorraine confronted Sidhu, a teacher from Surrey. The incident happened the week after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked Black Lives Matter marches against racism in policing across the U.S.

Protesters called for Dubord’s firing and scrawled anti-police graffiti in chalk outside the couple’s house. Surrey RCMP investigated and recommended Lorraine Dubord be charged with assault and uttering threats. But prosecutors opted for unspecified alternative measures instead.

Chief Neil Dubord (left) and ex-Deputy Chief Norm Lipinski (Delta Police)

Navigator’s website says it offers crisis, reputation and public affairs campaigns and lobbying services  from offices in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and London, U.K.

It is not clear exactly what Navigator did to get paid $42,000, because the lack of disclosure of the contract and invoices.

The Delta Police contract with Navigator Ltd. was let under then-deputy chief Norm Lipinski, who now heads the fledgling Surrey Police Service.

Since joining the Surrey department, Lipinski has approved $230,000 worth of contracts with several communications firms — including Navigator Ltd.

Unlike Delta, the Surrey Police Service released the contracts.

Lipinski and Surrey Police Board executive director Melissa Granum, his former civilian subordinate in Delta, are both named on the contract with the Navigator Ltd.

Navigator’s Dec. 8, 2020 crisis communications advice and support deal runs until Nov. 30, 2021 for $3,000 a month for as-and-when needed rapid response, real-time social and traditional media monitoring and analysis, support and briefings for media spokespeople and media outreach. The contract names Alex Shiff, a former aide to ex-BC Liberal environment minister Mary Polak, as Navigator’s Vancouver representative.

The view from the Dubord luxury compound on Centennial Beach (

Lipinski and Granum also hired former Delta Police public information officer Sharlene Brooks on two communications strategies and planning contracts worth $90,000. The second expires May 31.

The biggest deal, worth $100,000, went to former E-Comm 9-1-1 spokeswoman Jody Robertson for Feb. 22-June 30 for communications planning.

Surrey Police Board also spent $4,000 on a one-year subscription to New York-based Critical Mention’s system that monitors coverage on news sites, blogs, social media, news radio and TV. 

The Surrey police force is Mayor Doug McCallum’s brainchild to replace the RCMP. He had promised there would be boots on the ground by April 1 of this year. But the transition could take another three years.

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Bob Mackin Delta Police Department spent almost a

Bob Mackin

A man wanted by United States authorities donated more than $5,500 to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, has learned. 

Bakshish Sidhu is listed on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency website as wanted in California for conspiracy to launder money, with his last known address in Surrey, B.C.

Bakshish Singh and Justin Trudeau (

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Sidhu operates the Basant Forex currency exchange and Basant Productions film and concert promotion agency.

Sidhu appeared on Sher-e-Punjab Radio on April 9, claiming it was a case of mistaken identity. The radio station’s website carried a photo of Sidhu with the Prime Minister.

A story in the Vancouver Sun on April 16 quoted Sidhu’s lawyer, Deepak Chodha, who said Sidhu only learned of the charge a week ago, but his client is an “honourable man.”

“Mr. Sidhu will face whatever music he has to face and will deal with it,” Chodha told reporter Kim Bolan.

Sidhu’s LinkedIn and Instagram pages are offline. A 2018 profile by Ansal Media Group Inc.’s Entertainment Magazine has also disappeared. The feature said Sidhu is involved in philanthropy and politics in Surrey and his native Zira, Punjab.

A Department of Justice news release issued in October 2015 in Los Angeles named a Bakshish Sidhu of India among seven fugitives listed in an indictment related to the arrest of Canadian Gurkaran Singh Isshpunani in September 2015 at a Buffalo, N.Y. border crossing.

The U.S. alleged Isshpunani led an international money laundering ring affiliated with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. The U.S. indictment from November 2014 alleged Sidhu was involved in the March 2012 transfer of $522,000.

Elections Canada’s database shows eight donations by Bakshish Singh Sidhu from December 2017 to October 2019 — three to Liberal Party of Canada headquarters, two to the Surrey-Newton Liberal association, two to the Cloverdale-Langley City Liberal association and one to the Surrey-Centre Liberal association.

Elections Canada lists all of the donations by Sidhu from the same Surrey postal code as his Basant Productions.

Sidhu’s name is also on the attendance list for an Oct. 9, 2019 Liberal fundraiser at Northview Golf and Country Club with incumbent MP John Aldag and Bill Blair, the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.

Trudeau promoted Blair to Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness after the 2019 election. Aldag lost to Conservative Tamara Jansen.

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Bob Mackin A man wanted by United States

For the week of April 18, 2021:

The Cullen Commission Public Inquiry on Money Laundering in British Columbia entered its final witness phase, after two days of testimony by Peter German.

Peter German’s first Dirty Money report was released June 27, 2018 (Mackin)

The former head of the RCMP in Western Canada and head of Corrections Canada in B.C. is a law professor who wrote a textbook on money laundering.

His two Dirty Money reports in 2018 and 2019 laid the foundation for the public inquiry, which is scheduled to hear witnesses until mid-May. Commissioner Austin Cullen must report to the NDP cabinet before Christmas.

In his testimony, German explained why B.C. is uniquely attractive to organized crime and, “where you have organized crime, you have money laundering.”

Also, hear clips from director Dwayne Beaver’s new documentary, Duty to Document, about British Columbia’s broken freedom of information system and why it needs to be fixed with a law requiring the creation and retention of records.

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.

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For the week of April 18, 2021: The

Bob Mackin

Members of Vancouver’s Uyghur community protested outside Premier John Horgan’s riding office April 12, to support the decision not to keep a controversial ex-judge as an advisor.

Members of the Lower Mainland Uyghur community protested April 12 outside Premier John Horgan’s riding office in Langford. (photo submitted)

Kabir Qurban, a Simon Fraser University student, took time-off studying for exams to travel to the capital with six others after officials said Bill Yee will not remain on the Premier’s Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee.

Yee’s March 30 interview on a Toronto Cantonese radio program enraged groups concerned with China’s human rights abuses, because Yee denied China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims.

“When we heard he was taken out of power we were very happy, and in order to show them we were happy, we want to show up and let them know hey we’re here,” Qurban said. “Whenever you do something for the Uyghur people, whenever you support the Uyghur people, there is a beneficial party.”

Canada’s House of Commons voted 266-0 in February to declare China is committing genocide against Uyghurs, citing evidence of mass-detention, forced labour and other human rights violations from Chinese government documents, intelligence agencies and eyewitness testimony. In March, Canada sanctioned several Chinese govenment officials along with the U.S. and U.K., a move that sparked Yee to speak out.

Qurban and the group rallied outside the Parliament Buildings and Horgan’s electoral district office in Langford. The rally came four days after the group released a letter, signed by Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics in B.C., that denounced Yee for “lacking basic human empathy towards the plight of victims but at the same time factually erroneous and misleading.”

Bill Yee (far left) at a September 2018 Chinatown ceremony with Premier John Horgan and then-Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (BC Gov)

“Thousands of Uyghur Canadians do not have any means of communication with their parents and loved ones and China blocked and cut off all channels of family bonds,” said the letter.

Qurban said the group is also concerned with Yee and others who propagate Chinese Communist Party messages and meddle with politics and China’s diaspora in Canada.

“We’re not too happy with that, especially as Canadian citizens on indigenous territory, running away from our own indigenous territory,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese-Canadian Human Rights Concern Group said April 14 that one of its members complained to the RCMP about death threats by text and phone on April 11. It appealed for help from Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby, after it claimed the RCMP did not do enough to investigate.

The 13-member group had written an open letter on April 7 that was critical of the CCP and called for Yee’s firing from the 2018-announced, NDP government committee. The group did not make the victim of the death threats available for an interview and declined to publicly identify the RCMP detachment that handled the complaint.

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Bob Mackin Members of Vancouver’s Uyghur community protested

Bob Mackin

NDP MLAs went on a pre-election spending spree last summer that may have broken B.C. Legislature rules.

Jagrup Brar’s mailing to constituents (Norm Letnick/Twitter)

An analysis by of invoices shows that nearly all of the 19 MLAs involved in a targeted mass-mailing represented ridings the party feared losing.

Together they combined for almost $145,000 taken from the Legislature budget to pay for printing and mailing letters, leaflets and postcards to constituents in the days before Premier John Horgan called a snap election.

On Sept. 22, the day after the Legislature was dissolved for the Oct. 24 election, contractor Mail-O-Matic Services Ltd. of Burnaby invoiced the NDP Government Caucus for $52,157.24. The invoice shows $92,647.80 was already paid.

Caucus spokesman Ed May said “all mailings are in full compliance with Legislature rules, and that no mailings occurred during the election period. The invoice you referenced was for mailings that occurred prior to that date.”

However, the Legislature handbook for MLAs includes a section titled “Use of Constituency Office Allowance” which governs spending on newsletters, household flyers, or advertisements in print, online or broadcast outlets, but with strings attached.

States the handbook: “The content of these advertisements and messages is restricted to announcing or reporting on constituency office activities, how to contact the Member, the role played by the Member in the legislative process, and services provided by the Member to constituents. Members may not use constituency office resources or funds to distribute or mail physical or digital content which promotes partisan or political messages or solicits financial support.”

George Chow transit shelter ad (Twitter)

NDP Government House Leader Mike Farnworth, who is a member of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, did not respond for comment.

Of the $78,387 in postage charges listed on the Mail-O-Matic invoice, Courtenay-Comox’s Ronna-Rae Leonard was the biggest spender at $7,511.45. Leonard swung the BC Liberal riding to the NDP in 2017 by just 189 votes.

After a 200-vote loss in 2013, Jagrup Brar turned Surrey-Fleetwood into an NDP riding in 2017. The postcard in his mailing contained generic, non-local messages about healthcare and education and a quote and photo of Dr. Bonnie Henry. The letter lauds Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix and promotes the NDP government’s restart plan. Brar’s mailing cost $3,290.94 in postage fees.

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s B.C. Director said what the NDP did is part of a concerning federal and provincial trend across the political spectrum. Kris Sims said it is “disappointing” and called on the NDP to repay the treasury.

We’d like to see it stop,” Sims said in an interview. “I was born in the morning, but I wasn’t born this morning. Most common-sense people know if you’re ramping up to an election, you shouldn’t get a whole bunch of stuff printed with your name on it, if your name is going to be on the ballot.”

Sims wondered why the NDP couldn’t make do with what it already had. The party already received the $1.6 million per-vote subsidy that replaced corporate and union donations and raised $6.3 million in donations from supporters during 2020.

The disclosures also show that Vancouver-Fraserview MLA George Chow was charged $10,269 by Outfront Advertising for six transit shelter ads in his riding beginning Sept. 14. Chow’s poster ad referred to the NDP government’s bailout funding to TransLink. Meanwhile, two MLAs bought bulk masks that were branded with their names for giveaway in-person and by direct mail.

Bowinn Ma models her branded mask (Twitter)

North Vancouver-Lonsdale’s Bowinn Ma, who upset a BC Liberal in 2017, ordered 3,000 custom facemasks from Dad’s Printing on July 27 for $10,416 and 2,000 adjustable earloop facemasks for $8,187.20 on Aug. 31 from Dad’s. The prices also included polybagging.

Ma promoted the second shipment of masks on Sept. 1, exactly three weeks before Horgan made her riding his first Lower Mainland campaign stop. 

Delta North’s Ravi Kahlon, who also beat a BC Liberal in 2017, spent $11,648 on 4,000 masks from Dad’s Printing on Aug. 5.

Neither Ma nor Kahlon responded for comment.

“Advertisements are common and regular costs for any MLA office and appear on a variety of platforms and products,” May said.

Sims suggested Ma and Kahlon could have given away masks without using the items for campaign brand-building. 

“Who doesn’t want a free mask? Lots of people are really worried, it’s a good way of building community,” Sims said. “But why not just put the B.C. logo on it then? Why do you need to put your name on it?”

Throughout last summer, Horgan played coy when asked by reporters if he would call an election one year early, during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the party left a trail of breadcrumbs about its intention to break the confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party in order to gain a majority.

Ravi Kahlon sent masks after the election was called (Tom Zillich/Twitter)

In early June, it held a series of campaign planning and training seminars for party workers. One of the sessions was about socially distant campaign tactics.

In late June, the government communications department held a series of economic restart telephone town hall sessions that showcased NDP MLAs who defeated BC Liberals in 2017.

The party advertised on its website to find local campaign contractors with an August deadline for job applicants.

Meanwhile, Horgan’s deputy minister Don Wright was in touch with Elections BC head Anton Boegman to explore election dates in October and pandemic protocol voting logistics.

The MLAs’ advertising and promotional spending may also have been a function of incumbent politicians worried that their name recognition had declined. The pandemic summer went by without the usual personal appearances with crowds at community parades and picnics. 

But the spending also happened after Finance Minister Carole James revealed the shocking, record $12.5 billion deficit in July.

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Bob Mackin NDP MLAs went on a pre-election

Bob Mackin

If the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic worsens, B.C. Children’s Hospital may be treating adults like Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“We, in the last couple phases, have been working on the provincial and Lower Mainland plans,” said Dr. Neil McLean, Fraser Health Authority’s critical care medical director. “Those discussions you’re hearing around pediatrics and stuff, we’re having multiple discussions with B.C. Children’s about whether they have a capacity to help us.”

Dr. Neil McLean (Fraser Health)

McLean was speaking on a town hall-style web conference with physicians April 12.

B.C. is experiencing an escalation of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations similar to late 2020, as variants spread across the province. For now, McLean said, hospital space and equipment are not issues, but the size of the workforce and morale are concerns.

McLean said some post-anaesthesia care unit nurses are being redeployed to work in intensive care units. In some locations, where space permits, two COVID-19 patients are being treated by the same nurse in single rooms. Fraser Health cut back, as of April 12, on five surgical slates — or the standard 7.5-hour operating room shifts — across its busiest hospitals: two at Royal Columbian,  two at Abbotsford and one at Surrey Memorial. B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix revealed that elective surgeries are being delayed for the first time since last spring, but he said there will not be across-the-board cancellations like last year.

Said McLean: “Our staff are tired, they’ve been doing this full out for over 12 months, so we’re working on trying to support that strength in getting to this last few months that we need to hopefully before we can get that herd immunity going. We are faring OK, but we are starting to be stretched.”

McLean said the median age for coronavirus patients in Fraser Health ICUs remains 64, but “anecdotally, I’ll tell you I feel like we’re seeing some young people, so that median may drop in the next little bit.”

Meanwhile, he warned that patients receiving their first dose of vaccine must remain vigilant.

“I can tell you 100% that people are not fully covered up until 14 days, because I have seen COVID-positive patients in the ICU who are less that 14 days after their vaccine,” McLean said. “So, I haven’t seen it beyond 14 days, but definitely there is that dangerous window of people who have been vaccinated but are not immune. We do have those patients in our ICU, for sure.”

Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee (BC Gov)

Fraser Health has the capacity to jab 10,000 people a day, but could do 20,000 if it had enough supplies from Pfizer and Moderna.

Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee said more work is being done to vaccinate healthcare workers after a slow start.

“Some of the sites we’ve seen a significant improvement from the initial uptake of 45%-55%, to now much more in the herd immunity arena of 75%, to some at 95%,” Lee said on the conference call. “There has been quite a significant effort to increase immunization rates amongst our staff and leaders, our medical staff that work in clinical settings or that visit clinical settings regularly.”

Lee referred to “some pockets” (but only specified the long term care sector) that “do not have the immunization uptake that we would like to see.”

“We’re working through physician leadership, medical, clinical leaders as well as supervisors, managers and individual followup and communication,” Lee said.

Coronavirus outbreaks at three Fraser Health seniors care homes were announced April 1 at Chartwell Langley Gardens, April 8 at Sunset Manor and April 9 at Dufferin Care Centre.

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Bob Mackin If the third wave of the