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Bob Mackin

What follows below is Dr. Theresa Tam’s first memo about an “undiagnosed viral pneumonia in China” to provincial and territorial health officers, obtained by via Freedom of Information.

Tam’s Jan. 2, 2020 email claimed “authorities in Wuhan/China [are] being transparent in reporting and WHO is engaged,” yet “there is no evidence of human to human transmission, and importantly no cases among healthcare worker contacts reported to date.” 

The latter changed within days. Wuhan Central Hospital ophthalmologist Dr. Li Wenliang, who had circulated a reporter of a new case of SARS to colleagues on Dec. 30, 2019, was infected. He had apparently been treating a patient who had a stall at the Huanan Seafood Market, the presumed epicentre. The 33-year-old Li, hailed as a whistleblower, died Feb. 7.

As of Dec. 30, 2020, there had been 572,982 total cases reported in Canada, of which 15,472 people had died. 


( Gov FOI)


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Bob Mackin What follows below is Dr.

Bob Mackin

Do excuse me, I’ve been waiting since the very start of this Leap Year to use that headline. I just didn’t know what I would write beneath it.

Maybe we were warned that 2020 would be a dud that would land with an epic thud. Remember the windstorm that swept into the Pacific Northwest on Dec. 31, 2019? Just in time to cancel outdoor New Year’s Eve celebrations on the 20th anniversary of the Y2K crisis that wasn’t.

The biggest event in the region was the New Year’s at the Needle fireworks at Seattle’s Space Needle. Mother Nature wouldn’t let them celebrate with bombs bursting in air. This year’s broadcast will be a stay-home, virtual light show, because of the pandemic.

So what did happen during this excuse for a trip around the sun?

What follows is my A-to-Z diary of the view from British Columbia.

A: Army and Navy closed after 101 years. A department store that began in the Spanish flu closed in the coronavirus pandemic. Socialite Jacquie Cohen, the granddaughter of founder Sam Cohen, had enough of retail and is now focusing on real estate.

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

B: Be kind, be calm, be safe. Dr. Bonnie Henry’s words to live by. They made shoes for her at Fluevog and a mural in Gastown. Folk songs and honorary degrees followed. The Provincial Health Officer was a star of the first wave when B.C. was mentioned in the same sentence as Taiwan and New Zealand. Then came fall, when Henry did not stand in the way of Premier John Horgan’s snap election.

The second wave has been less kind, less calm and less safe to the once-smug province. Around 900 families in B.C. lost loved ones. Countless others will suffer disabilities for years to come. The economic collapse has harmed those who stayed physically healthy. 

C: Capilano River. On the first day of October, the Cleveland Dam spillway gushed. North Vancouver artist Ryan Nickerson and his son Hugh were on a fishing outing and drowned. By the end of the month, Metro Vancouver fired three workers.

D: Doug McCallum. The erratic Surrey mayor plowed forward with his plan for a municipal police force to replace the RCMP. He had an affair with Coun. Allison Patton and gained headlines for his car expenses and car crashes.

E: Election. Horgan broke the fixed elections date law and ripped up the confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party a year early. His gamble paid off with the Oct. 24 win in a largely mail-in election. But questions persist about the impact on the pandemic. 

F: Fires on Labour Day in Washington forests blanketed southern B.C. with dense smoke that prompted air quality warnings. Vancouver had the dubious honour of the dirtiest air in the world for a time. Worse than Delhi. Worse than Beijing.

G: Granville Mall, where Hallowe’en crowds gathered despite the pandemic. Covidiots, they were caled. Similar to summer’s Kelowna Canada Day partiers and Third Beach Drum Circlers.

H: Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou lost her bid to be freed at the end of May, when B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes ruled the U.S. charges met the Canadian standard for double criminality. The saga of the Shaughnessy mansion dweller continues. Meanwhile, Canadian hostages Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are in their third year of Chinese custody.

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

I: Iran. President Donald Trump started his re-election year with a bang, as a drone assassinated Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad. Five days later, Iran retaliated, shooting down Ukraine Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 people — 63 were Canadian citizens. North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Avenue became a focal point for memorials.

J: Justin Trudeau hosted daily pandemic prose for the press by the porch at Rideau Cottage. He resisted closing Canadian borders before the pandemic was declared. The government unleashed acronyms (CERB, CEWS, etc.) and billions of dollars of spending. Thankfully, Trudeau wasn’t home July 2 when a lone gunman invaded the grounds of Rideau Hall. The Canadian army reservist was arrested. It happened two-and-a-half months after an RCMP wannabe killed 22 on a rampage in Nova Scotia.

K: Kennedy Stewart may have been the country’s shakiest politician during the pandemic. The Vancouver Mayor dithered on declaring an emergency and then overstated the city’s economic hardships. Later he backed a controversial climate change tax plan and he garnered criticism when staff spent more than $317,000 on new furniture amid the recession.

L: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps looked as befuddled as Stewart, as homeless camps overtook several city parks and crime spiked downtown.

John Horgan announces the election in a Langford cul-de-sac (CPAC)

M: Moths and murder hornets. The looper moths were everywhere during the smokey weeks in September. The Asian murder hornets’ nest was found near Blaine. B.C. authorities found queens in Abbotsford and Aldergrove in November.

N: NDP extended its mandate by another four years with the Oct. 24 election, winning a party record 57 seats. Sol. Gen. Mike Farnworth’s state of emergency lasted 288 days in 2020 and is expected to remain for several months in 2021. The party divided and conquered the BC Liberals under Andrew Wilkinson, who quit after the campaign. Wilkinson put the opposition on hold in the spring to collaborate with the NDP and Greens, not expecting an early election.

O: Opioid overdose crisis. The other public health emergency in B.C. Death toll after 11 months of 2020: almost 1,600. Most victims were males aged 30-59 and fentanyl was the culprit.

P: Parks. Stanley Park Drive was closed to traffic during the first wave, angering seniors and disabled people who were unable to bike to Prospect Point or the Teahouse. Homeless camps moved from Oppenheimer Park to CRAB Park to Strathcona Park. Residents of the latter neighbourhood threatened a tax revolt if city hall didn’t find housing for the campers and deal with criminals who were terrorizing some of the campers and neighbours.

Q: Quit. Vancouver city manager Sadhu Johnston, after five years in the job. The Vision Vancouver recruit’s last kick at the can was a Climate Emergency Action Plan that contemplated a road tax for driving downtown and a new tax on residential vehicle parking.

City manager Sadhu Johnston (UBC)

R: Rugby Sevens at B.C. Place Stadium on the first weekend of March became the last big sport event in the province for 2020. The same weekend, the Pacific Dental Conference at PavCo’s other facility, the Vancouver Convention Centre, became B.C.’s first coronavirus superspreader event.

S: Social unrest. Shut Down Canada protests dominated national news in February, as anti-pipeline protesters piggybacked on a Northern B.C. construction blockade by a faction of the Wet’suwet’en first nation. Black Lives Matter protests spread north in June. Groups threatened to tear down the Capt. George Vancouver and Gassy Jack Deighton statues, but left them vandalized instead. Throughout the year, anti-mask protests weekly outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

T: Vancouver’s Trump Hotel went bankrupt. The Holborn-operated, Trump-licensed property still displays the sign on West Georgia.

U: University of B.C. Former Thunderbirds football star David Sidoo’s name was removed from the stadium when he pleaded guilty to fraud in the U.S. in March for paying $200,000 to an impostor to write his sons’ university entrance exams. He spent almost three months in a Tacoma, Wash. jail during the fall.

V: Virtual. It’s the way things went as work from home became the norm. Vancouver’s Pride Parade went from streets to online. The Terry Fox Run. Same with 4/20. City councils and even the Legislature went to Zoom. A Vancouver city council Webex meeting was humorously disrupted by the flush of a toilet.

David Sidoo posted a photo on his website in April, preparing to donate masks and sanitizer to Downtown Eastside homeless.

W: Tony Waiters and Tommy Wolski were just two of the Vancouver sports fixtures we lost in 2020. Waiters’ legacy is on every soccer pitch in B.C. He turned the NASL Whitecaps into Soccer Bowl champions in 1979 and coached Canada to its first and only World Cup berth at Mexico 1986. Former jockey Wolski was the biggest booster of the Sport of Kings in Vancouver. Others gone but not forgotten: BC Lions’ owner David Braley, Lions’ fan and Burnaby Coun. Nick Volkow, former North Shore Outlook editor Don Fiorvento and Wilson Markle, the Emmy-winning inventor of Colorization (and a relative of the author).

X: X Æ A-12, the baffling name of the Musk baby, which can also be pronounced as “winning lottery ticket” for the mother, child and their Vancouver relatives.  

Y: You. Be glad you survived. Here’s to a better 2021 for all.

Z: Dr. John Zdanowicz. Zdano, who? He’s a finance professor at Florida International University and a trade-based money laundering expert who testified at the Cullen Commission on money laundering. Other witnesses pointed fingers at the BC Liberals, particularly ex-BC Liberal deputy premier Rich Coleman. Meanwhile Zhu, as in Jian Jun Zhu, was killed in a gangland shooting at a Richmond restaurant in September. Alleged loan shark Paul King Jin, the poster child for the Cullen Commission hearings on money laundering, was injured in the shooting.

Happy new year. A better 2021 for all!

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Bob Mackin Do excuse me, I’ve been waiting

Bob Mackin

The Dec. 19 power outage at Royal Columbian Hospital was more serious than originally reported.

A source who is familiar with the incident, but not authorized to comment publicly, said impacts were felt throughout the New Westminster hospital.

Royal Columbian Hospital (Fraser Health)

Two intensive care unit patients were in operating rooms when the lights went out. A patient was moved from one of the darkened operating rooms to another operating room.

Electrified doors could not be opened, a neurosurgery procedure had to be completed by headlamps and the Omnicell automated medication dispensing cabinet was temporarily closed, the source said.

“Last Saturday a power outage impacted medication access from Omnicell ADCs,” read the Dec. 24 downtime procedures memo from the pharmacy department. “There was some confusion how staff were to access medications during the short downtime.”

Ten admitted patients in the emergency department were transferred to other areas unaffected by the power outage. The good news is, no patients were harmed. But it could have been worse.

Fraser Health Authority told that the outage, which lasted less than an hour, was related to construction at the hospital’s campus. 

Spokeswoman Carrie Stefanson said an internal investigation found “ongoing redevelopment work on the Royal Columbian Hospital campus led to the failure of the electrical circuit breaker that controls power to the health care centre.”

In May, the Journal of Commerce reported on Bird Design-Build Construction Inc.’s $1.35 billion modernization of the hospital. Contractor Glenco Electrical handled the $28 million electrical design and construction, including installation of two 3.25 megawatt high voltage generators.

Stefanson said the incident only affected vital circuits within the health care centre and emergency department. Power for the rest of the building and hospital campus remained on. The failed circuit breaker was replaced.

Why did no backup generator kick-in to keep the lights on?

“Emergency generators did not come online because there was no loss of power to the hospital campus itself,” she said.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health has admitted that coronavirus patients are being “double-bunked” at Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial and Abbotsford Regional hospitals.

Abbotsford Regional Hospital (Fraser Health)

Fraser Health said renovations have enabled two patients in one room, with oversight from a single nurse. It means that ICU staff can use fewer masks and goggles.

“If there are two patients within one ICU room, this means the nurse or physician can provide care to both without having to leave and go to another room – this saves time and PPE,” Stefanson said.

Abbotsford has job vacancies due to attrition and maternity leaves. Additional staff will join in January.

The Canadian Association of Critical Care Nurses Position Statement says that most critical care patients require one critical care registered nurse, “however there will be times when higher (two critical care RNs to one patient) or lower (one critical care RN to two patients) ratios are appropriate as long as the above three factors (the patient, the nurse and the environment) have been sufficiently and safely addressed.”

“Nurses who work in the ICU receive a Critical Care Nursing Certificate after completing their training and testing that is accredited through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses,” Stefanson said. “Fraser Health is part of a provincial initiative to support registered nurses wishing to advance their knowledge and skills, including skills in critical care nursing.”

Fraser Health did not release statistics on staffing at the three ICUs.

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Bob Mackin The Dec. 19 power outage at

For the week of Dec. 27, 2020: 

Help kiss 2020 goodbye with a special edition of Podcast.

Hear highlights and lowlights of the pandemic year.

Host Bob Mackin is joined by a special roundtable discussion of the major stories in British Columbia, featuring ex-Solicitor General Kash Heed, B.C. Care Providers and Vancouver Overcast’s Michael Klassen, Sauder School of Business’s Aziz Rajwani and former broadcaster/blogger Alex G. Tsakumis.

Plus, the final virtual Nanaimo Bar of 2020 for British Columbians who have made a difference.

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

Now on Spotify!

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: It's the end of the year as we know it... goodbye 2020

For the week of Dec. 27, 2020:  Help

Bob Mackin

Darryl Plecas says he can sleep well at night, two years after enduring a Christmastime of criticism for simply doing his job.

“I sleep well at night for one single reason: because I always acted with integrity,” ex-Speaker Plecas told in an exclusive Dec. 22 interview (WATCH BELOW). “As long as you’re doing that, you’re trying to do the right thing, then you can sleep well. I wonder how many of those other people who have been bashing us — and never mind just bashing us, that huge collection of people who are employed at the Legislature and the elected officials at the Legislature who knew some of this stuff a long time ago, who knew it, it goes back over a decade.”

Plecas and Chief of Staff Alan Mullen called in the RCMP to investigate corruption in the offices of the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms. Craig James and Gary Lenz were suspended in late 2018 and eventually retired in disgrace in 2019. On Dec. 18, James was charged with four counts of breach of trust by a public official and two counts of fraud over $5,000. His next court appearance is Jan. 27. The investigation remains active.

Plecas describes the Legislature as a “corrupt organization” that relishes being insulated from freedom of information and whistleblower protection laws.

“Somebody needs to say ‘stop it, get out of the building, get out of the office!’ Thank God a few of them were walked off the property in the last election by taxpayers,” he said, during a physically distanced interview outside the pandemic-closed Abbotsford Centre.

Plecas, who represented the Abbotsford South riding from 2013 to 2020, wished he could have satisfied the curiosity of Press Gallery reporters when James and Lenz were suddenly suspended on Nov. 20, 2018. But it was simply not possible to do so during an active criminal investigation. His first report to the all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee did not end Press Gallery and BC Liberal attacks on Plecas and Mullen. But it did resonate with average British Columbians across the political spectrum. 

“We were never saying someone is guilty of one thing or another, there is a prima facie case, there’s reasonable and probable grounds to believe that something’s wrong here and it deserves attention,” Plecas said. “And if it turns out that the person is found not responsible, well good for them.”

The NDP’s Raj Chouhan succeeded independent Plecas in the new parliament this month, but that does not mean Plecas and Mullen have closed the door on the last three years. On Dec. 11, Plecas released his final report, called Unfinished Business, urging lawmakers to continue his anti-corruption campaign. Plecas and Mullen are determined to help more than two dozen ex-Legislature employees find justice after they were fired for blowing the whistle on James, Lenz and other officials over the years. 

“These people need to be made whole,” Mullen said. “These people are not in a good place, a lot of them have had serious health concerns because of this, serious mental health concerns because of this and, yeah, some suicidal thoughts.”

Watch the whole video for the explosive interview with the two men who turned the Legislature upside down.

How B.C.’s political media bungled the scandal story

Also, publishes a detailed report by this reporter that analyzes how the Legislative Press Gallery covered the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms scandal.

Like the institution in which it is housed, is the Press Gallery systemically flawed?

Read the report and decide for yourself.

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British Columbia Legislative Press Gallery and coverage of the Speaker by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin Darryl Plecas says he can

For the week of Dec. 20, 2020:

After more than two years of an RCMP investigation, two special prosecutors approved criminal charges against former B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig James: Four counts of breach of trust. Two counts of fraud over $5,000.

Journalism professor Sean Holman (OGGO)

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were escorted from the Parliament Buildings on Nov. 20, 2018. Instead of looking deep into their backgrounds, members of the Legislative Press Gallery focused on Speaker Darryl Plecas and Chief of Staff Alan Mullen, who called the Mounties to investigate corruption.

Calgary journalism professor and former Victoria Press Gallery member Sean Holman joins host Bob Mackin on this week’s edition of Podcast to analyze what went wrong.

Holman and late IntegrityBC watchdog Dermod Travis uncovered James’s first scandal in 2010, when he spent $43,000 on travel as the acting chief of Elections BC.

Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco (Mackin)

“Why were individuals so skeptical about what Darryl Plecas and Alan Mullen had to say?” asked Mount Royal University’s Holman. “Why was there not more credibility and credence given to the allegations that they were making and why was there so much of an appearance of favouritism towards Craig James?”

Also, ResearchCo president Mario Canseco ponders a poll about Christmastime during the pandemic and the big stories of 2020 that will shape 2021.

Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentary.

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

Now on Spotify!

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: How B.C.'s Press Gallery bungled the Legislature corruption story

For the week of Dec. 20, 2020: After

Bob Mackin

A former Attorney General of British Columbia said he regrets posing for a photo at a Vancouver gourmet Italian restaurant hugging two women, contrary to government-imposed COVID-19 suppression rules. 

Wally Oppal was photographed wearing a facemask under his chin, huddled with maskless West Vancouver insurance executive Devina Zalesky and Coquitlam real estate agent Babita Kumari at Giardino on Dec. 16.

Wally Oppal with Babita Kumari (left) and Devina Zalesky (Devina Zalesky/Facebook)

Zalesky is president of AllWest Insurance Services, an auto, home and business brokerage chain. Kumari is Oppal’s girlfriend, who lives separately from Oppal.

Provincial health orders require restaurant patrons to wear a mask when not at a table and not mingle, but maintain two metres physical distance. The fine for violating B.C.’s mask mandate is $230. 

Oppal said he was at the restaurant to advise friends who are facing a personal challenge. He said he declined their invitation to meet at their home on the North Shore. He said the photo, published by Zalesky on Facebook, was shot as he was exiting.

“I was physical distancing, I was wearing a mask except when I was eating, when I had that photo taken I put the mask down to my chin and that was it,” 81-year-old Oppal told on Dec. 19. “I just think it’s silly to have a photo taken with a mask on. It was maybe five seconds for the whole thing. As a matter of fact, there was another couple there that wanted me to have a photo taken and I didn’t, I just sort of waved at them.”

Oppal said he understands the optics. If he could do it over again, he would not have attended the restaurant at all.

“It’s all well-known how we should act,” he said. “It’s a serious issue, obviously, the pandemic is a serious issue and a lot of people have lost their lives.”

Oppal was awarded the Order of B.C. in 2017. The former B.C. Supreme Court and B.C. Court of Appeal judge served one term as a BC Liberal MLA under Premier Gordon Campbell from 2005 to 2009. After politics, he presided over the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry from 2010 to 2012.

In late October, Surrey Centre Liberal MP Randeep Sarai and Surrey Coun. Mandeep Nagra were photographed maskless at a party with the new consul general of India. 

As of Dec. 18, 724 mostly elderly British Columbians have died from coronavirus. Officials have recorded 45,400 cases of infection. There are 9,978 active cases and 356 people hospitalized, including 92 in intensive care.

NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are urging British Columbians to stay home and celebrate Christmas and New Year’s only with those that reside in their household. Social gatherings and events are banned in B.C. through at least Jan. 8.

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Bob Mackin A former Attorney General of British

Bob Mackin

NDP government communications officials suddenly feared blowback from the back-to-school ad starring Dr. Bonnie Henry after it debuted in August.

So they provided the provincial health officer with a script to read at one of her coronavirus updates to media.

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Back to School campaign (BC Gov)

In the morning of Aug. 31, an email to the Office of the Premier arrived with the subject “please pull that Ministry of Education ad!” from a person whose name was censored by the government for privacy.

“Last night I was watching the NHL playoffs and I again saw that ad with Bonnie Henry and 5 students in a classroom. That ad is misleading, and most importantly, racist,” according to documents released to under the freedom of information law.

“Please stop inflicting it on the B.C. public. Also, stop spending money on these ridiculous ads and put some money into reducing class sizes so that our students and teachers can return to school safely.”

(The allegation of racism is related to the ad’s only masked student being Asian.)

“There has been quite a bit of pushback. For us to discuss,” Henry wrote to communications staff.

Communications director Jean-Marc Prevost replied to Henry and her $150,000-a-year communications contractor Nicola Lambrechts. “If you are asked about the one student shown wearing a mask in the ad, I would suggest messaging something like this:

“We know every classroom in the province looks different. The ad reflects that, showing children from a variety of background and ages from early years to junior high. The students I met with each chose whether they would wear a mask for the ad shoot — and we respected their choice. Students this fall will make the same individual choices about whether they wear a mask in the classroom, and it is important that we respect their choices in the same way.”

Coincidentally, the first question Henry faced at the Aug. 31 media briefing was about the flagship ad of the $1.24 million campaign.

Robbie Williams talks to kids (Noisey/Vice)

“We all had masks and we talked about when we would wear them but each child made their own decision about when they were going to wear a mask and some of them wore them the whole time we were together and some of them put them on and off at times, when they needed to wear them,” Henry told reporters. “So this again reflects what we will be seeing in classrooms.”

The documents show a list of 12 people, 11 of them named, for the in-house production headed by Nammi Poorooshasb, the government’s assistant deputy minister of strategic communications.

A classroom at Eagle View elementary in Victoria was used for the three-hour August morning shoot. There were two treatments, one of Henry lecturing and the other of Henry answering questions. Henry read straight to a camera with aid from a teleprompter, and a second camera filmed a side angle with students in view. The children are seen, but not heard, in the only treatment that was released.

Documents show the NDP government drew creative inspiration from two videos by Noisey, the Vice music channel, starring pop stars Lil Nas X and Robbie Williams talking to children.

CTV News Vancouver reported more than half of Lower Mainland schools recorded COVID-19 exposures this term: 491 of 974 public and private schools in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health zones. But the total may be higher, because VCH did not disclose exposures (other than to parents and students) at the beginning of the school year.

Lil Nas X talks to kids (Noisey/Vice)

Surrey Teachers Association released a Dec. 15 letter to Henry. Vice-president Julia McRae wrote “we are not safe” and pleaded for Henry to mandate masking in schools and to cut classroom density in half.

“Cohorts have been established but there is intermixing that can’t be controlled in hallways, playgrounds, and at lunch hour,” McRae wrote.

Surrey was where Darlene Lourenco, a music teacher at Cambridge Elementary, was hospitalized for two weeks and her school closed.

Between Sept. 8, when schools reopened, and Dec. 18, when schools closed for Christmas break, total cases of coronavirus skyrocketed 589% and deaths jumped 240% province-wide.

Henry has not only dismissed calls to order mandatory masking in classrooms, but she also rejected calls for Christmas break to be extended by at least a week.

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HTH 2020 05541 TheBreaker by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin NDP government communications officials suddenly

Bob Mackin

The disgraced former Clerk of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly has been charged with breach of trust and fraud.

B.C. Prosecution Service announced Dec. 18 that Craig Harley James is facing four counts of breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of fraud over $5,000 after more than two years under investigation. The indictment was filed Dec. 17 and James made his first appearance in Victoria Provincial Court on Dec. 18. His next appearance is Jan. 27, 2021. 

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

The charges relate to James’s $257,988.38 pension allowance, the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer, and submitting travel expense claims for personal travel.

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were immediately suspended and escorted out of the Legislature on Nov. 20, 2018. On that day, B.C. learned that Speaker Darryl Plecas had called the RCMP after he and Chief of Staff Alan Mullen found corruption in the offices of the two most-senior permanent officers at the seat of government. Two special prosecutors, Brock Martland and David Butcher, had been appointed to the file.

No charges were announced for Lenz on Dec. 18. A source not authorized to speak about the investigation said it is not over.

“As it is before the courts and at the earliest of stages, I do not consider it proper to issue any comment at this time,” James’s lawyer, Gavin Cameron, told

In January 2019, Plecas tabled a report at a meeting of the all-party committee that manages the Legislature showing the reasons why he called in the RCMP: James and Lenz were engaged in a major spending scandal that lasted several years and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

The duo had used public money to buy themselves suits, luggage, jewelry and other items. James removed bulk liquor from the Legislature without accounting for it and Lenz did nothing to stop him. James also bought a wood splitter and trailer that he said were for use at the Legislature for firewood in case of emergency. James actually kept the $13,000 combo at his house in a Saanich cul-de-sac. The wood splitter eventually became the symbol of the scandal.

James also crafted a retirement allowance in February 2012 that he used to pay himself $257,988.

Yet he was allowed to retire without paying back a penny.

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

Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, was hired in early 2019 to investigate for misconduct and ruled James committed four types. James negotiated his retirement the night before the May 16, 2019 release of McLachlin’s report. The three house leaders let James off the hook from a financial standpoint and agreed to a broad non-disparaging clause that even restricts offspring of MLAs from criticizing James.

McLachlin found no misconduct by Lenz, but she was not empowered to order testimony under oath. Lenz was eventually found in violation of the Police Act by former Deputy Vancouver Police Chief Doug LePard. He retired before the October 2019 release of LePard’s report.

James and Lenz originally demanded their jobs back and pleaded innocence. At a Nov. 26, 2019 news conference in Vancouver, James said: “I can think of nothing that I have done that would disqualify me from carrying on with my office while this investigation is completed.”

CTV News reporter St. John Alexander asked: “What do you think it could have been [that sparked the suspension]?”

“I have no idea,” James said. 

“There was no money moved that shouldn’t have been moved?” Alexander asked.

“None at all,” James replied. “I have established processes in the Legislative Assembly that are essentially bulletproof.”

The infamous wood splitter, photographed on the Legislature grounds on Nov. 20, 2019. (Mackin)

James became the clerk in 2011 by vote of the BC Liberal caucus, contrary to the standard procedure of an all-party committee vetting applicants and recommending a candidate to the Legislature.

Plecas was elected twice as the BC Liberal MLA for Abbotsford South, but became an independent in 2017 when he was acclaimed as the 39th Speaker in B.C. history. After the 2017 election, at a caucus retreat in Penticton, he successfully challenged ex-Premier Christy Clark to step down.

Former BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who agreed to support the NDP minority government under John Horgan after the 2017 election, Tweeted: “Today there are many members of the B.C. Legislature Press Gallery, and past and present house leaders, who owe a sincere and public apology to [Mullen and Plecas]. Thank you Darryl and Alan for providing a beacon of ethical leadership in the B.C. Legislature.”

Plecas chose not to run in the snap Oct. 24 election. He published a final report about his tenure on Dec. 11, urging lawmakers to carry on his anti-corruption campaign.

Plecas and Mullen were both guests on the Dec. 13 edition of Podcast.

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James, Craig by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The disgraced former Clerk of British