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For the week of Sept. 13, 2020.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, Kash Heed, B.C.’s former solicitor general, talks about the defund the police movement and agrees change is necessary.

“I have been calling for police reforms for 20 years now,” Heed told host Bob Mackin. “We’ve got police leaders that are still operating in a paradigm that is decades and decades old.”

Heed said police are supposed to be healers of conflict, but have strayed.

“We’ve moved to this paramilitary, if not a militarized way, that we’re policing our communities, that was never meant to be the role of a police officer.”

Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco (Mackin)

In B.C., taxpayers spend $1.6 billion on policing a year. Heed said there needs to be an audit of the costs and effectiveness.

Also, Pollster Mario Canseco of ResearchCo interprets the numbers from his latest research on how the pandemic has affected spending by sports fans in Canada and the U.S.

Plus some thoughts on Premier John Horgan’s early election trial balloon and how it can blow up in his face and headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest.

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

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For the week of Sept. 13, 2020. On

Bob Mackin

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that three rear-end crashes connected to a Surrey auto body shop were staged in order to make fraudulent damage and injury claims against ICBC.

The defendants’ credibility “was so significantly impaired,” according to Justice Jennifer Duncan in her Sept. 8 verdict.

The crashes happened between Oct. 18, 2013 and Jan. 18, 2014 and involved seven defendants in various combinations related to defendant Pro Choice Auto Body Ltd. There were no independent witnesses. All of the vehicles involved, except one, had been purchased from salvage by Pro Choice.

Pro Choice Auto Body Ltd. (Google Streetview)

“The accounts of each of the defendants who were actually involved in the collisions were inherently improbable,” Duncan wrote. She found ICBC suffered at least $84,000 in losses. Punitive damages will be determined after total claimed losses have been determined.

Duncan found that some defendants even tailored their evidence to explain inconsistencies or failed to mention certain details during the trial, which was held intermittently over 22 days in January, February and June.

“As one example, [Mahmoud] Haghmohammadi said that [Mehrafarin] Mehran and [Krishma Komal] Prakash had reminded him during the trial that he picked both of them up after Collision #1. Additionally, Ms. Mehran said her memory of events was better at trial after hearing Ms. Prakash’s evidence,” Duncan wrote. “I do not believe the defendants’ explanations that these collisions were accidents.”

Three of the defendants live in the same house near Pro Choice in Surrey. Pro Choice owner Major Singh opened it in 1998 and hired his brother Inderjit “Andy” Singh as a vehicle painter. Major Singh’s son Gursharanjit Singh was in high school at the time of the crashes. Though not employed by Pro Choice, he sometimes did paperwork at the office. Major hired Mahmoud Haghmohammadi in 2007 and he did most of the frame work.

ICBC special investigation unit detective Kirk Huxley went to Pro Choice while investigating an unrelated theft claim. Pro Choice lost its ability to direct bill ICBC for work in 2012.

Huxley reviewed ICBC claim files for brothers Inderjit and Major Singh and Mahmoud Haghmohammadi and “certain elements of them piqued Mr. Huxley’s interest.”

“All three collisions were rear-end accidents with no independent witnesses. All three resulted in personal injury claims. All but one of the vehicles involved had been purchased from salvage by Pro Choice Collision #1 and #3 occurred in roughly the same location, close to Pro Choice, after normal business hours, less than three months apart. Inderjit was involved in both collisions,” Duncan wrote.

“There were unusual connections between some of the people involved. Inderjit and Mr. Haghmohammadi worked together and had been in a rollover accident on the Coquihalla Highway in 2007. And the driver rear-ended by Inderjit in Collision #1, Karishma Prakash, had been in a collision while driving a Toyota Prius registered to Mohammed Raza Rasuli several months earlier. Mr. Rasuli was the driver who rear-ended Mr. Haghmohammadi in Collision #2.”

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

Save On Parts Wrecking bookkeeper Prakash married a friend of Haghmohammadi. Prakash had a romantic relationship with Rasuli, an auto body repair technician.

“Several witnesses testified that both defendants had worked in the same auto body repair shops in closely overlapping periods of time. All of them said they had never seen the two work in the same place at the same time, although in some cases the witnesses had to cast their minds back to inconsequential events at work more than a decade before trial. I am satisfied that Mr. Rasuli and Mr. Haghmohammadi had either met through their overlapping employment or were aware of each other, but Ms. Prakash was the critical connection for the purposes of Collision #2.”    

Duncan found Haghmohammadi organized the staging of the first collision and Pro Choice, through Major, allowed the Zephyr to be used for the purpose of profiting from the damage claim.

Inderjit, Prakash and Mehran were all in on the claim. ICBC lost $34,000 after recovering $582.86 for the Zephyr and $534.87 for the Buick.

Haghmohammadi, Prakash and Rasuli combined on the second collision. ICBC paid-out more than $22,000, but recovered $1,011 from salvage for the Saturn.

Duncan also ruled that the third was staged, likely to ensure the Hyundai was totalled to secure a payout from ICBC, which collision number two failed to do. Inderjit, Major, Gursharanjit and Haghmohammadi were found liable for collision number three.

ICBC lost $28,000, after recovering $3,395 for the Hyundai and $820.02 for the Acura from salvage.

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Bob Mackin A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled

Bob Mackin

B.C. Premier John Horgan signalled that his NDP minority government may exit the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green Party and seek an election this fall, one year ahead of schedule.

Horgan and Weaver agree to defeat Clark (Twitter)

“The Green caucus today is not the Green caucus of three years ago,” Horgan told reporters during a televised Sept. 9 appearance. “You will also know that the vast majority of the elements of CASA have been realized. You will also know that nowhere in that document will you see the word ‘pandemic.’ The world we live in today is not the world of 2017. I know that British Columbians want me to focus on 2020 and beyond, rather than looking backward to a relationship I had with the then-leader of the Green Party and his colleagues.”

The CASA governing blueprint was the catalyst for the three-member Green caucus, under leader Andrew Weaver, to vote with the 41-member opposition NDP to defeat the 43-member BC Liberal government on a confidence vote after the 2017 election. The NDP and Liberals are now tied at 41 after South Surrey-White Rock’s Tracy Redies quit in August to become the new Science World CEO. 

As theBreaker.news was first to report, the NDP is eyeing Oct. 17 or 24 for the snap election, so Lt. Gov. Janet Austin would have to give her blessing by Sept. 22. The NDP is reluctant to go beyond those dates because of the expected second wave of the coronavirus during November’s flu and storm season. Elections BC has staff on standby and is negotiating leases for its offices in each of the 87 ridings.

The new Green leader will be announced Sept. 14, after the party’s eight-day election. All three candidates, Cam Brewer, Kim Darwin and Sonia Furstenau, said on theBreaker.news Podcast that they support continuing CASA, but oppose a snap fall election.

The opposition BC Liberals are also opposed to a snap election. Andrew Wilkinson’s party wants Horgan to reconvene the Legislature for the scheduled Oct. 5 to Nov. 26 sitting. The spring session was postponed for three months because of the pandemic. It ended Aug. 14.

Weaver quit as Green leader last year but continues as the independent MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. In an interview, he took no issue with Horgan’s words. He said CASA was created to get a stable government and it has done its job.

John Horgan at the B.C. NDP’s April 23 Better BC rally. (NDP)

“[Horgan and the NDP] are looking for a new mandate to come out of the post-COVID world, and that new mandate would require government to spin on a dime and not have to worry about being held hostage, in some sense, by a small minority,” Weaver told theBreaker.news, referring to house leader Furstenau and interim Green leader Adam Olsen.

“I think the premier has done a super job, CASA has served B.C. well. If the premier decides to call an election that is his prerogative, I don’t think there is anything in CASA that would preclude him from doing that, particularly in light that much of CASA is done.”

The agreement triggered the electoral reform referendum, lobbying reform, ban on corporate and union political donations and a government-wide climate change plan. It requires Horgan to not request dissolution of the Legislature, except after losing a confidence vote, and there must be spring and fall sittings every year. As part of CASA, the NDP shifted B.C.’s fixed election date from May 2021 to the fall of 2021 and every four years after that.

Weaver, who is planning to return to teaching at University of Victoria, said he is confident that Elections BC can conduct a safe election during the pandemic.

“People will vote, I don’t think it will have any effect on virus response. I go to the grocery store, a bunch of people are there, every time you go you’re at risk.”

Should the NDP go to the polls this fall, it would distract from the witness testimony phase of the Cullen Commission public inquiry on money laundering. A loss to the BC Liberals would put the Cullen Commission in jeopardy of cancellation. Similarly, an election may delay the conclusion of the RCMP investigation of Legislature corruption.  

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Bob Mackin B.C. Premier John Horgan signalled that

Bob Mackin

There were 13 people behind the camera for the controversial B.C. government back-to-school ad starring Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Scene from the controversial B.C. government back to school ad (BC Gov)

The crew included on-site school administration and support staff, according to a representative for the Ministry of Health. The $15,000-budgeted ad was produced in-house by Government Communications and Public Engagement with contractor Gab Films. Trapeze Communications of Victoria and PostPro Media of Vancouver did post-production. The seven children in the classroom scene were “chosen through a network of parents,” according to the ministry.

In the ad, shot at a Victoria school, Henry addresses schoolchildren about washing their hands, wearing masks when necessary and staying home if sick during the upcoming school year.

The Ministry of Education told reporters that in order to shoot the ad, the number of students in the classroom was limited for health and safety reasons and the children were placed safe distances from each other.

That prompted a Tweet from B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring, who said the small group of children cast for the ad “proved her point.”

From Point Blank Creative’s Back to School campaign (BC Gov)

“I respect the fact that physical distancing was required to film this ad. We’re asking for the same with students in real classrooms in September,” Mooring said.

Just in time for the new school year, Henry diluted her two-metre physical distancing guideline to one metre in some circumstances, such as classrooms. 

The ad was also widely criticized on social media for politicizing Henry and casting an Asian girl as the only mask-wearer in the class.

“That was not a commercial about what a classroom was going to look like,” Henry told reporters on Aug. 31. “What that was was me as the public health officer talking with children and their parents about the things that they can expect in the new school year about some of the public health issues and it was a conversation that I had, with there were more than six children. We had it in a classroom, because that’s what the children wanted.”

Although Henry characterized it as a “conversation,” none of the students has a speaking role in the 30-second ad.

The $1.24 million ad campaign launched Aug. 20 with an animated 30-second spot by NDP ad agency Point Blank Creative, whose clients include the Alberta and federal NDP, CUPE, United Steelworkers, B.C. Government and Service Employees Union and B.C. Federation of Labour. The budget for animation, radio and digital assets was $150,000.

Point Blank billed taxpayers almost $380,000 in the previous two fiscal years.

B.C. government advertising contractors are chosen from a roster of companies compiled by politically appointed Government Communications and Public Engagement bureaucrats after the NDP came to power in 2017.

Point Blank’s 2017 B.C. Fed ad (Point Blank/B.C. Fed)

Point Blank donated $1,000 on June 9, 2017 to the NDP. Co-founder and managing director Nathan Lusignan gave $400 last year.

Other contractors include Captus (translation and production) and Vizeum and Jungle (media buying). The campaign runs through Sept. 20.

The province’s back-to-school plan is subject of a legal challenge from two fathers who say parents should be given a choice to send their children back-to-school or learn at home remotely during the pandemic. Mooring has voiced her support for parents who want to continue online courses, which were instituted late last spring.

The province says up to 60 students will be in “learning groups” in elementary school and up to 120 in high school. Individual school districts and private schools have their own variations on the plan. Teachers and staff will have two days of training after Labour Day before students get two days of orientation. Sept. 14 is the beginning of the first week of instruction for the school year.

Simon Fraser University Prof. Caroline Colijn told CTV News Vancouver that 5% of elementary schools and 20% to 40% of high schools in Metro Vancouver would have at least one coronavirus infection on day one.

The ad controversy comes on the heels of a report by the Ombudsperson on the Ministry of Education’s exam marking scandal from 2019. The Course Correction report found the Ministry deliberately misled the media and public about the incorrect tabulating and reporting of more than 18,000 Grade 12 course exam marks.

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Bob Mackin There were 13 people behind the

For the week of Sept. 6, 2020.

On the 150th edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, hear from B.C. Green Party leadership candidates Cam Brewer, Kim Darwin and Sonia Furstenau.

The election of the new head of the B.C. Legislature’s third party runs Sept. 5-13, with the winner to be announced Sept. 14.

Whoever wins will be faced with convincing Premier John Horgan to not seek a snap election in October. Hear what Brewer, Darwin and Furstenau say about that and other issues.

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentary.

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

Have you missed an edition of theBreaker.news Podcast? Go to the archive.

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For the week of Sept. 6, 2020.

Bob Mackin

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge rejected a minority shareholder’s bid to block the sale of Richmond’s Duck Island.

In an Aug. 6 oral verdict, Justice Michael Brundrett dismissed an application by Samuel Cheung and 0908034 B.C. Ltd. for an injunction to prevent Morris Mao Hua Chen and his companies, Raegon Properties and Investments Ltd. and Morrison Homes Bridge Street Ltd., from transferring shares.

Morris Chen (Wealth One Bank Canada)

Chen chairs the North America Investment and Trade Promotion Association (aka North America Business Progressive Association) and is a member of the boards of Wealth One Bank Canada, an online bank that targets Chinese customers, and CIBT Education Group Inc., the TSX-listed owner of private career colleges and student housing properties.

Real estate agent Cheung has experience developing real estate, mainly in China.

Chen and his companies control 98% of Jingon International Development Partnership LLP and West Road Partnership, which owns the properties near River Rock Casino Resort. Cheung and his company hold the remaining 2%.

Duck Island is the site of the annual Richmond Night Market, which was cancelled this summer by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2012, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie revealed that Jingon proposed building the $4 billion Vancouver International Plaza with hotels, offices and a trade and convention centre at Duck Island, which was absorbed by Lulu Island half a century ago.

Cheung filed a notice of claim in July, alleging Chen and his companies breached their partnership, fiduciary duties and common law duty of good faith and honest performance. Chen wanted a judge to dissolve the partnership agreements and award damages and costs.

The parties agreed to a standstill clause, but Chen gave notice that he wanted to sell his interests by an Aug. 7 closing date. The buyer was not identified in Brundrett’s judgment.

Brundrett’s ruling said Cheung and Chen have done business since 2006. In 2010, Cheung discussed developing Duck Island and West Road in Richmond. They agreed that Cheung would receive commission and a 2% stake in any partnership that arose.

Proposed new look for Duck Island (Morrison Group)

Cheung found Gui Fang Zhu to invest $40 million for a 49% interest in the partnership in 2011 under the Jingon name. Zhu is the wife of Xu Chang’an, who was a member of the Tianjin City Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee.

The three Duck Island properties were assigned to Jingon. A similar arrangement came about for the West Road land.

Chen bought out Zhu for $80 million after litigation with Xu between 2015 and 2019, giving Chen 98% control over Jingon and West Road.

Chen-controlled companies entered into December 2019 mortgages secured by the Duck Island land. One for $22 million, the other $60 million.

“Mr. Chen did not discuss the mortgages with Mr. Cheung before taking them out,” said Brundrett. “I am told that the current assessed value of the Duck Island properties [18.41 acres] is more than $150 million, and it is common ground that their value would be many times that amount if successfully rezoned and developed. The assessed value of the West Road properties is in the range of $20 million.”

Chen offered $800,000 to buy Cheung’s shares in March 2020 but the offer was rejected and no counter-offer made.

“This is important because the buy-sell provision in the partnership agreement is a form of ‘shotgun clause’ that deems the lack of a counter-offer after seven days to constitute acceptance,” Brundrett said.

Duck Island (Morrison Group)

Cheung applied for an interim court order to preserve the status quo and protect his interests from what he called “unfair and oppressive conduct” until a Sept. 17 hearing.

The judge said Cheung’s application raised a serious question about whether the buy-sell clause was properly invoked.

“If the plaintiff is successful in its underlying action, the plaintiffs will likely end up with an award of damages commensurate with the nature of their interest in the partnership,” Brundrett said. “However, the plaintiffs have not established a risk of irreparable harm to their interests if the injunction is not granted.

“Overall, weighing the potential harm to the parties, I find that the balance of convenience does not favour restricting the defendants from exploring commercially viable options by imposing restrictions on the transfer of their interests, or imposing restrictions on their ability to further financially encumber the properties.”

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Bob Mackin A British Columbia Supreme Court judge

Bob Mackin

In 2019, 750 of the 984 people who died from toxic illicit drugs in British Columbia were male.

Well over half the deaths — 563 — occurred in a private residence.

There were 13 deaths in Maple Ridge alone during the year.

Last week, we found out that one of those 13 was beloved Vancouver hockey writer Jason Botchford, the 48-year-old Coquitlam resident known for his work with The Province, The Athletic and TSN 1040. “Botch” was a repeat winner of the Carson Award for best sportswriter, as voted by his media peers. A GoFundMe campaign to assist Botchford’s family has raised more than $123,000.

Since the tragedy became public in May of last year, sudden heart failure was believed to be the cause of death. The Aug. 11 report from Coroner Kristin Vanderkuip blamed an accidental, lethal concentration of fentanyl and the use of cocaine. Vanderkuip’s report is below.

“We were completely shocked and in disbelief to discover the cause of Jason’s sudden death,” Kathryn Botchford, his widow and the mother of of his three children, wrote in a statement. “The cause does not change who Jason was to all of us but just makes his death that much harder to comprehend. We are still grieving.”

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to give a close look at the shocking numbers.

In 2019, the year Botchford died, fentanyl was detected in 85% of illicit drug deaths in B.C.

In July 2020 alone, there were 175 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths — a 136% increase over July 2019’s 74. That works out to almost six deaths a day. For the first seven months of 2020, 68% of the dead were 19 to 49-year-olds. Men are 79% of the victims to date.

Botchford died just after the third anniversary of B.C.’s declaration of a public health emergency around drug overdoses.

The 20th anniversary of Vancouver’s Four-Pillar strategy is next January. Harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement were the buzzwords. There are many ideas from many experts across the spectrum, from safe supply of drugs to stabilize addicts to treatment programs to help addicts kick the habit.

In life, Botchford inspired a new generation of hockey bloggers and podcasters. Perhaps, in death, Botchford’s memory can inspire discourse about solving the scourge of addiction. 

If you are struggling with addiction or know someone who is, there is help: Go to Stop Overdose B.C.

Cr Jason Michael Hauk Botchford 2019-0297-0066 by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin In 2019, 750 of the 984

Bob Mackin

B.C. NDP cabinet ministers are getting a bonus, but it won’t be as big as it could’ve been.

Under provincial law, 20% of ministerial salaries is held back until the fiscal year’s Public Accounts are released. Half the holdback is for balancing the government’s overall budget target, the other half for balancing ministerial budgets. Because the pandemic turned the government’s finances upside down, NDP cabinet members qualify only for the latter 10%.

Finance Minister Carole James (BC Gov)

Cabinet ministers will receive $5,551 each and Premier John Horgan $9,992.

The NDP government had eliminated the bonus system for Crown corporation executives, but not for politicians. It decided not to amend the law during an emergency March 23 sitting of the Legislature, just eight days before the books closed for the fiscal year.

“We hadn’t made changes to the ministers holdbacks, that we felt that was just additional time and energy that we wanted to spend on providing supports to the public,” Finance Minister Carole James told reporters on Aug. 31. “Minister budgets were balanced, but in fact the revenue did not come in, so ministers will receive half of their holdbacks.”

In late-March, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee unanimously voted to free MLAs’ base $111,024.19 annual pay. The Premier is paid $99,921.77 extra and cabinet ministers $55,512.10.

James revealed on Aug. 31 that the sudden impact of the pandemic meant a $321 million deficit for the fiscal year that ended March 31.

In July, James said B.C.’s 2020-2021 deficit was projected to hit $13.5 billion. 

Meanwhile, public sector salaries remain relatively high and unchanged by the pandemic.

The biggest pay packets for 2019-2020 in the B.C. public service include BC Hydro Powerex CEO Thomas Bechard ($937,845), UBC president Santa Ono ($605,225), BC Hydro president Chris O’Riley ($566,084), Vancouver Island University CFO Shelley Legin ($521,556), B.C. Securities Commission CEO Brenda Leong ($515,203) and ICBC CEO Nicolas Jimenez ($474,680).

The NDP government held onto the public accounts until the last day allowed under the law. But the Crown corporations and agencies financial reports include disclaimers about the uncertainty due to COVID-19. The pandemic was declared March 11 by the World Health Organization and followed the next week by the B.C. government’s public health emergency and state of emergency declarations.

BC Hydro COO Chris O’Riley (BC Hydro)

“Although the economic influence from the virus is expected to be temporary, the impact to PavCo’s event operations and related financial results is expected to be significant, but cannot be reasonably estimated at this time,” said the year-end report for B.C. Pavilion Corporation.

PavCo has not hosted a public event since March’s Canada Sevens rugby tournament at B.C. Place Stadium and the Pacific Dental Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The latter was the scene of a virus outbreak that sickened more than 80 people and led to at least one death.

BC Hydro blamed the pandemic for late filing of Site C quarterly reports with the B.C. Utilities Commission and the July revelation that the $10.7 billion budget and 2024 completion date are no longer. Both are officially listed as TBD.

B.C. Lottery Corporation relies on casinos for three quarters of its revenue, but casinos have been closed since mid-March. It is unlikely to match this year’s $1.35 billion net income next year.

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Bob Mackin B.C. NDP cabinet ministers are

For the week of Aug. 30, 2020.

After a spring without pro sports and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021, Canadian Alphonso Davies hoisted the Champions League trophy with his Bayern Munich teammates in an empty stadium after the biggest game of the year in the sports business. 

A few days later, the Milwaukee Bucks led a wildcat strike that spread across the NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and Major League Soccer after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, NFL training camps continue and some college football conferences are planning on fall seasons.

The Canadian Football League has 2021 on its mind, after the first cancellation in 101 years. Minor league baseball and minor league hockey face uncertain futures.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, Massachusetts sports economist Victor Matheson ponders the last four months and looks ahead to the fall and beyond, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused so much chaos in the business of sport.

“What happens if people are able to kick the habit?” Matheson told host Bob Mackin. “Will they come back in full? Whether our psyche has changed, whether we want to be in public with lots of people. One of the great draws of sports in the old days is the electricity of the crowd, you go and you become part of that shared experience. We may be losing our taste for shared experiences.”

Plus, hear from B.C. seniors advocate Isobel MacKenzie, Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and commentaries.

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

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For the week of Aug. 30, 2020.

Bob Mackin

During a legislative assembly management committee meeting earlier this month, the NDP government’s designated enforcer of party discipline wondered why the coronavirus pandemic posters in the Parliament Buildings didn’t specifically use the two-metre measurement.

“It just seems inconsistent,” Garry Begg, the Surrey-Guildford MLA, said on Aug. 6. “It seems that just when we get used to, or I get used to, metric, we have to do the conversion backwards now to figure out what six feet means.”

NDP MLA Garry Begg, centre, on Aug. 25 (Twitter)

Now Begg is facing questions about his proximity to unmasked hotel workers that appeared Aug. 25 at his constituency office, which officially closed to the public in March because of the pandemic. A photograph published by Unite Here Local 40 on Twitter appears to show Begg standing less than arm’s length from two of the visitors.

“I actually thought that we had achieved socially distancing because I distinctly recall mentioning that and separating myself from the two ladies,” Begg told theBreaker.news on Aug. 28, when the province recorded its highest single-day infection total of 124. “It’s probably more the way the picture is taken we appear to be closer than we actually are.”

Caucus whip Begg, a retired RCMP inspector, said he allowed eight people to sign-in and enter the office and boardroom for an unscheduled 2:15 p.m. meeting. Unite Here Local 40 members are lobbying NDP MLAs for job protection and a tourism industry bailout.

I think this was an unusual circumstance, this was a hot sunny day and they were all women outside, and I probably could be accused of being too courteous to them, I was concerned that they should have a glass of water and sit down and relax out of the sun,” Begg said. “It was a fairly quick transaction, actually it was a very quick transaction. I don’t see any harm in the way it was conducted.”

Unite Here Local 40 spokeswoman Michelle Travis and Stephanie Fung did not respond for comment. One of the people in the photograph appears to be the Local 40 executive director, Robert Demand. He also did not respond.

Between 2005 and 2017, when unions and companies were allowed to fund political parties, the B.C. NDP reported almost $115,000 in donations from Unite Here Local 40.

While it does not appear that Begg or his guests broke any law, the optics of the situation are another matter.

Fraser Health, the health authority that includes Begg’s constituency, recommends that: “Even when we are not sick, we should still keep two metres (six feet) from one another when we are outside our homes. Two metres is the approximate length of a queen-sized bed.”

It also recommends wearing a non-medical mask when physical distancing is difficult, to protect those nearby from sneezing, coughing or talking-related droplets.

NDP MLA Garry Begg, centre, on Aug. 25 (Twitter)

“I certainly wouldn’t want to set a bad example for anyone to infer that I don’t agree with any of the guidelines, because I’m strictly observant of them, as are my staff and as is the office,” Begg said. “In this particular case this was an unplanned event.”

Begg said his office has a WorkSafeBC COVID-19 safety plan, but he did not provide a copy after theBreaker.news asked to see one.

Had the meeting been held in an Airbnb house instead of an office, Begg could have been fined.

On Aug. 21, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth authorized $2,000 fines against owners, operators and organizers of gatherings and events, including parties and events of more than 50 people and those hosting more than five guests in a vacation accommodation.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms in Calgary has challenged the pandemic-related compliance and enforcement moves by various governments across the country. Staff lawyer James Kitchen told theBreaker.news that hypocrisy and inconsistency abound.

“Doug Ford says you’re not allowed to go to your cabin and he goes to his cabin,” Kitchen said, referring to the Ontario Premier’s Easter Sunday Muskoka cottage trip. “This is happening all over the country. Politicians say do this, do that, do this, do that, and then they do something different. Because — and I’m not saying this is, but I have to ask the question — is it more about government control? I don’t see a public health crisis, I see a civil liberties crisis, I see an economic crisis.”

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Bob Mackin During a legislative assembly management committee