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Bob Mackin 

The Canadian government is not imposing any new rules on travellers arriving at Vancouver International Airport from China, where the spread of the Omicron variant is overwhelming hospitals and funeral homes.

Vancouver International Airport control tower (YVR)

However, the United States will step-up COVID-19 testing for travellers on flights originating in China, Hong Kong and Macau beginning Jan. 5 at 9:01 p.m. Pacific.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require passengers provide a negative result, taken within two days of departure, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. The policy applies regardless of vaccination status or nationality. 

“This requirement also applies to individuals boarding a flight to the United States from Incheon International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, or Toronto Pearson International Airport who have been in the PRC, including the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong or Macau, within the past ten days,” said the U.S. advisory on Wednesday.  

The Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC] said in a statement on Wednesday that it continues to watch the situation in China, though it did issue a caution Dec. 23 to anyone planning to travel for Chinese New Year. 

“PHAC is also closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in China including genomic sequencing data and the potential impacts of circulating variants on public health. BF.7, short for BA.5.2.1.7, a sub-lineage of the omicron variant BA.5, has been spreading in China,” according to PHAC spokesperson Mark Johnson.

As of Dec. 17, BF.7 was estimated to be 5% to 8% of positive cases. The latest PHAC report said BQ variants are now the dominant immune evasive strains, while previously dominant BA.5 lineages were declining. 

“Under current Canadian conditions, BQ lineages of Omicron are more capable of spreading quickly than BF.7,” Johnson said by email. 

The website for the People’s Republic of China’s Embassy in Ottawa said in a Dec. 27 notice that passengers booked to fly from Canada to China are required to provide a negative nucleic acid test within 48 hours of boarding. Passengers are no longer required to apply for a health code from the embassy or nearest consulate before departure. 

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Bob Mackin  The Canadian government is not imposing

Bob Mackin

Some of the names in the news from 2021 had a second act in 2022, like bookends Anjali Appadurai and ZIM Kingston. Others had their moment in the limelight and literally disappeared: goodbye, Barge.

Atiya Jaffar (left) and Anjali Appadurai (Instagram)

David Eby and Ken Sim were sworn-in during the same month. One’s a tall lefty, the other is not. But, for the first time, B.C.’s premier and Vancouver’s mayor both have three-letter surnames. 

Without further ado, the A to Z of 2022. 

A is for Anjali Appadurai. The environmental activist nearly won a seat for the NDP in the 2021 federal election. In 2022, she challenged David Eby for the B.C. NDP leadership. She may have had enough support to become premier, but never got to the finish line. Disqualified Oct. 19 for alleged fraudulent memberships and collusion with environmental charities Dogwood Initiative and 350 Canada.

B is for Barge. Bit by bit, Vancouver Pile Driving took apart the 84 metre vessel stranded by a Nov. 15, 2021 storm at Sunset Beach. Crews finally left the site on Nov. 17, two days after the anniversary of arrival. The operation cost an estimated $2.4 million. Vancouver city hall insisted Sentry Marine Group and Coast Claims Insurance would compensate taxpayers. 

C is for Cullen Commission. Justice Austin Cullen’s 1,800-page, June 15 report from the public inquiry on money laundering recommended hiring an anti-money laundering commissioner and opening an intelligence and investigation squad. He wasn’t convinced BC Liberal politicians were corrupt; they just failed to do their jobs to keep dirty money out of casinos. He noticed that whale gamblers from China bought mansions, but didn’t blame them for high real estate prices.

D is for Davis Cup. Canada won the men’s tennis world championship for the first time with a team that included B.C.’s Vasek Pospisil. The Nov. 27 victory over Australia in Spain was overshadowed by Whitecaps’ alumni Alphonso Davies, who scored Canada’s historic first goal at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar on the same day.

E is for Eby. David Eby started the year as Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. He ended it as the 37th Premier. The former Downtown Eastside activist lawyer and civil libertarian became known as the auto insurance reformer and money laundering combatant before succeeding John Horgan on Nov. 18. He inherited a $5.7 billion surplus, but insists he will stick to the schedule and hold the next election in October 2024.

F is for Falcon. Kevin Falcon overcame allegations of phoney memberships to win the BC Liberal leadership Feb. 5. He blew past the $600,000 spending limit, but party brass didn’t disqualify him over the $1.078 million total. He handily won the Vancouver-Quilchena by-election and quickly put the NDP on its heels over Horgan’s short-lived, $800 million plan to replace the Royal B.C. Museum.  

G is for glue. Ottawa had honking anti-vaccine truckers. Vancouver had an Extinction Rebellion splinter group called Save Old Growth, which was backed with US$170,000 from the California-based Climate Emergency Fund. Activists illegally blocked highways and bridges and glued their hands to the pavement in front of angry motorists. Some had short stays in jail. None convinced the NDP to outlaw old growth logging. 

David Eby and John Horgan (BC Gov/Flickr)

H is for Horgan. Premier John Horgan announced the museum replacement on May 13. Some 40 days later, he pushed pause and apologized for putting history before hospitals. The next week, on June 28, B.C.’s 36th Premier announced he would quit after the NDP picked a replacement. Horgan said he beat throat cancer, but didn’t have the energy to run in another election. “John from Langford” had already given his successor quite the legacy: a 57-seat majority won in 2020’s snap election. 

I is for International Olympic Committee. Two staffers and a consultant came to Vancouver for three days in May to hear the Canadian Olympic Committee and Four Host First Nations’ vision for a 2030 Winter Olympics. But, on Oct. 27, the NDP government announced it couldn’t afford to spend more than $1 billion and provide deficit insurance. The 2025 Invictus Games and 2026 FIFA World Cup are already costing enough. Salt Lake City and Sapporo, Japan remain in the race, but the IOC decided Dec. 6 to delay the choice indefinitely. The COC and FHFN’s only hope is full federal funding, but that’s remote. Premiers of every province are demanding Ottawa buck up billions more to solve overcrowded hospitals and doctor and nurse shortages. 

J is for James. Craig James, the disgraced former Clerk of the B.C. Legislature, was found guilty May 19 in B.C. Supreme Court of breach of public trust and sentenced July 8 to a month of house arrest and two months of curfew. James did not testify in his own defence during the Jan. 24 to March 3 trial. 

K is for Kennedy and Ken. In the 2018 civic election, NDP Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart edged Vancouver nursing agency and bagelry entrepreneur Ken Sim by less than 1,000 votes. On Oct. 15, with public safety and housing as twin issues, Sim handily defeated Stewart by more than 35,000. Sim became the city’s 41st mayor and first of Chinese descent. His ABC Vancouver party won supermajorities on city council and park board. 

L is for Locke. Coun. Brenda Locke swept incumbent Doug McCallum out of the mayor’s office in Surrey. Four of Locke’s Surrey Connect candidates were also elected Oct. 15 on a platform to end McCallum’s fledgling Surrey Police Service. Two months later, Surrey sent Solicitor General Mike Farnworth its report recommending the RCMP be kept.

M is for McCallum. The defeated Surrey mayor scored a victory in provincial court Nov. 21 when a judge acquitted him of public mischief. McCallum accused a Keep the RCMP in Surrey protester of running over his left foot on Sept. 4, 2021 in the Southpoint Save-On-Foods parking lot. RCMP instead investigated McCallum for making a false report. McCallum hired top downtown Vancouver defence lawyer Richard Peck. The bill for taxpayers remains a mystery. 

N is for North Fraser Pretrial Centre. On July 21, gangster Rabih Alkhalil, 35, escaped the Coquitlam jail with help from two accomplices posing as contractors. Two days later, the RCMP sheepishly admitted the duo’s mugshots were actually stock photos from the Internet. Alkhalil was convicted Aug. 30 in absentia for a 2012 murder at Vancouver’s Wall Centre hotel. A $250,000 reward to find him was advertised in October.

Doug McCallum in the Surrey courthouse parkade (Mackin)

O is for Odesa. The Ukrainian city became Vancouver’s first sister city in 1944. Beginning Feb. 24, after Russia invaded Ukraine, city hall and the Burrard Bridge were lit blue and yellow to show solidarity with Ukrainians. Within days of the invasion, the B.C. government banned the import and sale of Russian vodka and the B.C. Investment Management Corporation began to sell-off Russian investments. 

P is for precipitation. It was a chilly, wet spring, with plenty of rain: 153 mm in March at YVR, wetter than the 114 mm average. The mercury plunged to -1.2 Celsius on April 16 — beating the -0.6 C record from 1896. Then it was a dry, hot summer. Vancouver normally averages 165 mm of rain between July and mid-October. In 2022, only 16 mm fell. It meant level 5 drought designation for much of Southwest B.C. There was even a minor wildfire near Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver. 

Q is for Queen. Elizabeth II died Sept. 8. She visited B.C. seven times during her 70-year reign, including the Vancouver 1954 and Victoria 1994 Commonwealth Games, an Expo 86 promotion at B.C. Place Stadium in 1983, and ceremonial puck drop at a 2002 Vancouver Canucks game.

R is for Rourke. Nathan Rourke took over starting quarterback duties with the B.C. Lions, set club and league records, overcame a midseason injury and finished as the CFL’s Most-Outstanding Canadian. New owner Amar Doman hopes Rourke will wear orange and black when B.C. Place hosts the Grey Cup in 2025, but the talented Victoria native may be gone to the NFL in 2024.

Ken Sim speaking at his Nov. 7, 2022 swearing-in (City of Vancouver)

S is for safe sport. Canadian athletes in bobsleigh, skeleton, boxing, gymnastics and soccer demanded a public inquiry into abusive coaches and corrupt sport governors. The tipping point came Oct. 11 when Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith resigned after pressure from sponsors over the mishandling sexual assault allegations against players on the 2003 and 2018 world junior teams. On Nov. 2, former women’s national team and Whitecaps coach Bob Birarda began his 16-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting four players between 1988 and 2008. He pleaded guilty in February. 

T is for tents. Sidewalks sandwiching Hastings Street near Main were jammed with tents and Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry ordered them removed for safety reasons amid an uptick of fires around the Downtown Eastside. Dozens of Vancouver Police officers trying to enforce the order clashed with homeless people and their supporters on Aug. 9. Many of the tents erected in the hottest days of the year remained during the coldest. 

U is for United. The BC Liberals announced Nov. 16 that 80% of the 8,000 members who voted want to rebrand the party as BC United. The soccer-sounding monicker needs formal approval at a convention in the new year.

V is for Vrooman. Vancouver International Airport Authority CEO Tamara Vrooman couldn’t be found by reporters after the Dec. 19-20 snowstorm that stranded thousands of travellers and separated them from their luggage, sparking memories of 2008’s Snowmaggedon. When Vrooman broke her silence, she said she was too busy dealing with the early chaos and that the airport couldn’t keep up with too much snow falling too fast. YVR eventually put up travellers in 400 hotel rooms and gave them meals. 

W is for West. Populist, pragmatic Mayor Brad West was re-elected unopposed in the Oct. 15 Port Coquitlam election. The NDP politician is so popular, even new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre dropped by city hall in November. West became the new chair of TransLink’s mayor’s council. 

X is for Xiaoling. People’s Republic of China Consul General Tong Xiaoling’s tumultuous five-year tenure ended in July. Replacement Yang Shu arrived in September. Rare protests across China against Communist ruler Xi Jinping and pandemic lockdowns in the world’s second biggest economy spread to Vancouver on Nov. 27. Two weekends later, RCMP officers investigated allegations that Richmond’s Wenzhou Friendship Society had set-up an overseas Chinese police station.

Wilson Miao (left), Parm Bains, Tong Xiaoling, Lam Siu Ngai, Taleeb Noormohamed and Michael Lee. (PRC consulate)

Y is for Yellowhead. The portion of Highway 5, better known as the Coquihalla, reopened to regular vehicle traffic on Jan. 19 between Hope and Merritt after the November 2021 cocktail of torrential rain, floods and landslides. But much work remains for the Kiewit/Anderson joint venture to restore the highway to its four-lane capacity. 

Z is for ZIM Kingston, the freighter that lost 109 shipping containers and suffered a chemical fire off Vancouver Island in an October 2021 storm. Only four were found, but missing cargo kept washing ashore through summer 2022. Pilot Duke Marolf found nearly two dozen Yeti coolers in the Gulf of Alaska. An October report from the House of Commons fisheries and oceans committee said Canadian authorities were poorly prepared to respond and communicate about the disaster.

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Bob Mackin Some of the names in the

For the week of Dec. 25, 2022:

The MMA Panel reconvenes to ponder some of the big stories on the West Coast and beyond in 2022. Host Bob Mackin welcomes ResearchCo pollster Mario Canseco and Simon Fraser University city program director Andy Yan. 

Plus Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines and Burnaby journalist Alfie Lau recounts his visit to the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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

Now on Google Podcasts!

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For the week of Dec. 25, 2022: The

Bob Mackin

A Vancouver teacher faced the music in Provincial Court Dec. 21 and got schooled by a judge for her role in illegal Save Old Growth blockades.

Save Old Growth’s April 4, 2022 protest on the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge (SOG/Facebook)

Judge Nancy Adams fined Deborah Sherry Janet Tin Tun $1,000 and sentenced her to 18 months probation after she pleaded guilty to mischief for gluing her hand to pavement April 4 on the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge. Tin Tun, who represented herself in court, had sought a conditional discharge because she worried that a criminal record would affect her ability to keep a teaching licence. 

“She accepted the consequence that if she’s convicted, she’ll get a criminal record,” Adams said. “She’s not a naive youngster, she 37 years old.”

Adams said Tin Tun, who has degrees in music and education and teaches music classes to kindergarten students, was “of exemplary previous character and she’s an asset to her community” for being involved in the teaching profession. 

During her submissions, Tin Tun proposed community work service. She said she already volunteers with Hives for Humanity and the Richmond Community Orchestra, while studying for a post-degree certificate with Queen’s University online. 

Adams asked if she had any evidence of a teacher losing accreditation after a mischief conviction. 

“I didn’t try to find someone who had that experience,” Tin Tun admitted. 

During sentencing, Adams said she expected regulators would easily understand the difference between Tin Tun’s mischief conviction and egregious offences like causing violence to others or harming children. Adams said she could not give a conditional sentence because Tin Tun showed no remorse for disrupting the lives of thousands of people twice on the same bridge. 

“Someone could have been killed. No one got advance notice,” Adams said. 

Adams said Tin Tun caused a hazard on a highway and “usurped public infrastructure in order to extort a democratically elected government to do something” about climate change. She only expressed regret for inconveniencing motorists and said she wouldn’t do so again because of the stress it caused her. Adams said other protesters who came before the court testified they were deterred after witnessing how their actions adversely affected people around them. 

“She really hasn’t acknowledged that she’s caused any disruption in people’s lives. She has placed herself on a higher platform, she thinks she’s for a higher calling,” Adams said. “She feels, in my view, entitled.”

Tin Tun also admitted to her role in a June 13 roadblock in which she tried to lock her neck to the steering wheel of a vehicle driven by William Glen Winder, 71. Winder was sentenced Dec. 6 to 30 days house arrest and 18 months probation. Adams rejected Tin Tun’s submission that the police were overly aggressive in removing the pair from the car. 

“I would think that most citizens would expect them to break the window and do everything necessary to get that hazard off the road,” Adams said. 

While Adams acknowledged Tin Tun believes that the government is not doing enough to battle climate change, she said “I’m not deciding on the message, I’m deciding about the means of which Ms. Tin Tun has decided to communicate the message. It was unlawful.”

Adams also cited an Oct. 3 story in the Vancouver Island Free Daily about a lawful protest outside the Parliament Buildings, which mentioned that Tin Tun and another protester “don’t enjoy being arrested, but the disruptions seem to be the only things that get the government to act.”

That further reinforced Adams’ decision against a conditional discharge. 

“It wouldn’t deter anyone, in fact it would enable those who have her view that committing a crime is now the appropriate action when government isn’t moving fast enough,” Adams said. 

“It would actually undermine the rule of law —which is the very thing that I must uphold — and lead to acts of chaos.”

Muhammad Zain Ul-Haq, a Pakistani national outside the North Fraser Pretrial Centre (Save Old Growth)

On Dec. 6, when Winder was sentenced, court heard that there have been 48 arrests leading to charges of 34 individuals from SOG since the Extinction Rebellion splinter group formed last January, under the federally incorporated entity called Eco-Mobilization Canada. They have failed to convince the NDP government to outlaw old growth logging.

SOG’s website says the group receives most of its funding for recruitment, training, capacity building and education from the California-based Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). Earlier this year, leader Muhammad Zain Ul Haq told the New York Times that SOG had received US$170,000. The student from Pakistan pleaded guilty Nov. 15 to mischief under $5,000 and breach of a release order. 

In the most-recent SOG protest, Vancouver Police arrested five people on Oct. 20 for blocking the Lions Gate Bridge. They timed the protest for the morning after the NDP disqualified environmentalist Anjali Appadurai and made Eby the successor to Premier John Horgan.

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Bob Mackin A Vancouver teacher faced the music

Bob Mackin

The name of David Eby’s challenger for the NDP leadership does not appear on the guest list for his swearing-in as Premier.

Eby took the oath of office Nov. 18 from Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin at the Musqueam Indian Band’s Community Centre, instead of Government House, as a symbol of reconciliation.

David Eby’s swearing-in on Nov. 18, 2022 (BC Gov)

The former Attorney General became the successor to John Horgan by default after the ruling party’s board agreed Oct. 19 with former NDP finance minister Elizabeth Cull’s recommendation to disqualify environmental activist Anjali Appadurai. 

Appadurai may have had enough support to win the leadership, but Cull found evidence of fraudulent memberships and collusion with environmental charities Dogwood Initiative and 350 Canada. Despite Cull’s decision, Appadurai said she wouldn’t rip up her membership and urged her followers to stay in the party. 

According to the guest list, obtained under freedom of information, Cull was invited, but Appadurai was not.

Eby didn’t mention Appadurai in his togetherness-themed inaugural speech, but one of his two warm-up speakers did. 

“He has reached out to other levels of government and also invited Anjali Appadurai and her supporters to work with him,” said Shirley Chan. 

When Horgan and his cabinet were sworn-in July 18, 2017 at Government House, environmental activist Tzeporah Berman was invited. She was not on Eby’s invite list. She was in Egypt during November’s annual United Nations climate change summit. 

Eby did, however, invite Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith. 

“Not attending” was under the names of both former Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver/NDP backer Joel Solomon. Robertson’s former chief of staff Mike Magee and wife/Convergence Strategies partner Suzanne Hawkes were on the attendance list. 

A who’s who of B.C.’s labour movement, Lower Mainland mayors, heads of chambers of commerce, and leaders of First Nations groups were seated throughout the venue. Vancouver International Airport Authority CEO Tamara Vrooman was the biggest name in B.C. business circles.

Atiya Jaffar (left) and Anjali Appadurai (Instagram)

In his speech, Horgan mentioned former NDP premiers Glen Clark and Mike Harcourt in attendance. Under ex-NDP Premier Ujjal Dosanjh’s name was “no response.” Dan Miller, who was Horgan’s mentor and B.C. premier for six months in 1999-2000, was not on the list. 

Former NDP leader Joy MacPhail, who now chairs BC Ferries and the Squamish Nation’s Nch’kay Development Corp., acted as master of ceremonies. Moe Sihota and Darlene Marzari were other 1990s NDP cabinet ministers invited. There was no response from Bob Williams, a member of the late Dave Barrett’s cabinet and a deputy minister in Harcourt’s government. 

Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs and his replacement under Eby, Matt Smith, were both there. Meggs left office with a $339,784 severance, nearly double the $182,291 for deputy chief of staff Amber Hockin. Hockin was invited, but did not attend.

Other party insiders included provincial director Heather Stoutenberg, Eby’s campaign financial agent Marcel LeHoullier, new Premier’s office counsel Craig Jones, NDP ad agency Now Communications co-founder Ron Johnson and strategic director Emily-Anne Paul, and development consultant Gary Pooni. 

In a nod to Eby’s roots as a Downtown Eastside activist lawyer, Wendy Pedersen from the DTES SRO Collective was invited. 

Mexico’s Consul General, Berenice Diaz Ceballos Parada, represented foreign government missions in the province as the Dean of the B.C. Consular Corps. In 2017, at Horgan’s swearing-in, People’s Republic of China Consul General Liu Fei had that role. 

Omni TV commentator Ding Guo was on both the Horgan and Eby guest lists, but Eby’s guest list differed substantially from Horgan’s in one aspect. The new premier did not invite the heads of pro-Beijing business and cultural groups like the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, Canadian Community Service Association and Chinese Benevolent Association.

Prominent Surrey NDP supporters like trucking company owner Kulwant Dhesi and power broker Prem Vinning were invited, just like in 2017. 

The production notes for Eby’s swearing-in said there were 529 people invited, of which 352 said they would attend, 58 would not and 89 did not respond. The crowd included 30 Musqueam youth and elders. Chief Wayne Sparrow gave the welcoming speech.

For Horgan’s July 2017 swearing-in, 674 invitations were sent for 790 people; 607 said they would attend, 133 did not respond and 91 gave regrets.

Eby’s ceremony was budgeted at $24,173.19, but came in at $9,805.80, according to Nov. 28 preliminary figures. Production costs were shared with Government Communications and Public Engagement. The biggest hospitality cost was $5,725.50 for reception catering by Salishan Catering. Eby held a separate ceremony to swear-in cabinet on Dec. 7 at Government House. That invite list and costs have yet to be released. 

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Bob Mackin The name of David Eby’s challenger

Bob Mackin

An NDP ally’s weekday polling during the first wave of the pandemic built the foundation for John Horgan’s 2020 snap election call prior to the second wave.

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

Strategic Communications Inc., aka Stratcom, scored a $95,000 no-bid contract — given “emergency” status by bureaucrats — to gauge public opinion of the government’s pandemic response and management of issues. 

More than two-and-a-half years and an appeal to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner [OIPC] later, the NDP released 6,000 pages that include the key findings and analysis that informed cabinet’s decisions in the spring of 2020 and gave the governing party an undeniable advantage in a snap election that fall. 

During the NDP’s first two years in government, Stratcom billed taxpayers $1.1 million for patronage contracts from Government Communications and Public Engagement [GCPE] and the NDP caucus in the Legislature. In the fiscal year that included the snap election, the government paid Stratcom another $285,539.

In an affidavit to the OIPC, in defense of withholding some information from the Stratcom disclosure, former Horgan press secretary Jen Holmwood explained the value of pollsters. 

“GCPE works with third-party public opinion research agencies to engage British Columbians and gain insights through qualitative and quantitative methods to aid in the development of marketing and advertising, and gather feedback a variety of topical issues, as well as government policies and programs British Columbians rely on,”  said Holmwood, now executive lead for corporate priorities in GCPE. “Strategic Communications Inc. is one of these research agencies.”

The $95,000 contract ran from mid-April through June, just in time for the NDP to start campaign training and a series of telephone town halls to boost the profile of candidates who upset BC Liberals in 2017.

First up, from June 9-24, 2020, digital campaign and fundraising seminars on Zoom, under the banner of “Level Up.” Participants were taught targeting, voter contact and fundraising, and how to recruit volunteers, build digital campaign plans, and program databases.

“In a socially distant election, Facebook advertising will be one of the best ways we can signal boost, extend our reach, and surround people with our core message and ideas they ought to be hearing about,” said the party website. “Social distancing means phone calls are enjoying a renaissance — and that includes fundraising phone calls.”

The day after Level Up ended, a series of telephone town halls began.

NDP held online campaign prep seminars in June (NDP)

GCPE hired Stratcom for six telephone town halls through mid-July, under the banner of “COVID-19 Recovery Ideas.”

“Speak with – and hear from – thousands of your supporters at once,” says the Stratcom telephone town hall website. “This powerful, affordable service allows you to quickly engage thousands of supporters in genuine conversation, making it ideal for communications, donor relations and fundraising. We offer a fast turnaround, making it a great way to respond to timely, controversial or urgent issues, and to reach specific groups of supporters with targeted messages.”

The idea was recovery. In hindsight, it looks very much like the goal was re-election.  

GCPE paired cabinet ministers with rookie MLAs from swing ridings. Such as Finance Minister Carole James on July 7, 2020 with Bob D’Eith, the Finance Committee chair who won Maple Ridge-Mission by 325 votes over BC Liberal incumbent Marc Dalton in 2017. 

Two days later, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors Ronna-Rae Leonard. Leonard was the 189-vote winner in Courtenay-Comox over Jim Benninger, who was trying to keep the riding BC Liberal. 

Other calls included Ravi Kahlon (Delta North), Lisa Beare (Pitt Meadows), Bowinn Ma (North Vancouver-Lonsdale), Jagrup Brar (Surrey-Fleetwood) and Jinny Sims (Surrey Panorama).

Some of the same backbenchers were among 19 MLAs who combined for $145,000 in printing and mailing costs in the days before Horgan called the snap election. Leonard ($7,500) and Brar ($3,300) were big spenders on mailouts. Kahlon and Ma distributed thousands of non-medical facemasks branded with their names, for $11,650 and $18,600, respectively.

Stratcom CEO Bob Penner is a longtime fellow with the Broadbent Institute, the Ottawa-based NDP-aligned think-tank that publishes the PressProgress website. He is listed as an expert in campaign strategy, fundraising, public opinion polling and voter contact.

Government telephone townhalls showcased NDP MLAs and test marketed messaging (BC Gov)

According to an August 2013 interview in Direct Marketing, the former Greenpeace fundraising executive Penner owed his success to investor Joel Solomon — the Nashville Democrat who moved to B.C., co-founded Tides Canada and backed organic juice entrepreneur Gregor Robertson’s rise to the mayoralty of Vancouver. 

“Like me, Joel is equally interested in the bottom line as well as the social commitment our business provides. He didn’t want much control and was a patient investor who was content with a return over time,” Penner told the magazine. 

The union-backed Working Enterprise took a minority stake in Stratcom, helping it become a full-service company that also offers broadcast voice messages (aka robocalls) and automated text messages via SMS and Facebook.

It was instrumental in Vision Vancouver’s hat-trick of city hall majorities from 2008 to 2014, but not every campaign succeeds. Stratcom billed $1.5 million for its work on the failed 2015 plebiscite to convince voters to pay a sales tax to fund TransLink expansion.

Two years later, Horgan came to power in a minority government propped-up by Andrew Weaver’s Greens. Looming behind Horgan on the Government House stage for his swearing-in was David Eby. 

On Nov. 18, 2022, the roles were reversed. 

While towering over the podium, with his predecessor seated behind him, Eby quipped: “I’m not as tall as I look, because I’m standing on the shoulders of John Horgan.”

Eby’s right-hand man is a former Stratcom president. Chief of staff Matt Smith helped fashion the NDP’s CleanBC environmental strategy and worked on campaigns for Vision Vancouver, the party of that Horgan’s chief of staff, Geoff Meggs, represented on city council for almost nine years.

Stratcom boss Bob Penner and a Vision campaign sign (Penner)

“Matt oversaw our work learning and adapting U.S.-invented telephone town halls, micro-targeting, and peer-to-peer texting to Canada and pioneered the development of MobileReach – our list of likely cell phone numbers in Canada,” Penner wrote in a letter to clients, partners and friends to announce Smith’s November 2021 departure. 

Before the NDP government added Stratcom to its list of pre-screened, preferred suppliers, Penner penned a “Dear NDP MLAs and Ministers” open letter that ran in The Tyee in September 2017. His nine-step formula for NDP government success urged the NDP to use polls and focus groups. Penner also suggested broadening the tent, and the comfort zone, but not to forget the base.

“Opinion research is not there to decide your agenda or policies of course, but it can help inform them,” Penner wrote. “Good politics shouldn’t be ‘data-driven’ as many people are fond of saying these days, but rather ‘data-informed.’ Listen and understand well, using the tools that work best. But then, armed with this information, make sure decisions are driven by your judgment, strategy, political commitments and overall vision.”

Sophisticated data mining, polling and communications techniques that blur the lines between party and government caught the eye of B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner. 

In the February 2019 report, Full Disclosure: Political Parties, Campaign Data, and Voter Consent, Michael McEvoy wrote: “it is important to recognize the rapid advancement of technological tools to profile and micro-target voters and the temptation for political parties to deploy them. The risks these developments could pose for B.C.’s citizens and our democratic system of governance are significant.”

In summer 2020, McEvoy’s office confirmed it was aware of Stratcom’s telephone town hall series. “At the end of the day, the onus is on the public body or organization to ensure its programs comply with B.C.’s privacy laws.”

The week after the end of that Stratcom telephone town hall project, on July 23, 2020, Horgan admitted that a fall election was possible. But he kept the public guessing. “There’s an opportunity this fall, there’s an opportunity next spring, there’s an opportunity next summer,” Horgan said.

Horgan claimed at Sept. 25, 2020 campaign stop that he simply woke up and talked to his wife two days before meeting with Lt. Gov. Janet Austin to call the election.

John Horgan on election night (BC NDP/Flickr)

Behind the scenes, Horgan aides were in touch with the head of Elections BC, Anton Boegman, to explore dates for either a general election or a by-election in Surrey-White Rock to replace Tracy Redies, the BC Liberal who announced July 29 she would become Science World CEO in September. 

Boegman wrote Aug. 18, 2020 to Alex MacLennan, the Deputy Cabinet Secretary. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, I am providing both a potential by-election calendar as well as a calendar for a possible fall provincial election at this time,” Boegman wrote. “Given the current unprecedented pandemic, it is essential that clarity be provided around possible election date scenarios and related considerations, including operational issues affecting Elections BC.”

For an “on-demand election,” as he called it, the Election Act required four to 10 days more than a fixed-date election period.

“The trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic means that whenever they are called, the next by-election or general election in British Columbia will be administered under some level of pandemic public health requirements and restrictions. From that perspective, it will present historic challenges to all electoral stakeholders.”

Boegman provided scenarios for writ days between Sept. 1 and Nov. 28, 2020, but

Horgan eventually chose the top entry on page two of the scenarios: a Sept. 21 writ for an Oct. 24 vote. 

The NDP won a record 57-seat majority in an election that cost a record $51.6 million — $12 million more than 2017 — mainly due to printing, sending and counting the 604,000 mail-in ballots.

Horgan’s decision to fight for votes instead of fight the virus unleashed $15.4 million of spending by B.C.’s big three political parties. Almost half that ($7.64 million) was by Horgan’s NDP. 

And, yes, Stratcom was there, too. Elections BC returns show it invoiced the party Sept. 9, 2020 — almost three weeks before Horgan dropped the writ — for $5,600. It also billed for another $6,200 on Oct. 27.

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Bob Mackin An NDP ally’s weekday polling during

 Bob Mackin

Is this another December to Remember?

It could already be one to forget, for those that have suffered in one way or another. 

The Dec. 19-20, 2022 snowstorm that enveloped the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island is best-known (so far) for mammoth delays at Vancouver International Airport that stranded holiday travellers. Some for as much as 12 hours in planes stuck on the tarmac. 

While visions of a white Christmas dance in many heads, meteorologist David Jones, the Whistler Powder Picker on YouTube, says a lump of coal awaits on Christmas weekend. Temperatures are expected to return to near-normal, bringing the risk of local flooding.

Dec. 22, 2022 at Granville Island in Vancouver (Mackin)

“Heavy snow will get coated in super heavy ice while the freezing rain persists,” said Jones, the former coastal warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada’s Pacific storm prediction centre. “Then the warmup will add additional weight.” 

2008

Vancouver was just over a year away from welcoming the world to the 2010 Winter Olympics when Mother Nature embarrassed B.C. and forced officials to buy more snowplows. 

Between Dec. 14, 2008 and Jan. 8, 2009, 102 centimetres of snow fell, according to Jones’s analysis for Environment Canada.

“To further characterize this period: At least 20 cm snow on the ground for nine straight days and three snowfalls of at least 15 cm in one week (Dec. 21-26),” Jones wrote.

1996 

Meteorologist David Jones

Environment Canada called it the “Storm of the Century.” 

Victoria received 95 centimetres between Dec. 27-29. Vancouver had 80.7 cm for the entire month. 

Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh asked for and got help from the Canadian Forces. Troops in Victoria and Chilliwack sprang into action for the first time since the 1948 Fraser River floods.

A shed collapsed on 20 boats at Captain’s Cove Marina. The stakes were higher in downtown Vancouver, where workers with brooms scrambled to the roof of B.C. Place Stadium to clear off the snow that piled up on the teflon-coated, inflated dome. 

They saved the roof and the 3 Tenors’ New Year’s Eve concert went ahead as scheduled. Their heroics were rewarded with souvenir golf shirts. 

1990

Vancouver’s 25 cm of snow on Dec. 30, 1990 didn’t break the 1968 record of 31.2 cm. But it was notable for another reason. Blowing snow wreaked havoc with SkyTrain’s safety doors and forced the first major shutdown of the 1985-launched system.

Burnaby Mountain was under 45 cm of snow and bus service was cancelled to a variety of higher elevation routes in Burnaby and the North Shore. 

1968

The Dec. 30-31 snowstorm dumped 27.94 cm at Vancouver International Airport, beating the Dec. 19, 1948 record of 23.6 cm.  

The Province reported that it ruined New Year’s Eve parties at downtown hotels. The Bayshore Inn desperately hired a snowplow. The Chinese Golf Association was expecting 600 guests, but only 360 showed up to ring in 1969. 

CKWX radio’s Jim Morrison decided to play party matchmaker for people living near each other. One caller said he had Hong Kong flu and wanted to meet other flu victims, “rather than infect the healthy.” 

1965

Many Vancouverites felt they were living a repeat of the previous December. This time, there were “only” 10 consecutive days of snow on the ground, greater than or equal to 20 cm with at least one day greater than or equal to 30 cm. 

Mayor Bill Rathie told the Province on Dec. 29, 1965 that an angry woman called his home number at 1 a.m. to complain that a snowplow was keeping her awake. Rathie had little problem maneuvering city streets in his four-wheel drive jeep with front tire chains. City manager Ran Martin, however, suffered a flat tire. 

1964

A record December snowfall of 89.4 cm thanks to a New Year’s Eve dump of 50.8 cm. The North Shore was especially hard it. West Vancouver council held an emergency meeting. 

The stretch began Dec. 17 and it remains the snowiest in one category, with 23 consecutive days of greater than or equal to 20 cm of snow on the ground, with at least one day greater than or equal to 30 cm. 

1948

B.C. Electric Railway interurban trams were stuck in the snow due to the Dec. 28-29 storm. The entire City of Vancouver was without power and light service at 8:25 a.m. on Dec. 29 when the transmission line from Stave Falls buckled under snow. Service was restored to Dunbar, Kerrisdale and Fairview at 5 p.m., three hours later to parts of Shaughnessy. Some 9.3 inches fell. 

Coincidentally, there was also a turkey shortage that Christmas, driven by rising costs. 

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 Bob Mackin Is this another December to Remember? It

Bob Mackin

A director of a Richmond society now under an RCMP national security investigation was invited to Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim’s Nov. 7 swearing-in at the Orpheum Theatre.

Ken Sim speaking at his Nov. 7, 2022 swearing-in (City of Vancouver)

Zhu Jiang Guo of the Wenzhou Friendship Society is on the 1,100-name “Master RSVP List,” obtained under freedom of information. Sim was elected Vancouver’s first Chinese-Canadian mayor on Oct. 15. More than two-thirds of the guests were his, such as longtime supporters Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and Rocky Mountaineer luxury train owner Peter Armstrong.

RCMP officers canvassed the neighbourhood around the Wenzhou Friendship Society clubhouse on Dec. 10 after China-focused human rights organization Safeguard Defenders alleged the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau set-up many of the 102 “Chinese Overseas Police Service Centres” in 53 countries, including one in the Vancouver area. 

Cpl. Kim Chamberland of the RCMP’s national headquarters confirmed the force is investigating, would only say that the priority is to protect the Chinese-Canadian diaspora from intimidation and harassment. 

The Safeguard Defenders report came almost a month after the invite-only ceremony for Sim and the ABC Vancouver majority city council. However, the Wenzhou Friendship Society had already gained media and police attention four years earlier. The RCMP investigated the society’s WeChat offer to reimburse voters for transportation to polling stations in the 2018 local government elections, but no vote buying charge was laid. The society also raised funds and endorsed several candidates in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond. Then-NPA mayoral candidate Sim was not among them. 

In the final week of the 2022 election, Sim admitted that he had met with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service after the agency warned pro-Taiwan incumbent Kennedy Stewart that the Chinese government may interfere in the election. 

Nobody from the Mayor’s Office responded for comment.

People’s Republic of China consulate general Yang Shu and director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office Chen Qingjie were among the 28 members of the B.C. consular corps from 26 countries.

The list of diplomats included Peter Chiou, director of the press division at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office [TECO]. TECO is the unofficial consulate for Taiwan, because the Canadian government recognizes Mainland China instead of the democratic island nation.

Vancouver city hall (Mackin)

Also on the guest list: Liberal MPs Parm Bains (Steveston-Richmond East) and Terry Beech (Burnaby-North Seymour), and NDP MP Don Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway); NDP MLAs Brenda Bailey (Vancouver-False Creek), George Chow (Vancouver-Fraserview) and Melanie Mark (Vancouver-Mount Pleasant); former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan; former city councillors George Affleck, Suzanne Anton, Hector Bremner and Raymond Louie (the master of ceremonies and chief operating officer of Coromandel Properties); and ex-Vision Vancouver staffers Duncan Włodarczak and Stepan Vdovine (now executives with developers Onni and Amacon, respectively).

Vancouver city hall’s freedom of information office said the ceremony cost $17,659.81. Most of that ($13,572.92) was for use of the civic-owned Orpheum. Other costs were $1,376 for engraved medals, $1,260 photography, $586.25 flowers and $456.75 for sign-language interpreting.  

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Bob Mackin A director of a Richmond society

Bob Mackin 

The turning point in John Horgan’s five-and-a-half years as British Columbia premier came Sept. 21, 2020, when he announced a snap election between the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Horgan (NDP)

On day one of the campaign, Horgan famously justified breaking the fixed election date law and prematurely ending the NDP’s confidence and supply deal with the Green Party by claiming the “best way forward is to put the politics behind us.”

Why was Horgan so confident? It turns out he had the roadmap for victory beside him all along. 

Specifically, the knowledge of what voters were thinking about the issues that concerned them, thanks to daily polling reports for cabinet that were originally intended to shape the NDP government’s response to the pandemic. 

Nearly 6,000 pages obtained via freedom of information include two dozen reports by NDP polling firm Strategic Communications Inc., aka Stratcom, spanning April 23, 2020 to May 29, 2020.

The governing party, through Government Communications and Public Engagement, gave Stratcom the no-bid, emergency contract less than a month after the pandemic began, worth almost $95,000 for “daily tracking polling regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C.” The insights gleaned helped embolden the NDP as the Legislature reconvened and campaign workers began to train for an election like no other.

Vancouver-headquartered Stratcom has a long history of working with the NDP and its once-powerful civic affiliate, Vision Vancouver. Clients include a who’s who of Canadian labour and environmental circles, from David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace to the Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor, B.C. General Employees’ Union and the United Steelworkers. Stratcom boasts offices in Toronto, Ottawa and two in the U.K., where it works with the Labour Party. 

When David Eby was sworn-in Nov. 18 as B.C.’s new premier, he famously said he wasn’t as tall as he looks, “because I’m standing on the shoulders of John Horgan.” 

He could’ve said he was also standing on the shoulders of Stratcom. Not only is the company instrumental in the NDP’s power, but Eby’s right-hand man is Stratcom’s former president Matt Smith. 

Premier David Eby (left) and chief of staff Matt Smith (BC Gov)

The COVID-19 Daily Tracking Polling project not only gauged public opinion on how the government was handling the pandemic, and how citizens were impacted, but it also measured a long list of other issues that preceded the public health emergency. 

In an affidavit to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, in defense of withholding some information from the Stratcom disclosure, former Horgan press secretary Jen Holmwood explained the files include survey questions, options for response, topline reports, highlighting the most-important details and insights, and cross-tabulation reports, showing the relationship between survey questions.

“GCPE works with third-party public opinion research agencies to engage British Columbians and gain insights through qualitative and quantitative methods to aid in the development of marketing and advertising, and gather feedback a variety of topical issues, as well as government policies and programs British Columbians rely on,”  said Holmwood, now executive lead for corporate priorities in GCPE. “Strategic Communications Inc. is one of these research agencies.”

The last report, dated June 2, 2020, summarized Stratcom’s May 25-29, 2020 online poll, which sampled 924 B.C. residents, aged 18 and up. It was statistically weighted to match the gender, age and region of respondents — even the proportion of Chinese mother tongue in B.C., as per the 2016 Census. 

The names of four Stratcom executives — CEO Bob Penner, vice-president Stephanie Lynn, senior manager of research Armand Cousineau and data analyst Prathit Patel — were on the cover. Charts and graphs analyzed responses to 21 questions, broken down by the province’s four main regions and further broken down by eight sub-regions. 

Stratcom asked respondents to choose the top two issues facing the province from a list of 24. It was no surprise what topped the list through the spring. By the end of May 2020, however, the proportion of respondents picking COVID-19 in the top two had fallen to 42%, from a high of 66% in March.

“Other top issues are cost of living/affordability (28%), economy/jobs (20%), and

housing/price of real estate (18%),” the report said. “These other top issues have remained consistent since the tracking polling started.”

Stratcom also separated respondents by those who considered the NDP government on the right track versus those who thought the government was on the wrong track.

Stratcom had a $95,000 contract to track public opinion on the pandemic response (BC Gov)

“Just under three-quarters (72%) think the B.C. government is on the right track. As can be seen in the tracking charts over time, this is a rating considerably higher than the norm (pre-2020 data points).”

Stratcom also found the B.C. government ranked highest in satisfaction among three governments (85% versus 77% federal and 68% local).

A very good sign for the NDP, which was scheduled to go to voters in October 2021, but shifted gears in the summer of 2020 when virus infections waned and public health restrictions relaxed.

So-called right track voters supported the government’s work on COVID-19, cost of living, economy/jobs and climate change/global warming. Wrong trackers were unhappy with NDP handling of the housing, healthcare, getting pipelines built, homelessness, car insurance and addiction files. 

People over 55 were more likely to think the government was on the right track, most-likely to think the government was doing an excellent job handling the pandemic (+12%) and most-likely to think that COVID-19 is a real threat (+5%). 

Another good sign for the NDP, because the over 55 set is also the traditional age bracket that tends to vote more than the rest. 

The choice to feature Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry as spokespeople for the battle against the virus, rather than Horgan, was supported by the vast majority of respondents who agreed the government was providing very clear (54%) or somewhat clear (32%) information about the pandemic. Those aged 65 and up were especially pleased: 75% scored the government’s communications as very clear.

The regional breakdown for Stratcom’s COVID-19 daily tracking project (BC Gov)

Some 77% considered COVID-19 a real threat, versus only 14% who believed it was blown out of proportion and 9% who answered not sure. Residents outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island were more likely to not see COVID-19 as a real threat.

“Those who think the B.C. government is on the wrong track are more likely to believe COVID-19 is blown out of proportion (25%).”

A plurality (38%) believed it would be more than a year before day-to-day life returned to normal. The biggest beef was not being able to travel (50%) followed by concerns about a loved one getting sick (48%) and personally getting sick (41%).

The survey focused heavily on economic questions. It undoubtedly informed not only the May 6, 2020-announced B.C. Restart Plan, but the StrongerBC economic blueprint timed for rollout just four days before Horgan’s snap election call. 

Over half (53%) rated the economy fair, 32% good and 2% excellent. Vancouver Islanders were more likely to rate the economy good (37%) and gave the government an excellent rating for handling of the pandemic (44%). The numbers were a turnaround from early days when businesses big and small ground to a halt. 

“The proportion rating the economy as poor increased more than two-fold in the first weeks of the pandemic but this has been gradually dropping since mid-May and is now only a few points above November 2019 figures.”

Stratcom asked respondents about key issues (BC Gov)

Two-thirds rated the government’s job of handling the pandemic as either excellent (32%) or good (42%) and a majority (72%) was optimistic about B.C.’s future — 18% better than November 2019. 

Only 15% of respondents said they lost their job due to the pandemic, though almost a quarter (22%) said a family member lost their job and more than a third (36%) knew someone outside their family who lost their job. Those 18-34 were most likely to have lost a job due to pandemic (+10%).

A majority (65%) believed the restart plan measures properly balanced health and economy, but 24% worried the distancing measures were being relaxed too quickly. 

The most divisive questions were about reopening schools and protecting transit schedules. 

On the education question, “the opinion of those with kids under 18 in their household (25% oppose, 23% support) does not vary from the opinion of those without kids (24% oppose, 23% support).”

For buses and trains, 42% opposed service cuts and 42% thought cutbacks and layoffs made sense as white collar work-from-home prevailed. 

More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents favoured bailing out businesses to help workers keep their jobs and companies keep their doors open.

Looking forward to the end of the pandemic, respondents wanted the government to favour healthcare, manufacturing and jobs. 

“The priority with the most #1 ranks is: Making sure B.C.’s health care system is ready for another pandemic so that B.C. is never again hit so hard,” it said. “The priority with the most ranks overall, and second most #1 ranks, is: Improving health care and ensuring our doctors and nurses always have the resources and equipment they need.”

Less than three weeks before election day, on Oct. 6, 2020, Horgan released the NDP platform, built around four main themes: Fighting a pandemic. Better health care. Affordability and security. Good jobs and livelihoods in a clean energy future.

All of which were explored in the Stratcom polls. 

Eight months after the election — and a year after Stratcom’s daily tracking polling — the BC Liberals grilled the NDP during budget estimates hearings at the Legislature.

The NDP wanted to know whether it was on the right track (BC Gov)

Peace River MLA Mike Bernier elicited a vague answer from Dix on June 15, 2021, suggesting he would be “happy to look into polling that may have taken place.” 

Minister of Finance Selina Robinson, whose portfolio includes GCPE, was more candid with Bernier. She said that polling was helpful to identify the challenges and needs of citizens, communities and businesses “so that we could get through this pandemic.” 

The next day, it was interim opposition leader Shirley Bond’s turn. But Horgan predictably and coyly denied that he used Stratcom’s polling for political gain. 

“StrongerBC was the government’s plan,” he said. “It was not the NDP platform. How it was characterized is not something I had any control over. The polling that is done regularly by government informs the creation of policies and programs.”

Ultimately, it helped Horgan win an election and has given successor Eby the chance to keep power in NDP hands. 

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Bob Mackin  The turning point in John Horgan’s

Bob Mackin

Vancouver city hall will consult area residents in early 2023 on potential transportation changes related to Westbank’s 11-tower development on the Squamish Nation’s Senakw reserve around the Burrard Bridge.

Dustin Rivers (aka Khelsilem), Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Coun. Christine Boyle (Twitter)

But the city’s Dec. 12-filed statement of defence against an application for a judicial review of the Senakw Services Agreement says there was no legal duty under the Vancouver Charter to seek public feedback on the 120-year deal with the Squamish Nation.

The 250-page agreement spells out how Senakw will connect to the city’s water and storm sewers, sidewalks, roads, bike lanes and public transit and who pays for what. The 4 million square foot project, which proposes 6,000 residential units and 170,000 square feet of office and commercial space, is subject to federal approval only.

Kits Point Residents Association and two of its directors, Eve Munro and Benjamin Peters, filed for a judicial review on Oct. 5 in B.C. Supreme Court. They want a judge to quash the agreement because the city negotiated and approved it in secret. Residents were not given the opportunity to be heard at an open city council meeting, allegedly violating procedural fairness and natural justice. 

The city’s defence statement said the only consultation planned so far is to gather feedback on parking, walking, biking and intersection upgrades planned for Chestnut, Greer and Cypress, in order to “help refine transportation priorities moving forward.” It also said neighbouring Vanier Park will undergo the standard master planning process, which will include engagement with the public and the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh first nations. 

As for the agreement at the centre of the dispute, the city maintains it acted properly under both the Indian Self-government Enabling Act and the Vancouver Charter. It also claimed the authority to pass resolutions behind closed doors. 

“As the final terms of the services agreement continued to be negotiated until July 19, 2022 it is clear that council hold both the July 20, 2021 and the November 2, 2021 meetings in camera,” said the city’s court filing. “Any release of the material considered or the decisions made on July 20, 2021 or November 2, 2021 could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the city if they were known to the Senakw Partnership [Squamish Nation’s Nch’kay Development Corp. and Westbank] prior to the finalization of the services agreement.”

Negotiations began in October 2020. Council directed staff to recognize the Squamish Nation as a separate order of government, as per the city’s 2014 commitment to be a “City of Reconciliation,” and to “take guidance from the Squamish Nation” about the communication and operating protocol for negotiations. 

“Throughout the negotiations, the Senakw Partnership were clear that they expected both the negotiations and any resulting agreement to be kept strictly confidential.”

Initial negotiations were complete by early July 2021, but the sides kept talking about details for the next year, according to the court papers. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau breaks ground under the Burrard Bridge for Westbank’s development on the Squamish Nation’s Senakw reserve (pm.gc.ca)

Mayor Kennedy Stewart signed the agreement at a May 25 photo op with Squamish Nation council chair Dustin Rivers, aka Khelsilem. It was kept secret for another two months until it was quietly published on the eve of the B.C. Day long weekend. 

“The services agreement was executed on May 25 but made subject to an escrow agreement pending settlement on certain elements of the final legal text of the services agreement,” said the city’s defence statement. “These elements were settled on July 19 and the services agreement was then released to the public.”

At a Sept. 6 groundbreaking ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1.4 billion loan through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to finance half the units, touting it as the largest loan in the Crown corporation’s history. Westbank CEO Ian Gillespie is a friend of Trudeau and a Liberal Party supporter. 

Squamish Nation members agreed to a 50-50 partnership in 2019 with Westbank to build 6,000 units on 4.7 hectares of Kitsilano Indian Reserve 6 regained through court settlements. A consultant’s estimate from 2019 suggested the project could generate as much as $12.7 billion in cashflow for the band and developer. 

Since then, Westbank’s share was reduced to 30% and OP Trust, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and Government of Ontario pension fund, now holds 20%. Nch’kay’s chair is former NDP finance minister and current BC Ferries chair Joy MacPhail. 

Nch’kay’s other holdings are the Mosquito Creek Marina, Lynnwood Marina, Capilano RV Park and Squamish Valley Gas Bar. 

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Bob Mackin Vancouver city hall will consult area