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Bob Mackin

Elections BC is allowed to keep the report on its investigation of BC Liberal MLA Ben Stewart secret, according to the April 20 ruling from British Columbia’s information and privacy commission.

Kelowna West’s Stewart wrote a letter to chief electoral officer Anton Boegman on Aug. 1 last year, about a donation to the party that was reimbursed to a contributor. Stewart left the BC Liberal opposition caucus the same day, but returned Oct. 1 when Elections BC announced that it found no evidence that the contribution or the reimbursement violated the Election Act.

During his post in China, Ben Stewart posed in PPE with a panda. (BC Gov)

Elections BC refused to release the report to theBreaker.news.

Last month, it successfully convinced Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner adjudicator Layli Antinuk that the document was exempt from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act because Elections BC is an office of the Legislature and its operational records are considered private. Antinuk rejected the public interest argument from theBreaker.news to proceed to a written inquiry.

B.C.’s 1993 public disclosure law covers 2,900 provincial and municipal entities, but the Legislature is not one of them. Premier John Horgan’s NDP government promised in early 2019 to change that, in the wake of the Legislature corruption scandal uncovered by Speaker Darryl Plecas.

More than a year later, Horgan has done nothing to reform the law.

Adjudicator Antinuk is also a lawyer with a tax law firm in Victoria and previously worked in the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Ministry of Agriculture during the later years of the BC Liberal government.

While we do not know what is in the report on Stewart, Elections BC submitted a March 9 affidavit to the OIPC from director of investigations Adam Barnes.

The former Victoria Police Department constable has also worked for the OIPC and the Office of the Ombudsperson. Barnes, who joined Elections BC in 2018, swore that he interviewed individuals and collected evidence before determining that there was no violation of the sections of the Election Act that govern making and accepting political contributions.

Elections BC director of investigations Adam Barnes (LinkedIn)

“My investigative file contains a letter from the MLA that initiated the investigation, nine emails to or from the MLA named in the request and my report on the investigation,” according to Barnes’s sworn statement. “The report of my investigation is four pages long, consisting of a one-page summary and a three-page detailed narrative. The report outlines the steps I took in conducting the investigation, details the information and evidence that I obtained and includes an analysis of that information and evidence. It then sets out my conclusion about the complaint, as investigator responsible.”

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said the public deserves to see the Barnes report, in order to know what was investigated and whether the investigation was thorough.

“Maybe [Stewart] shouldn’t pay a price, maybe he should, but the public doesn’t have the right to know because Elections BC is serving the old boys club,” Travis said.

Stewart’s riding is one of the safest seats for the BC Liberals and Stewart could release the initiating letter and report on his own, Travis said.

“Potentially embarrassing yes, potentially not. He may also have tripped over a loophole in the law and British Columbians have a right to know whether or not he, in fact, has or hasn’t.”

Stewart has always refused to make public his letter to Elections BC. He said this week that he does not recall receiving a copy of the Barnes report, only a phone call from Elections BC informing him of the outcome.

Elections BC has an $11.1 million annual budget funded by taxpayers and Travis said it should decide whether it is in the business of serving British Columbians or “the old boys club.”

IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis (Voice of B.C./Shaw)

“If you look at the track record of Elections BC, it’s similar to the track record of the former late conflict of interest commissioner [Paul Fraser],” Travis said. “Hasn’t found a violation of significance in decades. Well, it’s time to start finding those violations, it’s time to start laying charges where appropriate, fining where appropriate. Look at the Commissioner of Elections Canada, the work they did on SNC Lavalin.”

BC Liberal filings for the second quarter of 2019 with Elections BC show that Stewart exceeded his contribution limit and the party returned $1,200 to him on June 25, 2019. He was the only MLA listed in the prohibited contributions list for that period. Under new campaign finance rules enacted by the NDP government in 2017, individual donations were capped at $1,200 per year to each registered political party, including its candidates, nomination contestants and registered riding associations. The limit was increased to $1,225.17 for 2019.

Sources said the Stewart matter involved a donation from a constituency assistant, but Stewart would not say whether it specifically involved riding aide Cheryl Doll or Erica Macnab, who worked on his 2018 by-election campaign. In the last two months of 2018, Doll made three donations totalling $1,450, which was $250 above the annual limit.

Quail’s Gate winery co-founder Stewart won re-election in 2013 but stepped aside so that then-Premier Christy Clark could return to the Legislature after losing her Vancouver-Point Grey seat to the NDP’s David Eby. Clark later appointed Stewart as B.C.’s $150,000-a-year Asia trade envoy based in Beijing. He made a political comeback in 2018 after Clark’s 2017 resignation.

Meanwhile, on April 22, OIPC Commissioner Michael McEvoy extended the FOI holiday for government offices and agencies across B.C. to May 15.

On March 18, McEvoy cited the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on government operations and allowed public bodies to add an extra 30 business days to the processing time for freedom of information requests filed between March 1 and April 30. That meant disclosure delays to June and July.

Public bodies are mandated by law to release information immediately if the subject is related to the risk to public health and safety or otherwise in the public interest. However, McEvoy’s office said it would not accept complaints about alleged violations of the so-called public interest override section of the law.

Elections B.C. head Anton Boegman (left) and Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy

“[McEvoy] has to decide whether he’s in charge of the office of freedom of information or the office of secrecy,” Travis said. “His recent decisions have demonstrated that he is leaning towards closing up the public’s window into government in favour of, again, that old boys club.”

McEvoy’s pandemic-related decision in favour of the NDP government in the year before the next scheduled election is in stark contrast to the chief ombudsman of New Zealand, Peter Boshier.

In a March 24 statement to New Zealanders, Boshier called on the public and government to find balance and resolve disputes on a case-by-case basis while the pandemic hit his country, which has a similar population to B.C.

“I do ask requesters to be very mindful of the present circumstances and the pressures agencies are under when making information requests,” Boshier wrote. “Agencies must also be aware that access to information is still vital even under present circumstances.”

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Bob Mackin Elections BC is allowed to keep

Malcolm Johnston

The COVID-19 pandemic has made absolutely clear, we cannot go back to normal, as it has forever changed how people behave. COVID-19 is a prelude for great change in B.C.

Metro Vancouver’s regional transit system has been greatly affected by the pandemic as thousands of people stay home, with many either working or studying from home. This has put a massive financial strain on TransLink, which now claims a deficit of at least $75 million a month.

Selina Robinson and Premier John Horgan at a  TransLink funding announcement. (BC Gov)

From the onset of “social distancing” TransLink seemed OK operating empty buses, without any hint of a “plan B” for operation during times of emergency. TransLink is now asking the provincial and federal governments for more money to keep empty buses operating and to keep huge executive salaries being paid.

TransLink and the Mayor’s Council on Transit are still proceeding with their pet $4.6 billion, 12.8 km extensions to the Expo and Millennium Lines, despite clear evidence that both projects are nothing more than “gold-plated” prestige projects, designed to further the profits of land speculators and land developers who support many of the mayors at election time. Both projects will only improve transit on paper and nothing more.

The proposed Broadway Subway is being built on a route without enough ridership to justify its construction and the flip-flop from LRT to light-metro in Surrey, will be again be built on a route where the ridership will not justify construction costs. TransLink has not offered an estimate of the increased operating costs or increased annual subsidies for both projects.

Questionable ridership projections are based on future condo tower development, based on foreign, basically Chinese, investment and this is not guaranteed!

The already huge cost does not include the proprietary Movia Automatic Light Metro (erroneously called SkyTrain) cars, nor the inflationary cost increases for cement and specialty steel, needed for subway and viaduct construction.

It is no secret that the often renamed and now called Movia Automatic Light Metro (MALM), as used on the Expo and Millennium Lines is obsolete, as it has been obsolete since the late 1980’s, being more expensive to build, maintain and operate than its chief competitor, light rail. Only seven such systems have been built in the past 40 years and only three are seriously used for urban transit!

Today, modern light-metro systems such as Ottawa and Seattle use light rail vehicles, because of their cost effectiveness and their ability to operate on lesser rights-of-ways, yet because MALM uses Linear Induction Motors, it is impossible to use LRV’s on the proprietary MALM system.

MALM cannot be built cheaply, nor can it be operated and maintained cheaply. The taxpayer pays a first class cost for a second class system and this cannot continue, post COVID-19.

The recent sale of Bombardier to Alstom puts into question the future availability of MALM cars and spare parts! With COVID-19 and a major economic downturn, production of niche transit systems like the proprietary MALM light metro, maybe discontinued. Alstom has already shown that it has little use for proprietary transit systems by discontinuing production of the TVR guided bus used in several European cities, leaving operators scrambling for spare parts.

Vancouver is now the only customer for MALM, as the systems built in South Korea and Malaysia have mired Bombardier and SNC Lavalin (the patent holders of the proprietary railway) in legal misadventure, due in part, to healthy “success fees” paid to lobbyists and politicians, to ensure MALM was to be built!

The Broadway Subway and the Fleetwood extensions to the SkyTrain light-metro system are grossly overpriced for what they will do as light ridership on both extensions will greatly increase operating costs. The Broadway Subway, current peak hour transit customer flows are under 5,000 persons per hour per direction (pphpd). The North American standard for building a subway is a transit route with customer flows of at least 15,000 pphpd and operational subsidies increase dramatically with smaller customer flows.

Despite deliberate and misleading statements by TransLink and the City of Vancouver, Broadway is not the busiest transit corridor in Canada, as a representative of TransLink stated in a letter, Broadway was “our region’s most over-crowded bus route“.

This sounds like a management issue and not one of needing to be solved by a $3 billion subway.

TransLink and the Mayor’s Council on Transit have never been honest with the long term costs of the project, which over a fifty year period, will have grave implications for the metro Vancouver and BC taxpayers.

According to the Toronto Transit Commission, who have a long experience operating subways, the Broadway subway to Arbutus, alone, will add $40 million annually to TransLink’s operating costs.

The 50-year costs for subways and grade separated transit are staggering, estimated more than $1 billion per km for the subway portion and just under $600 million per km for the elevated sections of the light metro system. Already the original Expo Line desperately needs a minimum $2 billion to rehab (full rehab about $3 billion) the system and increase capacity beyond Transport Canada’s Operating Certificate maximum of 15,000 pphpd.

TransLink has not been up front with these costs, for fear of pointed questions about the massive future costs for the rest of the light-metro system.

Nanaimo SkyTrain Station (Google)

Spending $4.6 billion for 12.8 km of light-metro pales, when one could instead invest $1 billion on both, the proposed Fraser Valley Rail project reinstating an hourly Vancouver to Chilliwack passenger service and the E&N, reinstating a Victoria to Courtney/Port Alberni passenger service and still have $2.6 billion left over to invest in regional transit projects in Metro Vancouver.

COVID-19 and the current ‘stay at home orders’ means long term financial hardships for taxpayers, not just TransLink. Even though there are generous government support, each month of lock down generates more and more fiscal instability for the taxpayer as future tax increases to pay for the emergency are certain.

The taxpayer will very soon, be in no mood, to fund Vancouver’s and Surrey’s $4.6 billion gold-plated, prestige transit projects, nor will the taxpayer and the transit user be willing to pay higher fares and other taxes for transit that about 85% of the population will not use.

As Premier, you must step in and say “enough” as TransLink and the Mayor’s Council on Transit have isolated themselves from public oversight and ignore public debate.

In 2015, 62% percent of the people voted against TransLink’s demands for money, yet they have done nothing but play the taxpayer and voter for fools by offering virtually the same plan with no real public input. TransLink’s public oversight is nothing but a charade; a smokescreen to carry on with their hugely expensive rapid transit agenda.

In the post-COVID-19 world, TransLink must plan for affordable transit projects; build user friendly transit projects and refrain from doing the same expensive thing over and over again hoping for different results.

The year 2021 and beyond will be an age of higher taxes, to pay for today’s emergency funding; more people will work at home, thus fewer people will use public transit; social spacing will see different travel routines, again reducing the need for gold-plated transit options. Then the reality of unintended consequences of today’s reality will come into play and those could prove very expensive.

TransLink needs to rethink its planning; the Mayor’s Council on Transit needs to rethink how transit is provided and funded; and the provincial government must rethink its rubber stamping Metro Vancouver’s questionable transit planning.

The taxpayer and the transit customer deserve far better than the current sham planning and complete lack of oversight and failure to correct the current mess maybe felt at the polls in the next election.

Who is not afraid to bell the TransLink and the Mayor’s Council’s “cat”?

Malcolm Johnston is a longtime TransLink and SkyTrain critic with Rail for the Valley. More information on RailfortheValley.com

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Malcolm Johnston The COVID-19 pandemic has made

Bob Mackin

What is the status of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s relationship with Coun. Allison Patton?

Are they merely members of the majority caucus on Surrey city council? Or is there more to it?

Why have credible sources, who fear retribution, told me they have witnessed McCallum and Patton entering or exiting their respective residences together?

Coun. Allison Patton (left) and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.

Why are photographs of the two council members at non-council events circulating on social media?

I have diligently sought comment from McCallum and Patton since January. Neither McCallum nor Patton have replied to my repeated phone calls and emails.

If there was no story to be told, a denial would have been simple to deliver and you would not be reading this right now.

The April 16 answer from the Surrey mayor’s office spokesman, Oliver Lum, was the same that he provided me on Jan. 21: “The personal affairs of the Mayor is outside the scope of this office.”

When a question is about the reputation of the Mayor of the second-biggest city in B.C. — and one of the fastest-growing in Canada — it most certainly is in the scope of his office to answer.

McCallum and Patton were elected on the Safe Surrey Coalition slate in 2018; SSC has a slim one vote majority on council, after councillors Jack Hundial, Steven Pettigrew and Brenda Locke defected over policy disputes.

McCallum led SSC to victory in 2018 with expensive promises to replace the RCMP with a municipal police force and to cancel light rail in favour of extending SkyTrain to Langley. McCallum ultimately controls a $1.44 billion civic budget which will no doubt be revised. There is a province-wide state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. The men, women and children who live, work, study and/or play in Surrey have a right to know whether the politicians that run their city are there for them at a time of great need.

It is also a time at which city council has raised the bar. Earlier this month, city council passed a new Council Code of Conduct bylaw. It includes clauses that say a council member shall rigorously avoid situations which may result in claims of pecuniary interest, conflict of interest or bias, and that a council member must disclose any conflict of interest and refrain from participating in a meeting.

Allison Patton (left) and Doug McCallum (Twitter)

Patton had lived in White Rock when she was elected, but bought a $535,000 condo in Rosemary Heights last December. McCallum sometimes lives at a $1.348 million Crescent Beach house.

Were they honest to voters about their relationship during the fall 2018 election? Why are they not being transparent now?

Despite what the city hall spokesman says, questions about personal affairs are public interest when they potentially involve a mayor and a councillor carrying on extra-curricular activities of any sort together. The public has a right to question whether a personal relationship, if it does exist, may affect voting and the paramount duty to the public of their elected officials.

It was relevant when I covered city council in Richmond in the 1990s. Greg Halsey-Brandt became mayor in 1990 with Sue Halsey-Brandt as his wife. He left office in 2001 with Evelina Halsey-Brandt as his wife. (The mayor even wed the former Evelina Vaupotic at a civic building, the Minoru Chapel.) For several years, Mayor Halsey-Brandt presided over a city council on which his ex-wife and his new wife were both councillors.

It was also relevant when Mayor Gregor Robertson left his longtime wife and biggest political supporter Amy in 2014 to begin a relationship with youthful Chinese pop singer Wanting Qu. That lasted until mid-2017. Along the way, we learned that Qu’s mother, Harbin, China planning official Qu Zhang Mingjie, had been arrested in Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption power struggle. Robertson was never transparent about his relationship and his chief of staff had actually used his influence on reporters from the Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail to suppress the information about the breakup. 

Wanting Qu (left) and Gregor Robertson

Robertson’s marital breakdown came the year after foster son Jinagh Navas Rivas was sentenced to four years in jail for being part of a dial-a-dope gang. The night in 2011 when Robertson won re-election as mayor (and kept his role as police board chair), he publicly wished Navas Rivas happy birthday in front of cheering Vision Vancouver supporters. As court eventually heard, Navas Rivas had helped get a gun into the hands of an undercover cop on the eve of the election.

It was also relevant when Gordon Wilson was the BC Liberal opposition leader after the 1991 election and he had an affair with a younger caucus mate, Judi Tyabji. That led to Wilson’s eventual replacement with Gordon Campbell, whose own career was almost derailed by a boozy night in Maui the year after he became premier.

Personal relationships of politicians have frequently crossed the line into the realm of public interest and become legendary. We can’t forget Pierre and Margaret Trudeau’s 1977 separation after Maggie partied with the Rolling Stones or Bill Clinton’s 1998 affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Remember “that woman” that he said he never had “sexual relations” with?

“It’s too easy to say, ‘well we don’t want to go down the pathway of the U.K., we don’t want to go down the pathway of the U.S.’,” Sean Holman, professor of journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary, told me in 2014, when I analyzed Robertson’s marriage breakdown. “But we also have to ask what not going down the pathway costs us, because there is a cost and the cost is that some things that should be reported on, may end up unreported.”

So, Mayor McCallum and Coun. Patton, am I on the right pathway or the wrong pathway?

Will you please explain?

The citizens of Surrey that rely upon you — the citizens that pay your bills — have a right to know.

I will gladly publish your response.

You know how to reach me. I am waiting.

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Bob Mackin What is the status of Surrey

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s NDP government has spent more than $271,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads since last June.

But it was rather slow to pivot to coronavirus prevention advertising.

On March 17, when Dr. Bonnie Henry declared a public health emergency, the government finally switched its Facebook posts to those only about the coronavirus pandemic.

Even with coronavirus spreading in B.C., there were few B.C. government ads until mid-March. (BC Gov/Facebook)

That was five days after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, 11 days after B.C.’s first coronavirus death and almost two months after the first joint statement by Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Before March 17, the B.C. government only interrupted its stream of NDP policy priority ads Feb. 6-8 to promote hand hygiene in English, Chinese and Punjabi, and March 13 to warn about high 8-1-1 call volumes.

According to an analysis by theBreaker.news of Facebook’s political Ad Library, the B.C. government ad placement strategy mirrored that of its TV plan for much of the first quarter of 2020, by promoting the child care program, WorkBC employment website, the 2020 budget and ICBC’s May 2021 no-fault insurance reform.

From June 2019 to April 26, 2020, taxpayers were charged $271,068, including $6,285 from April 12-18 and $6,188 from April 20-26. The seven most recent ads, since April 22, are in Chinese and Punjabi only, encouraging physical distancing and calling ahead to hospital if one exhibits coronavirus symptoms. The previous five ads were all in English and promoted regional virtual town hall meetings with health experts and members of the NDP, BC Liberal and Green caucuses.

The switch to coronavirus-specific ads began March 17, with a video clip of a March 14 news conference in which Henry said “I want to ask everyone to be measured in their purchase of groceries and other basic necessities.”

B.C. government Facebook ads from the first quarter of 2020. (BC Gov/Facebook)

The government spent $1,000 to $1,500 with the goal of 350,000 to 400,000 impressions of the March 17-21 ad. It was intended to counter the panic buying of toilet paper, canned soup and cleaning goods at grocery stores across the province.

As the virus spread from Wuhan, China to the rest of the world, the NDP government kept advertising non-health messages on Facebook.

From Jan. 29 to Feb. 9, there were two dozen WorkBC ads and another 23 during the Feb. 4-9 period.

The government ended 2019 and started 2020 with ads about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and four versos of the child care TV ads.

Other ads in 2020’s first quarter included messages about cannabis edibles, the Erase anti-bullying campaign, and the phase-out of medical services plan fees.

At a March 6 news conference in Vancouver about the government’s pandemic preparedness, theBreaker.news asked Premier John Horgan why he had yet to redeploy B.C. government communications resources to focus on coronavirus prevention.

“I would argue those issues are not just important to me, but they’re important to the public, that’s why we’re advertising them,” Horgan said. “Certainly, public service announcements are part and parcel of the plan going forward and we will be working together as cabinet, with advice from the deputy ministers committee, on the appropriate time to make those public service announcements.”

From the government’s early April-launched coronavirus prevention campaign. (BC Gov/Facebook)

It was not until a month later that the government finally rolled-out the “COVID-19 in B.C.”-branded campaign that features TV, radio and social media ads.

Before coming to power, the NDP had campaigned on a platform promise in spring 2017 to follow Ontario’s lead and give the Auditor General power to reject government advertising that was deemed partisan.

As of April 28, there had been 2,035 cases of coronavirus confirmed in B.C., with 105 people dead.

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Bob Mackin British Columbia’s NDP government has spent

Bob Mackin

We still do not know when Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes will release her decision on an application to block Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition to the United States to face fraud charges.

But we now know that reporters will get up to three days notice to attend an hour-long, closed-door preview of her written verdict at the Law Courts in Vancouver

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court.

Holmes agreed to a proposal from lawyers for both the Canadian government and Meng during a 17-minute virtual hearing on April 27. Accredited reporters were allowed to listen-in, due to the B.C. Supreme Court’s social distancing protocol during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of reporters on the phone line was not disclosed.

Meng was among those listening by phone, with her lawyers David Martin and Richard Peck. Holmes asked if she could hear and Meng replied, “yes m’lady, I’m on the line.”

Holmes said that there were 16 people in the public gallery in courtroom 55 at the Law Courts.

“All appropriately spread out, thank you very much, and many wearing masks,” Holmes said.

Holmes said lawyers for the government and Meng would receive her judgment by email on 9 a.m. on the day it is released. Accredited reporters would receive the reasons behind closed doors at the Law Courts at 10 a.m., when the lawyers would be allowed to inform their clients, the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Department of Justice office of international affairs. An in-court hearing would follow at 11 a.m., with Meng appearing in court. 

“If counsel for the Attorney General and Ms. Meng concluded earlier on at 9 o’clock that telephone appearance would be sufficient in all the circumstances, they would notify the court between 9 and 11 and that would be the mode of appearance,” Holmes said.

Meng Wanzhou in Stanley Park (B.C. Supreme Court exhibits submitted in 2018)

Holmes did not mention a date for the verdict. At the previous hearing, on March 30, she would only say it was “not imminent.” 

Holmes also ruled that a case management brief “would be premature and inappropriate” for release.

Lawyer John Gibb-Carsley of the Canadian Department of Justice said his office continues to respond to questions from Meng’s lawyers on evidence disclosure.

Meng’s next scheduled court date is June 15.

Arguments wrapped up Jan. 23 in the first four-day hearing to determine whether Meng should be extradited to face fraud charges in the U.S.

Canadian government lawyers, on behalf of the U.S., told Holmes that there is ample evidence that Meng lied to HSBC in 2013 to hide the fact of a Huawei subsidiary doing business in Iran, in defiance of international sanctions. Meng’s lawyers argued she should be freed because the Canadian fraud law is different from the U.S. and that the case is really about sanctions that no longer apply between Canada and Iran. If Meng’s application fails, her lawyers plan to argue the case should be thrown out because of political interference by President Donald Trump.

The hearings, which began Jan. 20, were overshadowed by a bizarre display outside the Law Courts by a group of protesters hired to appear sympathetic to Meng.

Scene outside Meng Wanzhou’s Shaughnessy mansion

Meng was detained by CBSA officers Dec. 1, 2018 at Vancouver International Airport and arrested by the RCMP. She was freed Dec. 11, 2018 on $10 million bail to live under curfew at her house in Dunbar. She moved last May, with the court’s permission, to her mansion in Shaughnessy. It is coincidentally on the same block as the U.S. consular mansion.

Meanwhile, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor continue to be held hostage in China in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest. The 500th day of their incarceration was marked by Canadian human rights advocates last week. 

Guards were on-duty outside Meng’s mansion on April 27, where renovations continue. Work is also underway at the property next door. Homemaker Jing Zhao was asking $12.38 million for the decaying, mid-1970s faux Roman architecture mansion just west of Meng’s mansion. Demolition documentation posted outside the worksite now list the owner as Maggie Xu.

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Bob Mackin We still do not know when

Canadian taxpayers and hospital patients have good reasons to be angry at China.

The Communist Party regime under Xi Jinping did not do enough to contain the coronavirus after it emerged from Wuhan late last year. Last week, two Canadian chartered cargo planes returned from Shanghai empty after an alleged traffic jam delayed a bulk shipment of medical masks, gloves and other supplies destined for Canadian hospitals. A million Chinese-made medical masks were deemed unfit because of elastic problems.

Both incidents gave Members of Parliament plenty of fodder for an April 24 committee meeting on government procurement. Listen to Conservative, Green and NDP MPs put Deputy Public Services and Procurement Minister Bill Matthews on the hot seat.

Also, hear highlights of disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy’s Zoom webinar with investigative journalist and associate professor Declan Hill. Donaghy appeared on the webinar held by the University of New Haven’s sports integrity department. Donaghy not only bet on games he officiated, but you will want to hear what he says about match-fixing.

Plus, a commentary on the out-of-touch heads of B.C.’s Crown corporations and agencies and headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest.   

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Parliament's pandemic PPE problem reaches new highs and lows
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Canadian taxpayers and hospital patients have good

Bob Mackin (updated April 27)

One of the two poultry processing plants shut down because of coronavirus outbreaks was cited for multiple health and safety violations after an inspection one year ago today, theBreaker.news has learned.

Thirty-five people tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week at United Poultry on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and 25 others caught the virus at Superior Poultry in Coquitlam. Both plants are owned by Clifford Murdie Pollon, whose companies are major players in poultry processing, farming and hatching in B.C. Pollon also owns Church’s Chicken franchises across B.C.

Poultry tycoons Clifford (left) and Ron Pollon

WorkSafeBC’s April 29, 2019 inspection report, obtained by theBreaker.news, came five days after inspector Ferdinand Wuensche found problems at Superior with personal protective equipment, among other things.

The inspection resulted in a total 15 violation orders at the plant, where 280 workers were on-site.

Superior had ignored the statutory annual fit test for those workers required to wear a respirator mask. Additionally, Wuensche spotted a worker wearing gloves that would not protect against punctures or cuts.

“I observed a worker sharpening knives at the knife sharpening station located immediately out side of the maintenance shop,” Wuensche wrote. “The worker was observed cleaning the knife by swiping the knife through a paper towel held in the workers hand. The worker was wearing latex gloves. This exposes the worker to the potential of serious injury.”

Superior was unable to show records about orientation and training for new or young workers and did not have any policies, procedures or training to prevent or mitigate bullying and harassment.

Regular safety inspections of the workplace were not conducted and the joint management-staff health and safety committee had not held its required monthly meeting since February 2019.

Meanwhile, WorkSafeBC ordered Superior to immediately stop using an oil sac machine after a Jan. 8, 2020 worker injury. The nature of the injury was censored from the documents provided to theBreaker.news by WorkSafeBC.

The inspection report said the machine did not have adequate safeguards after a product had not been secured adequately to the evisceration conveyor.

United Poultry (Google Streetview)

“The worker then followed the product to the head end of the evisceration conveyor work station where the worker encountered a rotating piece of equipment on the Oil Sac Machine,” the report said. “The worker’s (censored) was caught by this rotating equipment causing injury to the worker’s (censored). The worker was treated by the on-site first aid attendant. The RCMP and Emergency Services were notified of this incident and responded to the workplace.”

A Jan. 24, 2018 inspection by occupational hygiene officer Janet Lee found the rooftop area did not have guards or guardrails installed, putting workers at risk of fall to the floor or open clarifier.

Lee attended the plant the day after Metro Vancouver investigated odours. Lee’s report said the company said odour would likely be from the clarifier section of the waste treatment system and the bin that contains solid waste, such as manure, fats and egg yolks.

Pollon has yet to respond to theBreaker.news after a call to his office at Hallmark Poultry.

The website for United Poultry states that there are “doctors and inspectors on site at all times.” Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman Matt Kieltyka said he was unable to comment on that claim, but said the health authority believes the doctors reference to mean veterinarians.

Superior’s website says it exports various chicken parts to Russia, Cuba, South Africa, Taiwan, Philippines, Jamaica and the People’s Republic of China.

The plants rely on a workforce that is mainly ethnic Chinese or recent immigrant.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not recalled chicken products from United or Superior, because it has received no reports of contamination or illness associated with the products.

Elections BC records show $84,710 in donations from Clifford Pollon or his companies to the BC Liberals from 2007 to 2017.

In 2017, Pollon donated $5,000 to the winning leadership campaign of Andrew Wilkinson.

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Bob Mackin (updated April 27) One of the

Bob Mackin (published April 23; updated April 25)

While some in the press gallery are helping to flog Fluevog fashions for famous feet during the coronavirus pandemic, the priority at theBreaker.news remains frontline function.

The federal government admits a million KN95 masks did not meet Canadian standards because of defective elastics and will not be shipped to provinces where doctors, nurses and paramedics need the respirators for their protection. KN95 masks are the Chinese standard (similar to N95) that B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said on April 21 would be accepted in B.C.

3M N95 mask

This happens the same week that two Canadian government-chartered flights returned to Canada from Shanghai empty. Ottawa says the cargo did not make it to Pudong airport in time for loading and Chinese authorities refused to let the planes wait any longer. The spokesman for China’s foreign ministry denied the report. B.C. officials have not commented on impacts to west coast supply chains.

Meanwhile, an email message exclusively obtained by theBreaker.news under the freedom of information law shows that Premier John Horgan’s staff knew on Feb. 19 that domestic supplies of masks, gloves, goggles and gowns were already running low.

A summary of Chinese-language media coverage by Catherine Chan, the director of community and media relations, mentioned a group that faced difficulty buying medical supplies for Wuhan healthcare workers and patients.

“A group called ‘Canada Chinese Professionals Society’ has raised $500,000 but could only purchase $60,000 worth of medical supplies due to shortages such as make, gloves and protective goggles,” Chan wrote. “This raised concerns whether North America is prepared for outbreaks, and should asses the amount of medical supplies we would need.”

Chan’s email also mentioned labour unions representing nurses across Canada were “concerned over insufficient guidelines and protective apparatus for frontline healthcare workers. The standard below other country (sic) which is unacceptable.”

B.C. NDP trade minister George Chow (right) and Consul-Gen. Tong Xiaoling on April 24 (PRC)

The fundraising group was the Toronto-based Chinese Professionals Association of Canada, which sent three batches of PPE to Hubei province by the end of February.

CPAC was among several groups in Ontario and B.C., friendly with the Communist Party regime, that raised money to buy wholesale supplies of medical-grade PPE in Canada for export to China.

CPAC raised $58,000 on GoFundMe and other channels by mid-February. Executive director Andi Shi told CBC that it could have raised up to $500,000, if Canadian supplies were ample. CPAC’s supplier refused to take more orders. In early April, CPAC joined a campaign to raise $2 million to buy PPE for Ontario healthcare workers.

Earlier in February, the federal Liberal government donated 16 tonnes of PPE to China and the World Health Organization’s head, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that global demand was 100 times higher, prices 20 times more than normal, and backlogs would last four to six months.

“The Ministry of Health began planning for increased PPE needs early on,” Horgan spokeswoman Jen Holmwood told theBreaker.news. “Work to source medical-grade PPE was already well underway by mid-February. The B.C. Government continues to work round the clock to meet the demand for PPE in B.C.”

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called B.C.’s inventory “tenuous” on March 25.

On April 21, Dix said B.C. received 3.7 million respirators, of which 3 million were N95 and 700,000 KN95. He did not reveal the cost.

“While 3M is our traditional supplier, other manufacturers can and do produce N95 respirators,” Dix told reporters. “It’s about the standard, not the brand.”

Also April 21, the Chinese Embassy revealed that Xi Jinping’s top man in Ottawa spoke by phone with Horgan. A statement on the embassy website said Cong Peiwu expressed sympathies for B.C. during the April 17 call.

Louis Huang protested outside Meng Wanzhou’s March 6 court date (Mackin)

theBreaker.news wanted to know whether Horgan mentioned China’s suppression of information about the virus when it emerged late last year in Wuhan or if Horgan asked about Canadian hostages Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The two Michaels have been jailed more than 500 days in retaliation for the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Meng lives under curfew at her Shaughnessy mansion while contesting extradition to the U.S.

Said Holmwood: “The premier and ambassador spoke by phone, reaffirming the strong cultural and historic relationship between China and Canada, and in particular with B.C.’s sister province Guangdong. The premier also thanked the ambassador for the supply of PPE China has been providing to Canada. They did not discuss any particular individuals nor did they discuss China’s handling of the coronavirus.”

Holmwood said the phone call lasted 10 minutes.

A week after Horgan spoke with Cong, the NDP government’s junior trade minister George Chow and the executive in charge of buying supplies for B.C. hospitals, Melinda Mui of the Provincial Health Services Authority, visited the Chinese consulate mansion in Shaughnessy for a photo op.

On April 24, Chow and Mui accepted 56 boxes of medical supplies donated from Guangdong province, according to a statement from the consulate. This year is the 25th anniversary of Guangdong and B.C.’s sister province relationship.

Mui is the interim vice-president in charge of B.C.’s $2 billion-a-year hospital supply management program. Mui did not comment on the donation, but instead referred theBreaker.news to the PHSA communications office.

Vice-president of communications Laurie Dawkins told theBreaker.news that the 500 disposable coveralls, 10,000 pairs of medical exam gloves, 10,000 disposable surgical masks and 51,200 disposable medical masks have a total estimated value of $116,800.  

“In the days ahead, the donated supplies will be inspected following PHSA’s established clinical review process; upon approval, the supplies will be deployed for use with health authorities across the province,” Dawkins wrote in an email to theBreaker.news 

theBreaker.news recently reported on the consulate’s donation of 500 N95 masks to Vancouver General and St. Paul’s hospitals, but the consulate now says it also donated masks to the Vancouver Police Department and First Nations Summit.

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Bob Mackin (published April 23; updated April

Bob Mackin

The federal government is refusing to say which two flights returned from China without the personal protective equipment payloads.

Ottawa blames congestion at Pudong Airport in Shanghai caused by a significant surge in cargo flights.

“As a result, the intended cargo was unable to get to the plane before its required takeoff time,” said a statement from Public Works and Government Services Canada’s Marc-Andre Charbonneau.

At an April 22 briefing in Beijing, Geng Shuang, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party regime’s foreign office, called reports “inaccurate.” He claimed that airports and civil aviation authorities in China place no limit on the ground time for chartered cargo planes.

Distributor of Chinese consulate-imported masks inspects passport April 22 at Lansdowne Centre.

The day after a visibly embarrassed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted to the scandal, a CargoJet flight from Shanghai, via Tokyo, arrived at Vancouver International Airport. It later carried on to Hamilton. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Richmond, Chinese students distributed masks and sanitary wipes outside the Lansdowne Centre satellite campus of Trinity Western University.

Boxes of Ryzur medical supply masks were clearly labelled as imported by the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver. Students’ passports were logged. One man who said he was a frontline worker asked to receive some of the supplies, but was denied because he was not a Chinese student.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has recommended against wearing medical-grade masks, but recently changed her stance on non-medical masks. She said those who have symptoms should wear a non-medical mask to keep droplets in, if they need to leave home.

The latest consul-related mask distribution scheme comes as more footage comes to light of the February campaign by the Communist Party’s United Front-aligned groups in Metro Vancouver who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to ship scarce Canadian supplies to China after the virus spread from Wuhan to other parts of China.

Watch and share the video below. 

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Bob Mackin The federal government is refusing

Bob Mackin

Is there a crime wave during the coronavirus pandemic?

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer reported a 30% increase in robberies with knives, when he appeared at the April 16 police board meeting. He also said business break-ins have jumped 86% during the pandemic.

April 18 drug bust in downtown Vancouver (submitted)

Just two days later, on April 18, a reader cycling on the Dunsmuir Viaduct captured a drug bust as-it-happened. Several marked and unmarked VPD vehicles surrounded a small car. Two men were arrested, including one wearing what appeared to be the type of medical mask that is in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

VPD media officer Sgt. Aaron Roed said police were called about two men trafficking around Expo Boulevard and Carrall Street.

They were arrested around 8 p.m. and the contraband seized under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Roed said the file was submitted to Crown counsel, but declined to say what type of drug the two were peddling. The driver emerged from the vehicle wearing the mask. The arresting officers did not have any facial protection.

The two men arrested were released on an undertaking with conditions.

Meanwhile, the VPD mobile surveillance camera unit was set-up outside the Chinese Cultural Centre on Pender Street. Roed said VPD has contacted business and community leaders in Chinatown to educate them on preventing property crime.

I do not have the number of specific incidents right now, but there has not been any arrests at this time,” Roed said by email. “The camera is an excellent deterrent for keeping criminal activity out of areas that it is deployed.”

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Bob Mackin Is there a crime wave during