Recent Posts
Connect with:
Monday / August 15.
  • No products in the cart.
HomeStandard Blog Whole Post (Page 66)

It was a week that felt like a month in provincial politics. And it is all on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast

The Legislative Assembly voted to make Kate Ryan-Lloyd the clerk. Craig James’s former deputy filled the role since James was suspended in November 2018. James retired in disgrace last May, rather than face firing for misconduct, and is under RCMP investigation for corruption. A committee struck to replace James said it received only eight applications after widely advertising one of the highest-paid jobs of its type. 

Finance minister Carole James revealed she has
Parkinson’s disease on March 5 (Mackin)

Coronavirus became a bigger concern for the NDP government, after Washington State’s governor declared a state of emergency. Premier John Horgan struck a cabinet subcommittee and deputy ministers’ committee.

Finance minister Carole James (no relation to Craig James) revealed she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and would not run in the next election; teary-eyed political friends and foes united to offer the longtime James Bay MLA support. 

And Victoria Police officers were called to remove five protesters who refused to leave the Parliament Buildings after meeting with NDP indigenous relations minister Scott Fraser.

With one day left before the Legislative Assembly’s two-week March break, Fraser agreed to meet protesters who had been occupying the front steps, driveway and lawn of the Parliament Buildings. He was joined by interim Green Party leader Adam Olsen. The protesters pledged to leave the building, whatever the outcome. 

They had been continuing their occupation in support of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, even after the federal and B.C. governments agreed to fast-track a rights and title deal. The Coastal GasLink pipeline at the centre of the Wet’suwet’en dispute was not resolved in the Smithers talks, so that inspired the group Fraser and Olsen met to stage a sit-in.

SCROLL DOWN TO THE BAR AND CLICK THE PLAYER TO LISTEN TO THIS EDITION OF theBreaker.news PODCAST

“My hope was to convince them to give space to the Wet’suwet’en people as they consider the agreement and to end the protest,” Fraser told Question Period on March 5. “I’m deeply disappointed, obviously, that they broke their word.”

Protester Ta’kaiya Blaney on March 4 outside the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

Alan Mullen, chief of staff to Speaker Darryl Plecas, told theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin that it was a bold move by Fraser, “to have that meeting in good faith is such an olive branch.”

Said Olsen in an interview with Mackin: “What they were demanding was something that government was definitely not, and has been very consistent on, not willing to do. Which is have CGL leave the territory.”

Sergeant-at-Arms Greg Nelson failed to negotiate the protesters’ exit. Finally, more than five hours after the meeting ended, Victoria Police officers arrested the five for mischief and carried them out of the building. But not without protesters surrounding police vehicles. 

The protesters eventually extinguished their fires and took down their tents the next morning and left. The Legislature reopened to public tours. A temporary fence was erected on the steps to the ceremonial entry, to discourage another protest.

Police enter the Parliament Buildings on March 5 (Mackin)

Mullen said the Legislative Assembly welcomes peaceful protest on the grounds, but campfires and tents will no longer be tolerated. 

“We’ve shown a great deal of restraint and leniency,” Mullen told Mackin. “But time and time again, when those olive branches are extended, whether it be by the Legislature, the Speaker’s office, or a minister of the Crown, and those olive branches are essentially put in the wood splitter, I think it’s time to dial it back.”

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, hear from Fraser, Olsen, Mullen and some of the protesters in a special feature about how the Shut Down Canada-affiliated protest climaxed and dissipated.

Also, clips of Horgan and James. Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast: Emotional week in B.C. politics peaked with protest inside the People's House
/

It was a week that felt like

Bob Mackin (with files from Ben Miljure of CTV News Vancouver)

Some of the seeds were sown at an Ottawa conference in February 2019 for the wave of 2020 protests that have blocked streets, bridges, railways, ports and government offices across Canada.

(Twitter/@Canada350org)

PowerShift: Young and Rising was the five-day meeting that brought millennial climate change campaigners together with indigenous rights activists to discuss building a movement against capitalism and colonialism, and to learn civil disobedience methods, including blockades. The goal: to stop oil and gas pipeline expansion.

Kanahus Manuel, of the Secwepemc Nation in British Columbia’s interior, was a keynote speaker on the opening night of the conference on Feb. 14, 2019 and delivered a prophetic message.

“Native people could shut this whole country down because all the transportation corridors go through our reserves and territories,” Manuel said in a video that was Tweeted by 350.org Canada on the first anniversary. “The pipelines are transportation, it’s always been about these transportation corridors to get stolen goods off our lands, from point A to point B.”

The next day, an upside down Canada flag, with “Shut Down Canada” scrawled upon it, was draped over the head table during PowerShift panel discussions at an Ottawa church.

The event was already scheduled before the RCMP raided a long-standing blockade on Wet’suwet’en Territory in early January 2019, to allow Coastal GasLink to build the $6.2 billion pipeline that is supposed to feed the massive LNG Canada plant in Kitimat by 2025.

The RCMP’s enforcement of a new court order in 2020 sparked the unprecedented wave of protests nationwide, in urban and rural areas, under the hashtag #ShutDownCanada.

Federal and B.C. ministers reached an agreement with the hereditary chiefs to resolve a long-standing land title dispute on the weekend. The hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the pipeline remains, although the elected Wet’suwet’en council supports the project. On March 4, students at various universities walked out of class and held small-scale protests.

(Powershift/Facebook)

“This particular protest over the LNG pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory is an opportunity that came up, I don’t think they were planning for this in particular,” said David Tindall, a University of B.C. sociology professor who studies environmental protests.

But they were planning for things around oil and gas pipelines, possibly more stuff around the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion or the oil sands.”

In an interview with CTV News Vancouver reporter Ben Miljure, keynote speaker Manuel said she found PowerShift useful to attend.

“It’s really important to connect with all the young people, the ones that are active on the front lines out there in Canada for our environment, for climate change and for Indigenous sovereignty,” Manuel said. “I went there and met with a lot of amazing organizers and young people from across the country.”

The PowerShift conference program said the non-violent direct action panels would discuss theory and history of social movements of the past, but also prepare for the future.

“It’ll explore tactics like civil disobedience and frontline land defence. Sessions will prepare participants to deploy direct actions by coaching people on action design, legal and security considerations, and more,” the program said. “Tactics explored will include everything from scouting to highly technical actions like blockades and climbing.”

PowerShift 2019 sponsors included non-government organizations such as David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club Canada and Council of Canadians. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, National Union of Public and General Employees and Unifor were also sponsors. A Unifor representative, who was not authorized to be quoted, confirmed that Canada’s largest private sector union donated $5,000 to the conference. Unifor did not send delegates or participate in discussions at the conference.

From the PowerShift program section on civil disobedience, including how to blockade and resist arrest.

Manuel wasn’t the only participant from B.C. Mary Lovell, now of the Sierra Club, Torrance Coste and Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee, No One Is Illegal’s Harsha Walia (now with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association) and Cedar George-Parker of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation were some of the others.

McCartney said in an interview that he attended PowerShift for the fourth time and offered attendees advice on dealing with the media. He downplayed PowerShift 2019’s influence on the events that have unfolded in 2020.

“It’s a conference for activists, some folks came there to learn about media, some folks came there to learn about how to run for election, some folks came there to learn about non violent direct action,” McCartney said. “In terms of links to what we’re seeing now, it just exists in the same space, kind of at the nexus of climate and indigenous rights, that movement is the same.”

McCartney said there was a bigger effort at 2019’s PowerShift to involve indigenous allies than at previous conferences.

One of the main sponsors of PowerShift was the Canadian arm of Washington, D.C.-headquartered 350.org. Six activists, including Canadian team leader Cam Fenton and digital campaigner Atiya Jaffar, are listed in the program.

A year after PowerShift, Jaffar used social media platforms to promote the blockades at the Port of Vancouver, Deltaport, the Granville Bride and on CP Rail tracks in East Vancouver, as well as the sit-in at David Eby’s riding office in Point Grey.

Fenton was scheduled to conduct a forum at PowerShift on location scouting for protests, but he said by email that it was cancelled.

Fenton declined an interview request, but said he could respond to questions sent by email.

theBreaker.news provided Fenton with questions about 350.org’s sponsorship of PowerShift, its involvement in Shut Down Canada and 350.org’s fundraising activities, including a request for the names of its biggest donors and their dollar amounts.

Fenton, on behalf of the organization, declined to answer the questions emailed to him.

(Twitter/350canada)

In February, 350.org Canada’s Twitter account promoted the Shut Down Canada protests with a link to an online map showing each one and it reposted a clip of the climax of Manuel’s speech on the anniversary of PowerShift.

350.org’s Our Time campaign team staged a sit-in at the House of Commons, a week after last fall’s federal election, to urge the Canadian government to adopt the Green New Deal. Also in 2019, 350.org was one of several groups involved in the Shut Down D.C. protest in the U.S. capital

A decade ago, founder Bill McKibben described 350.org as a “scruffy little outfit.” It has grown into a major international force in the movement against climate change. The most-recent annual report, for the year ended Sept. 30, 2018, uses different words, calling 350.org a “dynamic and highly collaborative climate change campaign, building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.”

“To a certain extent they can be seen as the core of the climate change movement, and there’s a number of key 350 organizers, activists that have quite a high profile in a number of protests especially with the Trans Mountain pipeline,” said UBC’s Tindall.

McCartney called 350.org “friends of ours” who work together on a lot of campaigns. 

“They have the campaigns they’re coordinating on, and we have the campaigns we’re coordinating on and if we happen to be working on the same thing, then we make sure we know what each other are up to,” he said.

350.org grossed more than $19 million in grants and contributions for the year-ended Sept. 30, 2018. Main expenses in that fiscal year were $10.5 million for field organizing, $1.4 million for communications and $1.27 million for digital campaigns. For its activities outside the United States, it reported $527,671 for Canada and Mexico.

Tweets from Atiya Jaffar, a digital campaigner since 2015 with 350.org.

The 350.org website contains a long list of foundations that support the charity, but it does not show any dollar amounts from those donations.

The annual report stated that, as of Sept. 30, 2018, 88% of grants and contributions receivable were due from three donors who were not identified. The names of six major donors, ranging from $450,000 to $4 million, were not disclosed in 350.org’s tax filing with the U.S. government.

Pro-industry researcher Vivian Krause and the Canadian Energy Centre, an arm of the conservative Alberta government, have both highlighted 350.org’s opacity and its ties to the likes of the Rockefeller Brothers. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund website lists a $200,000 grant to 350.org dated Oct. 30, 2019.

Tindall, however, said the issue of foreign funding is irrelevant, because the proponents for major resource projects tend to have foreign investors themselves. The $19 million in donations collected by 350.org pales in comparison to the $338.4 billion in 2018 revenue that flowed to Royal Dutch Shell, the biggest partner in the LNG Canada project.

“The industry groups have millions and millions, if not billions, of dollars in foreign funding. Most of the companies operating in the oil sands have foreign funding,” Tindall said.

Some of that money is spent on advertising and public relations targeted at the public, on lobbying politicians and on supporting think tanks. Environmental issues, Tindall said, are international issues that know no borders.

“Way more funding comes from the multinationals [in oil and gas] to try and influence environmental politics in Canada,” Tindall said. 

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

Bob Mackin (with files from Ben Miljure

Three days after the Cullen Commission into money laundering wrapped its first phase of public hearings in Vancouver, one of the politicians expected to testify announced he will not run for re-election.

Rich Coleman, the former BC Liberal minister in charge of casinos, was first elected in 1996. He revealed Feb. 29 that he will retire from politics.

Attorney General David Eby included Coleman’s name in a list of people that he hopes will appear before Commissioner Austin Cullen when witnesses are heard from September to December.

Cullen heard opening statements over two-and-a-half days from a range of participants, including casinos, labour, law and non-governmental organizations. One of those was James Cohen of Transparency International Canada, who blamed secrecy for fostering corruption in B.C.’s gambling and real estate sectors.

“There are a number of gaps within Canada’s anti-money laundering law, the proceeds of crime, money laundering and terrorist financing law,” Cohen told Cullen. “But our coalition, as well as many experts and international bodies, agree on a key problem, Canada’s weak beneficial ownership regime.”

Not everyone who owns a secret company is a criminal, Cohen said, but gaps in Canadian laws allow mean true owners with sinister intent to remain anonymous and do significant harm to the economy and communities.

Also hear from Brock University’s Charles Burton and the University of British Columbia’s Paul Evans, who testified before the House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations.

Burton raised the concern about foreign money from China influencing Canadian political campaigns and recommended a law similar to one enacted in Australia that is aimed at curbing the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast: Highlights from the Cullen Commission and the Canada-China Relations Committee
/

Three days after the Cullen Commission into

Bob Mackin

David Sidoo’s fraud trial could begin next January.

Lawyers for Vancouverite Sidoo and 14 others accused in the college admissions scandal were in Judge Nathaniel Gorton’s courtroom in Boston on Feb. 27 for a case status conference. Sidoo would be part of the second group of defendants to be heard. The first group, which includes Hollywood star Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, would go on trial Oct. 5.

David Sidoo (left) and Justin Trudeau in 2016 (PMO)

Defendants have an April 1 deadline to sever or oppose the groupings. Court may hold a hearing on motions in early June.

“The defendants are charged with engaging in a single theme, as part of a single conspiracy to use various forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to college,” according to a filing by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “To convict them of conspiracy, the government must prove the existence of an illicit agreement among each of the defendants and at least one co-conspirator to engage in the charge scheme.”

Sidoo, a former CFL player who became a wealthy stock market player, tops a list of 19 people named in an April 9, 2019 indictment. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Sidoo is accused of paying more than $200,000 for Harvard-educated tennis coach Mark Riddell to write college entrance exams for sons Dylan and Jordan Sidoo, neither of whom are charged.

If convicted, David Sidoo could face up to 20 years in prison.

Riddell pleaded guilty last April to fraud and money laundering in the scheme hatched by mastermind Rick Singer, who admitted that he “created a side door that would guarantee families would get in.”

Prosecutors allege Riddell traveled from Tampa, Fla. to Vancouver and used false identification to pose as Dylan Sidoo to write an SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] test on Dec. 3, 2011 at a venue that has not been disclosed.

Riddell allegedly traveled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012 that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The venue for the exam remains undisclosed.

Gorton was the same judge that sentenced Michelle Janavs, the heiress to the Hot Pockets empire, to five months in jail for her role in the scandal earlier in the week. 

Meanwhile, a Surrey woman who is a Chinese citizen will be sentenced May 19.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, is expected to be sentenced to time already served in a Spanish jail after her plea bargain. She admitted guilt Feb. 21, paid a $250,000 bond to the court, was ordered to provide a DNA sample and restricted to travel within the U.S. and Canada only.

Sui was arrested in Spain last summer after paying a $400,000 bribe to have her tennis-playing son recruited to the University of California Los Angeles soccer team so that he could study there. He had no prior competitive soccer experience, but was falsely billed as a top player on two private teams in Canada.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

Bob Mackin David Sidoo’s fraud trial could begin

Bob Mackin

The Canadian arm of luxury automaker BMW, which also markets MINI and Rolls Royce, blames the lack of a dedicated police force at British Columbia ports for allowing money laundering to flourish in the province.

“In BMW’s experience, enforcement and transparency at ports should be dramatically improved. BMW is appreciative of the collaborative efforts of the [Canada Border Services Agency] and of local police – however, the volume of exports from Canada’s ports exceeds the abilities of any one regulatory body to police those exports,” testified lawyer Morgan Camley of the Dentons law firm.

2015 BMW i8 (BMW)

“Canadian ports, including at Vancouver, Surrey, and Prince Rupert do not have a dedicated police presence, therefore resulting in a gap in law enforcement. This makes it more difficult for BMW to identify and recover vehicles destined for unlawful export.”

Camley said that if BMW has interest in a vehicle under a lease agreement, CBSA has limited authority to assist the recovery, which is not considered stolen by police. Enforcement of non-export agreements is considered a civil, not criminal, matter, she said.

According to Peter German’s 2019 report for the provincial government, there were less than 100 luxury vehicles exported to China from B.C. in 2013. By 2018, that number had exploded to more than 4,400, according to Ministry of Finance data.

German found that during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, one straw buyer made in excess of 25 purchases. A thousand straw buyers were apparently linked to one exporter and, in many cases, the identification provided by the straw purchaser is a People’s Republic of China passport, not a B.C. driver’s licence.

Commissioner Austin Cullen (Cullen Commission)

Straw buyers had an incentive to flip the cars quickly to exporters. If resold within seven days of purchase, the provincial government refunds the provincial sales tax. There were refunds of at least $55 million on nearly 8,000 vehicles sold that year, with a total purchase value of $555 million. 

theBreaker.news was first to report about the outcomes of two sensational disputes before the B.C. Supreme Court. They were both cases of BMW exports to China gone awry. 

A Lower Mainland real estate investor, whose company supplied steel to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, failed to convince a judge last year who was responsible for losing the BMW she bought and sent to China. A judge awarded a former University of British Columbia student $329,000 after the BMW supercar that his mother bought him went missing in China.

In his verdict on the former case, Justice Christopher Grauer wrote that since 2010, only Chinese government representatives, high-level personnel and specially invited experts have been allowed to import cars into China.

In 1996, the federal Liberal government decided to shut down Ports Canada Police. Then-B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh was perplexed. He cited the seizure of more than $1 billion in illegal drugs over the previous decade and $2 million in luxury cars seized in the first quarter of 1996.

The Port of Vancouver police detachment numbered 29 officers, seven civilian staff and eight seasonal employees, responsible for policing 275 km of coastline from Port Moody to Boundary Bay. 

“In the post-9/11 world this is a serious gap in our law enforcement umbrella,” German wrote las year. “The comparison to Seattle is stark, where the Port of Seattle Police Department has 150 staff to police SeaTac Airport and the Seaport, including numerous specialized units. In addition, U.S. federal authorities are present at the ports, including border patrol, customs officers, and others.”

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

Bob Mackin The Canadian arm of luxury automaker

Bob Mackin

A B.C. public sector union head told the Cullen Commission into money laundering that frontline casino workers will offer both historical and contemporary evidence about troubles in the province’s gambling industry.

“Workers in some casinos have faced a visible organized crime presence in their workplaces for more than two decades. Some have dealt with harassment and intimidation from known criminals and/or associated VIP gamblers,” testified Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, on Feb. 24. “All too often, casino management has turned a blind eye to these issues, or in some cases even enabled them, in order to maintain and grow their business.”

Stephanie Smith (BCGEU)

BCGEU represents workers at River Rock, Hard Rock, Starlight, and Grand Villa casinos. Smith told the inquiry, overseen by Justice Austin Cullen, that Muriel Labine, a dealer, supervisor and hostess between 1992 and 2002, will testify when witnesses are heard after Labour Day.

Smith said Labine witnessed loan-sharking activity on the gambling floor at Great Canadian Gaming’s Richmond casino and even a casino vice-president acting in a friendly manner towards a Big Circle Boys kingpin, top casino loan shark and violent drug trafficker.

“Higher stakes, high-turnover games brought in more VIP gamblers and dramatic increases in cash flow, with thousands of dollars being played in a single five-minute game. Men [Labine] learned had gang affiliations would bring clients and sit with them at the tables, passing players casino chips and bundles of $20 bills,” Smith said. “Loan sharks soon became fixtures in her casino, working up to 12 hours per day, with dozens of loan sharks on the casino floor at once. Their presence was so ubiquitous that staff came to know their faces and street names.”

Labine was eventually fired after bringing her concerns to management, which is why Smith said B.C. whistleblower protection laws need beefing-up and expansion to cover private sector workers.

Smith said money laundering grew as regulation withered, pointing to the 2009 disbanding of the RCMP’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team (IIGET), the decisions in the Ministry of Attorney General in 2013 to ignore internal reports of large-scale money laundering and the 2014 decision to fire, without cause, a Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch employee who blew the whistle. She also hopes the relationships between private gambling operators and provincial and municipal elected officials, including lobbyists and political donors, will be investigated.

Smith said Labine will not be alone in testifying. Despite progress under the NDP government since 2017, Smith said the early days of implementing new anti-money laundering measures have had mixed results and current workers will elaborate.

Inside the Cullen Commission hearing room (Mackin)

“Our members report that, in many cases, management are simply going through the motions of compliance with AML measures while making clear to employees that these measures are unwanted requirements that are the fault of regulators or even the employees’ union.”

Meanwhile, the vice-president of security fired by B.C. Lottery Corporation last July has been cleared of wrongdoing by GPEB.

Robert Kroeker’s statement to the Cullen Commission said that GPEB found Nov. 1, 2019 that allegations against him were unfounded. Kroeker intends to “defend against an anonymous and malicious claim that he instructed staff at BCLC to ‘ease up’ on anti-money laundering measures and ‘allow dirty money to flow into casinos’.”

“We expect the Commission will find that throughout, Mr. Kroeker has acted with integrity and in full cooperation with the province and the regulators,” said his lawyer, Christine Mainville. “He has discharged his compliance duties on behalf of BCLC honourably.”

Kroeker spent almost three years as an executive at Great Canadian Gaming before joining BCLC in 2015. Kroeker’s submission said that GCGC and BCLC were at the forefront of preventing money laundering and detecting illegal networks operating with proceeds of crime.

“We are confident that by the end of this process, the public will be fully informed,” Mainville said.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

 

Bob Mackin A B.C. public sector union head

Bob Mackin

A self-described homemaker, who resides in the People’s Republic of China, is suing a mortgage company and B.C.’s land titles authority for fraud.

In a Feb. 21-filed B.C. Supreme Court action, Yuhui Zhou accuses a woman, who is only referred as Jane Doe, of posing as Zhou last May 15 at a Burnaby law firm. Zhou claims the woman forged her signature on a mortgage and assignment of rents in favour of AP Capital Mortgage Investment Corp. The mortgage was registered against title to the property in the New Westminster land title office on May 31, 2019.

Richmond condo at the centre of a civil lawsuit (BC Condos)

Zhou had financed her purchase of the 2014-built strata townhouse near Richmond secondary, now worth $1.22 million, through Scotiabank.

The court documents say that at the time, Zhou was in China and she denied ever speaking or communicating with Tiffany May at George Lee Law Corp. or AP Capital.

“The mortgage and the assignments of rent were granted without the knowledge and consent of the plaintiff,” the court filings state. “The plaintiff did not apply for, seek out, or agree tot he mortgage or the assignment of rents.”

The defendants have not yet replied and none of the allegations has been proven in court.

Meanwhile, a Chinese citizen is suing a Vancouver immigration consultant over a controversial immigrant investment scheme in Saskatchewan.

Xiaolei Zhang filed against Global Fortune Commerce and Business Group Inc. and Wenda Yang on Feb. 21 in B.C. Supreme Court, seeking damages for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence.

Zhang claimed that, beginning in May 2016, she consulted Global Fortune and its sole director Yang about her family’s immigration to Canada. The defendants, she claims, tried to induce her to invest in a Chinese-style wholesale mall project in Saskatchewan known as the Global Trade and Exhibition Centre.

She claims she was told she was required to invest in GTEC by buying a commercial condominium unit in the GTEC project, in order to be selected by the Saskatchewan government for the entrepreneur category of its program that encourages immigrant investment. She paid an $80,000 consulting fee to Global Fortune and $124,000 to GTEC developer Brightenview Development International Inc.

In March 2019, she said she was told by the defendants that the federal government refused her temporary work permit  application because it was not satisfied the business would create significant economic, social or cultural benefit to Canada.

Global Trade and Exhibition Centre in Regina (GTEC)

Zhang retained another consulting company to review the business plan in June 2019 and the federal government granted the application in October of last year.

“To make matters worse, Government of Saskatchewan decided (Nov. 6, 2019) to exclude investments in GTEC project from eligibility for the entrepreneur category of [Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program]. According to the media, by the decision, Government of Saskatchewan virtually admitted that GTEC Project was an immigration scam.”

The court filing said Zhang’s lawyer sent a demand letter for $204,000 by Dec. 8, 2019 for $204,0000.

None of the allegations has been proven and the defendants have yet to reply.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

 

Bob Mackin A self-described homemaker, who resides in

Bob Mackin

When the Cullen Commission began its first public hearing on Feb. 24, a lawyer for the federal government boasted that 13 federal departments and agencies are working to battle money laundering across the country.

But Judith Hoffman was rather vague when it came to quantifying their success. Or lack thereof.

Government of Canada lawyer Judith Hoffman at the Cullen Commission on Feb. 24 (Cullen Commission)

She was among several lawyers delivering opening statements before Justice Austin Cullen at Federal Court in Vancouver. The $11 million public inquiry will hear opening submissions from participants through at least Feb. 26 before reconvening in late May for five weeks of subject-matter hearings.

The main event begins after Labour Day, with testimony and cross-examination of witnesses until almost Christmas. A preliminary report is due to government in November. A final report is due May 2021.

Hoffman detailed the RCMP’s efforts, including its involvement in the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit B.C., where the provincially funded Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team (JIGIT) resides. She said CFSEU has executed “many search warrants” on illegal gambling houses that led to charges, convictions and seizures of property. But she did not say how many.

She did say there had been one deportation and $700,000 of illicit cash and goods wrestled away in civil forfeiture proceedings.

Hoffman did not mention the collapsed E-Pirate money laundering case in Richmond or that Russell Lim had been busted twice for running illegal gambling houses, one in East Vancouver and another in a Shaughnessy mansion. Lim was jailed for one day, plus 18 months probation.

The deportation? That was after the May 2018 arrest at the River Rock casino hotel of visiting high roller Dan Bui Shun Jin. Jin is suspected of laundering $855 million in Australian casinos.

JIGIT formed in 2016, more than seven years after the BC Liberal government disbanded a similar organization after it raised the alarm about Asian organized crime figures infiltrating B.C. casinos. The NDP government says that cost-cutting measure opened the door to billions of dollars of dirty money that distorted B.C.’s casino and real estate industries and led to a flood of illicit opioids and the deaths of 5,000 people since 2016.

Commission counsel Brock Martland opens the Cullen Commission public hearing into money laundering Feb. 24 in Vancouver, before Justice Austin Cullen (Mackin)

Hoffman said JIGIT money laundering and loan sharking investigations have targeted “top tier organized criminal exploitation of casinos and banks” and also targeted individuals oerating money service businesses that are not compliant with federal reporting obligations.

Federal, provincial and municipal authorities are involved in monthly conference calls to coordinate efforts, she said. The loosely regulated money service businesses, such as currency exchanges, are receiving extra attention. In March 2019, JIGIT networked with a Quebec agency and engaged with the provincial government to take steps toward licensing of money service businesses. The collaboration evolved into a formal working group with reps from CFSEU, B.C.’s finance ministry and attorney general department, B.C. Police Services, Richmond city council and Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers.

She also described trade-based money laundering, from human trafficking to tobacco and firearms smuggling, which prompted Cullen to comment.

“There is a suggestion that trade-based money laundering is a particularly significant area of money laundering in recent years and it may be that that’s an area the commission will want to inquire into,” Cullen said.

The federal response to money laundering in B.C. has previously underwhelmed Attorney General David Eby, who criticized the Fintrac monitoring agency as ineffective and the RCMP as understaffed. Last fall, Eby was unhappy with the glacial pace of new funding that had been promised in the 2019 federal budget. Hoffman said $70 million a year is spent on anti-money laundering and another $178 million is coming over the next five years.

The public inquiry was struck last May by Premier John Horgan after reports showed $7.4 billion was laundered in 2018 in B.C., including $5 million in real estate. China is a major source of the dirty money.

Meanwhile, B.C. government lawyer Jacqueline Hughes. told Cullen that the government has re-established a deputy minister’s committee on anti-money laundering with mandarins from Finance, Solicitor General and Attorney General.

Cullen added a dose of skepticism when he asked whether the province has attempted to analyze whether different, non-money laundering economic forces pumped-up real estate prices.

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

 

Bob Mackin When the Cullen Commission began its

Instead of simply celebrating 10 years since the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the organizing committee’s CEO wants Vancouver to bid for the 2030 Olympics.

John Furlong says that by doing it over again, it would help solve the city’s housing and traffic congestion woes.

Andy Yan (SFU)

Andy Yan doesn’t buy that. The 2010 Games were a catalyst for both of those problems.

“You would think we are stepping away from these type of jumpstarts in the real estate and the tourism industry into other types of economic activity that you think could generate greater levels of a shared prosperity in the region,” Yan, the director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, told theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin. “To that extent, I think it asks, do we really need these mega-events to really tell us or define who we are compared to other more sustainable, thoughtful, in-depth kind of action that we really can leverage and become that region that we aspire to be.”

In a feature interview on this week’s edition, Yan said Vancouver 2010 was the bookend to Expo 86, the epoch of Vancouver entering the world stage. 

Hans Rey in Trans Hong Kong, a five-day adventure that even captured pro-democracy protests (Hans Rey)

“From 2010 to present day, it’s right on the world stage. It has a mixed legacy. Part of it is really fundamentally how we there are still things we don’t know about the full disclosure of what happened to make the Olympics occur, as well as the full cost of the Olympics, it’s not only about the layout for things like security and facilities, but the opportunity costs that were involved. The full expenses that were subsidized by all levels of government.”

Also on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, mountain bike legend Hans “No Way” Rey premieres his Trans Hong Kong adventure film at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.

Mackin talks to Rey about Hong Kong as a mountain bike destination and how his film documented Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

Plus commentaries and headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast
theBreaker.news Podcast: Another Vancouver Olympics, to solve the problems caused by the first?
/

Instead of simply celebrating 10 years since

Bob Mackin

A Victoria transparency watchdog says the federal ethics commissioner should review how much politicians spent during 2019’s pre-election period.

Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC says there should be a special focus on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of the Canadian Air Force fleet of business jets.

Documents obtained exclusively by theBreaker.news, and shared with CTV News Vancouver, show Trudeau charged taxpayers $54,000 for an Ottawa-Vancouver round-trip at the end of last August to shoot a Liberal Party campaign ad on the Grouse Grind.

Justin Trudeau appearing in a Liberal campaign ad, shot Aug. 30 at the Grouse Grind. (Top: LPC; bottom: theBreaker)

“Taxpayers should have an expectation that their dime is not going to serve the partisan political ends of whatever party is in power,” Travis said in an interview.

The documents show Trudeau spent $800,000 on flights aboard the government’s Bombardier Challenger jets to criss-cross the country between May and August last year. Many of the trips mixed government business with political campaigning and fundraising ahead of October’s federal election.

Trudeau visited B.C. seven times between late May and the end of August.

The last time, less than two weeks before the election officially began, included a Surrey photo op on Aug. 29 with Premier John Horgan, for an agreement to explore electrification of the natural gas industry in northern B.C., and an Aug. 30 morning visit with Mayor Kennedy Stewart at Vancouver city hall. Those were the only government business appointments in Trudeau’s public itinerary. 

“I don’t think you should let him off the hook for the photo ops he had with John Horgan and Kennedy Stewart, because those were clearly part of the election strategy he went into the pre-election period with,” Travis said.

The lion’s share of the trip was a four-hour stay at Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver on Aug. 30 to shoot a Liberal Party re-election campaign ad on the Grouse Grind with various local Liberal candidates and party staff. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s RCMP security entourage of about a dozen vehicles waited in the North Vancouver resort’s parking lot. Trudeau and company eventually departed for Ottawa that afternoon.

Trudeau gathered with various candidates, including cabinet ministers Harjit Sajjan and Jonathan Wilkinson and candidates Terry Lake and Tamara Taggart, for the event, which was not publicized in his official itinerary.

Longtime aide Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford were there, along with officials from the Liberal Party headquarters and its B.C. office. The Grouse Grind ad may have played a pivotal role in keeping Trudeau in power, albeit with a minority government, after the Oct. 21 election.

Travis said the trips appeared to have “government business squeezed in-between party business, not party business squeezed in-between government business.”

Trudeau’s May 21-24 journey stopped in Kamloops for Lake’s nomination and continued to Vancouver for a Stanley Park Coast Guard shipbuilding announcement. Trudeau spent the rest of May 22 headlining a party fundraising lunch at Yaletown’s Opus Hotel and a dinner at the Neptune Palace Chinese restaurant in Marpole.

The next month, Trudeau made two round trips between Ottawa and Vancouver in the space of four days: June 1-2 for the Hats Off Day in Burnaby and June 3-4 for the Women Deliver Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

“That not only is abuse of taxpayer’s dime, it’s a slap in the face to the taxpayer as well,” Travis said.

He returned west July 11-14, with stops in Edmonton at the Trans Mountain pipeline terminal, a Calgary party fundraiser during the Stampede and Surrey, to re-announce the Canada Child Benefit and go door-knocking with Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal.

Trudeau was back in B.C. later that week for a July 18 photo op with Horgan at BC Transit’s headquarters and a party fundraiser in a Victoria hotel prior to a 10-day family vacation in Tofino.

Inside a Bombardier Challenger jet.

When he returned to the public eye, it was a July 29 news conference and barbecue with Kitsilano Coast Guard base workers in Vancouver and an evening party fundraiser at the University of B.C. alumni centre. In between, Trudeau visited a Davie Street gay bar.

The following weekend, yet another B.C. trip. This time it was to march in the Vancouver Pride Parade and attend another party fundraiser in Surrey.

Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Brook Simpson told theBreaker.news last September that Trudeau’s flights to and from B.C. during the period “followed all appropriate rules and guidelines.”

He referred theBreaker.news to Department of National Defence, which would only respond under the Access to Information law.

Trudeau’s flights were aboard the Department of National Defence’s Administrative Flight Service fleet of four Bombardier Challenger jets. According to the SherpaReport, which follows the private jet industry, the Bombardier Challenger 600 series CC-144 jet uses 340 gallons per hour of fuel. The Prime Minister’s entourage flew for 142 flight hours from May to August, meaning the jets used 48,280 gallons or almost 182,000 litres of jet fuel.

On June 17, the House of Commons, led by Liberal MPs, declared a climate change emergency.

Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, told CTV News Vancouver’s David Molko that the party should reimburse taxpayers for partisan activities.

“It’s a question whether the prime minister and ministers need to appear at so many announcements, especially in an age where this government in particular is really sensitive to carbon emissions,” Wudrick said. “Do we really need to be jetting across the country — essentially for photo ops? I don’t think it’s always necessary. So it’s not just a cost issue.”

Trudeau does not fly commercial for security reasons “whether he is on government business or not,” said the PMO’s Ann-Clara Vaillancourt to CTV News Vancouver.

“As was the case with previous Prime Ministers, when travelling solely for reasons that are not related to the government, a reimbursement is issued to an equivalent economy airfare,” Vaillancourt said.

As per government policy, when travel aboard the fleet is for personal reasons, a travel agent is asked for the lowest possible commercial fare on a comparable flight and an invoice issued to the traveler. But that only happened twice during the entire four-month period.

Documents obtained by theBreaker.news show DND sent Trudeau an invoice for $586.84 for a Mother’s Day weekend visit to Chicago, where his mother Margaret Trudeau was performing a one-woman play. Invoices totalling $2,450.73 were issued in September for airfare for the Tofino family vacation.

Combined, the reimbursements do not cover a full hour of the $5,637-per-hour cost of the flights on the government Challenger jets.

Liberal Party spokesman Braeden Caley, who was at the Grouse Grind event, said the events in late May and the end of August were added to other government travel plans.

“The Liberal Party of Canada fully complies with Elections Canada’s rules and regulations for all expenses, contributions, and reporting,” Caley said.

The Grouse Grind shoot was arranged by Toronto production company Suneeva and ad agency Oryx. Metro Vancouver charged a $5,000 deposit and $1,700 rental fee after originally rejecting the Grouse Grind for safety reasons. It suggested Capilano River Park or the Baden Powell Trail, according to Aug. 23 internal correspondence obtained under freedom of information, but the shoot went ahead anyway on the Grouse Grind.

While Trudeau flies the government’s private jets, Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has made headlines for flying economy on commercial flights and putting the presidential Boeing 787 up for sale.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his girlfriend flew commercial to the St. Lucia on a Christmas vacation. Similarly, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle, who are living part-time on Vancouver Island, have been spotted aboard Westjet flights. . 

“Is it practical every trip? No. Can it be used? Yes, because we certainly have, as we’ve seen since 9/11, the capacity to know everybody who is on a plane, what they’re doing, where they’re traveling from, where they’re traveling to, and whether that passenger should be allowed to fly, a no-fly list,” Travis said. 

“I’m certain the RCMP, with the resources it has and the the relationships it has, could, in fact, create a situation for the PM and entourage to be able to travel.”

Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

Bob Mackin A Victoria transparency watchdog says