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A year ago this week, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was freed on $10 million bail so that she could live at one of her two luxurious Vancouver homes while challenging the United States’ application to extradite her to face fraud charges.

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

Across the Pacific, during the same week in 2018, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by Chinese police in apparent retaliation. 

On Dec. 10, world human rights day, they will be on the minds of Peter Dahlin and millions of others. Dahlin is a human rights activist with the Safeguard Defenders non-government organization. Dahlin spent more than three weeks in a Chinese jail in 2016

“We still don’t really know how Kovrig and Spavor have been treated, all we know is that they’ve obviously been placed under formal arrest now since about six months and we’ve seen very little movement from the Chinese side,” Dahlin told Podcast host Bob Mackin. “Their cases are no closer to being resolved and that of course points very clearly to this being very much a political process and I don’t see any changes to their legal status for the foreseeable future.”

As 2019 draws to a close with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy struggle and the Xinjiang jailing of a million Uighur Muslims in the news, the two-year countdown to the Beijing Winter Olympics beckons in 2020.

Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin in a 2016 forced, false confession (CCTV)

“The IOC, in general, have been very resistant to any changes to their plans going back all the way to the [Berlin] 1936 Olympics and I don’t think we’re going to see a change to that, unfortunately,” Dahlin said. “But, of course, it is going to bring further spotlight to human rights issues, rule of law and how China behaves diplomatically internationally.”

Listen to the full interview with Dahlin.

Plus commentaries and headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest. 

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

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: A year in Lotusland for Meng, a year in Chinese jail for the two Canadian Michaels

A year ago this week, Huawei chief

Bob Mackin

A critic of the Jameson Development Corp. bid to replace the vacant St. Mark’s Anglican Church with a five-storey apartment building is urging Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Coun. Melissa De Genova to recuse themselves from a Dec. 12 public hearing.

Vacant St. Mark’s Church at 1805 Larch (Mackin)

Stuart Rush, who lives near the fenced-off 2nd and Larch site, said Stewart and De Genova risk violating conflict of interest provisions in the Vancouver Charter and Code of Conduct if they participate in any meetings or votes on the spot rezoning. Principals of the development company donated to their 2018 election campaigns and lobbied them after they were sworn-in.

“There is a reasonable conclusion to draw that the mayor and Coun. De Genova have a closed mind on it and that doesn’t sit well with me and that doesn’t sit well with my neighbours,” Rush, a retired lawyer, said in an interview. “We’re saying ‘stand aside mayor, and stand aside Coun. De Genova’ and let the process work where there is not this colouration of influence in respect of your participation and, potentially, your vote.”

People connected to the project donated $4,800 each to Stewart and De Genova’s winning campaigns.

The Elections BC database shows two donations of $1,200 each from Tony Pappajohn and one from Tom Pappajohn to Stewart on Oct. 15, 2018. De Genova received $1,200 each from Thomas Pappajohn, John Pappajohn and Anthony Pappajohn on Oct. 18, 2018.

Graham Thom of Gatland Capital also gave Stewart and De Genova $1,200 each. Gatland’s website said it arranged the $14.25 million land and acquisition financing.

Artist’s rendering of five-storey 1805 Larch proposal (Metric/Jameson)

Rush’s letter to Stewart mentions the Nov. 23, 2018 meeting between the mayor and Tony and Tom Pappajohn. On April 9, Stewart’s chief of staff, Neil Monckton, met with Tony and Tom Pappajohn and lobbyist Raymond Louie, the former city councillor.

In a May 30 speech to the Urban Land Institute, Stewart highlighted the proposed 63-unit rental building, which would include 13 rent-controlled apartments, at 1805 Larch. The Vancouver Sun’s Evan Duggan reported that Stewart sat for lunch at the same table as Louie. 

“You received financial support from the developers for a development that you singled out for public support,” Rush wrote. “You are out there promoting the project. It is clear you will not change your point of view and you have an interest in approving the rezoning and the development proceeding.”

De Genova met Jan. 10 for lunch with Tony Pappajohn at the Hotel Georgia. To her, Rush wrote: “You received financial support from the developers. You met privately with one of the developers two weeks prior to the rezoning application for the site being filed. These facts suggest that you could be influenced or appear to be influenced directly or indirectly by the developers.”

De Genova did not respond for comment. Likewise for Tony and Tom Pappajohn. Alvin Singh, a spokesman for Stewart, said by email that the mayor was not available for an interview.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart (Mackin)

“The issue of donations and hearings has been brought up many times through various administrations and the answer has always been the same: a general donation does not amount to a conflict, real or perceived, around specific development applications,” Singh wrote in a prepared statement. “In terms of his remarks during speeches, the Mayor has used Larch and other projects as examples of the MIRHPP [Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program] policy but hasn’t commented on the merits of the actual development. The speeches also happened prior to referral to public hearing.”

Two decades ago, a Nanaimo city councillor was disqualified from office for voting in favour of a developer who was the biggest backer of his $4,500 re-election campaign.

“The payment to [William Frederick King] was ‘more or less remotely connected with’ the result of the votes he cast in favour of Hazelwood and Northridge,” read the judge’s verdict. “It was a pecuniary interest tied indirectly to the $1,000 contribution.”

Melissa De Genova (Mackin)

However, a B.C. Court of Appeal tribunal overturned the decision in 2001, ruling that the campaign contribution could not “in and of itself” establish direct or indirect pecuniary interest.

All things considered, Rush said, the circumstances around the Larch proposal are “more egregious” than the King case, because it includes elements of lobbying and promotion.

In 2017, the NDP government banned corporate and union donations and set $1,200 as the annual cap for individuals.

In his 2018 campaign, Stewart promised a lobbyist registry. After he was sworn-in, Vancouver city council wrote to the NDP government to ask for the provincial registry to be expanded to cover municipalities. It could have followed the lead of Surrey, which set-up its own registry.

Rush does not oppose development on the site. He said a four-storey structure with only moderate or below market rentals, plus daycare and seniors facilities, would be a better fit for the neighbourhood.

“We’ve had, pulled out of us, a significant centerpoint for community activities, we want to see some of those retained in the functioning structure that evolves,” Rush said. “Where we differentiate from the proposal from the developers is we can see more affordable rentals in there. The developer obviously sees a different financial structure.”

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Bob Mackin A critic of the Jameson Development

Bob Mackin

A collapsed $11.3 million real estate deal in the lucrative Cambie Corridor has sparked a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit. 

Subject house on Cambie at 37th (BC Assessment/Google)

Bellevilla Development filed Nov. 28 in B.C. Supreme Court against Chi-Jen Lo (aka Jeff Lo), Jeff Lo Personal Real Estate Corp., Lily Gan, Lily Gan Personal Real Estate Corp., Crest Realty dba Re-Max Crest Realty on Nov. 28.

The lawsuit said Bellevilla and Hui Ding jointly retained Gan and Crest in November 2017. Ding allegedly agreed to buy the property at 37th and Cambie personally or through her nominee and alter ego, D&W Investment Ltd., from You Kun Kai and Shu-Chen Cheng on July 22, 2017. Ding was the principal and sole shareholder of the B.C. company.

“Ding would then divest herself of the entirety of her shares in D&W through a sale of those shares to Bellevilla in the subject transaction.”

“Thereafter, Ding assigned the agreement pertaining to the property with the original vendors, to her company D&W in or around late November 2017. D&W would complete the acquisition of the property on or about Feb. 26, 2018.”

Bellevilla would become the sole shareholder in D&W and the sole beneficial owner of the property.

But there was a speedbump. 

“The plaintiff says and the fact is that Lo, Gan and Crest Realty failed to properly advise Bellevilla that the transaction — a share purchase and sale — could not be effected through the use of the aforementioned standard form document.”

Bellevilla claims the original contract was deficient, because there were ambiguities as to the parties, transaction and price.

A contract prepared by the parties’ lawyers on Dec. 6, 2017 contained more details.

The contract was contingent on Bellevilla securing a financing commitment. Bellevilla would provide Ding a first deposit payment of $100,000 within one day of both parties signing and a $400,000 second deposit by Jan. 15, 2018.

But, on June 20, 2018, Bellevilla advised Ding that it was unable to secure satisfactory financing and triggered the financing subject clause in the agreement. Ding filed in B.C. Supreme Court against Bellevilla, seeking liquidated damages for $1.13 million.

The new statement of claim says that deposits and accrued interest remain in the Crest Realty trust account, with an additional $630,000 paid into court as security for the Ding claim. Last year, the 67.5-foot x 140-foot property, containing a one-storey, 1954-built duplex, was assessed at almost $9.06 million. 

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the real estate agents have not filed their defence statement.

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Bob Mackin A collapsed $11.3 million real estate

Bob Mackin

An internal audit of BC Hydro billing found the public utility issued 17,000 refund cheques totalling $7.6 million last year.

The June 5 report, obtained by under the freedom of information laws, said 87% of refunds were under $600. The largest refund was $187,000 to a commercial customer.

BC Hydro has 2 million customer accounts, of which 1.8 million are residential. For the 10 months ended Jan. 31, it received $1.67 billion revenue from residential customers and $1.596 billion from light industrial and commercial customers.

BC Hydro headquarters (BC Hydro)

The audit was the first of its type since 2011 and happened after the May 1, 2018 expiry of BC Hydro’s contract with Accenture, which handled billing, operations and technology after a controversial 2003 outsourcing deal under the BC Liberal government. It was supposed to cost $1.45 billion over a decade, but, by the sixth year, BC Hydro had already paid $1.17 billion.

The new audit found the majority of bills were automatically produced on a daily basis using actual meter readings or accurate estimates, but the potential for fraud and gaps in controls mean procedures for adjustments and refunds need strengthening. 

The audit said that smart meters improved billing accuracy and most bills were generated without manual intervention.

“Controls are in place to ensure customer and meter data inputs are accurate and timely,” the audit said. “However a small number of communicating meters are not being billed due to account data input errors with some resulting in revenue loss.”

In January 2019, there were 253 communicating meters outstanding for more than 90 days and not billed. More recent numbers include approximately 100 meters outstanding for over 90 days.

“A reconciliation is not in place to ensure all scheduled meter readings are received and invoiced, and all exceptions are addressed for billing completeness.”

Itron OpenWay smart meter (BC Hydro)

Approximately 2 million smart meters are installed and there have been no major interface failures in the past 12 months. Meter readings are received and stored three times each day, which enables billing for 50,000 to 80,000 meter readings over a 20-day cycle.

Meanwhile, results of a BC Hydro employee engagement survey by PWC found the 5,000 respondents are split on whether to trust those atop the Crown corporation.

“Only 54% of employees in operations trust that executive leadership will do what they say they will. do,” said the report to BC Hydro’s executive team. “This score has improved 5% since last year, but still shows an opportunity for clear communications and engagement that will build the trust within this business group.”

Forty-one percent of those surveyed complained about poor, inefficient or broken processes, 39% said there were inadequate staffing levels and 25% cited a lack of clarity around the decision-making process.

When asked if they would feel comfortable speaking up, without fear of retaliation, if they witnessed disrespectful behaviour at work (such as exclusion, harassment, bullying), 11% said no.

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Bob Mackin An internal audit of BC Hydro

Bob Mackin

Ellis Ross, the BC Liberal LNG critic, reported more than $9,000 in sponsored travel on his annual disclosure statement.

According to documents obtained by from the Clerk’s Office, National Bank provided $7,177.65 for the Skeena MLA’s flights, accommodation and taxi fares for Dec. 3-4, 2018 events in New York and Toronto. Ross spoke on “how LNG approval is achieved in B.C., specifically with First Nations,” according to his annual conflict of interest disclosure statement.

Ellis Ross’s ad on CFTK TV (CFTK)

Ross, the former chief councillor of the Haisla First Nation, also appeared at the “Stand on Guard Edmonton” event on May 17 about LNG approval in B.C. The $1,158.57 in flights and accommodation was paid by Art Lucier, a social conservative Metis Christian evangelist with Kelowna-based Harvest Church.

Ross was also invited to speak on First Nations economy, title issues and major project development at the Canada Action Rally during the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary on June 11. He received $664.91 in airfare and ground transportation from DMG Events.

Anne Kang, the NDP Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors and Multiculturalism, received $1,365.61 in flights and accommodation to the Top 10 Overseas Youth Award in Taiwan.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham received two tickets to the Power to Be “Natural Gala” Fundraiser valued at $500 on July 12 from Power to Be. She also attended the Legislative Agricultural Chairs Summit in Calgary, July 14-16, and reported $786.90 in accommodation and hospitality from the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders.

John Horgan shooting a selfie with fellow rugby sevens fans at the 2019 Canada Sevens in B.C. Place Stadium. (Mackin)

Premier John Horgan received a free ticket to last March’s Canada Sevens World Rugby Sevens at B.C. Place Stadium, but he did not use his invitation to the halftime reception.

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser reported receiving a $750 paddle from Nanwakolas and Knight Inlet, a $750 paddle from the We Wai Kai First Nation and a $750 buckskin vest from Tsilquot’in National Government. Jinny Sims received a similar $750 carved paddle from the Nanwakolas, while Environment Minister George Heyman received a handcrafted drum from a First Nation elder at the Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park.

Jobs and Trade Minister Bruce Ralston received a $300 ticket to the Consul General of Italy gourmet dinner on Nov. 23, 2018.

Richmond South Centre Liberal MLA Linda Reid reported two tickets worth $1,000 to the Richmond Hospital Foundation Gala, Oct. 27, 2018 from the Richmond Hospital Foundation.

Thirteen MLAs disclosed that they scored free passes to games at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Click each name below to access MLA’s annual disclosure statements.

Abbotsford South Darryl Plecas

Abbotsford West Mike de Jong

Abbotsford-Mission Simon Gibson

Boundary-Similkameen Linda Larson

Burnaby North Janet Routledge

Burnaby-Deer Lake Anne Kang

Burnaby-Edmonds Raj Chouhan

Burnaby-Lougheed Katrina Chen

Cariboo Chilcotin Donna Barnett

Cariboo North Coralee Oakes

Chilliwack John Martin

Chilliwack-Kent Laurie Throness

Columbia River-Revelstoke Doug Clovechok

Coquitlam-Burke Mountain Joan Isaacs

Coquitlam-Maillardville Selina Robinson

Courtenay-Comox Ronna-Rae Leonard

Cowichan Valley Sonia Furstenau

Delta North Ravi Kahlon

Delta South Ian Paton

Esquimalt-Metchosin Mitzi Dean

Fraser-Nicola Jackie Tegart

Kamloops-North Thompson Peter Milobar

Kamloops-South-Thompson Todd Stone

Kelowna West Ben Stewart

Kelowna-Lake Country Norm Letnick

Kelowna-Mission Steve Thomson

Kootenay East Tom Shypitka

Kootenay West Katrine Conroy

Langford-Juan de Fuca John Horgan

Langley Mary Polak

Langley East Rich Coleman

Maple-Ridge Mission Bob D’Eith

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Lisa Beare

Mid Island-Pacific Rim Scott Fraser

Nanaimo Sheila Malcolmson

Nanaimo-North Cowichan Doug Routley

Nechako Lakes John Rustad

Nelson-Creston Michelle Mungall

New Westminster Judy Darcy

North Coast Jennifer Rice

North Island Claire Trevena

North Vancouver-Lonsdale Bowinn Ma

North Vancouver-Seymour Jane Thornthwaite

Oak Bay-Gordon Head Andrew Weaver

Parksville-Qualicum Michelle Stilwell

Peace River North Dan Davies

Peace River South Mike Bernier

Penticton Dan Ashton

Port Coquitlam Mike Farnworth

Port Moody-Coquitlam Rick Glumac

Powell River-Sunshine Coast Nicholas Simons

Prince George-Mackenzie Mike Morris

Prince George-Valemount Shirley Bond

Richmond North Centre Teresa Wat

Richmond South Centre Linda Reid

Richmond-Queensborough Jas Johal

Richmond-Steveston John Yap

Saanich North and the Islands Adam Olsen

Saanich South Lana Popham

Shuswap Greg Kyllo

Skeena Ellis Ross

Stikine Doug Donaldson

Surrey South Stephanie Cadieux

Surrey-Cloverdale Marvin Hunt

Surrey-Fleetwood Jagrup Brar

Surrey-Green Timbers Rachna Singh

Surrey-Guildford Garry Begg

Surrey-Newton Harry Bains

Surrey-Panorama Jinny Sims

Surrey-Whalley Bruce Ralston

Surrey-White Rock Tracy Redies

Vancouver-Fairview George Heyman

Vancouver-False Creek Sam Sullivan

Vancouver-Fraserview George Chow

Vancouver-Hastings Shane Simpson

Vancouver-Kensington Mable Elmore

Vancouver-Kingsway Adrian Dix

Vancouver-Langara Michael Lee

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant Melanie Mark

Vancouver-Point Grey David Eby

Vancouver-Quilchena Andrew Wilkinson

Vancouver-West End Spencer Chandra Herbert

Vernon-Monashee Eric Foster

Victoria-Beacon Hill Carole James

Victoria-Swan Lake Rob Fleming

West Vancouver-Capilano Ralph Sultan

West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky Jordan Sturdy

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Bob Mackin Ellis Ross, the BC Liberal LNG

Bob Mackin

The new driveway at the Parliament Buildings is going over its $1.5 million budget.

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee voted Dec. 3 to spend another $255,000, after the executive financial officer, Hilary Woodward, delivered the bad news.

Driveway construction at the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

Woodward said digging up the 109-year-old driveway revealed contaminated soil, though she did not say what contaminants were found. That cost another $200,000 for the testing and removal. Old pipes containing asbestos were also found. Existing waterlines needed to be lowered and electrical repairs undertaken.

“It’s not just the replacement of the driveway itself,” Woodward said in the meeting. “We were able to take that opportunity and do a lot of underground infrastructure and put it in place, including a conduit for lighting for future projects as well.”

By email, Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd told that two pipes buried in a shallow concrete trench tested positive for asbestos. The area was immediately taped-off and visitors and staff banned from the area. Sixteen of 50 test hole locations turned up contaminated or hazardous materials. Fourteen of them contained chlorides at levels exceeding Ministry of Environment thresholds. Lead was found in one test hole and barium in another, both at levels exceeding Ministry of Environment guidelines.

Meanwhile, the proposed Legislative Assembly operating budget for next fiscal year is $85 million, a $2 million increase over the current year.

Ryan-Lloyd said the additional funds would improve the workplace environment, with enhanced staff engagement, training and development, labour relations initiatives, a respectful workplace policy and creation of a whistleblower policy.

The committee is also requesting $6 million for capital funding, a decrease of $224,000 from the previous year. The focus is safety, security and infrastructure improvements.

Ryan-Lloyd’s report to the committee also summarized a series of transparency measures. The Legislative Assembly is now publicly reporting quarterly the expenses and compensation for executive staff and travel spending by all assembly staff. There are also new disclosure provisions for transition payments to retired or defeated MLAs and the online posting of MLA conflict of interest disclosure statements. The next wave of proactive disclosure categories could include procurement contracts, purchasing card transactions, and interparliamentary visits, exchanges and conferences.

Speaker Darryl Plecas (left), interim clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd last January. (Mackin)

The measures are a stop-gap until the NDP government fulfils promises made earlier this year to place the Legislative Assembly under the freedom of information laws. The promise was made by NDP Government House Leader Mike Farnworth in the wake of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s report on corruption in the offices of the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms. Craig James and Gary Lenz both retired in disgrace and are under RCMP investigation.

Also stemming from Plecas’s investigation, the Legislature has instituted new policies for purchasing cards, travel, liquor, uniforms, standards of conduct, gifts and even a policy on creating and updating policies.

Polices are either under review or development for asset disposal, hospitality, legal assistance, parking, retirement allowance, vacation and whistleblowers.

The Legislative Assembly is also playing catch-up with modern human resources strategies. Ryan-Lloyd said there are now regular meetings with senior management. A management seminar was held, as was a full, organization-wide staff meeting. For the first time, the Legislative Assembly conducted a staff survey.

“We’ve had employee suggestion boxes, coffee drop-in sessions and as we look ahead to the new year,” Ryan-Lloyd said. “I hope to continue those efforts and do everything we can to sustain ongoing staff engagement as well as provide new training and development opportunities for legislative staff and improve our human resource management practices.”

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Bob Mackin The new driveway at the Parliament

Finally, after two years, the investigation is over. AggregateIQ, the Victoria political advertising and data agency, breached Canadian privacy laws.

Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, that whole story has seismic implications around the world, including Canada and British Columbia, where over 600,000 names [of] Canadians were involved in that,” said British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy. “To a great extent it has shaken Canadians and British Columbians’ confidence in the political campaign system, that is critically fundamental in a democratic society where trust is often in short supply.”

“With AIQ we now have a Canadian player playing a key role in the troubling ecosystem of political campaigning in the digital era,” said Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. “This is too close for comfort.”

AggregateIQ website

But there is no fine. Why? 

“We do not have the authority to levy fines,” rued McEvoy. “To be clear, that is an authority we believe regulators in Canada should have. My office should have it to act as a deterrent, to ensure that the public knows somebody is looking after their interests and make sure somebody has their back.”

On this edition of Podcast, hear from both McEvoy and Therrien, who released their joint investigation report on Nov. 26 in Vancouver. 

Plus commentaries and headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest. 

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

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Key Victoria-based player in the "troubling ecosystem" of digital political campaigns broke the law

Finally, after two years, the investigation is

Bob Mackin

One year ago, on Nov. 30, 2018. Canadian authorities were in a rush to arrange a welcome for Meng Wanzhou, who was packing for a business trip that was supposed to take her from Hong Kong to Vancouver, Mexico City, Costa Rica, Argentina and France.

Meng Wanzhou’s Hong Kong passport (B.C. Courts exhibits)

Instead, the Huawei Chief Financial Officer found herself in a cell in the Richmond RCMP detachment. She was moved to the Alouette jail for women in Maple Ridge and shuttled to and from a packed courtroom at the Law Courts in downtown Vancouver.

The United States government wanted her extradited to face charges she defrauded banks in an effort to subvert U.S. sanctions forbidding trade with Iran. A judge in New York City had issued an arrest warrant on Aug. 22, 2018.

The Chinese government said she was a victim of the ongoing trade war. Chinese social media was abuzz about the “Huawei Princess,” the daughter of founder Ren Zhenghfei. 

Meng was freed on $10 million bail Dec. 11. to live in her Dunbar corner house, surrounded by court-appointed bodyguards, while wearing a GPS anklet to enforce an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. She is allowed to travel with those bodyguards, within City of Vancouver and parts of the North Shore and Richmond. But not near the airport. She now lives in her Shaughnessy mansion, on the same block, coincidentally, as the U.S. consulate general’s mansion.

Meng’s arrest did not become public until Dec. 5, 2018. It became the biggest news story in Vancouver since the 2010 Winter Olympics. It also began a 12-month period in which China came under the most international media scrutiny since Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. 

Xi Jinping’s celebration of 70 years of Communist Party rule became overshadowed by the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the concentration camps for more than a million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. Meanwhile, the Canadian government, under a re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, continues to consider whether to allow Huawei to build the nation’s fifth generation telecommunications infrastructure, despite warnings of Chinese government surveillance from allies, including the U.S.

Meng’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 20, 2020 in Vancouver. Here is the timeline of Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018 from RCMP documents obtained by from the B.C. Supreme Court.

Nov. 30, 2018
  • 8:58 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) E Division Foreign and Domestic Liaison Unit received an email from the Department of Justice Vancouver office, in anticipation of an urgent provisional arrest request that same day.
  • 9:04 a.m. Const. Gurv Dhaliwal text to Const. Winston Yep: “DOJ also advised another provisional warrant is coming in… no details yet but they need someone at their office around 3 p.m. to sign an affidavit.”

    Text messages between RCMP officers , on the eve of Meng Wanzhou’s arrest (BC Courts)

  • 1:11 p.m. Urgent request received, including a password protected attachment: a summary of fact for Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese citizen.
  • 3 p.m. Members were advised that Meng was arriving to Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018, arriving 11:30 a.m., Cathay Pacific flight 838. Dhaliwal assigned to assist Yep with a Warrant of Provisional Arrest in regards to Meng Wanzhou, aliases Cathy Meng and Sabrina Meng. Department of Justice attorney John Gibb-Carsley provided a copy of the warrant, granted by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming. 
  • 3:23 p.m. Dhaliwal text to Yep: “I’m staying at the office until we have a plan in place for tomorrow.”

Yep: “OK we’re just waiting on Janice to call Peter.”

Dhaliwal: “OT for everyone!”

  • 4:22 p.m. Dhaliwal requested contact numbers for Regional District officers, Richmond YVR supervisors, to locate a Mandarin speaking female officer to assist with the arrest, to obtain all direct flights from YVR to Mexico happening on Dec. 1 about 12 hours after Meng is to land at YVR. Meng’s next stop, after Vancouver, was to be Mexico City.
  • 4:31 p.m. FDLU forwarded request for assistance to Richmond YVR RCMP to provide contact numbers and a Mandarin speaking female officer.
  • 5 p.m. Dhaliwal and Yep attend YVR to speak to Richmond RCMP regarding upcoming possible arrest of Meng on Dec. 1.
  • 7:52 p.m. Provisional Warrant for Meng, granted by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Fleming, on Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Dec. 1, 2018
  • 12:01 a.m. Cathay Pacific flight 838 departs Hong Kong (local time 4:01 p.m.). Destination: Vancouver.
  • 7:30 a.m. FBI Assistant Legal Attache in Vancouver email to RCMP and CBSA counterparts. “Sorry for the early morning email. My HQ is asking if there is confirmation the subject has boarded the plane.”
  • Meng Wanzhou’s CBSA declaration card mugshot on Dec. 1, 2018 (BC Courts)

    8:02 a.m. Sgt. Ross Lundie email to RCMP, CBSA and FBI officers. “I have just spoken with CBSA and confirmed that she is on the plane.”

  • 9:30 a.m. Const. Dhaliwal and Const. Yep attend YVR and have briefing with Sgt. Lundie, Const. Dawn But and CBSA officers Scott Kirkland, Sanjit Dhillon and Sowmith Katragadda.
  • 10:03 a.m. FBI Assistant Legal Attache in Vancouver email to RCMP and CBSA officers.
  • “Below is description. White t-shirt with lettering on the front, dark pants, white shoes, carrying large purse/bag, hair slightly longer than shoulder length.”
  • 11:18 a.m. Cathay Pacific flight 838 arrives at gate 65; CBSA officers Kirkland and Katragadda wait at jetway.
  • 11:21 a.m. Kirkland takes control of two cell phones from Meng and one cell phone from her companion.
  • 11:30 a.m. Meng in CBSA secondary waiting area.
  • 11:44 a.m. Yep text to Dhaliwal: “She’s been pulled into secondary at CBSA with her female companion. Once they are done, we will serve the warrant on her.”
  • 2:13 p.m. Yep and But escort Meng to room C2860.0 at CBSA secondary area.
  • 2:15 p.m. Warrant executed.

But: “So because in the United States, you have committed fraud, we’re arresting you and then you will be sent back to the United States.”

Meng: “Me?”

But: “Right.”

Yep: “Now this is a warrant of provisional arrest under section 13 of the Extradition Act..”

Meng: “You think that, you’re saying I committed fraud in the United States?”

But: “Yes.”

Officers read Meng the warrant.

Meng Wanzhou’s RCMP prisoner report from Dec. 1, 2018 (BC Courts)

But: “We’re going to take you to the police station in Richmond, and then when we arrive there, you’ll be placed into our cells. We need to obtain your fingerprint and then take a photo of you. Then you will stay a few days and then go to the United States. Because today is Saturday, it won’t be until Monday when you’ll be able to see the judge.”

Meng: “You’re saying I’m seeing a judge in Canada?”

But: “Right.”

Meng: “And then after I see the judge, I’ll go to the United States?”

  • 2:27 p.m. Yep read Meng her rights.
  • 2:45 p.m. Katragadda handed Dhaliwal a Hong Kong passport belonging to Meng.
  • 2:59 p.m. Dhaliwal seized all personal belongings subsequent to the arrest of Meng: two cell phones, one iPad; one MacBook computer; one Cruzer Glide 3.0 256 GB storage; eight pieces of luggage (suitcases, handbags and boxes). The iPad was festooned with Winnie the Pooh stickers. Is Meng a Disney fan or was she poking fun at Xi Jinping?  
  • 3:32 p.m. One brown Botega bag, wallet with money, large Rimowa blue suitcase and four rings given to her travel companion, as per Meng’s request.
  • 3:53 p.m. Dhaliwal leaves YVR for Richmond RCMP with Meng’s electronic devices.
  • 4:38 p.m. Dhaliwal observed Meng at Richmond RCMP cells. She is assigned prisoner number 849.
  • 4:44 p.m. Meng fingerprinted and photographed. The booking officer determines she is alert and her state of mind is “OK.” But her balance is “fair.” 
  • 5:06 p.m. Meng escorted to private phone room 407 to await a call
  • 5:17 p.m. Meng picked up phone in room 407; she hung up the phone at 5:25 p.m.

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Bob Mackin One year ago, on Nov.

Bob Mackin (Updated Nov. 30 and Dec. 2)

The veteran BC Liberal who was deputy premier in 2015 has denied he knew a caucus mate’s Legislature smartphone had been searched by Chinese customs officers.

Ex-BC Liberal MLA Richard T. Lee (Mackin)

On Nov. 29, Richard T. Lee, who represented Burnaby North from 2001 to 2017, told reporters that he informed Rich Coleman about the Nov. 24, 2015 detention at Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

Lee, who was deputy speaker, was traveling with his wife on a 30th wedding anniversary holiday. He said he was held for eight hours, refused entry into China on the vague grounds that he was a danger to national security and returned to Vancouver. His one-year, multi-entry visa that had been issued in March of 2015 was cancelled and he has not applied to return to China.

While in custody, Lee said officers demanded he hand over his two phones, including a BlackBerry containing his Legislature email account.

“They cannot open the BlackBerry, they asked me for the password, I did not want to give the password,” Lee said. “I recorded that I put in the password, but under their close watch, they probably got the password, I don’t know.”

Lee said he does not believe the incident was ever investigated. He was initially reluctant to name Coleman for reporters.

“I talked to my colleagues over the phone at that time I was on vacation, so they knew about this case; one individual in particular would know about this case,” Lee said. “Right after I came back I tried to forget about the unpleasant experience. My wife and myself, we went to the U.S. by train. I didn’t follow up immediately on that.”

Moments later, he told reporters that it was Coleman that he told. Prior to running for provincial office in 1996, Coleman had been an RCMP officer.

By email, Coleman told that he “had not heard Richard Lee’s phone was looked at until I heard it on the news today. He never mentioned it to me.”

Coleman told News1130 that he was only aware that Lee had been denied entry into China and that Lee did not ask for anything to be done.

My understanding back then when he had come back to Canada, he was going to talk to his MP or somebody federally, so I would have assumed that he did that,” Coleman said.

Richard Lee (left), Rich Coleman and Derek Corrigan on Dec. 10, 2015 in Burnaby (left)

That is not good enough, said Dermod Travis of independent watchdog IntegrityBC.

Not only is Coleman an ex-Mountie and former B.C. solicitor general, but he had been appointed in February 2015 as the B.C. government’s liaison to the Canadian military.

“He should’ve realized the import of that information,” Travis said. “It was incumbent upon him, as deputy premier, that the information he was provided [by Lee] was followed up by the appropriate agency.”

Almost three weeks before Lee’s scuttled trip, Premier Christy Clark and international trade minister Teresa Wat had traveled on a trade mission to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Lee had met with an emergency management delegation from Zhejiang, China on Nov. 18, 2015 in Victoria, with Minister Naomi Yamamoto. Lee and Coleman both appeared at the Dec. 10, 2015 groundbreaking ceremony for the Derby Manor seniors housing project in Burnaby.

Six months later, in May 2016, Clark hosted Hu Chunhua, the top Communist Party official in Guangdong province, and a 200-person trade delegation. Lee’s name is on the list of invitees for a May 8, 2016 banquet, but he does not appear in any of the official government photographs of Hu’s two-day visit published on the B.C. government website. 

Lee’s Shanghai incident happened three years after Google warned Gmail users about state-sponsored email hacking and two years after whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations focused global media attention on cybersecurity and privacy.

Coincidentally, Lee’s revelation came two days before the anniversary of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s Dec. 1, 2018 arrest on a U.S. warrant at Vancouver International Airport. Meng awaits a Jan. 20, 2020 extradition hearing in Vancouver, at which her detention and the handling of her electronic devices by Canadian authorities will be argued.

Lee also said that Coleman and then-Consul General Liu Fei had suggested he not attend the annual candlelight vigil for victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Lee speculated that is the reason he was denied entry to China.

“I think we have the freedom of expression in Canada and we should be allowed to practice our freedom and rights to attend events like this. I didn’t go there as an elected official,” Lee said.

Lee said he now thinks the 2015 incident was more serious than he originally thought, though he said an MLA’s email is usually not as important as a cabinet minister’s email.

Lee went public about the incident which is described in the letter that he wrote last Dec. 31 to then-Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and then-Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye. The letter was also copied to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He did not receive an acknowledgement of receipt until last week, when reporters started inquiring to the federal government. 

Lee’s letter contained five new year’s wishes for better relations between Canada and China, including the release of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and that Meng is not extradited to the United States.

In May 2016, B.C. Premier Christy Clark hosted Guangdong Communist Party Secretary Hu Chunhua (upper right). Hu is now vice-premier of China. Current BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is lower left. (BC Gov)

Lee’s letter also revealed that the Consulate General of China in Vancouver since 2014 had been pressuring community organizations and individuals to shut him out of their events. He wrote that he had been previously denied a visa in 2002, the year after he was first elected. 

Clark and ex-Speaker Linda Reid did not respond to

Kate Ryan-Lloyd, who is now the Acting Clerk, said she was not aware of concerns related to Lee’s trip until Nov. 29 media reports. She did not know if then then-Sergeant-at-Arms or the Legislature’s Information Technology department were made aware of the incident.

The Legislative Assembly is excluded from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which means it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Commissioner, Michael McEvoy, to launch an investigation. In the wake of a corruption scandal exposed by Speaker Darryl Plecas, the NDP government promised in February to finally bring Legislature offices under the information and privacy laws, but the fall session closed Nov. 28 without the tabling of any reform bill.

Attorney General David Eby said he is writing a letter to federal Attorney General David Lametti and pledged to offer B.C.’s assistance.

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Richard T. Lee’s New Year’s letter by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin (Updated Nov. 30 and Dec.

Bob Mackin

The Victoria political advertising company that worked on digital campaigns for BC Liberals Todd Stone and Mike de Jong, and made worldwide news for its role in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, broke privacy laws.

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy (left) and federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien (Mackin)

That is the conclusion of a joint report released Nov. 26 in Vancouver by British Columbia and Canada’s privacy watchdogs.

They say AggregateIQ failed to gain consent for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information when it worked for SCL Group, the Vote Leave Campaign in the Brexit referendum and on provincial and municipal campaigns in B.C.

“With AIQ we now have a Canadian player playing a key role in the troubling ecosystem of political campaigning in the digital era,” said Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien. “This is too close for comfort.”

Therrien and B.C. counterpart Michael McEvoy also found found AIQ failed to properly secure the personal information of 35 million voters in the U.K., U.S. and B.C. 

“While we found that some of AIQ’s services were covered by the consent of individuals, in many other instances, they were not,” McEvoy said. “This includes microtargeted online profiling using social media which was clearly not based on consent. Most concerning was AIQ’s work in the U.S. [to identify Republican voters.]”

McEvoy described AIQ’s data-crunching machine that contained a “whole panoply” of information gained from vendors, such as age, ethnicity, religion, magazine subscriptions, home, vehicle and gun ownership, marital and parental status of voters. All highly valuable for those jockeying for power.

AIQ also obtained psychographic profiles or scores for millions of voters that were derived, in part, from the Facebook user data collected by data scientist Aleksandr Kogan’s app for Cambridge Analytica.

“AIQ stated that it never received the raw Facebook user data collected by Kogan,” said the 29-page report. “However, documents uncovered during our investigation demonstrate that AIQ was made aware that SCL was using data collected from Kogan. The documents also disclose that AIQ was fully aware they were using voters’ OCEAN scores.”

Silvester (left) and Massingham of AggregateIQ (ParlVu)

For clients in B.C., AIQ developed websites and targeted digital advertising, supported campaign websites on the NationBuilder platform and piloted a proprietary tool for a client.

The company was involved in the re-election campaign for Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong, who was the minister responsible for information and privacy before the BC Liberals were defeated in June 2017.

Former Transportation Minister Todd Stone was a client during his unsuccessful leadership bid in 2018. On the eve of the vote, more than 1,300 party memberships that his camp sold were cancelled. AIQ had created fake email addresses for use in online voting. Most of the cancelled memberships were sold in Richmond’s Chinese community and Surrey’s South Asian community.

The Nov. 26 report said AIQ services for a St. John’s, Newfoundland mayoral campaign included robocalls, mass-email and telephone surveys. But its most-famous work was for Vote Leave and BeLeave, the pro-Brexit campaigns that won the 2016 referendum on the U.K.’s European Union membership.

McEvoy did not include names in the report, because the focus was on AIQ, not its clients. McEvoy and Therrien concluded the matter to be “well founded and conditionally resolved.” AIQ co-operated with the investigation and the company committed to implement their recommendations for compliance. AIQ will be subject to followup in six months.

McEvoy, however, rued the lack of penalty for breaking the law and renewed his calls for the B.C. government to enact fines.

“There are no fines because we do not have the authority to levy fines, to be clear, that is an authority we believe regulators in Canada should have,” McEvoy said. “My office should have it to act as a deterrent, to ensure that the public knows somebody is looking after their interests and make sure somebody has their back.”

Nothing nefarious about political ads, says AIQ exec

An executive of AIQ did not agree that the company benefited from a lack of fine.

AggregateIQ website

“It doesn’t feel to me that there is no penalty,” said COO Jeff Silvester, who lamented that the investigation took two years.

“We have cooperated throughout the whole process. It probably would have been cheaper to not cooperate, but that’s not how we do business.”

Silvester was referring to the federal law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which includes a fine up to $100,000 for obstructing the Commissioner’s investigation. Silvester and Zack Massingham started the company in 2013. Massingham had worked on de Jong’s 2011 leadership campaign. Silvester is a former aide to Liberal and Reform MP Keith Martin.

Asked how the investigation affected AIQ’s client roster and revenue, Silvester said it was “difficult to quantify.” He was cagey on staff numbers, but said some full-timers have converted to part-time or contractor status. He said the ongoing investigation had to be disclosed to potential new clients. It scared some away.

“We definitely lost some clients through this and we also maintained some, and we’ve added new ones since,” he said. “Now I can share that [report] with potential clients and they can make up their minds if they want to work with us or not.”

Silvester said the company had no clients in the recent Canadian federal election and is not working with anybody involved in the upcoming U.K. election.

“The [investigation] process itself is a bit broken,” he said. “It didn’t have to be adversarial, we were happy to give them everything they had asked for and we did. it could have been a lot easier for both sides. Two years is a long time to wait for the report.”

Though Silvester is reluctant to identify clients in an interview, he said he provided B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner with a list of “everyone we’ve worked with, for all-time, he looked at every client that we have ever had.”

Mike de Jong on Facebook during the 2017 election

Silvester said he does not regret any client work or outcomes of the client work, but he disagrees with critics of the digital political advertising game.

“Just because a politician wants to share their message with as many people as possible in the most effective way, that is somehow nefarious? What we do is help our clients to get their message out to the people who need to hear it, most effectively.”

During testimony in early 2018, whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who hails from Victoria, had called AIQ a franchise of SCL. In the interview, Silvester remained emphatic that his company is 100% Canadian-owned, the only directors are Massingham and him, and they are two of the three co-owners [Chris Shannon being the other].

“We make every decision for our company and there’s no one that can tell us what to do,” Silvester said. “We have no obligations to any other company, anywhere.”

Massingham’s testimony in September 2018 to the House of Commons information and ethics committee revealed that there was another tech expert involved with the company. He used the words “mentor” and “shareholder” to describe Matthew Watson, the chair and CEO of Victoria-headquartered sports highlights service SendtoNews.

Silvester clarified that Watson’s involvement was primarily during the company’s launch in 2013. Like Massingham in his committee testimony, however, Silvester did not say when Watson ceased to be a shareholder.

“He gave us advice in the early days, we did thank him by giving him some shares, but he ended up returning those shares and he’s not had any role in any of the stuff we’re dealing with now,” Silvester said. “His involvement now is nothing and in the early days was quite limited. Obviously we’re thankful for the help because we had no idea at the time. In terms of day-to-day, no he’s not involved.” 

Silvester said the company remains suspended from Facebook, but does offer advice to clients on how they can deal directly with Facebook.

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Bob Mackin The Victoria political advertising company that