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Another milestone in British Columbia’s independent public inquiry into money laundering.

Justice Austin Cullen presided over the first open session on Oct. 18, when lawyers for two B.C. Lottery Corporation executives and an ex-RCMP whistleblower applied to participate in the public inquiry.

“The public has become aware of and concerned about this problem. One recent poll reported approximately 90% of British Columbians are concerned about money laundering,” Cullen said in his opening statement.

“There is also an incidental benefit from simply bringing additional concentrated attention to the crime of money laundering. The more awareness there is of its presence, and of the profound social harms it springs from and propagates, the less complacency there can be for facilitating or tolerating it.”

Public hearings will begin sometime in spring 2020. Oct. 23, however, is the first of five public meetings in cities across B.C. 

Premier John Horgan announced the public inquiry in May and cabinet set a May 2021 deadline for the commission to report to the provincial government. An ambitious timeline, what with the size and scope of the problem and those that it affects.

In an interview with theBreaker.news Podcast, senior commission counsel Brock Martland said: “We will be selective in focusing in on things we think we can accomplish and get us to the heart of we need in terms of evidence, recommendations, policy reforms.”

The inquiry has the power to call witnesses and compel the production of documents. No decision has been made on whether to call former high-ranking politicians yet.

Hear more from Cullen and Martland on this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast.

Plus commentaries, headlines and a compilation of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s broken promises and misleading statements. 

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

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: B.C.'s money laundering inquiry goes public
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Another milestone in British Columbia's independent public

Bob Mackin (updated Oct. 20)

Justin Trudeau’s March-appointed minister of digital government denies she is paying to advertise for her re-election on the WeChat social media and payment platform, despite an official warning by the House of Commons security department not to use the China-based smartphone app.

Joyce Murray, the Trudeau Liberals’ minister of digital government (WeChat)

theBreaker.news has learned that Vancouver Quadra Liberal incumbent Joyce Murray has her own account on the China state-censored platform as well as an account for her supporters. Both accounts carry images promoting the Liberal Party in the Oct. 21 election and attacking Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives. Some of the ads include the “authorized by the official agent” tagline required by Elections Canada.

It is not known how much the party spent to create and place the ads; unlike Twitter and Facebook, there is no proactive disclosure or political advertising registry on Tencent-owned WeChat. Through her spokesman, Jonathan Robinson, Murray said her campaign is not engaged in paid advertising on WeChat.

“My personal WeChat account is one of the many tools I and my team uses to communicate with the diverse residents of Vancouver Quadra. I am not advertising on it; we have not paid for any ads to be placed or promoted on my WeChat,” said a prepared statement from Murray. “My team applies the official agent authorization tag to our many signs, graphics, buttons, cards and other communications products whether or not there may be any placement cost.”  

Although advertising is commonly associated with payment for display of content, the Oxford dictionary defines advertisement as “a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy.” Elections Canada rules deal with regulated advertising, which does not include messages and content on a political entity’s own website or on free websites.

In the wake of his SNC-Lavalin scandal, Trudeau named Murray the treasury board president and minister of digital government in a cabinet shuffle last March. She is not the only Liberal using WeChat. Trudeau has an account. As does Scarborough-Agincourt incumbent Jean Yip. Yip posts similar ads that also contain the authorized by the official agent tagline.

The existence of Liberal Party ads on WeChat appears to contradict part of an Oct. 14 CBC report that questioned the veracity of Conservative Party Chinese ads on WeChat that claim Trudeau wants to legalize hard drugs. The CBC story said the Liberals denied using WeChat in their social media advertising mix. CBC also quoted spokeswoman for WeChat, Linda Kennedy, saying that “WeChat does not accept or support political ads on its platform.”

A statement received by theBreaker.news from Tencent’s Hong Kong public relations contractor Edelman claims WeChat does not accept or sell political ads on its platform and the company denies that posts which discuss political topics are ads placed on WeChat.

Myriam Croussette of the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections said the Canada Elections Act requires online platforms to keep and publish a digital registry of all regulated ads. Parties that buy ads online “must also disclose all election advertising expenses and ensure that the ads themselves contain the proper authorization statement (tagline),” Croussette told theBreaker.news.

Liberal Party WeChat ads calling Andrew Scheer fake (upper left) and promising gun control (lower right).

The threshold for registry provisions to apply to platforms mainly in a language other than English or French is 100,000 unique visitors in Canada per month, she said. MediaInCanada estimated 750,000 WeChat users in Canada.

In the event of a complaint, the Commissioner of Canada Elections reviews all information received by his office to determine whether the issue falls within his compliance and enforcement mandate,” Croussette wrote. “Cases involving entities outside of Canada can be investigated and there are legal mechanisms that can assist the Commissioner in this work (ex. mutual legal assistance treaties).” 

It is not known how many Canadian users are among the more than 1 billion around the world who use WeChat. But Chinese-speaking voters are obviously vitally important for the Liberal Party in the Oct. 21 election, especially in Toronto and Vancouver-area ridings. The 2016 Census found a Chinese language is the mother tongue of 408,000 people in B.C., primarily Cantonese (193,530) and Mandarin (186,325). Nationwide, the number is 1.25 million.

Murray’s supporters’ group on WeChat is followed by more than 200 individuals and organizations. One of them is the taxpayer-funded Liberal Research Bureau.

Last July, House of Commons cybersecurity staff sent a memo to Members of Parliament, staff and administration, warning them not to use WeChat for business or sensitive communications.

Joyce Murray WeChat ad

“Communications sent via the WeChat application are not encrypted, leaving users vulnerable to interception and unauthorized dissemination,” the memo said. “Additionally, messages continue to reside on servers even after users have deleted them, with information pertaining to users’ locations saved as well. These servers are located outside of Canada and so are not subject to Canadian privacy laws. Rigorous protections of user data cannot be assured.”

A message on WeChat earlier this year forced Burnaby South Liberal candidate Karen Wang to quit the race. She posted a message that boasted of being the only Chinese-Canadian on the ballot and referred to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the eventual victor, as “of Indian descent.” Zhou Fengsuo, a survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, told theBreaker.news in an interview that WeChat has become a powerful tool of the Chinese government to organize and finance Communist Party influence activities outside China. WeChat was employed in August to organize pro-China rallies in Vancouver. Some users threatened violence against those advocating for democracy in Hong Kong.

Last fall, the Richmond-based Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society, an affiliate of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front foreign influence program, offered a $20 “transportation subsidy” so that its WeChat group members would vote in municipal elections in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond for a slate of endorsed candidates.

Amid questions about vote buying, the offer was withdrawn. The RCMP investigated, but did not recommend charges.

The WeChat Pay digital wallet has become a major rival to western payment card companies and caused concern among law enforcement. In his 2019 Dirty Money report for the B.C. NDP government, former RCMP senior officer Peter German noted how WeChat Pay is highly popular at money service bureaus and luxury car dealerships in B.C. He warned that “underground bankers now rely on WeChat and other modern means by which to communicate the movement of money.”

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Bob Mackin (updated Oct. 20) Justin Trudeau’s March-appointed

She is the highest-profile politician in Canada who is not the leader of a party or a government.

The first aboriginal attorney general in Canada, who stood up to the prime minister when it came to the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Jody Wilson-Raybould opted to let the independent prosecution proceed against the company on corruption charges in Quebec.

Jody Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver-Granville on Sept. 18 (Mackin)

The disagreement cost Wilson-Raybould her seat in cabinet and then her spot in caucus. Justin Trudeau remains unapologetic, even after being caught violating the conflict of interest law.

The eyes of Canada will be watching the Vancouver-Granville riding on election night Oct. 21, to see whether Wilson-Raybould can keep her seat as an independent. It could be an every-seat-counts, nailbiter of an election night. 

Wilson-Raybould has drawn a coalition of supporters from across party lines and across demographics. She even has donors from as far away as Iqaluit and Halifax. On Sept. 18, she hosted the Night of Independent Voices rally and fundraiser with fellow ex-Liberal Jane Philpott and Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, at Vancouver’s Hellenic Community Centre.

“Over the last eight months we have heard a lot about truth to power, truth to power is of course important, but so too is the power of truth,” Wilson-Raybould said in the speech, that you can hear on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast. “One of the problems with our partisan politics is we do not get enough truth, we get packaged truths, we get spun truths, we get partisan truths. But here’s the thing: no political party has the monopoly on truth. And where truths are bent and shaped to meet a partisan agenda or create spin, that is no longer truthful.”

Wilson-Raybould said the global trend toward the erosion of democracy, trafficking in fear and promotion of division can be reversed by fostering independence, integrity and cooperation.

“We need to have the courage and wisdom to support a good idea and good works no matter who says it or what political party they may be part of,” she said. “We need to stop with empty pandering and put down that make up partisan politics and actually do what Canadians want us to do. A more honourable politics.”

Kevin Falcon (left) and Andrew Scheer in Burnaby on Oct. 12 (Mackin)

Also on this edition, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer taps former BC Liberal cabinet minister Kevin Falcon. Should the Conservatives form government in the Oct. 21 election, Falcon will be the volunteer co-chair of a committee aimed at finding savings for taxpayers, by ending corporate welfare.

In an interview, Falcon dismissed speculation that he is looking for a political comeback, seven years after quitting the BC Liberal government.

Host Bob Mackin asked Scheer, should he become Prime Minister, if he would fight organized crime by bringing back the Chretien Liberal-closed Ports Police. Scheer, a former speaker of the House of Commons, was also asked whether a Conservative government would take a cue from B.C.’s corruption-fighting Speaker Darryl Plecas to reform the House of Commons.

Plus commentaries, headlines and a blast from the past: Justin Trudeau’s most-expensive broken promise. 

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

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Jody Wilson-Raybould says independence, integrity and cooperation are needed to rescue democracy from toxic partisanship
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She is the highest-profile politician in Canada

Bob Mackin

Justin Trudeau ran away from questions about time and money, when taxpayers footed the bill for his trip to Vancouver at the end of August to star in a Liberal Party campaign ad.

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

His last taxpayer-funded trip to British Columbia before the election campaign officially started included the sequel to the 2015 campaign ad targeted at British Columbians. Both ads show Trudeau running up the world famous Grouse Grind trail in North Vancouver.

The ideal sunny, blue sky conditions of 2015 were replaced on Aug. 30 by fog, rain and cool temperatures at the tourist attraction. The conditions were a symbol of Trudeau’s troubled first term as Prime Minister, in which he was found to have broken the conflict of interest laws twice and broke numerous promises. Under the 2015 Liberal platform, Canada was supposed to get electoral reform and communities were supposed to become empowered grant permission for pipelines and LNG plants. Federal books were supposed to be balanced by election time. 

The Grouse Grind advertising shoot was the key part of Trudeau’s seventh taxpayer-funded trip on a government jet to the west coast since late May. Trudeau had used taxpayer resources to frequently visit B.C. for photo ops, campaign rallies and cash for access party fundraisers in the lead-up to the election.

Before the federal election officially started Sept. 11, theBreaker.news asked both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of National Defence for costs of Trudeau’s trips on government jets to B.C. They both refused to release the numbers. PMO spokeswoman Brook Simpson said the flights for Trudeau and his entourage “followed all appropriate rules and guidelines.”

Climbing the Grouse Grind trail was also an apt metaphor for the rising public debt under the Trudeau Liberals. In 2015, Trudeau got elected on a promise to balance the budget by 2019. 

Clockwise, from upper right: Liberal aides Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, the Grouse Mountain Skyride, star candidate Tamara Taggart and Trudeau’s waiting RCMP motorcade (Mackin)

Trudeau refused to stop and answer a question about the forecast $19 billion deficit from the only reporter on scene at the Grouse Grind trailhead.

Trudeau was joined by B.C. candidates Harjit Sajjan, Terry Lake, Terry Beech and Tamara Taggart. Taggart, the former TV anchorwoman running in Vancouver Kingsway, left the trail only four minutes after beginning the hike. She claimed to have neck pain. She took the Skyride up the mountain and was included later in the ad in a scene purported to be Trudeau nearing the top of the trail.

Taggart did not respond to an interview request.

In 2015, Trudeau claimed a Grind time of 54 minutes and 55 seconds. On Aug. 30, it was reported to be 52:55, exactly two minutes faster. But, strangely, Trudeau would not stop to answer a question about his finish time when he exited the Skyride station toward one of the more than a dozen RCMP vehicles that had waited on standby for four hours.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information from the Metro Vancouver regional government show that Toronto production company Suneeva and ad agency Oryx were involved in the ad’s production. The producers paid a $5,000 deposit and $1,700 rental fee to Metro Vancouver, which regulates the Grouse Grind trail. An application for the production was filed a week earlier, initially for an anonymous VIP hoping to beat his personal best time.

When Grouse Grinders reach the top, they take the Grouse Mountain Skyride down. That is operated by a private company ultimately owned by Shanghai’s China Minsheng Investment Group. The Chinese parent includes directors who are Communist Party members. China Minsheng bought the beloved four season resort from local McLaughlin family in 2017. It was the most-prominent of the many Vancouver area assets sold to wealthy Chinese interests since Trudeau came to power in 2015.

Oct. 21 is election day. 

CLICK BELOW AND WATCH Justin Trudeau star in campaign ads on the Grouse Grind

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Bob Mackin Justin Trudeau ran away from questions

Bob Mackin

The British Columbia Legislature scandal took a detour to a Surrey courtroom on Oct. 9.

A lawyer for Vancouver Sun and Province publisher Postmedia applied to Provincial Court Judge Gurmail Singh Gill to unseal the RCMP’s April 9 version of information to obtain a production order to collect evidence from the Legislature. The hearing had been scheduled before the previous day’s release of former Vancouver Police deputy chief Doug LePard’s damning Sept. 9 report that sparked Gary Lenz’s retirement as sergeant-at-arms.

Daniel Coles (Owen Bird)

Postmedia’s lawyer Daniel Coles said in court that the onus was on the special prosecutor and a lawyer for the RCMP to convince Gill that release of the information would cause serious harm to the administration of justice.

Coles said the application has larger implications for the public interest in knowing how business is conducted at the Legislature and the conduct of the RCMP in the investigation, which is entering its second year. Maximum transparency and accountability is required, he said. ITOs are normally public documents after a search is finished and the evidence gathered, although judges have the power to seal files to protect an ongoing police investigation or the identity of an informant.

Would the release of this ITO related to the trailer and the wood splitter cause serious harm to the administration of justice?” Coles asked in court. “I appreciate that Mr. Lenz and [Craig] James and individuals like them have suffered adversity through this process, but the horse is out of the barn on that issue.… if there is leaked documents and various hearsay evidence and innuendo, well the antidote to that is truth.”

Brock Martland (vancrimlaw.com)

Special prosecutor Brock Martland, Joel Katz, representing the RCMP, and lawyers for James and Lenz all opposed the application with a common theme. Now is not the time for the information to be released, because it could adversely impact the integrity of the RCMP investigation.

“In the course of an ongoing investigation, in which the ball hasn’t stopped moving down the field, there should be caution with respect to whether that sort of opining or analysis of the evidence should come into the public record at this stage,” Martland said.

“The application is a perfectly sound one, it’s not unreasonable and it’s not unfounded. The only real concern that I’m expressing with respect to it is its timing. It’s a little bit too early,” Katz told the court. “It is a complex, and multifaceted investigation and therefore should take as long as it needs to take.”

Lenz’s lawyer Bob Cooper of McEwan Partners said the case has been high profile and highly political. Neither his client nor James, who was represented by Gavin Cameron of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, has been charged with any offence.

“[Police] have been allowed so far to conduct their investigation in the way that they see fit and the way they normally do, in private,” Cooper said.

Gill reserved decision. 

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Bob Mackin The British Columbia Legislature scandal took

Bob Mackin

Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff knew about the unfolding scandal at the Legislature almost four months before the clerk and sergeant-at-arms were suspended and escorted from the Parliament Buildings.

Premier John Horgan with chief of staff Geoff Meggs (centre) on a February 2019 trip to Washington State (BC Gov)

Doug LePard’s Oct. 8-released report found ex-sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz breached his oath as a special constable. The scathing report mentioned a meeting that Horgan’s right hand-man, former Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs, hosted at the Vancouver Cabinet Office on July 30, 2018 with Speaker Darryl Plecas, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan and Alan Mullen, Plecas’s aide.

LePard refers to Meggs not by name, but by his title and as Witness 10. In his interview with LePard, Meggs remembered Plecas gave him a 40 to 50 page report with a long list of allegations, including the 2013 liquor incident that Lenz did not properly investigate.

“He recalled every page had surprising material and that the liquor incident was not the most shocking part,” LePard wrote. “He recalled that the key point regarding the liquor was that it was purchased with legislature funds, placed by the carton in (Clerk Craig James’s) pick-up truck, and delivered to the previous Speaker (Barisoff). He recalled he was told that this information was known to Lenz, and he hadn’t done anything about it, Witness 10 said this information was in the document he saw and was briefly part of their conversation.”

Meggs called the meeting brief and he advised Plecas to bring the information to police so that it could be “professionally assessed.”

“Witness 10 said the Speaker left behind a copy of his report, but he subsequently shredded it, and didn’t brief the Premier until the news broke in November, nor did he have any further knowledge of the matter,” LePard wrote.

Doug LePard

Meggs finally wrote a memo after Solicitor General Mike Farnworth informed Horgan on Nov. 19, 2018 that two special prosecutors had been appointed upon request of RCMP investigators. James and Lenz were suspended with pay and escorted from the Parliament Buildings the next day. For months they said they did no wrong and demanded their jobs back, but James retired in May after being found in misconduct and Lenz quit eight days before the LePard report’s release.

In his interview with LePard, Chouhan also called the meeting brief, but did not recall discussion about the liquor incident. Plecas, LePard wrote, told Lenz on Aug. 2, 2018 that the meeting “did not go well.”

Plecas and Mullen had alleged that Lenz told them on several occasions that he encouraged Plecas to inform Horgan about James stealing the liquor in 2013, in order to force James to resign.

Meggs did not respond for comment.

“Geoff has nothing further to add,” said Sage Aaron, Office of the Premier spokeswoman, by email in the morning on Oct. 9. By afternoon, however, it had become the lead-off issue in Question Period. Meggs released a statement that said Horgan asked him to meet with Plecas about his concerns with James. Horgan is a former Legislative Assembly Management Committee member and NDP house leader who opposed James’s controversial installation as clerk by the BC Liberals in 2011. Meggs’s statement said Vanessa Geary, executive director of the Premier’s office, joined him at the meeting.

“The document I reviewed was not evidence, but a copy of a summary of internal investigations conducted by the Speaker’s Office,” Meggs wrote. “There was no supporting documentation or back-up material. As the report was a duplicate and had nothing to do with the business of the government, I disposed of the copy of the report.”

Did Meggs decide on his own, without seeking legal advice, to shred the document? “Yes, correct,” replied Aaron.

theBreaker.news has asked for comment from Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy.

Meggs was elected three times on the Vision Vancouver ticket led by Gregor Robertson. Despite a promise to run a transparent city hall, Vision made it one of Canada’s most-secretive. In 2016, B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham slammed City of Vancouver for routinely breaking the freedom of information laws. In 2018, theBreaker.news revealed how Robertson used a secret Gmail account to hide email from FOI requesters.

Meggs’s admission that he destroyed a copy of the report puts him at least at odds with the spirit of B.C.’s freedom of information laws — laws that the NDP promised during the 2017 election to reform, after slamming the BC Liberals for mass-deleting email.

In an April 27, 2017 letter from the NDP campaign to the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, the party boasted of tabling a private members’ bill for a strict duty to document law.

Darryl Plecas, Sept. 20 (Mackin)

“Our proposed legislation creates the duty to investigate instances of unauthorized destruction of government information and removes legal immunity from officials who fail to disclose documents, making contraventions of the Act an offence subject to fines of up to $50,000,” said the letter.

Instead of tabling such a law, the NDP government made minor additions to the BC Liberal-enacted Information Management Act that it had previously criticized as insufficient.

The previous BC Liberal government had often used the transitory records loophole to avoid keeping records. Transitory records are temporary records that “are only required for a limited period of time for the completion of a routine action or the preparation of an ongoing record” and can be disposed.

Non-transitory records include useful information that helps explain the history of a relationship, decision, or project; and documentation that is evidence of a significant action (e.g. verification or approval to proceed).

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Bob Mackin Premier John Horgan’s chief of

Bob Mackin

In his report that triggered the retirement of Gary Lenz, former Vancouver Police deputy chief Doug LePard was unable to solve the mystery of the missing memory stick.

The Sept. 9 report under the Police Act slammed Lenz for an “egregious breach of public trust” because he lied about his failure to properly investigate ex-Clerk Craig James’s bulk removal of alcohol from the Legislature in April 2013.

Doug LePard

The LePard investigation stemmed from a complaint filed by Plecas’s chief of staff, Alan Mullen, who also alleged a memory stick had been stolen from one of two safes in the suspended sergeant-at-arms’ office.

In his interview with Beverley McLachlin for her May-released report, Lenz told the retired Supreme Court chief justice that he took witness statements in 2018 about the 2013 incident. He had saved them to a memory stick instead of the Legislative computer network.

“When Justice McLachlin learned of these statements and requested copies, Lenz advised during his interview they could be found in his safe,” LePard wrote. “He did not advise that the statements were on a memory stick. Legislative staff searched for document-based statements but could not find them. Justice McLachlin’s counsel, Mr. Abraham, subsequently communicated with Lenz’s counsel requesting assistance from Lenz to find the statements. Lenz’s counsel then advised of several locations to look for the statements but did not indicate they were on a memory stick.”

Mullen had searched Lenz’s safe on April 3 for another item and took photographs that showed no memory stick was in the safe.

Craig James (left) and Gary Lenz (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

“In other words, the memory stick appeared to Mr. Mullen to have been removed from the safe sometime before Mr. Mullen searched it on April 3 and put back sometime before May 6, when it was located,” LePard wrote.

On May 6, Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd coordinated a search of Lenz’s office. She accompanied Mullen, Witness 5, believed to be Acting Sergeant-at-Arms Randy Ennis, another member of the Legislative Assembly Protective Services, another unnamed person, and Witness 2 to Lenz’s office. They found 10 memory sticks strewn around Lenz’s desk — a majority in the top right drawer of Lenz’s desk. Ennis found one in a safe under the sword case.

LePard wrote that Lenz strongly denied all knowledge of the missing memory stick and obviously could not have physically been involved while suspended with no access to his office.

LePard interviewed Mullen on June 19 at Plecas’s office in Abbotsford.

“Mr. Mullen thought that the finding of the memory stick was highly suspicious, and he suspected Witness 5, since he had the only other key to the office, and he believed Witness 5 was also the only one who knew the code to the safe,” LePard wrote. “Mr. Mullen was also suspicious that [the Acting Clerk] must be involved, since she had arranged for the search.”

While Witness 5 was the only other person with a key to the office, the battery on the electronic safe door had burned out and no code was necessary to open it, LePard wrote.

“Witness 5 strongly denied he had any knowledge of how it could have been gone on April 3 but present on May 6. He offered to take a polygraph. He was present when Mr. Mullen searched Lenz’s safe on April 3 but couldn’t say there was not a memory stick in it because he wasn’t looking for one. He was extremely upset that the Speaker and Mr. Mullen had accused him of wrongdoing.”

LePard relied on the words of witnesses and did not appear to have visited Lenz’s office to physically examine the safe. Ultimately, he ruled there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation and no evidence that the lack of memory stick compromised McLachlin’s investigation.

Ennis retired at the May 30 end of the spring session. Greg Nelson, the deputy sergeant-at-arms, was formally promoted to an acting role by unanimous vote of the Legislature on Oct. 8, several hours before LePard’s report was released by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.

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Bob Mackin In his report that triggered

Bob Mackin

Ex-Speaker Linda Reid, the longest-serving BC Liberal MLA, refused to co-operate with Doug LePard’s Police Act investigation into the suspended sergeant-at-arms.

Linda Reid hiding under her desk for an earthquake drill in 2018. (Twitter)

LePard’s Oct. 8-released report, that sparked the previous week’s retirement of Gary Lenz, said Reid declined, through her lawyer George Cadman, to be interviewed. LePard described an “interview via email” of Reid through Cadman.

LePard wrote July 22 to Reid, hoping to determine whether Lenz spoke to her about the 2013 liquor incident, corroborate Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd’s statement that she discussed the incident with Reid, and to seek any other knowledge Reid had of the incident.

Reid, who was speaker from 2013 to 2017, directed LePard on July 27 to Cadman, who refused an in-person interview. 

Mr. Cadman declined to provide a response to my question of whether Ms. Reid had any knowledge of the 2013 liquor incident involving Mr. James,” LePard wrote. “He also declined to provide a response to my question about Ms. Reid’s recollection of speaking to Ms. Ryan-Lloyd about the incident. He advised that it was his opinion that these questions were not relevant to my investigation.”

Retired-in-disgrace Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz (left) with Linda Reid and Kate Ryan-Lloyd. (BC Leg)

LePard wrote that he explained the purpose of the questions, to the extent that he could while preserving the integrity of the investigation.

Cadman replied: “I appreciate your explanation below of relevance with respect to Questions 3, 4 [regarding her knowledge of the incident, and whether she recalled Ms. Ryan-Lloyd speaking to her about it]. That said, I disagree with her need to answer the same, there will be no response to those questions.

LePard asked whether Lenz spoke to Reid about the liquor incident? Cadman answered no. Did Reid have any documents, information or knowledge relevant to LePard’s investigation? Cadman answered no.

In 2013, Reid knowingly and willingly claimed for her husband’s business class airfare, meals and hotel when she attended a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in South Africa. In March 2014, when Reid was exposed, she said she reimbursed the public treasury for $5,528.16 for the airfare and would eventually repay the rest of her husband’s costs.

Did she? 

Beginning in 2014, this reporter persistently sought proof from Reid. She has never acknowledged phone or email messages, much less shown any proof of repayment. 

The year 2014 was also when $79,000 of renovations to Reid’s riding office in Garden City Mall caught the eye of RCMP officials. A brown bench was bolted to concrete by the curb and surveillance cameras installed, without any recommendation from police. Reid also renovated the kitchen and bathroom, but no charges were laid. Landlord Farrell Estates donated $24,240 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2017.

Speaker Darryl Plecas’s scathing January report revealed how BC Liberal aide Connor Gibson was fired for questioning Reid’s expenses. In February, Reid was replaced as assistant deputy speaker by fellow BC Liberal Joan Isaacs.

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Bob Mackin Ex-Speaker Linda Reid, the longest-serving BC

Bob Mackin

The B.C. Legislature’s suspended sergeant-at-arms lied to retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin before she cleared him of misconduct in May, according to a Police Act investigation.

But Gary Lenz quit his job on Sept. 30 to pre-empt his likely firing.

Resigned-in-disgrace sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz (BC Leg)

“Lenz’s untruthful oral statements and written submissions to Justice McLachlin regarding the 2013 liquor incident – including with respect to his conversations with Speaker [Darryl] Plecas and [chief of staff Alan] Mullen in 2018 – constitute an egregious breach of public trust,” Doug LePard, the former deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department, wrote in a scathing, 112-page report that was released late Oct. 8 by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.

In the Sept. 9 report, LePard found that Lenz did not uphold his oath as a special provincial constable to investigate Clerk Craig James’s April 2013 removal of liquor from the Legislature for delivery to retiring Speaker Bill Barisoff. Plecas’s January report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee said that Lenz told him in late May 2018 that James had ordered three legislative employees to load $10,000 worth of booze bought by the Legislative Assembly into James’s pickup truck. In a February follow-up, Plecas reported that James received only $370 for making the delivery.

LePard decided that Lenz committed discreditable conduct and deceit, worthy of the “most serious end of the range of misconduct” for discipline under the Police Act. LePard noted it was not part of his mandate to mete out punishment. In fairness to Lenz, he recommended that Plecas, both his supervisor and a key witness, obtain independent advice before acting. That was a moot point, because Lenz quit before the report’s release.

James and Lenz were both suspended with pay and escorted from the Parliament Buildings last Nov. 20 by unanimous vote of the Legislature because of an RCMP investigation prompted by a corruption complaint from Plecas. At a Nov. 26 news conference in their Vancouver lawyers’ office, James and Lenz both said they did no wrong and they demanded their jobs back.

McLachlin was hired last March to investigate Plecas’s allegations against the duo and decide whether James and Lenz broke Legislature rules, practices or policies. Her report said James committed misconduct in four of five categories. He negotiated his retirement on the eve of the report’s May release without having to repay the Legislature for suits and luggage and a retirement allowance he gave himself.

McLachlin’s report cleared Lenz of misconduct. But, as LePard pointed out, she was working under time constraints, did not have access to all the evidence and Lenz lied to her.

Doug LePard

“Investigators need to be able to rely on witnesses to be truthful, and this is particularly true of a peace officer who swore an oath to ‘faithfully, honestly and impartially perform [his] duties as a Special Provincial Constable’,” LePard wrote about Lenz.

Plecas, as Lenz’s supervisor, appointed LePard in June after a complaint by Mullen under the Special Provincial Constable Complaint Procedure Regulation. LePard interviewed 14 witnesses under the Police Act to investigate the two-pronged complaint.

On the other complaint, LePard said there was insufficient evidence to find Lenz involved in the 2019 disappearance of a memory stick that contained statements about the 2013 incident. LePard also concluded there was no evidence to suggest McLachlin’s investigation was compromised by the missing memory stick.

LePard vs. Lenz

In the report, LePard wrote that Plecas and Mullen alleged that Lenz, “knowing that [Plecas] had serious concerns about Mr. James, told them on several occasions beginning in April or May 2018, in very strong terms, that Mr. James had stolen the liquor in 2013. They further alleged that SAA Lenz encouraged the Speaker to take this information to the Premier to use to force Mr. James to resign.”

Cell phone logs showed a flurry of 43 calls by Lenz to Plecas or Mullen between June 4 and July 31 of 2018, the period between Lenz reporting the liquor incident and a meeting that Plecas had at the Premier’s office with John Horgan’s chief of staff, Geoff Meggs. Plecas and Mullen alleged that

There was another flurry of 29 calls between Sept. 28 and Oct. 11.

LePard said Lenz testified that he was calling on other topics, such as an issue with stained glass windows, and that he might’ve been “playing phone tag eight or 10 times a day.”

Speaker Darryl Plecas (left) and chief of staff Alan Mullen (Mackin)

When LePard interviewed Lenz on Sept. 5 in the presence of Lenz’s lawyer, Robert Cooper, Lenz denied that he had ever said to Plecas or Mullen that they could use the 2013 liquor incident as leverage to trigger James’s retirement. Lenz told him that if Plecas had concerns about James, Barisoff and the movement of alcohol, it was Plecas’s duty to move forward with it.

Quoting from the transcript of his interview with Lenz, LePard ultimately cornered Lenz on the lack of investigation into James.

Said LePard: “I don’t accept that you had to have reasonable grounds to believe that a theft had occurred to go talk to your close colleague and say, I just want to confirm that you took that back to the liquor distribution branch.”

Lenz replied: “I made a decision, and that decision was not to talk to Craig James. I looked at it from the point that everything I saw was…And we’ve got the — and my staff at the other end here, yes, they are upset and things, and I looked at it from the point of saying, we need to deal with the controls [create a new policy] rather than go down this road. That was my decision.”

In arriving at his decision, LePard said he found significant evidence from Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd, that supported Plecas and Mullen.

“It strongly and credibly rebuts Lenz’s evidence to Justice McLachlin during which he claimed that he assumed Mr. James was returning the liquor for a refund, and that he never believed anything wrong had occurred,” LePard wrote. “Ms. Ryan-Lloyd’s evidence also corroborates Speaker Plecas and Mr. Mullen where they recall Lenz describing the liquor incident as a ‘theft.’ Lenz denied this to Justice McLachlin.”

LePard concluded that Lenz did not conduct an adequate investigation into the April 2013 removal of liquor by James from the Legislative Precinct and that he did not tell the truth to McLachlin or him, both contrary to his policing oath.

In an Oct. 1 statement, Lenz said: “After considerable reflection, I have concluded that the damage that has been done to my reputation will never be fully repaired, and that if I continued as sergeant-at-arms, I would be doing a disservice to my office.”

The announcement of Lenz’s retirement came on the first anniversary of the unprecedented appointment of two special prosecutors on the case, David Butcher and Brock Martland. The RCMP investigation and special prosecutors were not made public until Nov. 20.

A source with knowledge of the investigation, but who is not authorized to speak publicly, said reports about the purchase of a wood splitter and the liquor delivery have been forwarded by the RCMP to Butcher for charge approval.

Lenz’s resignation from a job that he said wanted back came a week after Auditor General Carol Bellringer submitted her resignation, effective Dec. 31. Bellringer’s most-recent report on Sept. 19 was the heavily criticized review of the offices of the speaker, clerk and sergeant-at-arms. She did not find fraud or conduct the anticipated forensic audit.

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LePardReport_Redacted.pdf by Bob Mackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The B.C. Legislature’s suspended sergeant-at-arms lied

Bob Mackin

The rugby-loving, Hawaiian shirt-wearing professor who played a key role in bringing down the 16-year BC Liberal dynasty is leaving politics at the end of this term.

Horgan and Weaver agree to defeat Clark (Twitter)

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver will not run in the next provincial election. A leadership convention could come as soon as next summer. 

“This is not an easy decision for me, there is a long way to go,” Weaver said at an Oct. 7 news conference in the Legislature’s Hall of Honour.

Weaver became B.C.’s first Green MLA when he upset BC Liberal incumbent Ida Chong in 2013 in Oak Bay-Gordon Head. He became party leader in November 2015. Under Weaver, the B.C. Greens hold the balance of power in the Legislature in an alliance with the NDP. He said his caucus has helped reframe climate change as an economic opportunity at a time when youth activism is on the rise. “It’s time to let another generation take the lead.”

In the meantime, Weaver will replace Green house leader Sonia Furstenau on the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, the all-party group chaired by Speaker Darryl Plecas that oversees the operations and spending of the Legislature.

Plecas blew the whistle last year on Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who both retired while under RCMP investigation.

Weaver said he is loyal to both NDP Premier John Horgan and Plecas. He said the stability of the minority government is his primary objective and said the B.C. Greens have demonstrated they are not only a positive influence on the Legislature, but an essential component.

“B.C. Greens have never been as organized or seen as much widespread support as today.”

Weaver could have up to two years left in office. The NDP’s mandate lasts until October 2021 under B.C.’s fixed election dates law, but there is always the chance that Horgan could seek a majority by calling an earlier election. 

The BC Liberals lost their majority in the 2017 provincial election, making it the first minority government since 1952. But, on May 29, 2017, after negotiations with both the BC Liberals and NDP, Weaver’s Green caucus opted for a four-year agreement to support the NDP on budget and confidence bills.

The three Greens and 41 NDP MLAs were enough to defeat the BC Liberal throne speech in the historic June 29, 2017 vote. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon rejected Premier Christy Clark’s bid for another election and asked Horgan to form a new government.

Key measures under the so-called “GreeNDP” Confidence and Supply Agreement included a referendum on proportional representation, campaign finance and lobbying reforms, a $5 per tonne increase in the carbon tax, referral of the Site C dam to the B.C. Utilities Commission, opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and a minimum wage increase. The agreement didn’t stop Weaver from levelling harsh criticism at the NDP’s green light for the $10.7 billion Site C, support for LNG plants planned for Kitimat and Howe Sound, and a broken promise to stop partisan taxpayer-funded ads.

Weaver, a Victoria-born and raised mathematics professor, will be 58 in November. He was Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis at the University of Victoria’s school of earth and ocean sciences and a lead author on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s second through fifth scientific assessments. Weaver was recently hospitalized when he suffered a bout of labyrinthitis, a condition that causes extreme dizziness, temporary hearing loss and vomiting, on Sept. 10 before a speech in Langley.

Weaver said he made the decision to leave provincial politics with his family toward the end of the summer, before the health scare that he said only reaffirmed his decision. While he may resume his university career, Weaver was asked whether he would consider running for federal politics. He blurted out: “swear on a stack of bibles, that will never, ever happen!”

Furstenau got into politics after leading the Shawnigan Residents’ Association protest against the BC Liberal government-permitted landfill near a drinking water reservoir. The high school teacher was elected a Cowichan Valley Regional District director in 2014 and the Green MLA for Cowichan Valley in 2017. At LAMC, she found herself across the table from BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak, who had been the environment minister during the Shawnigan reservoir dispute.

When the Legislature resumes Oct. 7, BC Liberal Tracy Redies (South Surrey-White Rock) is expected to be absent because of a recent heart and hepatitis illness after a trip to Brazil. Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart is back in the BC Liberal caucus after Elections BC found no wrongdoing related to a donation from a constituency assistant. Meanwhile, Jinny Sims is out of the NDP cabinet after it was revealed on Oct. 4 that she is under an RCMP investigation overseen by Special Prosecutor Richard Peck.

Peck is the senior lawyer on Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s defence team.

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Bob Mackin The rugby-loving, Hawaiian shirt-wearing professor who