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The 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June sparked a new wave of protests in Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands of people marched to oppose a proposed extradition law with China.

Protests in transit stations and at the airport have turned violent and there have been allegations of police brutality and involvement of pro-China gang members. China has threatened to send soldiers into the self-governing territory. This weekend, even more protests in the centre of Hong Kong drew hundreds of thousands of people, who have captured the attention of the world.

Pro-Hong Kong protesters have also marched in Vancouver, though a well-organized and well-funded counter-protest outside a Canada Line station by Mainland Chinese students drew larger numbers on Aug. 17. Vancouver Police officers kept a close eye on the crowd, after threats of violence against the pro-Hong Kong side on the Chinese WeChat social media service.

Hong Kongers are marching because they want China to respect the one country, two systems policy adopted with the 1997 handover from Britain to Beijing. They are battling to keep their civil rights and they want more democracy, not less, as China seeks to take more power before the initial 50 years of the handover agreement are up.

One of those protesters in Hong Kong is Isaac Cheng, vice-chair of the pro-democracy students activist organization Demosisto.

Cheng joined theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin on this week’s edition. He is calling for countries around the world, including Canada, to focus not only on economic ties with China. There are an estimated 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong. 

“You have the value of democracy, freedom and human rights. You have the responsibility to urge the government to uphold these moral principles,” Cheng said.

Also on this edition, highlights of the 109th Pacific National Exhibition Fair with PNE president Shelley Frost.

Plus theBreaker.news headlines and commentaries.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Hong Kong activist seeks international support for pro-democracy movement
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The 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square

Bob Mackin

The buyer of a luxury West Vancouver condo is suing the developer for return of the deposit after she claims the contract was cancelled while she struggled to get money out of China.

Onni’s Evelyn in West Vancouver (Mackin)

Jun Chen took action in B.C. Supreme Court on Aug. 8 against Onni Taylor Way Properties Ltd., the company developing the terraced Evelyn condos on a slope behind Park Royal Shopping Centre.

Chen lives in Nanjing, the 11.7 million population capital of China’s Jiangsu province. She agreed to buy a condo in the At Forest’s Edge Three and At Forest’s Edge Four complex for $4.4 million in four instalments, with the balance owing before 4:30 p.m. on the completion date, which would be 10 days after Onni’s notification that the property was ready for occupancy.

The court filing says that Chen’s real estate agent, Robin Fu, entered into an agreement on Aug. 3, 2017 that called for the defendant to pay the agent’s brokerage a 4.255% commission on the first $100,000 and 1.1625% on the balance of the purchase price.

Chen paid the deposit in full, according to the statement of claim, but had a “seriously limited ability to read English” and claims the agent did not reasonably and adequately explain to her what the contract provided for and what consequences would follow from breach of contract.

100 Chinese renminbi

Chen claimed her circumstances changed since the Chinese government moved in August 2017 to stiffen regulations about foreign currency exchange. Chinese citizens can purchase, in China, up to USD$50,000 a year. At the start of 2019, the Chinese government ruled that Chinese citizens must not use foreign currency purchased in China to buy real estate in foreign countries.

“That is to say, the Chinese government made it clear that it has become illegal for the plaintiff to exchange, in China, her Chinese money for Canadian dollars with a view to buying the property, which is located in Canada,” said the statement of claim.

Chen claimed she had sufficient funds, but could not convert her Chinese money to pay the balance and complete the contract on time because of China’s foreign currency control that prevented her from converting Chinese money into Canadian dollars.

Onni’s Evelyn in West Vancouver (Onni)

Onni’s lawyer, Gowling WLG, notified Chen’s lawyer, Remedios and Co., on April 23 that the property was ready to occupy and the completion date would be May 3. A day later, Chen was granted an extension to July 15, on the condition that she would pay an additional deposit equal to 10% of the purchase price.

But, Chen alleges, Onni changed its mind on May 23 and moved the deadline to June 6. On or about June 7, Onni changed its mind again, extending the deadline to June 28. One of the conditions was for Chen to provide an additional $220,495 non-refundable deposit.

But, on June 13, Onni’s law firm Owen Bird told Chen’s lawyer that Onni terminated the contract because Chen failed to pay the balance on time. As a result, Chen’s deposit and accrued interest was forfeited to Onni.

Chen, whose lawyer is Hao Han of Han Lawson, is asking a judge to declare the contract void and to return her deposit, plus interest and costs.

Chen’s allegations have not been tested in court and Onni has not filed a response. 

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Bob Mackin The buyer of a luxury West

Bob Mackin

For the second time in less than two years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was found to have broken conflict of interest laws.

This time, over the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

When Justin Trudeau told Jody Wilson-Raybould in 2015 she would become the Attorney General (Adam Scotti)

In his Aug. 14 report, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found evidence of four attempts to influence Jody Wilson-Raybould while she was attorney general, in a bid to overturn the decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin for bribery and corruption.

“I find that Mr. Trudeau used his position of authority over Ms. Wilson-Raybould to seek to influence her decision on whether she should overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision not to invite SNC-Lavalin to enter into negotiations towards a remediation agreement,” Dion wrote. “Because SNC‑Lavalin overwhelmingly stood to benefit from Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s intervention, I have no doubt that the result of Mr. Trudeau’s influence would have furthered SNC-Lavalin’s interests. The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since the actions were contrary to the constitutional principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”

Dion wrote that evidence showed it was a “major surprise” when the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to negotiate remediation with SNC-Lavalin. Various officials in the Trudeau Liberal government did not heed warnings, beginning Aug. 14, 2018, from Wilson-Raybould’s staff not to interfere politically.

Dion found four attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould, climaxing with the Dec. 19, 2018 conversation with Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick that Wilson-Raybould recorded and released.

In February 2015, SNC-Lavalin was charged with corruption and bribery offences between 2001 and 2011. Beginning in 2016, SNC-Lavalin lobbied the Trudeau Liberals to enact a remediation law, with a view to avoiding a criminal trial. The Trudeau Liberals eventually adopted a remediation regime in 2018, but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided last September that the criminal charges would proceed against SNC-Lavalin. That sparked a flurry of activity, as the Prime Minister’s Office and the Minister of Finance’s office sought Wilson-Raybould to intervene in favour of negotiating with SNC-Lavalin.

“The evidence showed that SNC-Lavalin had significant financial interests in deferring prosecution,” Dion’s report said. “These interests would likely have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced the Attorney General to intervene in the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision. The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since they were contrary to the Shawcross doctrine [about the independence of the attorney general] and the principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”

Dion’s investigation was sparked by complaints from NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nathan Cullen in February after a bombshell scoop by the Globe and Mail about why Trudeau demoted Wilson-Raybould from Attorney General to Veterans’ Affairs. Wilson-Raybould eventually quit cabinet and was later tossed from caucus. She is running for re-election as an independent in Vancouver-Granville.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion (GoC)

A May 2 submission to Dion from Trudeau’s lawyer denied the Prime Minister used his position to influence Wilson-Raybould. The submission claimed Trudeau acted properly, was not motivated by SNC-Lavalin and did not understand Wilson-Raybould’s perspective on the issue. He reiterated his concern for consequences for SNC-Lavalin shareholders, employees, pensioners, customers and suppliers if a conviction were to occur. Trudeau’s lawyer also claimed Wilson-Raybould failed in her duty by “reflexively” deferring to the director of public prosecutions, and alleging that Wilson-Raybould was “infected by legal misunderstanding and political motivation.”

Dion received documents from 14 witnesses and interviewed six of them. Among those listed were Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Morneau and Trudeau aide Ben Chin, Trudeau aides Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, Wernick and recently retired SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce.

Dion provided Trudeau on July 19 an opportunity to comment on the facts gathered. Trudeau began a 10-day string of “personal” days in British Columbia on July 19.

The scandal led to the retirement of clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. Yet his successor, Ian Shugart, declined Dion’s request on June 13 for access to cabinet documents.

Dion wrote that he gathered sufficient information to make a ruling, but was unable to fully investigate the complaint.

“Because of the decisions to deny our office further access to cabinet confidences, witnesses were constrained in their ability to provide all evidence. I was, therefore, prevented from looking over the entire body of evidence to determine its relevance to my examination. Decisions that affect my jurisdiction under the Act, by setting parameters on my ability to receive evidence, should be made transparently and democratically by Parliament, not by the very same public office holders who are subject to the regime I administer.”

Dion’s report was titled “Trudeau II” because his predecessor, Mary Dawson, found in December 2017 that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules over vacations at the Aga Khan’s island in the Bahamas.

“Because there was ongoing official business between the Government of Canada and the Aga Khan at the time each invitation was accepted, Mr. Trudeau, as Prime Minister, was in a position to be able to advance some of the matters of interest to the Aga Khan,” Dawson wrote. “As well, the Foundation was registered to lobby the Office of the Prime Minister at that time. For these reasons, I determined that the vacations accepted by Mr. Trudeau or his family might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence Mr. Trudeau.”

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Bob Mackin For the second time in less

Bob Mackin

A broken 45-year-old Liberal campaign promise threatens to cost taxpayers even more as Justin Trudeau’s deficit government seeks re-election this October.

Canada’s most-expensive vacant land? Squamish Nation wants $30.9 million a year from the feds for 55 acres next to the Lions Gate Bridge where the Pierre Trudeau-promised Pacific Environment Centre was never built. (Mackin)

In April 1974, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government announced it would build the Pacific Environment Centre and a Coast Guard Base across from Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It took out a 71-year lease of 55 acres east of the Lions Gate Bridge on Capilano Indian Reserve 5.

Three months later, Trudeau led the Liberals to re-election over Robert Stanfield’s Progressive Conservatives. But the plan began to unravel when Capilano Liberal MP Jack Davis, Canada’s first environment minister, lost his seat in the July 1974 election to Progressive Conservative Ron Huntington.

Fast forward to 2019. Nothing has been built on the land, which was deemed contaminated in the mid-1990s because of its proximity to the Vancouver Wharves mineral port. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change continues to write multi-million-dollar cheques every year to the Squamish Nation for the vacant land — $124 million during the first 35 years of the contract alone. The lease continues until 2045.

Squamish Nation’s March invoice to the federal government for $30.5 million (B.C. Courts)

Lease revenue the biggest line item for the North Vancouver-based band in a real estate market that grew dramatically during the last decade. The Squamish Nation is demanding more than double what the federal government is paying, so it took the dispute to British Columbia Supreme Court in Aug. 7 filings. 

The court file cites a Squamish Nation-commissioned, $661.9 million valuation by Johnston, Ross and Cheng Ltd. in a Feb. 15 letter to Public Works and Government Services assistant deputy minister Caro Najm.

“By its actions, Canada has gained an advantage to the detriment of the Squamish Nation,” wrote Tom Butler, the Squamish Nation’s business revenue and services director. “In doing so, your office has failed to uphold the honour of the Crown and, in our view, has not operated in good faith.”

Butler sent a $30.56 million invoice to Public Works on March 1, but the Trudeau Liberal government said it would continue to pay the annual $13.5 million rent until the parties solve a dispute over the contract. Indeed, the government disclosed a $13.166 million contract for “rental of land” from the Squamish Nation from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

In an April 29 letter, Butler wrote that a delay in paying the $30.9 million annual rent would “result in significant financial losses, including lost interest, lost investment returns and lost opportunities, for which Squamish Nation will hold Environment and Climate Change Canada accountable.”

Pierre Trudeau (left) and Jack Davis (JackDavisScholarship.ca)

The contract provides for a rent review every five years, but the federal government has balked at the Squamish Nation’s suggestion of former B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch as arbitrator to decide the 2014 to 2019 payments.

Altus Group provided a market value estimate report in April 2015, estimating the market value for 2014 to 2019 to be $237.96 million for annual rent of $8.6 million. The Squamish Nation’s March 2015 valuation by Johnston, Ross and Cheng Ltd., estimated market value of $364.6 million and annual rent of $17.9 million.

The Squamish Nation reported $27.3 million in lease revenue in its financial report for the year ended March 31, 2019.

Despite promising to balance the federal budget by 2019, the Justin Trudeau Liberals are forecasting a $19.8 billion deficit in 2019-2020 after running $14.9 billion in the red last year.

The federal election is Oct. 21.

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Bob Mackin A broken 45-year-old Liberal campaign promise

How did two teenagers from Vancouver Island get all the way to a remote part of Manitoba after allegedly killing as many as three people in Northern British Columbia? Why was the drug overdose death of a teenager at a Langley, B.C. skateboard park initially reported as an incident requiring the Independent Investigations Office? Why are the names of victims of a fatal July floatplane crash in B.C. kept secret by B.C. authorities?

In an age of transparency, police and regulatory agencies in Canada are less forthcoming than counterparts south of the border in the United States. Canadian authorities tend to default to privacy. Yet they are frequently asking the public for help. 

“They’re wondering why the public is not coming forward with information,” said Kash Heed, a former solicitor general of British Columbia who is this week’s guest on theBreaker.news Podcast. “They expect it to be a one-way street.” 

“They can absolutely afford to tell us a lot more than they’re telling us right now,” said Heed, a former superintendent of the Vancouver Police and chief of the West Vancouver Police. He calls it a disturbing trend with the RCMP not releasing anything on certain incidents, unless the media finds a reference on social media or gets a tip from an eyewitness. “It’s carried through to some other public accountability agencies, such as the IIO, the coroner’s office, even some of the bureaucracies within our government here that are controlled by some of the political body. The media certainly has a right to raise these particularly issues.” 

Listen to host Bob Mackin’s full interview with Heed. Plus, Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Ex-B.C. solicitor general and police chief sounds-off about RCMP secrecy
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How did two teenagers from Vancouver Island

Bob Mackin

British Columbia might need to take super steps to protect its natural gems from tourists.

Destination B.C., the Crown corporation that markets B.C. around the world, says it has already stopped promoting hot spots as the global trend of overtourism intensifies on Canada’s West Coast.

Quarry Rock (instagram: silvermooncy)

An information note released to theBreaker.news, under the freedom of information law, says that Destination B.C. has adjusted its “seasonal dispersion of visitors” away from popular tourism locations, parks and cruise ship terminals in peak season.

“We’ve also stopped promoting specific ‘hot spots’ completely, including Joffre Lakes near Pemberton (i.e. our last social media post related to Joffre Lakes was in 2016 and Joffre Lakes does not appear on HelloBC.com) and Quarry Rock in North Vancouver,” the briefing note said. “BC Parks, the local municipality and the Ministry of Transportation are working to resolve congestion problems in these areas. While specific research has not been conducted, anecdotal evidence suggests that most visitors to these congested areas are regional British Columbians, not tourists.”

Destination B.C. staff received training from B.C. AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace Canada to increase educational, safety and sustainability messaging. The Crown corporation concedes that it has limited ability to influence the actions of local residents and it has no control over “which areas or experiences are tagged with the #exploreBC hashtag by members of the public.”

“Our team is receptive and responsive to feedback from local experts and advocates who may be concerned with an area or activity that we are promoting online; this feedback is discussed and taken into account for future content planning. Any mistake or misinformation is corrected immediately and publicly.”

Capilano Suspension Bridge (Mackin)

Overtourism is driven by several factors: social media, an expanding global middle class, more flights from more places, and a rise in tourists from the world’s two most-populous countries, China and India.

A report for the World Travel and Tourism Council by McKinsey and Co., titled “Coping with Success: Managing Overcrowding in Tourism Destinations,” said that travel and tourism was estimated to be worth $7.9 trillion to the global economy in 2017. Destination B.C. figures estimate $18.4 billion in 2017 revenue from tourism across the province, with almost 138,000 employees in more than 19,000 tourism-related businesses. Some of the province’s tourism boom is a byproduct of Vancouver hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010.

“But while some places capture a significant share of the [travel and tourism] pie, others barely get a nibble,” said the McKinsey report. “Moreover, some destinations are in danger of being loved to death.”

The McKinsey report said that overcrowding is easier to prevent than to recover from. Overcrowding leads to alienation of local residents, a degraded experience for tourists, overloading of infrastructure, damage to nature and threats to culture and heritage.

Joffre Lakes near Pemberton and Quarry Rock in North Vancouver have received substantial media attention in B.C. for traffic jams and long lineups of hikers. Congestion has also rankled residents in Whistler and neighbours of North Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Grouse Mountain Skyride (Mackin)

Last January, the forested tourist attraction that spans the Capilano River held a public meeting at nearby Cleveland Elementary school. The bridge’s owners were gauging public opinion for their proposal to tear down several aging Capilano Road townhouses in order to expand the parking lot so as to ease traffic congestion. Some 150 people showed up, with speaker after speaker voicing opposition and calling for better traffic management by the attraction itself, one of B.C.’s biggest draws with 1.2 million visits a year. Visitors pay up to $53.95 each, but a 30% discount is offered after 5 p.m. in an effort to ease the congestion.

“The noise from the [WestCoast Sightseeing/Vancouver Trolley Co.] buses all the up and down Capilano Road is horrific,” said neighbour Howard Meakin. “They don’t turn their engines off, they like to keep them idling.”

“We’re dealing with serious vehicle congestion,” Bannerman said. “Adding more cars is not a solution to the vehicle congestion problem, it’s that simple. I just don’t think building parking lots is fashionable these days.”

The townhouses remain standing and the parking lot the same capacity. Handsworth Secondary school remains an overflow parking lot while it awaits demolition and reconstruction. The parent company, Capilano Group, also runs the Stanley Park Pavilion and Prospect Point.

B.C. Day long weekend is one of the busiest for tourists, with the marquee events like the climax of the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks festival and the annual Vancouver Pride Parade. Visitors had to wait up to an hour on Aug. 3 and 4 just to walk across Capilano Suspension Bridge’s signature wobbly span. The company has a joint marketing and shuttle bus arrangement with Grouse Mountain, where visitors who paid up to $59 each on Aug. 3 were faced with an hour-long wait at the end of the afternoon to board the Skyride gondola for their descent to the parking lot. There were similar delays on the suspension bridge and Skyride last winter, for tourists viewing Christmas light displays at the two attractions.

Traffic jams led the federal agency that runs Granville Island to charge for parking in outdoor lots near the public market. Traffic jams and bus idling near the totem poles on Brockton Point in Stanley Park are a constant concern. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s taxi cartel and city traffic engineers brace for the provincial government to finally green light Uber and Lyft, which will present opportunities and challenges.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (sg0305: Instagram)

A budget estimates note for the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in February 2019 on Park Demand, Expansion and Overuse, said total provincial park attendance reached 23.7 million in 2017-2018. It fell 4.5%, because of wildfires, from the historical high in 2016.

“The total park attendance has been increasing on average, at a rate of 3% over the past five years. Camping attendance also experienced a similar average growth of 3% each year and reached approximately 2.9 million persons in 2017-2018,” the document said.

There are not enough camping opportunities to meet demand in parks, so B.C. is spending $22.9 million to add more than 1,900 camp sites over five years. More than 800 will be in provincial parks and 1,000 in recreational sites.

“A number of day-use areas have seen unprecedented increases, particularly in the South Coast region.”

A “visitor use management action plan” was created for Joffre Lakes, in collaboration with the Lil’wat and N’Quatqua first nations, said an email by B.C. Parks executive director David Ranson.

“These [overuse] strategies include parking lot expansion, a shuttle bus service, emergency phone through wifi connectivity, a possible highway web cam and other traffic management actions (e.g. towing of illegally parked vehicles on highway),” Ranson wrote.

Volunteer search and rescue groups are also feeling the pressure of overtourism.

North Shore Rescue counted a record 141 calls in 2018. Their affiliate, Squamish Search and Rescue, was called to Shannon Falls Provincial Park in July 2018 for a fatal incident that drew worldwide attention. A rescue mission turned into a recovery mission, after a member of the High On Life YouTube collective slipped and fell into a pool and two of her cohorts jumped in to try and save her. Ryker Gamble, Alexey Lyakh and Megan Scraper were part of a group that chronicled sometimes extreme adventure experiences in nature for like-minded millennials. They also garnered controversy along the way.

In early 2017, Gamble and Lyakh were sentenced to jail for a week each for trespassing on a geyser at Yellowstone National Park.

“We got overzealous in our enthusiasm for this wonderful place,” the group said on Facebook. “When standing at the face of such natural wonder, we were drawn to it. In an attempt to get the perfect shot, we acted in a way that doesn’t reflect our respect for the environment we were trying to capture.”

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Bob Mackin British Columbia might need to

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is criss-crossing the nation on the taxpayer dime to campaign for the re-election of the Liberal government, before the official election period is declared.

Special attention is being paid to British Columbia, which Trudeau often calls his “second home.” (He lives in Ottawa, the capital, and represents the Papineau riding in Montreal.) The Liberals are in jeopardy of losing seats on the West Coast.

Justin Trudeau on July 29 in Vancouver (Mackin)

Soft NDP and Conservative voters who parked their votes with Liberal candidates in 2015 are likely to abandon the Liberals this October after broken Trudeau promises on the environment and economy. Not to mention his failure to reform the electoral system, balance the budget and implement a “disclosure by default” system of access to information. Then there is the litany of scandals with fundraisers and lobbyists and the SNC-Lavalin scandal that dominated national news for the entire first quarter of 2019. 

Trudeau and his entourage have traveled on a $14,000-an-hour government jet to and from B.C. six times since late May, including B.C. Day long weekend for the Vancouver Pride Parade and a cash-for-access fundraiser in Surrey. In June, Trudeau made a one-day trip to Burnaby, B.C. for photo ops, returned to Ottawa the next day, and turned around and headed all the way back to Vancouver for the Women Deliver feminist conference.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Liberal government has imposed carbon taxes on several provinces, vowed to ban single-use plastics and committed the Government of Canada to billions of dollars of spending to battle climate change at home and abroad. Yet Trudeau is accelerating his exhaust-spewing travel during the pre-election barbecue season in a bid to raise more dough and rally the Liberal troops in order to cling to power.

On July 29, theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin confronted Trudeau with questions about his travel at a photo op in Vancouver.

Why isn’t the Liberal Party picking up the bill? On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, hear what Trudeau had to say to that and the questions of other reporters on other topics.

Plus, Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

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: How much do Air Justin's frequent flights to B.C. cost taxpayers and the environment?
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is criss-crossing the

Bob Mackin (Updated Aug. 2)

EXCLUSIVE: Kelowna West’s Ben Stewart is out of the BC Liberal caucus.

Ben Stewart (BC Liberals)

theBreaker.news understands there was an emergency conference call for caucus members in which they were informed that the MLA in the BC Liberal stronghold has departed because of a matter related to an Elections BC investigation that involves a donation from his constituency assistant.

Elections BC spokeswoman Rebecca Penz said that the agency “received a letter late in the day [Aug. 1] from MLA Ben Stewart in regards to political contributions to the BC Liberal Party. We will be reviewing the matter to determine if there are any issues of compliance with the Election Act.” Penz refused to release details.

Stewart did not return phone calls, but said by email in late afternoon on Aug. 2: “Sorry to advise that I voluntarily left BC Liberal caucus last evening while Elections BC rules on a request I sent them to investigate an irregular donation under new election financing rules. Have to sit out of caucus till EBC rules on the matter. I’m confident there is no wrong doing as this is an administrative matter.”

theBreaker.news has asked Stewart to provide a copy of the letter he wrote to Elections BC, but he has not responded to that request. 

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

The opposition party is already a target of an RCMP investigation announced before the 2017 election. David Butcher was named special prosecutor to look into indirect political contributions and other potential contraventions of the BC Election Act. The outcome of the investigation has not been announced.

Stewart, who founded the Quail’s Gate winery in Kelowna 30 years ago, was elected twice in Westside-Kelowna in 2009 and 2013, but gave up his seat in 2013 so that then-Premier Christy Clark could return to the Legislature after she was defeated by the NDP’s David Eby in Vancouver-Point Grey. In return for his sacrifice, Clark appointed Stewart as B.C.’s Beijing-based trade envoy for $150,000 a year plus expenses. Stewart returned to the Legislature in a 2018 by-election, following Clark’s late July 2017 resignation from politics. 

The BC Liberal Feb. 14, 2018 Kelowna West by-election financing report, audited by Ernst and Young, was originally filed May 11, 2018, but has been amended twice, on Feb. 6, 2019 and May 9, 2019. The latest amendment shows that the campaign reimbursed $5,408.46 in election expenses, pushing the total income up to $121,962.02. The expenditures were amended accordingly, downward to $74,590.78.

Stewart’s departure means the BC Liberals are down to 41 seats, the same as the governing NDP, which has the support of the three Green MLAs in a confidence and supply agreement that helped topple the BC Liberals in June 2017. 

The only other independent is Darryl Plecas, who left the BC Liberal caucus in September 2017 to become speaker. Plecas was the catalyst for Clark’s resignation, after he stood-up to her at a post-election Penticton caucus retreat in July 2017. Coincidentally, Stewart’s move out of caucus happened a day after the second anniversary of Clark’s last news conference as a politician where she falsely claimed that she enjoyed the full support of caucus. 

theBreaker.news has asked the BC Liberal caucus for comment, but nobody from the caucus communications office is immediately available. The caucus has been meeting this week in Terrace. 

This story will be updated when more information is received. 

MORE TO COME…

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Bob Mackin (Updated Aug. 2) EXCLUSIVE: Kelowna West's

Bob Mackin

A friendly interview on a podcast hosted by a BC Liberal donor has reignited questions about opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson’s credibility.

Wilkinson’s appearance on the July 31 edition of This Is Vancolour included claims that NDP Premier John Horgan went all the way to Washington, D.C. to pick up a donation cheque from a union and that Speaker Darryl Plecas went to London just to buy a hat.

“One of the last things that John Horgan did before the hammer came down on foreign fundraising was to fly down to Washington, D.C., supposedly to talk to the Americans about softwood lumber,” Wilkinson said on the podcast. “The real purpose was to pick up a cheque for $375,000 US from the head of the United Steelworkers of America.”

Andrew Wilkinson (left) and Mo Amir (Twitter)

theBreaker.news contacted the BC Liberal caucus office and Wilkinson’s riding office and emailed party president Paul Barbeau to ask for proof of Wilkinson’s allegation about Horgan. None replied.

The Office of the Premier issued an emphatic denial.

That allegation is a complete fabrication,” said Horgan spokesman George Smith. “Premier Horgan went to Washington to stand up for forestry jobs in the softwood lumber dispute, something the BC Liberals never did. He did not ‘pick up’ a cheque.”

Horgan’s official visit to the U.S. capital the week after his swearing-in July 25-27, 2017 did include a meeting with USW president Leo Gerard. But the itinerary also included meetings with Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton, two congress members from the Pacific Northwest, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

USW headquarters made one of the biggest donations in B.C. political history of $500,000, but that was on April 7, 2017 when the equivalent sum in U.S. dollars was almost $373,000. USW also donated $10,000 after the campaign on July 19, the day after Horgan’s swearing-in.

Host Mo Amir asked Wilkinson about Plecas, who blew the whistle on corruption and waste in the offices of Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. Neither Amir nor Wilkinson mentioned the RCMP investigation of James and Lenz or the two special prosecutors assigned to the case.

“[Plecas] took a trip to London to buy a hat, all business class, tens of thousands of dollars,” Wilkinson said.

Amir: “Is that accurate, just to buy a hat?”

Wilkinson: “Yes, that’s entirely accurate.”

In December 2017, Plecas traveled with James and Lenz to London on an itinerary that was arranged by James. While Plecas did buy a ceremonial hat for his duties as Speaker, there were also meetings with officials of the United Kingdom’s MI5 security service and a visit to the Scottish Parliament.

In fact, that was one of the first major trips that led to the Nov. 20, 2018 suspension of James and Lenz, the ongoing police investigation and James’s retirement in disgrace in mid-May.

At the exclusive Ede and Ravenscroft tailor shop, James bought a suit worth almost $1,200 that he billed to the Legislature. In her May report, retired Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin concluded the suit was for James’s personal use, bought contrary to Legislative Assembly rules and therefore a misconduct. James negotiated his retirement the night before he was destined to be fired in the Legislature. The three house leaders, including BC Liberal Mary Polak, agreed to let James retire without repaying a single penny for his misconducts.

(Dogwood Initiative)

On the same trip in 2017, according to Plecas’s January report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, James suggested Plecas lie to customs officers.

“When we were preparing to fly home, I commented that I had bought quite a bit of scotch and that it was likely to cost me a fair sum in duties,” Plecas wrote. “Mr. James replied along the lines of, ‘do as I do – don’t declare anything’. I didn’t take that advice, and I was struck by the brazenness of that comment.”

Neither James nor Lenz addressed the allegation of customs duty avoidance in their February replies to the Plecas report.

Wilkinson also targeted Plecas’s chief of staff, Alan Mullen, saying he was “terminated from his job as a casino security person for being drunk on his job.”

Mullen had been a manager at two Great Canadian Gaming Corp. properties for three years. He later joined Corrections Canada. Mullen sued the casino company for wrongful dismissal in 2007. Reached by theBreaker.news on July 31, Mullen said he “categorically denies at any point being intoxicated on the job or that being a reason for departing Great Canadian.”

Amid all of Wilkinson’s misstatements about others in the interview, he took time to criticize an environmental lobby group’s 2017 campaign finance reform ads that targeted him and then-premier Christy Clark near his Dunbar office and the donor-owned house in which Clark lives. The BC Liberals refused to regulate the size and source of donations before the 2017 election which prompted widespread accusations of conflict of interest in the awarding of government contracts and sale of public lands. More than two years ago, the RCMP opened an investigation of political donations by lobbyists. 

“There was a full-size billboard put up by the Dogwood Initiative opposite my campaign office in the 2017 election accusing me of bribery and corruption,” Wilkinson said. “Those are outright lies, they are falsehoods. I could sue them for defamation and win, but it’s not worth the bother.”

Damage control has occupied much of Wilkinson’s time in 2019.

Mo Amir (left) at a November 2015 BC Liberal fundraiser (SPF Precut)

In late February, Wilkinson was slammed for demeaning tenants, when he called renting “kind of a wacky time of life,” and “a fact of life that’s a rite of passage.”

In an effort to criticize ICBC rate hikes and lobby for private auto insurance, Wilkinson tried to convince reporters in March that the NDP was to blame for an unnamed Volkswagen driver’s insurance premiums zooming from $3,745 to $8,040 a year.

Wilkinson told The Province: “I don’t know the details.” It turned out the VW driver had been blamed for rear-ending another car.

Wilkinson also had to clean up the mess after bozo eruptions by one of the party’s most senior MLAs. In May, ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman compared NDP agricultural land commission reforms to the Holocaust and attended an anti-abortion rally outside the Legislature the next.

Wilkinson’s appearance on the podcast was an apparent move to help the party reach a younger demographic after conceding earlier this year that its caucus and membership had grown old.

The podcast’s host, lumber executive and yoga instructor Mo Amir, began the episode by admitting he is a former card-carrying member of the BC Liberals who sat on a riding association, attended conventions and training sessions, volunteered in communications and “donated thousands of dollars to the party.” But he “quietly stopped all of that in 2013 after Quick Wins,” otherwise known as the ethnic outreach scandal.

The Elections BC database shows $11,370 in contributions between 2011 and 2017 to the BC Liberals from Muhammad Amir (the name the podcast host shares with his father), both individually and from the SPF Precut Lumber company. SPF was a VIP sponsor of BC Liberal MLA Teresa Wat’s November 2015 fundraiser at the River Rock casino’s show theatre, headlined by Premier Christy Clark. 

Mo Amir clarified to theBreaker.news that he did not volunteer or renew his membership in the party after 2013, but had involvement in some of his company’s later corporate donations to the party. 

CLICK BELOW AND LISTEN to clips of BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson from the This Is Vancolour podcast.

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Bob Mackin A friendly interview on a podcast