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Bob Mackin

A real estate investor originally from China is appealing a $1.5 million property tax bill in B.C. Supreme Court.

According to a June 21 petition to the court, Guozhang Wang immigrated to Canada with his family in 2010 and sold his lumber business to his in-laws, Guofang Zhao and his wife Dan Huang for 8 million renminbi. Guofang and Dan did not have 8 million RMB, so they agreed to repay without interest and and without a deadline. They asked for an additional 12.4 million RMB in August 2015, but began repaying when the business improved, including $1.8 million in March 2017.

Vancouver homeowner disputing foreign buyer’s tax on Shaughnessy House (Samuel Cheng)

Wang had already bought four westside properties in 2011, rented them and sold them in 2013 and 2014.

In November 2016, Wang bought a house at 5584 Churchill St. for $8.62 million, but could not find a lender for a $4.31 million mortgage. His CIBC mortgage broker suggested he find a guarantor. So Dan became a 1% title holder through a January 2017 contract purchase addendum.

Wang paid the foreign buyer tax on Dan’s 1% interest, but was assessed $1,529,600, which includes $1,280,070 in foreign buyers’ tax.

In March of this year, the Finance Ministry confirmed the assessment on assumption that the loan repayment in March 2017 was for the acquisition of the Churchill property, deeming Dan had acquired beneficial interest.

The petition argues that Dan does not have a beneficial interest in the property.

“Dan and Guofang do not have any involvement in a real estate business in China or in Canada,” said the petition. “Dan and Guofang have not even visited Canada, aside from one transitory stay of one day (on a YVR layover). The only reason why Dan is on title is because she acted as the guarantor for the petitioner’s mortgage and at CIBC’s request, as added to the title.”

The eight-bedroom, five-bathroom house at the centre of the tax dispute was listed for sale at $11.8 million. 

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

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Bob Mackin A real estate investor originally from

Bob Mackin

A group calling itself Canada Strong and Proud is robocalling Canadians, with a two-question survey about federal party preference and support for oil and gas pipelines.

A 292-word “About Us” page appears on its website. Spoiler alert: it does not actually offer information about the shadowy organization. No names, titles, affiliations or office addresses. No privacy statement — even though Canada Strong and Proud wants to know who you are and how to reach you for its database. Makes you wonder, is it really Canadian-run? 

It is part of the race to campaign anonymously through June 30, after which campaign-period disclosure rules kick-in on the way to the Oct. 21 federal election. You can blame Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada for letting this happen.

In this era of the permanent campaign, why not order full transparency for all political campaigns, at all times?

Click below to listen to the robocall and the organization’s outgoing message. 

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Bob Mackin A group calling itself Canada Strong

Bob Mackin

Troubled SNC-Lavalin is one of the three shortlisted bidders for the $2.83 billion Broadway Subway.

The Montreal engineering and construction company, which faces a criminal corruption trial in Quebec, has been involved with every stage of building rapid transit in Metro Vancouver and is considered a favourite to extend SkyTrain’s Millennium Line under Broadway to Arbutus.

Trevena (left) and Horgan tout toll free B.C., but not free information in B.C. (BC Gov)

Also shortlisted by the B.C. NDP government on June 25 were Spain’s Dragados and Calgary’s Aecon, under the Broadway Connect name, and the Spanish-Italian Acciona-Ghella Joint Venture. The preferred bidder is scheduled to be chosen in spring 2020.

For the Broadway Subway, SNC-Lavalin is officially listed under “West 9th Partners,” but the news release does not say who the partners actually are. It is a list of SNC-Lavalin companies: SNC-Lavalin Capital Inc., SNC-Lavalin Constructors Pacific Inc., SNC-Lavalin Inc. and SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

The company’s tunnelling partner on the Canada Line and Evergreen Line projects was the Italian-headquartered Seli Group. Some of Seli’s Canada Line workers were imported from Latin America and paid less than European counterparts. On the Evergreen Line, the boring machine was stalled for six months in the sinkhole-prone tunnel.

Additionally, SNC-Lavalin Constructors Pacific Inc. was one of dozens of SNC-Lavalin entities that were banned in 2013 from bidding on World Bank-funded projects after corruption in Southeast Asia. If convicted in Quebec, SNC-Lavalin would be disqualified from federally funded infrastructure contracts in Canada and may cease to exist.

Despite all of SNC-Lavalin’s warts, Horgan seemed unconcerned when asked in March about the possibility it could win another major project in B.C. 

“SNC-Lavalin is a large company,” Horgan told reporters. “They put in bids on projects around the world and we’ll look at that closely and if they’re the best bidder and they can meet the requirements of the people of British Columbia, then they will be successful.”

Acciona is the contractor for the stalled $778 million North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project in North Vancouver. District of North Vancouver issued a Stop Work order April 10, after a $20 million B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit against Acciona by subcontractor Tetra Tech that ground construction to a halt in March.

Acciona is also a partner with SNC-Lavalin in a joint venture bid for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement. The key matchmaker appears to be Jim Burke, the former head of SNC-Lavalin operations in B.C. who now works as a consultant to Acciona. Burke has intimate knowledge of the Broadway Subway project, due to his time on the due diligence panel that advised the B.C. government on TransLink’s business case. theBreaker.news recently confirmed that South Surrey-resident Burke made political donations while he was with SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver office to campaigns in Quebec.

In the 2010 SNC-Lavalin annual report photo, Riadh ben Aissa (left), Jim Burke and Pierre Duhaime.

Kiewit and Flatiron are the other bidders for the Pattullo, but a source has informed theBreaker.news that the contract could be awarded sooner than the scheduled fall 2019 announcement.

The NDP’s community benefits agreement that requires higher-cost union labour on provincial infrastructure projects has caused Kiewit and Flatiron to withdraw, leaving SNC-Lavalin the default winner.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has not responded for comment.

theBreaker.news asked fairness advisor Jane Shackell, but she did not confirm or deny.

Shackell, from the law firm Miller Thomson, is the fairness advisor on both the Pattullo and Broadway Subway. Her job is to monitor all workshops and topic meetings for bidders, proposal evaluations and the selection of the preferred bidder. She also reports on an ongoing basis to the province.

“As fairness advisor for the Pattullo project, I advise the project team on fairness issues during the procurement, and report to the Project Board on whether the procurement is carried out fairly and in accordance with project documents,” Shackell said by email. “Other than providing those reports, my role does not include commenting on any aspect of the project.”

Shackell’s name may be familiar to B.C. politicos. According to Elections Canada, she has donated $28,535.31 to the Liberal Party of Canada since 2005.

The companies above have worked together on other projects.

SNC-Lavalin truck in Yaletown, outside a Liberal May 22 fundraiser

Broadway Subway bidders SNC-Lavalin, Aecon, Dragados and Acciona also have contracts on BC Hydro’s $10.7 billion Site C dam. Kiewit and Flatiron previously combined to build the $3 billion Port Mann Bridge. Dragados and Carlson were partnered on Flatiron’s Pattullo bid.

SNC-Lavalin is the main builder of the new $4.4 billion Samuel Champlain Bridge in Montreal, with Dragados parent ACS and the ACS subsidiary Hochtieff.

theBreaker.news also confirmed that SNC-Lavalin vice-president Sam Boutziouvis has lobbied B.C. government officials since last fall — including the office of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena — despite anti-lobbying clauses in the Pattullo Bridge and Broadway Subway procurement rules. Boutziouvis and Trevena had planned to meet in Victoria on budget day in February, but a death in Boutziouvis’s family cancelled the meeting at the 11th hour.

Meanwhile, the NDP-established B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Crown corporation that hires and pays union workers on major infrastructure projects is looking for an ad agency.

On June 24, BCIB published a tender call for “creative development and production services,” with a deadline of July 9.

BCIB is shopping for an ad agency to develop campaigns to target potential workforce contractors and other stakeholders.

“We also require a more robust brand platform, building off of work conducted internally,” says the request for proposals from the yellow construction helmet logo’d Crown corporation.

The non-union Independent Contractors and Businesses Association calls BCIB a ploy to pay-off the NDP’s big money union donors.

theBreaker.news reported that BCIB CEO Irene Kerr, who formerly ran the Port Mann Bridge tolling operation, attended a May 22 Liberal Party fundraising lunch for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election campaign. BCIB denied paying for Kerr’s lunch at the $250-a-plate event at the Opus Hotel in Yaletown.

Coincidentally, an SNC-Lavalin truck was parked outside the hotel. 

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Bob Mackin Troubled SNC-Lavalin is one of the

Bob Mackin

Vancouver city council’s member of the Union of B.C. Municipalities board is downplaying China’s sponsorship of the annual convention and party for local and provincial government officials.

“It’s an hour and a half of canapés and a bar with some speeches and trade delegation-type stuff. It’s not really super nefarious,” said Green Coun. Pete Fry, who met with Xi Jinping’s local

Pete Fry (left), Arjun Singh and Tong Xiaoling (PRC Consulate)

envoy in May to discuss the Sept. 23-27 convention in Vancouver.

The local People’s Republic of China consulate has sponsored UBCM since 2012, the year that Xi became president. Last year, the Communist Party’s supreme leader became president for life. Fry said the consulate pays $6,000 a year for an ad in the program plus whatever it costs for the catered ballroom to ply politicians and bureaucrats with free food and booze.

“We’re building a pipeline to ship bitumen to China, we’re doubling the size of Centerm port to handle more shipments from and to China, so I think there is a bigger conversation and economic development is a big part of what UBCM is supposed to be about,” said Fry, noting China is B.C.’s second-biggest trade partner, with $6.7 billion in 2017 exports.

theBreaker.news attended the 2017 UBCM convention in Vancouver, where the China reception at the Fairmont Waterfront Centre hotel featured a lecture by Acting Consul General Kong Weiwei. Kong summarized the May 15-23, 2017 China-paid junket for mayors from Cariboo Regional District, Barkerville, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam and showed a propaganda video about Xi’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure program that stretches to Africa and Europe.

Scene from the 2017 UBCM party sponsored by China (Mackin)

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who was elected in 2018, said the overemphasis on trade with China is the same type of attitude that allowed South Africa’s apartheid system to continue for so long.

“I have an issue with the UBCM accepting cash for access from any foreign government, period,” West said. “The fact that it’s happening with the government of China is in many respects even worse because of that government’s atrocious human rights record. We’re talking about a government that has up to a million of its people interned [in Xinjiang] for being Muslims, you have the Canadians [Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor] being detained, and to me that makes it even worse.”

Fry and UBCM president Arjun Singh attended a May 13 meeting with Consul-General Tong Xiaoling at China’s heavily secured consular compound in Shaughnessy. Fry said he wants to open up the UBCM convention to other countries for economic development promotion, but has had little interest so far.

PoCo Mayor Brad West (Twitter)

“Both sides agreed that the cooperative relationship between the Consulate General of China in Vancouver and UBCM contributed to mutual understanding, people to people friendship, and local cooperative opportunities between cities of China and the province of British Columbia,” reads the entry about the meeting on the consulate website. “Both sides also exchanged thoughts about how to further improve bilateral cooperation through multilateral participation.”

Asked if China’s human rights record was brought up at the meeting, Fry said “it’s not the kind of thing that was pressed too hard and it was not the kind of thing [Tong] admitted or denied anything.

“It was really just a perfunctory and rather diplomatic meeting. It included a lot of talk about weathery kind of stuff, but also the gist of the conversation was how we could navigate through this reception issue and open it up to be more about international trade and economic development, not just about international trade and economic development about China, expressing that that’s where we would like to see things going.”

NDP trade minister Bruce Ralston (right) and Chinese diplomat Kong Weiwei at the the 2017 UBCM party sponsored by China (Mackin)

West said events like the China-sponsored UBCM reception correspond with Chinese government activities in other jurisdictions, such as Australia.

“All of this is well-documented, these are not hyperbolic concerns expressed, the former head of CSIS [Richard Fadden] raised this as a significant issue,” West said. “This is real. It’s part of a methodical, coordinated and deliberate campaign by the government of China to expand its influence. Some people think they should roll out the red carpet for them, I disagree, strongly.”

U.S., Australian and Canadian authorities have cautioned about Chinese government attempts to influence local governments through pro-Beijing business and expat organizations in a coordinated program overseen by the Communist Party of China’s United Front Work Department.

Clive Hamilton, a professor at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, authored “Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia.” In a May edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, Hamilton said China’s goal, through United Front, is to undermine resistance to the Chinese Communist Party.

“The CCP knows that its program of influence-buying and influence-gathering over the last decades has been extremely effective, so effective that it can get away with outrageous bullying and not get any pushback,” Hamilton said. “Whether or not the government will push back depends, essentially, on the Canadian people.”

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Bob Mackin Vancouver city council’s member of the

The House of Commons is adjourned for the summer.

Let barbecue season begin.

That means incumbents and hopefuls for the Oct. 21 federal election will spend July and August gnoshing and sipping with their donors and volunteers to prepare for the home stretch in September and October. It is a key time for organizing.

theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin welcomes back pollster Mario Canseco of Research Co to set the table for the busy summer that follows a rancorous House of Commons session, dominated by the SNC-Lavalin scandal that will continue to dog Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco (Mackin)

The session climaxed last week when the Liberals passed a motion to declare a climate change emergency one day and then approved the Trans Mountain pipeline the next.

Canseco says the NDP has to get Jagmeet Singh better known across the country. For the Conservatives, they’ll go steady on the economic front and continue to attack Trudeau for his litany of broken promises.

For Trudeau and the Liberals? “There is the advantage of incumbency,” Canseco said. “Somebody who has been there and has more experience than the rivals who are essentially running to replace him.”

Centre-left voters who backed Trudeau to get rid of the Harper Conservatives in 2015 have been repelled by the pipeline approval and the broken promise to reform the electoral system. The Conservatives are highlighting Trudeau’s scandals and failure to balance the budget by 2019.

Meanwhile, Trudeau is portraying himself as a better leader to deal with President Donald Trump. But Trudeau’s visit to the White House was overshadowed by Iran’s downing of an American drone.

Ultimately, Canseco said, the campaign will determine whether Trudeau’s Liberal government is defeated like Paul Martin in 2006 or returned with a minority father Pierre’s in 1972.

Listen to the full interview with Canseco. Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe

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theBreaker.news Podcast: BBQ season sees federal leaders jockeying for volunteers and donors
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The House of Commons is adjourned for

Bob Mackin

During its last three full years of business, a Vancouver payment processing company paid its founder $15 million in salary and bonuses, according to federal criminal charges filed in Las Vegas on June 19.

PacNet founder and part-owner Rosanne Day and three others are accused of mail and wire fraud and money laundering in Las Vegas, for allegedly defrauding clients in mail order schemes.

“During the last five years it was in operation, PacNet processed on average more than $100 million per year in cheques and credit card payments from United States consumers to mass-mail clients,” said the criminal indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of Nevada.

The indictment called PacNet “the payment processor of choice for fraudulent mass mailers in the U.S. and around the world.” PacNet, prosecutors allege, was a vital link between fraudulent mass mail clients and banks, enabling fraudsters to profit from criminal schemes by moving money through the banking system undetected.

Day founded the payment processing company in 1994. In September 2016, the U.S. Treasury declared PacNet a significant criminal organization. The designation was lifted in 2017, but the company has never recovered.

Also charged were part-owner and Ireland office head Robert Paul Davis, director of marketing Genevieve Renee Frappier and chief compliance and anti-money laundering officer Miles Kelly. They could face 20 years in jail if convicted.

Davis called himself general counsel, even though he was not licensed to practice law. He was, however, a licensed pilot and often flew the company-owned plane between PacNet’s Shannon, Ireland office, the U.K. and Continental Europe to pick-up mail and payments. Like Day, Davis was also paid $15 million from 2013 to 2015. Frappier received $800,000 and Kelly $650,000 during the period.

PacNet founder Rosanne Day

Clients included companies that sent notifications to consumers intended to mislead them into believing they would receive a large amount of money, a valuable prize or specialized psychic services upon payment of a fee to the companies. Many victims were elderly or otherwise vulnerable.

“Many victims were inundated with fraudulent notifications and were defrauded multiple times. Some elderly victims spent hundreds of thousands of dollars responding to fraudulent notifications before a family member or a victim’s bank detected the fraud and worked to prevent additional losses.”

The indictment said the four executives had been made aware repeatedly that their clients were engaged in fraud. It said Day had been interviewed at least 13 different times since 1996. In 1998, a U.S. officer told her that PacNet was assisting a money laundering operation. Canadian police executed search warrants in 2001 and 207 at PacNet’s offices during investigations of mass mail clients.

The indictment also said they were aware on at least nine occasions between 2013 and 2015 that their clients had defrauded elderly people who suffered dementia and Alzheimer’s.

A statement on the PacNet website called the indictment “factually flawed.”

“PacNet and its employees intend to fight the charges and prove their innocence.”

“PacNet never knowingly processed payments for a fraudulent mailing. If a customer complained, PacNet refunded its money and charged the mailer. PacNet stands by its compliance program.”

PacNet is resisting B.C. government efforts to seize $15.5 million worth of real estate under civil forfeiture laws, including Day’s house on West 22nd in Vancouver’s Dunbar neighbourhood. The company was a member of the BC Liberal AdvantageBC tax rebate scheme cancelled by the NDP. 

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Bob Mackin During its last three full years

Bob Mackin

Justin Trudeau’s May 22 campaign fundraising blitz in Vancouver drew some of the city’s top real estate titans.

Lists published June 20 by Elections Canada do not show the amount raised for the Liberal Party’s re-election war chest, but the lists do show names of Liberal supporters and the costs of tickets to gnosh with the Prime Minister at a Yaletown boutique hotel and a Marpole gourmet Chinese restaurant.

Tickets were $250 to $1,500 each for the Opus Hotel luncheon with Trudeau, where real estate marketer Bob Rennie was joined by Bien Matute, Sheliza Vellani and Natalie Genest from Rennie and Associates Realty.

Sun Commercial real estate president Chris Lee (second from right) at the May 22 Trudeau Liberal fundraiser. MP Joe Peschisolido is in the background.

Rennie’s Olympic Village developer clients Peter Malek and Shahram Malekyazdi, the brothers who run Millennium Development, were there. So was lawyer Bryan Baynham, who sued on behalf of dozens of Olympic Village condo buyers who complained of shoddy workmanship at the $1.1 billion Southeast False Creek complex.

Baynham was also the lawyer for Vision Vancouver in 2014 when Rennie was then-Mayor Gregor Robertson’s bagman.

Wall Centre general manager Sascha Voth and Wall Financial director David Gruber also attended. Gruber is the riding president for Vancouver Granville, where Liberal-elected Jody Wilson-Raybould will run as an independent in the wake of Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Last year, as lawyer for developer Peter Wall, Gruber was involved in the pre-election billboard and Facebook campaign promoting Hector Bremner’s failed bid for the Vancouver mayoralty. Former BC Liberal caucus worker Micah Haince, who also worked on the Wall-funded Bremner campaign, was also at the fundraiser.

Another Opus lunch attendee was Amy Venhuizen of Richmond-based MYIE Group. MYIE stands for Mo Yeung International Enterprise and Venhuizen is the assistant to namesake CEO Mo Yeung Michael Ching. MYIE is developing the International Trade Centre in Richmond, which will include an Opus Hotel.

Ching, also known as Cheng Muyang, is the son of a late Hebei province Communist bigwig expelled from the party. Ching’s name was on China’s most-wanted list, but he has maintained he is innocent. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the May 22 Neptune fundraiser.

Ching was photographed at several Liberal fundraisers, including some with Trudeau, in the lead-up to the 2015 federal election. His daughter Linda Ching is a former president of the Young Liberals of Canada in B.C.

Irene Kerr, the CEO of the NDP-created B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Crown corporation, was at the lunch. BCIB hires and pays union workers for major public projects, some of which will rely on federal funding. BCIB spokesman Geoffrey Nutter said BCIB did not pay for Kerr’s lunch or reimburse Kerr. 

Anti-Trans Mountain pipeline protester Will George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation bought a ticket and disrupted Trudeau’s speech. He was not the only anti-pipeline protester to pay for access. So did Sven Biggs of Stand.Earth, a group that hired a diesel-powered ad van to protest Trudeau’s visit to Yaletown. 

Trudeau also held a fundraising dinner at the Neptune Palace Chinese restaurant at the south foot of Cambie Street, with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South) and Treasury Board president Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra) also in attendance. Tickets were $750 to $1,500.

Seated near the stage was Westbank Projects CEO Ian Gillespie, whose Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel is Trudeau’s preferred hotel when in Vancouver. Westbank CFO Judy Leung was also on the list of donors.

Sun Commercial president Chris Lee, Bold Properties CFO Justin Khouw, Aspac Developments VP Ryan Laurin, unsuccessful Richmond First school board candidate Jason Zhen Ning Li and restaurateur Ling Xu were listed.

Xu was the name on the deed for a $10.5 million Shaughnessy house bought in 2014 from Chen Mailin, the former duck farmer from China who bought a mansion on so-called Billionaires Row in Northwest Point Grey for almost $52 million in late 2014.

The list showed both a Yajing Wang and ChiChi Wang; Yajing “ChiChi” Wang is an associate at the Liberal-aligned Earnscliffe Group lobbying firm. Her bio says she is a former marketing director with the municipal government in Hangzhou, China.

Elsewhere on the list, two of the names match those of University of B.C. students and their given postal code is for an area on Billionaires Row. Four attendees used a postal code for an area bordering Minoru Park in Richmond that includes the hospital and two motels. 

Only individual Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada can donate to a party, candidate or nomination contestant. The donation limit is $1,600. 

Trudeau was in Kamloops May 21 for former BC Liberal health minister Terry Lake’s nomination meeting. His only government event in Vancouver during the trip was in the morning of May 22 to announce another order of coast guard and navy ships from North Vancouver’s Seaspan.

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Bob Mackin Justin Trudeau’s May 22 campaign fundraising

Bob Mackin (Updated June 27) 

British Columbia’s NDP government says money laundering has happened at colleges.

Peter German’s second Dirty Money report included an anecdote about a student who brought $9,000 in cash in a duffel bag to pay a $150 charge to a college cashier. The rest was deposited in an account. “In effect, the institution was being asked to act as a bank,” German wrote.

What about a hospital popular with foreign mothers?

Richmond Hospital (Mackin)

Richmond Hospital is ground zero for birth tourism in Canada, drawing mothers from China who want their daughters and sons to be born Canadian citizens. Sources tell theBreaker.news that it is not uncommon for maternity ward bills to be paid with cash.

Vancouver Coastal Health said $737,000 of the $6.2 million it invoiced non-residents for maternity services from April 1, 2018 to May 2, 2019 was paid in cash.

Richmond Hospital charges non-residents a $10,000 per diem for normal vaginal delivery and $15,000 for a c-section. The standard daily ward charge for a mother is $3,675.

From April 2018 to February 2019, there were 389 babies born to foreign mothers at Richmond Hospital. During the previous fiscal year, there were 474 — more than 22% of all births to non-resident mothers, almost entirely from China. VCH figures released to theBreaker.news under the freedom of information laws show that Richmond Hospital collected $31,690 in cash for May 21-23, of which $29,565 was maternity related. Four of the transactions were between $6,215 and $8,000. The only substantial cash transaction for the period that was not maternity-related was $1,040 on May 21 for non-resident inpatient.

The Attorney General’s ministry said the government encourages any institution that handles large cash transactions to review its policies with a view to closing opportunities for money laundering. 

“If the hospital costs of the birth are less than the initial deposit, a refund of the outstanding balance is given. For example, if the deposit is $15,000 and the birth costs $12,500, the payee would receive a refund of $2,500,” said the ministry response to theBreaker.news. “However, instances of refunds in these cases are rare and only occur in eight percent of transactions.”

VCH policy states that any money owing on a deposit for maternity services that is paid in cash will be refunded in cash. Last year, that amounted to $17,000 for services not received by patients.

VCH said it recovered 82% of the total maternity costs from non-resident parents, leaving a whopping $1.16 million owing.

“We are continuing to work to recover the remaining amounts,” said VCH spokeswoman Tiffany Akins. “Non-residents are required to make a pre-payment deposit of $10,000 for a vaginal birth and $15,000 for a caesarean birth.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix (Hansard)

In 2018, VCH sued Chinese birth tourist Yan Xia for not paying a $312,595 bill in October 2012. Because of interest, the bill would now be more than $1.2 million.

Last November, the federal Liberal government responded to Richmond activist Kerry Starchuk’s e-petition against birth tourism that drew support from 10,882 citizens. The government said it would not ban birth tourism, but would take steps to protect the public from immigration fraud by undertaking a comprehensive review.

“Applicants must always be honest about the purpose of their visit. Providing false information or documents when dealing with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or Canada Border Services Agency is considered misrepresentation and has significant consequences,” said the official federal response.

In 2016, B.C. government documents indicated the Ministry of Health knew of 26 so-called black market “baby houses” in the Lower Mainland, where foreign mothers pay thousands of dollars to stay before and after giving birth. One such house was next door to Starchuk. 

“If the federal government wants to take steps with this, they’re the agency that has responsibility,” said NDP health minister Adrian Dix in a January interview. “As a provincial government we have to consider that people who present at our hospital that don’t have Canadian healthcare insurance pay the appropriate costs. In the case of births, that they do pay the appropriate costs up front.

“I, in no way endorse it or support the marketing of birth tourism, but we should be clear, matters related to immigration lie with the federal government.”

In January, U.S. authorities indicted 19 people related to a busted 2015 California birth tourism scheme. Investigators found birth tourism companies charged mothers from China between $40,000 and $100,000 each.

“The birth tourism operations not only committed widespread immigration fraud and engaged in international money laundering, they also defrauded property owners when leasing the apartments and houses used in their birth tourism schemes,” said the Department of Justice news release

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Bob Mackin (Updated June 27)  British Columbia’s NDP

Bob Mackin

On the day a damning report was published about contracted residential facilities for minors in government care, the NDP Minister of Children and Family Development refused to answer questions about a fire at North Vancouver facility earlier this week.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s June 19 report found the ministry has no strategy for the use of contracted residential services. It also struggles to find suitable housing for the most-vulnerable children and youth suffering addiction, mental illness and risk of self-harm and suicide.

Smoke damage at the scene of a suspicious June 17 fire in North Vancouver (Mackin)

“The ministry hadn’t defined what contracted residential services should look like or when these services should be used. Instead, the services had evolved on an ad hoc basis to respond to individual and emergency situations,” Bellringer wrote. “The ministry also hadn’t created a plan for the right amount and type of services required to meet the needs of children and youth in contracted residential services.”

theBreaker.news has learned that a youth in care suffered smoke inhalation at a ministry-contracted house early on June 17. During a teleconference with reporters, Conroy was asked whether she had been briefed about the incident. She refused to say.

“I can’t speak to specifics of cases,” Conroy said.

“We always strive to place youth in care that’s appropriate for their needs.”

Deputy North Vancouver District Fire Chief Wayne Kennedy told theBreaker.news that the fire on Sykes Road is being treated as suspicious. Kennedy said that the fire was reported from a caregiver onsite who heard the smoke detector.

“There was one occupant that was located within the structure and was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation,” Kennedy said. “The damage was confined to a single bedroom although there was significant smoke throughout the house.”

RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries said the incident involved a female youth with mental health issues and that it was being investigated as a mental health incident, rather than arson. DeVries said there was no evidence of breach of child protection laws, but could not comment on staffing.

An area resident, who did not want to be identified in this story, said police have been called several times over the last year out of concern for the welfare of the youth in care, after escapes and wailing for prolonged periods heard throughout the neighbourhood. 

A prepared statement from the ministry that was sent to theBreaker.news said caregivers are required to take immediate and appropriate action to protect children when incidents occur that could threaten their safety and wellbeing. The so-called Reportable Circumstance report goes to the Representative of Children and Youth and Provincial Director of Child Welfare.

NDP Minister Katrine Conroy BC Leg)

“We cannot speak to case specifics and we cannot publicly share information on where children and youth in care reside,” said the ministry statement.

theBreaker.news has confirmed that an incident report was received by the Representative for Children and Youth.

“We are aware of this incident and it will be going through our RCY review process,” said Jeff Rud, spokesman for the child protection watchdog’s office. “However, it’s too early to determine whether this is an incident we would investigate.”

Bellringer’s report said the ministry has contracts with approximately 100 for-profit and not-for-profit service providers to deliver housing, food and other goods and services for some of the most vulnerable children and youth in care. Bottom line, Bellringer wrote, there is a higher risk that children and youth were not receiving the quality or type of services they needed.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer

As of March 31, 2018, there were 6,698 children and youth in B.C. government care, of whom 1,148 spent time in contracted residential services. In the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018, the ministry spent $151.5 million on contracted residential services for 17.8% of the bed days purchased. The largest service provider, a for-profit organization, had as many as 70 beds in 60 homes across the province at one time. The average age in 2018 of children and youths in contracted residential care was almost 15, with 58% being male, 53% non-indigenous and 42% with special needs. The average length of stay was 327 days.

In a statement after Bellringer’s report, Conroy said the NDP government accepted all the recommendations. She said the NDP government put a moratorium on creation of new contracted residential agencies in June 2018. None may proceed without senior ministry approval.

After her direction last summer, staff met every child or youth placed in a contracted agency’s care. In the past 12 months, the ministry has completed background and criminal record checks on more than 5,800 existing caregivers and new applicants.

“The ministry has begun audits of contracted residential agencies that examine their finances and compliance with policy for screening caregivers,” said Conroy’s statement. “And, in December 2018, we hired a private firm to undertake a review of all of the ministry’s contracting and payment processes, including those for contracted residential services.

“Where we previously lacked accurate and complete data on residential resources, since 2017 we have compiled an inventory that includes each and every agency and service provider. And we have done an initial assessment of all of those.”

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Bob Mackin On the day a damning report

Bob Mackin (updated June 20 and 24)

A Vancouver city councillor is refusing to answer questions about the support she received for her re-election from a developer who is bidding to rezone a Shaughnessy lot next to a hospice.

Google Street View images from last October show a two-sided sign advertising NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova’s re-election campaign outside 4575 Granville St., near a civic rezoning application sign. Granville Street is one of the most-travelled streets in the city.

Melissa De Genova campaign sign at site of rezoning bid (Google Street View)

The owners of 4575 Granville are Jagmohan Singh Pabla and Kamlesh Rani Pabla, former Kerrisdale restaurateurs who became developers. They want city council to rezone the $4.73 million single-family dwelling so that they can build two, 3.5-storey buildings with a total 21 luxury townhouses renting for $3,700-a-month and-up. The city council public hearing continues June 20. 

De Genova did not respond to an email query. When reached by phone on June 18, she said: “I do not comment on public hearing issues.” 

The project is opposed by the Vancouver Hospice Society, which operates the neighbouring eight-bed hospice. The society is concerned about the impact on staff and patients should it have to close during construction. Once complete, there would be an ongoing loss of solitude for people in the last days of their lives.   

Melissa De Genova (Mackin)

“We’re not opposed to construction, but the magnitude is the issue,” society chair Stephen Roberts said at the June 13 hearing.

When contacted by theBreaker.news, Jagmohan Singh Pabla handed the phone to his son, Gurveer Pabla, the president of Pabla Development Group and a licensed real estate agent with Team 3000 Realty. Gurveer Pabla refused to answer questions and instead asked a reporter to send him an email. He did not respond to the email by deadline. 

The Pablas hired former city planning chief Brent Toderian and Virginia Bird of Pottinger Bird Community Relations to lobby city hall for the rezoning. Toderian was hired at the start of June, before the public hearings, but Bird has worked on the project since 2017.

Bird was also a $500 donor to both De Genova’s re-election and Kennedy Stewart’s mayoral win.

One of De Genova’s campaign nominators was Abundant Housing Vancouver pro-development activist Adrian Crook, who spoke in favour of the Pabla application at the June 13 public hearing. De Genova shared some campaign resources last fall with Crook and four other independents who had been previously linked to the NPA. Crook raised money for his unsuccessful campaign from developers Ryan Beedie and Ian Gillespie, who donated $1,200 each.

Abundant Housing Vancouver’s NationBuilder campaign website forwarded form letter emails to city hall in favour of the 4575 Granville proposal. Some of the proponents are identified only by first names, such as Ayo, Sunny, Nixon, Mariyam, Jessica, Vicky, Gurvir, Sanj and Kumal.

That is not the first oddity. In March of 2018, dozens of Twitter accounts purporting to belong to American-based users, all with middle initials and last names, Tweeted the same messages, such as “4575 Granville in Shaughnessy” and “4575 Granville – Plans, Availability, Prices.” All of those messages contained a since-expired link to Century 21 real estate agent Mike Stewart’s Vancouver New Condos website, which is published in English and Chinese. Stewart was recently flogging pre-sales at 4575 Granville on another website before the June 13 public hearing. More than a week later, Stewart, said that his company mistakenly posted 4575 Granville on his website as market housing and he denies having a business relationship with the Pablas. 

Late in the afternoon of June 20, Roberts made a last-ditch plea before the resumption of the public hearing.

In a letter sent to councillors and media outlets, Roberts wrote that the rezoning process has left him “sad and disheartened about decision-making in Vancouver.”

His letter to councillors and media said that the planning department, which recommended approval, lost a hardcopy petition of 1,500 signatures opposed to the plan and it also ignored an online petition of 5,500 signatures. A city-sponsored public meeting drew 355 people that he said were opposed. It gained media attention, but not the attention of bureaucrats.

Roberts said that hospice supporters and volunteers have been verbally accosted at city hall by supporters of the rezoning, who are involved in the pro-density Abundant Housing Vancouver group.

“But we are up against big money,” Roberts wrote. “A developer with two PR teams. An activist organization seeking to make it look like they are stakeholders and representatives of widespread support, when really it seems they do not intend to live in the affected neighbourhood, or have any concern for other community amenities. Are these activists connected to the developer? I don’t know, but they were the first to register to speak at this public hearing.”

The hospice’s eight beds represent a quarter of the city’s hospice beds. The clinical operations are funded by Vancouver Coastal Health, but volunteers run two thrift stores to keep the lights on.

“With the only access to the hospice and the proposed development and its 32-car underground garage being from a narrow lane at the rear of both, the increased traffic, service vehicles, moving trucks, etc. on an ongoing basis and the excavation, concrete pouring, and large scale construction needed for the 3.5 storey blocks, the very existence of the hospice is threatened,” Roberts wrote. “Ambulances and hearses access the hospice from this lane. The lush, serene gardens of the hospice would be overlooked by patios and BBQs in the development.” 

Meanwhile, Abundant Housing Vancouver wrote a letter to mayor and council on June 20, disputing the suggestion on June 13 by NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick that it is an “astroturf” campaign. The pro-density group claimed it is an “all-volunteer organization with minimal resources” and that letters sent to council via its letter generator are “genuine comments” that deserve consideration by elected officials.  

However, Abundant Housing Vancouver is far from naive.

The directors include Terra Housing senior development manager, Urban Land Institute member and Vancouver City Planning Commissioner Albert Huang, BC Liberal constituency director Thomas Falcone, Crook campaign financial agent Jennifer Maiko Bradshaw and veteran political consultant Brendan Dawe. Dawe’s clients have included the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. and several BC Liberal MLAs, including current leader Andrew Wilkinson. He has also worked as a “message deployment specialist” for SCL Elections. 

SCL Elections is the parent company of controversial Brexit and Trump campaign dataminer and social media manipulator Cambridge Analytica. 

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Bob Mackin (updated June 20 and 24) A