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Editor’s note: The Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement [VSSDM] held a 30th anniversary memorial to the victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 2. The venue was the University of British Columbia’s replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue that Chinese soldiers destroyed in their deadly crackdown on the peaceful student protests for democracy and free speech in Beijing. Dr. Tom Perry was an NDP MLA from 1986 to 1996, and spent two years as the minister of advanced education, training and technology. In 1989, he represented Vancouver-Point Grey. He could not attend the memorial because of teaching commitments in Tumbler Ridge.

This is Perry’s letter to VSSDM that was read at the June 2 memorial.

I remember clearly how it felt in May and the beginning of June 1989 to observe from afar what appeared to be the stirrings of a progressive democratic movement in China. My entire family was excited, including my parents who had lived through World War II and the Great Depression, and who greatly admired many accomplishments of the Chinese Revolution of 1949. Our family had always considered ourselves friendly to China’s attempt to lift its people out of profound misery, ignorance, war, and starvation – even if we knew little about China.

Encouraged by what appeared to be happening in the spring of 1989, I gave a speech in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, June 2, 1989 – precisely 30 years ago. Of course I had no idea of what was about to happen, and was already being planned by the government.

Ex-NDP MLA Dr. Tom Perry (UBC)

My speech expressed the admiration of Canadians for what most of us may have believed was an inevitable historical progression of human rights. Here is part of what I said in the B.C. Legislature the day before the catastrophic repression of a peaceful demonstration:

“… Now we acknowledge China not only as the inheritor of a proud and ancient culture but often as a world leader in health, education and, increasingly, science and technology.

“Far be it from us to prescribe to any nation, great or small, how to develop its society or govern its citizens. But it is natural and totally appropriate that we Canadians should wish for the Chinese people, if they so wish them for themselves, those same rights to freedom of speech, association, religion and security of person that our society has recognized for hundreds of years, and which the world as a whole accepted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the founding of the United Nations

“The greatest achievements of the human spirit, be it the age-old struggle for self-expression of the Jews, celebrated each year at Passover; be it the slave rebellions in ancient Rome or in nineteenth-century America; be it the Enlightenment in Europe; be it the revolutions in France, the United States, Mexico, South America or Russia: all have been inspired and ultimately won by the synthesis of courageous and creative leadership with the genuine and legitimate aspirations of ordinary people.

“We have seen that democratization seems to be an inevitable and insuppressible tendency of human society. We have seen it recently in the Philippines, in the Soviet Union and Poland, and now in China. In all of these movements students and scholars have played an important part. I think that is why Canadians are so enthralled by the developments in Beijing and elsewhere in China. No wonder that Chinese students studying in Canada, as elsewhere in the world, have expressed their solidarity with compatriots and colleagues back home…”

At a June 2, 2019 UBC memorial, laying a flower on the base of the replica of the military-destroyed Tiananmen Square “Goddess of Democracy” statue (Mackin)

It was disturbing to me at that time that a Government (Social Credit) Member of the Legislative Assembly, Russ Fraser, had criticized Chinese students who were studying in B.C. for having supported their compatriots in China. In retrospect perhaps what Mr. Fraser said was an early warning about becoming complacent about human rights that have been won through centuries, if not millennia of hard struggles.

Think about what has happened since. Not only the very next day when the police, acting on government orders, broke up the Tiananmen demonstrations, killing a very large but still unknown number of protestors. What about Russia, Poland, the Philippines, all of which appeared to be bright examples of democratic reform only thirty years ago? What about the United States, formerly so prominent a beacon of democracy and progress for much of the world? Or Turkey? Or how the relatively advanced societies of Iraq and Syria have been ripped apart by totally unjustified militarism?

The Tiananmen Square repression also taught me something about Canada. It seemed natural to me then, as it does now, to stand at the side of students and others who had hoped for something much better. I soon learned that many of my fellow elected officials were afraid to do so. When Chinese students visited the Legislative Assembly on the following Monday, very few Members of the Legislature wished to meet them.

Why was this? I think the answer was that concern about economic relationships took precedence over concern for human rights. Or that many elected officials considered the struggle for real democracy unlikely to succeed, if not hopeless.

Before we condemn them, perhaps on this 30th anniversary of Tiananmen we should consider our own actions today with respect to democratic participation. How many of those around us on this beautiful UBC campus have consistently voted in elections? Of them, how many have informed themselves well about issues and considered the real merits of candidates – rather than voting by rote, or simply following what their friends or families do? How many are considering in depth the decisions of two Liberal Members of Parliament to contest the 2019 election as Independents, and whether or not political party discipline should remain as suffocating as it has become in Canada?

To me, one of the lessons from Tiananmen Square was that democracy is NOT an inevitable trend. Quite the contrary. Repression and dictatorship may be the inevitable consequences of ignorance, bigotry, and failure by individual citizens to exercise their democratic responsibilities as well as their rights.

In Canada we are still well ahead of the curve compared with most of the world. But for how long? What can we as individuals do both here and abroad to foster universal respect for human dignity, human rights, a compassionate and more just society? What might we change in our own lives?

Something to think about not only on June 2nd, but also as we approach Canada Day on July 1st.

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Editor's note: The Vancouver Society in Support

Only in bizarro British Columbia.

Opposition politicians and their friends in the Victoria press gallery are demanding the replacement of one of the most-senior public employees in the province.

What did he do?

Guard information in an era when the deleting, destroying or disappearing of records has become the subject of scandal, at home and abroad.

The BC Liberals tried again to replace Speaker Darryl Plecas on May 30, the final day of the spring session at the Legislature. 

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

The whistleblower and his chief of staff uncovered waste and corruption in the office of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms that prompted an RCMP investigation last year. Clerk Craig James, who was hired for the job in 2011 by the BC Liberals, resigned in disgrace after he was found in misconduct.

Plecas’s latest “sin”? Exercising his right as the chief administrator at the Legislature to call an IT security expert to back-up hard drives in the office of the acting clerk and acting sergeant-at-arms, who retired at the end of the session.

“We have had at least five separate incidents in recent memory where information, documentation and at times evidence have gone missing. Disappeared into thin air,” Plecas’s chief of staff, Alan Mullen, told host Bob Mackin on this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast. “Whether it be information on computers or hard copies. Information has gone missing and when investigators or other interested parties go looking, we have to say ‘I’m sorry we don’t have that information.’ And why? We have no idea. We didn’t want to be in that position again.”

One-by-one, 37 BC Liberal MLAs denounced Plecas as minutes remained in the session. Only Penticton MLA Dan Ashton refused to read from the script. He urged all leaders, including his own, to come together to solve the problems in the people’s house. (The other four BC Liberal MLAs were absent.)

The last act by the Andrew Wilkinson-led opposition was to leave the chamber early in protest. Something the BC Liberals will regret doing should the RCMP probe yield charges. 

Earlier in the day, the BC Liberals offered one of their own MLAs to replace Plecas, but Premier John Horgan was clear that Plecas, the Abbotsford criminologist who became B.C.’s first independent speaker in 2017, was going nowhere.

“To echo John Horgan, we have a speaker,” Mullen said. “His name is Darryl Plecas. And we would not have known any of this information about all the misspending and wrongdoing at the Legislature had it not been for Speaker Darryl Plecas.”

Listen to Mackin’s feature interview with Mullen.

Also, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, more from award-winning journalist and author Terry Glavin. He makes the case for Canada to say no to Huawei, the flagship multinational company of China Inc.

Plus commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Speaker survives -- but will the BC Liberals?
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Only in bizarro British Columbia. Opposition politicians

Bob Mackin

Prosecutors disclosed evidence to David Sidoo more than a month ago, according to a May 29 status update to the Boston court handling the college admissions scandal.

Vancouverite Sidoo, a former CFL player who became a wealthy stock market player, tops a list of 19 people named in an April 9 indictment. Sidoo pleaded not guilty on April 29 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Dylan (left), David and Jordan Sidoo

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

If convicted, David Sidoo could face up to 20 years in prison. His next court date is June 3, but he is not required to attend.

The joint initial status report by prosecutors and defence lawyers said the government mailed discovery to Sidoo on April 25, before any of the other defendants named in the indictment. There is so much evidence, that discovery was provided on a hard drive and accompanying DVD. The joint filing, however, gave no details about what was contained on the devices sent to Sidoo.

“The government provided defendants with indexes where required and multiple databases in load-ready forms,” said the joint filing. “Defendants are currently reviewing this discovery. The defendants have requested that the government provide more comprehensive indices as required by [court rules] and the parties are conferring regarding this request.”

There is more to come and it will be provided on a rolling basis, approximately once a month.

The joint filing said the parties have requested an interim status conference on Oct. 2.

Mark Riddell (IMG)

The filing also reiterated a condition of release prohibiting defendants from contacting potential witnesses, but defence lawyers called it “vague and impracticable” because the government has not provided them a list of potential witnesses. Defence lawyers want such a list by June 30 that would be updated on a rolling basis if the government identifies more witnesses or co-conspirators.

Sidoo’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, was unavailable to comment on May 31.

Riddell pleaded guilty on April 12 to fraud and money laundering in the scheme hatched by mastermind Rick Singer, who admitted that he “created a side door that would guarantee families would get in.”

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

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

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Bob Mackin Prosecutors disclosed evidence to David Sidoo

Bob Mackin

The wife of an owner of the Vancouver Canucks and a Hollywood North producer and are among those getting a break from the NDP’s surtax on properties worth more than $3 million.

But it is not what you think.

House on civic land in Point Grey that qualifies for exemption from NDP’s so-called schools surtax (Google)

The provincial government slapped the 0.2% surtax on the value of a property assessed at over $3 million last year; the rate is 0.4% on the value over $4 million. It is officially a surtax for schools, but the funds go to general revenue.

The NDP cabinet passed an order on May 17 for the remission of any additional school tax imposed for the 2019 taxation year on 14 properties worth a combined $60.4 million in West Point Grey.

The reason for the tax break is that the properties near Jericho Beach, downhill from “billionaires row,” are ultimately owned by City of Vancouver.

In these cases, typically the additional school and other property taxes are paid instead by the taxable person/persons leasing from the exempt owner,” said a statement from the Ministry of Finance. “Because the additional school tax applies to the full assessed value of the property and not the value of the leasehold interest, we’ve built in an exemption for these owners with homes on leasehold land with less than 30 years left on their lease.”

The exemption only applies if the lease does not include a renewal clause. Should leaseholders renew their leases, they will be charged the tax on the value over $3 million.

“This exemption has been provided so the leaseholders aren’t unfairly paying additional school tax as the value of their leasehold interest depreciates toward zero toward the end of its term.”

Vancouver city hall spokeswoman Ellie Lambert said the city did not request the exemptions for the leased residential properties. 

“The province reviewed the land tenure arrangement for these properties and chose not to levy the school tax on these lessees. The city collects the tax and remits to the province,” Lambert said.

She said the city land holdings include 1,981 leasehold strata units, 34 single family homes on leased land in Champlain Heights and the 14 in Point Grey. 

The 14 properties average $4.3 million assessed value. B.C. Assessment records show the two most-expensive properties are the $6.19 million house registered to Deanna T. Aquilini, wife of Roberto Aquilini, and the $5.24 million house registered to film and TV producer Shawn Michael Williamson. Had they owned the properties, they would have been hit with surtax bills of $10,760 and $6,960, respectively. 

Two of the properties on Belmont and Sasamat were valued at just over the $3 million threshold. The amounts owing would have been less than $200 each. 

The tax policy sparked a lawn sign campaign by BC Liberal-aligned opponents in Point Grey and Shaughnessy. Their threat to mount a recall campaign against NDP Attorney General David Eby, the Vancouver-Point Grey MLA, has not materialized. 

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Bob Mackin The wife of an owner of

Bob Mackin

Why did the BC Liberals attempt a speaker coup on the last day of the spring session of the B.C. Legislature?

Speaker Darryl Plecas moved to secure information in offices in the Legislature on May 29, two days before the retirements of Acting Sergeant-at-Arms Randy Ennis and Security Operations Commander Ron Huck.

Plecas is ultimately in charge of security at the Legislative Assembly and is the superior official in the precinct. It is within the right of an employer to access an employee’s computer; Plecas asked Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and Ennis for their consent to copy their hard drives.

Speaker Darryl Plecas on May 30 (Hansard)

Ennis was deputy sergeant-at-arms to Gary Lenz, when Lenz and clerk Craig James were suspended on Nov. 20.

Why is Plecas concerned about information security?

Plecas’s chief of staff Alan Mullen told theBreaker.news that there have been six separate incidents of evidence going missing from locked safes and offices. Sometimes reappearing. Sometimes not.

Why are Randy Ennis and Ron Huck retiring?

Neither responded for comment on May 30.

They were both described by Horgan in the house as “outstanding people.”

Huck, the security operations commander, was leaving after almost 13 years at the Legislature. Ennis, a former Canadian Forces officer, was at the Legislature when Horgan became an MLA in 2005.

Contrary to the BC Liberal spin, Ennis had made his intention to retire known to the Speaker’s office in early April — about a month before the McLachlin report found Lenz did not commit misconduct.

Does BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak have the confidence of fellow MLAs to remain on the Legislative Assembly Management Committee or in any committee that meets formally or informally behind closed doors?

Polak held a news conference on May 30 to discuss what was said at the May 29 closed-door meeting with Plecas, Green house leader Sonia Furstenau and NDP whip Garry Begg.

Will any MLAs from the NDP and Greens trust her to be present in another closed-door meeting? 

Polak produced copies of her handwritten notes, which have not been independently verified. BC Liberal spinners sought to emphasize comments Plecas allegedly made about retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s $220,000 review, but Polak’s notes mentioned 19 different charge areas, 18 whistleblowers and a potential investigation under the Police Act. 

Who was this staffer that slept overnight at the Legislature?

This was not a non-partisan staffer, but a paranoid party worker: BC Liberal chief of staff Spencer Sproule.

Randy Ennis signalling the arrival of L-G Austin (Hansard)

How serious did the NDP take the offer from the BC Liberals to put one of its MLAs forward, and reduce its voting power from 42 to 41?

A meeting was held between Wilkinson and Government House Leader Mike Farnworth, who is also the solicitor-general. The BC Liberals were hoping to entice the NDP into accepting a new, BC Liberal speaker. One less BC Liberal on the opposition benches would have reduced the NDP’s reliance on the three-member Green caucus. If they agreed, the NDP would have jeopardized the supply and confidence agreement that John Horgan signed with Andrew Weaver two years ago.

Shortly after that meeting, Horgan reaffirmed confidence in Plecas.

“We had a Liberal Speaker [Steve Thomson] when this Parliament began and he chose to resign. Then another Liberal stood up and is now the Speaker,” Horgan said in his session-ending news conference. “I think there is a challenge in this building for sure, but I think the bulk of the challenges are in the Liberal caucus. They’ve had a difficult time finding relevance after a long period of time in government, and I appreciate they have concerns about the legislative assembly, but those are better handled by LAMC.”

While the BC Liberals think the Legislature chaired by Plecas is dysfunctional, Horgan disagreed.

“We’ve passed budgets, we’ve passed legislation, we have daily [Question Period]; the Legislature has been functioning. We have the wood splitter to go down in infamy as part of BC lore, and that would not have happened had it not been for Speaker Plecas’s curiosity.”

Where were BC Liberal MLAs Stephanie Cadieux, Marvin Hunt, Linda Larson and John Martin after 5 p.m.?

Four BC Liberals were not there to read the anti-Plecas script.

Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson told theBreaker.news that she had a 4 p.m. flight and left the Legislature before the statement had been decided. She plans to print and sign a witnessed copy of the statement to show solidarity with her caucus mates. 

One-by-one, 37 of the other 38 BC Liberals in the Legislature, beginning with Mike de Jong, read the statement below to denounce Plecas. Even Assistant Deputy Speaker Joan Isaacs parroted the lines, while in her robes. Could the blatantly partisan gesture by Isaacs against Plecas have spelled the end of her tenure as the third-stringer?

I rise pursuant to a Standing Order 26.

Rookie MLA and assistant deputy speaker Joan Isaacs drew NDP jeers for defying Plecas (Hansard)

Regrettably, I have become aware of behaviour and conduct undertaken by the Speaker with respect to senior officers and employees of this Legislative Assembly that I believe to be improper and compromises the ability of those officers to independently perform their duties.

I have further become aware of activities undertaken by the Speaker, including the seizure of records, including electronic records, that I believe constitute improper conduct with respect to my rights as a member of this assembly and impede my personal freedoms as a member of this assembly.

Insofar as the Speaker serves as the presiding officer of this assembly, I wish to disassociate myself for all purposes, including any subsequent litigation from these actions, which I believe constitute a breach of the individual and collective privileges of this House and a contempt for this House.

Why did Dan Ashton flip the script?

The Penticton MLA was the only BC Liberal to deviate from the script. And the only BC Liberal to send a message to his own leader while doing so.

This is what Ashton said:

I rise on a point of privilege. I would just like to say that my Dad brought me up to ensure that the best pillow is always a clean conscience. He always told me to treat everybody else how you like to be treated. I would like to say, honourable Speaker, to yourself, to the government — including the opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the government and the Leader of the Third Party — that there’s a pallor hanging over this House, the House of the people. It has to be addressed. It has to be addressed now. We’re leaving this place, the House of the people. We’re leaving it until October. This will continue to haunt us. It will not only haunt us during the time that we’re away, but it is going to haunt us for our tenure. We have all been elected here. We’ve all been elected here to represent the people at home. I beg of you, honourable Speaker, to the Premier and to the members of the government, to the Leader of the Opposition and to the Leader of the Third Party, let’s put our collective heads together and resolve the issues so that we can continue to govern the way that we have been elected to do by the people that we represent.

Is a caucus revolt brewing for Andrew Wilkinson?

BC Liberals got an early start on summer, when they vacated their seats in protest before the end of the spring session (Hansard)

Four BC Liberals were absent and a fifth refused to read what was put in front of him. Wilkinson does not enjoy unanimity and the latest opinion poll, by ResearchCo, found that his approval rating and the party’s popularity continue to lag behind Horgan and the NDP two years after the Greens opted to support an NDP minority government. 

Why did the BC Liberals leave the house?

At 5:33 p.m., after Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo read the script, Plecas said the repeated comments did not comply with Legislature rules and attempted to give Finance Minister Carole James the floor. False Creek’s Sam Sullivan was next to parrot the script, however.

Plecas then recognized James, who tabled the third reading of Bill 34. That prompted the BC Liberals to noisily pack-up and go. Plecas let the remainder of the BC Liberal caucus read the script, but no vote was called.

By the time Lt. Gov. Janet Austin arrived to give Royal Assent to the remaining bills, only leader Andrew Wilkinson remained in the BC Liberal benches.

The BC Liberals’ attempted coup, which would have jeopardized ongoing investigations into corruption at the Legislature, failed. The Legislature adjourned for the summer with Plecas in the throne.

If James, Lenz or even a member of the BC Liberal Party is charged, will the BC Liberals withdraw the script and related comments when the Legislature reconvenes in October?

Wait and see.

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Bob Mackin Why did the BC Liberals attempt

Bob Mackin

The acting clerk of British Columbia’s Legislature says that no payment has been made to the law firm for the clerk who retired in disgrace and the sergeant-at-arms who remains suspended.

theBreaker.news wanted to know how much it has cost taxpayers for Vancouver-based Fasken to defend Craig James and Gary Lenz.

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

“I am advised that the Legislative Assembly has not paid any invoices to Fasken for the [2018-19 fiscal year], nor have any invoices been received to date this fiscal year,” said Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd by email. “The last fiscal year in which Fasken received payment from the Legislative Assembly was 2007.”

When James and Lenz held a news conference in Vancouver last Nov. 26, a reporter asked them who was paying their legal bills.

“There is a policy in the Legislative Assembly where the legal fees in matters such as this would be borne by the Legislative Assembly,” James answered. “But the policy also exists that at the end of the day, if somebody is found guilty, that money would have to be repaid. It’s like the government’s indemnity program.”

His lawyer, Gavin Cameron, then interjected: “Just to be fair, I don’t think you should take from that that that’s where my fees are being paid from. I’ll leave it at that. But I don’t want that impression.”

Cameron has not responded for comment.

Dermod Travis of independent watchdog IntegrityBC said the Legislative Assembly Management Committee has an obligation to clarify who is paying the legal bills, “and whether or not those expenses are being covered by a third party.

“I’ve not known many lawyers who have taken on work like this without at least a retainer in place,” Travis said. “If they were working pro bono, that raises a whole new set of questions.”

James negotiated his 11th hour retirement on May 15 after Beverley McLachlin, the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, found that he committed misconduct by paying himself a $257,988 pension and buying $2,150 worth of suits and $2,135.87 of luggage for personal use. 

McLachlin’s May 2-delivered report did not find Lenz in misconduct, so he remains on paid suspension.

Meanwhile, McLachlin confirmed to theBreaker.news that she did not put interviewees under oath.

Her terms of reference as special investigator did not explicitly mention taking testimony under oath or by affirmation. By contrast, the enabling legislation for B.C.’s Auditor General, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Conflict of Interest Commissioner and Ombudsperson includes the power to take testimony under oath. Travis said that should have been explicitly noted in McLachlin’s report with a full explanation.

“It now casts doubt on what the two individuals may have said in their defence and it could also have an impact on the RCMP investigation,” he said.

Government House Leader Mike Farnworth tabled McLachlin’s appointment as a special investigator on March 7. The Legislature granted McLachlin “powers to compel persons to meet with the special investigator and to compel documents and other evidence, except those protected by solicitor-client privilege, to be provided to the special investigator.”

Beverley McLachlin (Jean-Marc Carisse)

McLachlin stated in her report that “it is not a legal investigation,” but was confined to finding facts related to the allegations made by Speaker Darryl Plecas in his January report about waste and corruption in James and Lenz’s offices.

“It is not my task to draw legal conclusions or provide legal opinions,” she wrote. “My investigation is independent of and unrelated to any police investigation into these matters; it is limited to administrative misconduct, ie. conformity with Legislative Assembly rules, practices or policies.”

McLachlin was paid $219,479, including her $110,250 fees, $80,537 for support staff, $17,600 for transcription and $11,093 for travel. Her former Supreme Court law clerk, lawyer Neil Abraham of BLG in Ottawa, worked with her on the project.

The Legislature voted May 16 to keep the transcripts and identity of witnesses confidential and covered by parliamentary privilege, unless authorized by the Legislature or by written agreement of all recognized party House Leaders, “if required to be produced pursuant to an order from a court of competent jurisdiction.”

In a Times Colonist commentary last weekend, Dulcie McCallum, B.C.’s former Ombudsperson, wrote that government reneged on its promise to release the full report.

“Parts of the report had been redacted. Does Robert Mueller come to mind?” wrote McCallum, who is now Nova Scotia’s information and privacy commissioner, referring to the investigation of President Donald Trump.

“Government did the right thing in taking this matter seriously with the appointment of the former chief justice. But fondness for power sometimes has a funny way of calibrating justice. Government has to finish the job by doing what’s fair and just: Release the full report.”

Green house leader Sonia Furstenau (left), NDP’s Mike Farnworth and BC Liberals’ Mary Polak (Mackin)

Meanwhile, the text of the settlement with James has also not been released. All we know is that it contains a non-disparaging clause and a so-called “non-monetary” clause. James is no longer on salary since abruptly retiring and does not have to repay the treasury for his ill-gotten gains.

Neither Farnworth nor BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak responded to theBreaker.news on May 27. Green spokeswoman Stephanie Siddon refused to arrange an interview with Green house leader Sonia Furstenau.

“Is there a clause tied to possible criminal charges and culpability?” Travis wondered. “So that, yes we’re going to let you keep all of this, but if you are charged and found guilty, you’re going to lose it all. We don’t know that.”

Could the NDP-promised expansion of the freedom of information laws to cover the Legislature someday prompt the release of the documents now withheld?

“They clearly didn’t get the message from day one on this, which is the Legislature has operated behind closed doors and dark rooms and people are fed up with it,” Travis said.

The RCMP investigation of James and Lenz continues.

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Bob Mackin The acting clerk of British Columbia’s

Bob Mackin

The only two BC Liberals to suffer consequences from the tainted BC Rail privatization are appealing a massive tax bill almost seven years after they served their sentence, theBreaker.news has exclusively learned.

Under the BC Liberals, the province assumed $6.2 million in legal bills for Dave Basi and Bob Virk, but a federal ruling has classified those payments as a “taxable benefit” that should have been reported as income.

Bob Virk (left) and Dave Basi (A-Channel)

The former aides to Finance Minister Gary Collins and Transportation Minister Judith Reid, respectively, pleaded guilty to breach of trust in October 2010 after the province controversially agreed to pay for their defence lawyers. The B.C. Supreme Court trial, stemming from a 2003 investigation, ground to a halt on the eve of Collins’s testimony.

Basi and Virk’s Tax Court appeal is scheduled for June 24 at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort, across Victoria’s Inner Harbour from the Legislature where police hauled away banker’s boxes full of evidence on Dec. 28, 2003.

The province agreed in November 2005 to pay for their defence costs in the form of a loan that, if convicted, they would repay.

Basi and Virk both signed an Oct. 14, 2010 agreement with Assistant Deputy Minister Richard Fyfe that gave them a “complete release from liability,” after Deputy Minister of Finance Graham Whitmarsh and Deputy Attorney General David Loukidelis put together the $6 million deal that triggered the plea bargain.

The sudden end of the trial meant Collins, Premier Gordon Campbell, ex-Deputy Premier Christy Clark and lobbyist Patrick Kinsella never testified under oath about what they knew and when they knew it. The sudden end of the trial also sparked calls for a public inquiry. 

Basi and Virk were sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest and probation after admitting to receiving a trip to a Denver Broncos NFL game from lobbyists for one of the bidders, OmniTrax. Basi also admitted to receiving $26,000 from OmniTrax lobbyist Erik Bornmann.

Tax Court filings called the provincial government’s payment of $3,236,933 to Virk’s lawyer Kevin McCullough and $2,945,672 for Basi’s lawyer Michael Bolton taxable benefits and unreported income.

In May 2012, the BC Liberal government issued T4A slips for Basi and Virk’s 2010 tax year to the Canada Revenue Agency.

But Basi and Virk say they did not see the T4A slips until January 2014 from CRA. CRA reassessed their 2010 returns in March 2014 and deemed the amounts on their T4A slips as unreported income.

Federal lawyers claim Basi and Virk received a benefit in the 2010 taxation year by virtue of their employment with the B.C. government. But they had been fired nearly seven years earlier.

Basi filed a notice of objection in June 2014, denying receipt of any benefit. But the CRA appeals division confirmed the reassessment in May 2015.

“There is no evidence that the province by this agreement in 2010 intended to confer a benefit nor that [Basi] intended to receive a benefit in relation to office or employment,” said Basi’s July 2016 amended notice of appeal by his lawyer, David Mulroney.

“The province was funding a very expensive trial and wanted out from under that cost, which was out of all proportion to any potential recovery and needed an acceptable outcome. Employment had long since ended and was not then relevant to the decision.”

The provincial government secured Basi and Virk’s plea bargain by releasing any amounts owing. Basi’s filing said that there was no incentive to him, because he had the possibility of being found not guilty and would face certain bankruptcy if he had to pay the money back. The Financial Administration Act says that a debt or obligation to the government of $100,000 or more can only be forgiven by cabinet order. No such order was made in 2010. That, Basi’s Tax Court filings say, also means there was no taxable benefit.

“The Crown’s primary purpose was to save money, and obtain certainty of outcome, not to confer a benefit.”

BC Rail train in 1995 (Trainspotted.com)

Between 1996 and 2011, more than 100 people were granted special indemnities by the B.C. government, amounting to more than $11 million. Of that, $6.4 million went to the Basi and Virk defence. There were six other special indemnities granted to public servants and politicians involved in the trial. An analysis by the Office of the Auditor General found the trial cost $18 million.

In 2001, the Campbell-led BC Liberals ran on a platform that promised not to sell BC Rail. Campbell changed his mind after the landslide victory over the NDP and he put the railway on the block. The sale was fraught with controversy. Bidders CP and Burlington Northern Santa Fe both dropped out, leaving OmniTrax and CN.

CN, chaired by BC Liberal bagman David McLean, eventually paid $1 billion for BC Rail in November 2003.

In its 2013 election platform, the Adrian Dix-led NDP promised to hold a public inquiry to get to the bottom of the BC Rail scandal. Premier Christy Clark, who would have been a target of such an inquiry, led the BC Liberals to a surprise election win.

The John Horgan-led NDP did not repeat the Dix promise in the party’s 2017 platform. The Green-supported NDP minority government finally green-lit a public inquiry in May, about money laundering.

Neither Basi nor Virk are commenting on the Tax Court case.

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Bob Mackin The only two BC Liberals

China dominates international news.

Whether it is the trade war with the United States, questions about Huawei Technologies’ role in China’s surveillance state or the detention of up to a million people in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province.

Human rights activists around the planet will pause June 4 to remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The military crackdown in Beijing may have killed 10,000 people, when peaceful protests demanding democracy were snuffed out.

“It was one of the most important and significant and gallant uprisings in the cause of democracy for the past half century,” said Terry Glavin of the National Post and Maclean’s, this week’s guest on theBreaker.news Podcast.

“It was a countrywide uprising and it was suppressed in the most-gruesome and bloody way.”

Despite the atrocity, China was welcomed into the World Trade Organization in 2001 and hosted the 2008 Olympics. It will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Engagement was supposed to open the door to the west in such a way that China would be more likely to adopt liberal democracy someday. The opposite happened. China became more authoritarian, especially under president-for-life Xi Jinping.

“We fail to draw distinctions between the princeling caste, the red aristocracy, the billionaire parasites that run China and the ordinary Chinese people,” Glavin said. “We don’t take any refugees from China, we used to. We accept the proposition that money is good, that you can look at Vancouver real estate and see the result there.” 

Listen to more from Glavin. 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: Why Canadians should care about Tiananmen Square Massacre's 30th anniversary
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China dominates international news. Whether it is the

Bob Mackin (Updated June 6)

Scandals swirling around the Vancouver Whitecaps, coupled with a slow start, caused thousands of fans to stay away from B.C. Place Stadium in April and May.

According to attendance figures released to theBreaker.news by B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Western conference’s ninth place club drew only 13,273 for the April 17 win over LAFC and 13,898 for an April 27 draw with Philadelphia Union. The Whitecaps overstated attendance on their Major League Soccer scoresheets for those matches as 17,038 and 17,835, respectively.

Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia, April 27 (Mackin)

When the Whitecaps shut out the Portland Timbers on May 10, the club used the figure of 18,356 on the scoresheet. But the attendance was 14,903. It was even worse when the defending champion Atlanta United edged the Whitecaps on May 15 and only 12,204 attended. The club again overstated the attendance, by publishing 16,138 on the scoresheet.

PavCo originally disclosed on May 31 that 11,746 had attended the May 15 match, but, on June 6, the B.C. Place operator notified theBreaker.news that the correct total was 458 higher. “We are informed that this was due to a ticket scanner being offline when the initial numbers were reported,” said the correction note from PavCo records officer Rita Mogyorosi.

The crowd counts for the Portland and Atlanta visits were the worst back-to-back gates since 2012 matches against Sporting Kansas City (10,293) and FC Dallas (13,843). 

The Whitecaps averaged 18,211 last year. They kicked-off 2019 with a trio of matches against Minnesota United (21,858), Seattle Sounders (20,788) and L.A Galaxy (20,988).  Then came the four-game gate slump, as the team drew an average 13,388. 

The downturn began at the April 17 match, when the supporters groups, led by the Southsiders, left their seats in the 35th minute to protest the Whitecaps’ mishandling of allegations by players from the 2007-2008 W-League team, who complained of harassment and bullying by their coach, Bob Birarda. Supporters were also unhappy after learning that 2013-hired youth coach Brett Adams was suspended by the English F.A. for racism.

Whitecaps’ minority owner Jeff Mallett unsuccessfully pleaded with the supporters before the April 27 match to end the walkout protests. The Whitecaps had announced in October 2008 that they agreed to a mutual parting with Birarda. But a timeline that accompanied a May 1 statement, signed by two of the club’s four owners, used the word “termination.” 

Whitecaps fan protest on April 27 (Mackin)

Reporters from the Vancouver Sun/Province, News1130, Star Metro and theBreaker.news were not invited when Mallett spoke to select reporters on May 1.

theBreaker.news twice canvassed sponsors like Bell, BMO, EA Sports and Canadian Tire for their reaction to the scandals and fan protests. None replied. 

The club rescheduled the 40th anniversary match of the 1979 Soccer Bowl championship team from Aug. 31 to May 31.

The 35th minute walkouts are now over. Beginning with the May 25 match against FC Dallas, supporters activated flashlight apps on smartphones in the 35th minute.

On May 27, the club announced that Mallett and principal owner Greg Kerfoot had met the previous week with whistleblowers Ciara McCormack and Eden Hingwing. The club agreed to hire the Sport Law and Strategy Group to conduct an independent third-party review of current and past safe sport policies and procedures, and management of those policies.  

Despite the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s 2016 order for PavCo to release attendance figures, Whitecaps’ chief operating officer Rachel Lewis said the club would stick to its policy of releasing only the “assigned seat numbers” rather than publishing the number of people actually present at a match. 

The biggest B.C. Place crowd for the MLS club was 25,832 against the Seattle Sounders on Sept. 15, 2018. Whitecaps claimed 27,863 on the scoresheet. On Sept. 28, 2016,  only 9,028 witnessed a 4-1 win over Trinidad and Tobago’s Central FC 4-1 in a CONCACAF Champions League match. The Whitecaps announced 17,038.

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Bob Mackin (Updated June 6) Scandals swirling around

Bob Mackin

It pays to advertise and say nice things about the federal Liberal government in an election year.

Case in point: North Vancouver’s Seaspan Corp.

PM’s May 22 announcement in Vancouver (Twitter)

In March, Seaspan promoted its role in the $39 billion National Shipbuilding Strategy with radio ads on Vancouver’s CKNW and News 1130. It also launched five YouTube videos, which have fewer than 1,000 views, combined.

theBreaker.news wanted to know how much the ads were costing taxpayers and whether the federal government had approved of them.

“Public Services and Procurement Canada is aware of Seaspan advertisements but does not review or approve any of their messages,” spokesman Charles Drouin said by email. “Under contracts with Seaspan, some advertising expenditures are eligible to be included within general overhead costs negotiated with the Government of Canada.”

Drouin cited recruitment advertising in trade, technical or institutional journals as an example.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a Seaspan corporate video (Seaspan)

Seaspan spokesman James Mitchell said the company does not disclose information regarding budget, schedule, design or consultations of its advertising program.

“We feel the ads speak for themselves. Seaspan is paying for them,” Mitchell said. “We feel it is important that the community and our stakeholders know what we are doing and how the National Shipbuilding Strategy is helping to grow the marine sector in B.C., is creating thousands of jobs and is delivering great economic benefits to the province.”

One of the videos shows Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan shaking hands with workers in slow motion at the North Vancouver shipyard. Another video, called “More than Ships,” touts economic benefits of $850 million in contracts to more than 540 Seaspan suppliers. In the “Teamwork Builds Ships” video, Seaspan promotes its diverse workforce. An unnamed worker in an office addresses the camera: “I do not only see myself as working for Seaspan, I see myself as working with the Government of Canada and people of Canada.” All messages that can only put smiles on the faces of the ruling party, which is not assured of ruling beyond the Oct. 21 election. 

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

Less than two months after the radio campaign aired and videos were published, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared May 22 in front of cameras in Vancouver, with a Coast Guard vessel and North Vancouver in the background. Another $15.7 billion would be spent on as many as 18 ships for the Coast Guard and Navy. All but two could be built by Seaspan. The others by Irving in Halifax. 

Seaspan already has a deal to build 17 non-combat vessels. The initial $7 billion order for three ships suffered welding flaws.

Mission accomplished for Seaspan and its pre-election ad campaign.

One of the objectives of the announcement on May 22 for the Prime Minister’s Office was to change the channel from the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Easier said than done.

Outside the Opus Hotel in Yaletown, where Trudeau lunched with $250-a-plate party donors, was an SNC-Lavalin pickup truck. Most likely in the area for maintenance at a nearby station on the SNC-Lavalin-operated Canada Line. 

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Bob Mackin It pays to advertise and