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Bob Mackin

A former captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team said she has no recollection of an investigation into the conduct of the head coach.

Tiffeny Milbrett, the star forward inducted last year to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame, played for the Whitecaps from 2006 to 2008. Bob Birarda was head coach for the same three seasons. The team won the W-League championship in 2006.

Ex-Whitecaps W-League captain Tiffeny Milbrett (USSF)

“I’m two heads to this,” Milbrett said in a phone interview with theBreaker.news. “I feel fortunate that I was treated respectfully, professionally by him. But it makes me very sad to hear some of these other players explaining how they were treated and what their experience was for them.”

The Whitecaps announced in October 2008 that Birarda suddenly left the team because of a mutual separation. More than a decade later, in late February of this year, ex-player Ciara McCormack went public with allegations of harassment and bullying dating back to 2007. That prompted the May 1 open letter from two of the club’s four owners, Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett, that said the head coach’s contract was terminated after sexualized text messages with a player.

The Whitecaps and the Canadian Soccer Association retained lawyer Anne Chopra to investigate complaints beginning in late May of 2008, but have not released her report. Milbrett said she does not remember Chopra. Nor did anyone ask for her input.

“If there was this supposed investigation, I’m just telling you it didn’t feel like it,” Milbrett said. “I don’t really remember anything remotely close to something of an investigation.”

Milbrett said she did not hear complaints about harassment and bullying. She said she did not socialize with Birarda, beyond sitting with him and his family to watch a Whitecaps men’s game at Swangard Stadium. Milbrett, now 46, said she was not a confidante for any of the players on the predominantly young and Canadian squad. The roster became heavily stocked with national team players. Birarda coached the under-20 national team and was an assistant for the senior team. 

Milbrett at the 2018 U.S. soccer hall of fame induction (NSHoF)

“Even though I was the captain of the team, I was completely separated and insulated from probably anything they’re describing now,” Milbrett said.

“I’m very, very thankful that I didn’t experience what they’re saying they experienced, but I also feel in this day and age, I know plenty of players, plenty of stories about coaches, it’s unfortunate that you are to hear about these allegations.”

Midfielder Andrea Neil, who retired from the Whitecaps in 2006 and the national team in 2007, said in late March that she co-operated with Chopra’s investigation, but felt it was incomplete.

“In my opinion, the scope of the investigation was actually quite limited, and I think the soccer community deserves to know why the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer chose to conclude it as quickly as they did,” Neil wrote on her blog.

Bob Birarda in 2005 (CSA)

“I, like many others, was understandably puzzled when the inquiry then concluded with the ‘mutual decision’ to part ways. Despite what I had been told by the independent fact-finder, in the end the inquiry was brief, the conclusion swift and the outcome seemingly amicable for all parties. All parties except, of course, the players.” 

In April, Diane Voice, who was the W-League team’s manager, told theBreaker.news that a player showed her concerning text messages from Birarda. She said the club “guaranteed they were going to protect her and she would not be blackballed from soccer. My understanding now is she never played soccer again.”

Milbrett is a Portland, Ore. native who scored 100 times in 206 appearances with the U.S. national team. She played key roles in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 1999 Women’s World Cup championship teams. In April, she was hired to be director of player development with the Tampa Bay United Rowdies.

Milbrett said there is a general lack of human resources checks and balances in sports. She said the system often fails people who make complaints and proper investigations are not always undertaken. 

“Am I concerned any time there’s a situation where it seems like something wasn’t followed through to the appropriate complaint, or serious allegations were not addressed? Absolutely,” she said. “It makes me very angry and if this was one of those situations, sure, it makes me very angry.”

Birarda was suspended from coaching a teenage girls’ team with Coastal FC in late February and has not commented. B.C. Soccer Association said it would conduct a third-party review. Vancouver Police are aware of the allegations, but have not said whether they are investigating.

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Bob Mackin A former captain of the Vancouver

Bob Mackin

A rare protest in Ambleside, as West Vancouverites took time out from Christmas shopping last year to rally against TransLink’s plan to remove parking spots to make way for a B-Line express bus all the way to Dundarave.

Photo of protesters in West Vancouver (Vanagas/TransLink)

A TransLink executive was also there, taking photographs of the citizens who were worried that less parking would mean fewer customers and more empty storefronts.

theBreaker.news spotted vice-president of customer communications and public affairs Steve Vanagas head to his car after he finished snapping photos from the south side of Marine Drive on Dec. 8.

TransLink did not create a briefing note about the protest, but Vanagas, who was paid more than $200,000 in 2017, did file the photographs that he shot facing the north side of Marine.

TransLink’s freedom of information office censored the faces of protesters and licence plates on vehicles.

In April, District of West Vancouver council voted against the B-Line’s expansion beyond Park Royal. 

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TransLink VP Steve Vanagas (Mackin)

Photo of protesters in West Vancouver (Vanagas/TransLink)

Bob Mackin A rare protest in Ambleside, as

Meng Wanzhou is headed back to court in Vancouver on May 8, as her extradition hearing inches nearer. The United States wants to try the Huawei chief financial officer on fraud charges, but that may be years away for the Dunbar resident living under round-the-clock security and a nighttime curfew.

Meng’s arrest last December at Vancouver International Airport prompted sympathizers to emerge, which then drew attention to the Chinese Communist Party and its program aimed at gaining influence elsewhere in the Pacific Rim under the banner of the United Front Work Department.

Clive Hamilton (CliveHamilton.com)

Clive Hamilton, a professor at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, says that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Liberal government were caught like a deer in the headlights, dealing with a China that is acting more like a dragon than the panda they believed it to be. 

Hamilton is author of “Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia” and a recent visitor to Canada where he saw many parallels.   

Agents of influence in Beijing-friendly business, expat and cultural clubs are exploiting the democratic practices of both Australia and Canada. They are using the free press (including social media platforms) to push the party line, using the legal process to silence critics, infiltrating political parties and grooming candidates for office. Their goal, through United Front,  is to undermine resistance to the Chinese Communist Party.

“People whose allegiance is to a foreign country and a totalitarian foreign political party are now being represented at the local, provincial and federal level,” said Hamilton, in an interview with theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin. “It’s something that we, in democratic countries, have to grapple with.

“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. Whether or not the government will push back depends, essentially, on the Canadian people.”

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, hear from Hamilton, as the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre approaches. 

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theBreaker.news Podcast: A closer look at China's campaign to influence Canadian elections
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Meng Wanzhou is headed back to court

Bob Mackin

The retired Mountie who was the BC Liberal minister in charge of universities has joined the board of a company part-owned by a key figure in the U.S. college admissions scandal.

Amrik Virk is a new director of Meridius Resources, a junior mining company located in Vancouver with holdings in Quebec. Point Grey resident David Sidoo, who is charged with mail fraud and money laundering, is corporate secretary and a director of Meridius. His older son Dylan Sidoo is president and CEO and younger son Jordan is a director.

David Sidoo (left) visited BC Liberals in April 2016 with the Vanier Cup. Amrik Virk is third from right. (BC Gov)

Virk was a one-term BC Liberal MLA in Surrey-Tynehead. He was defeated in the 2017 election in the new Surrey-Guildford riding by another ex-Mountie, Garry Begg of the NDP.

In December 2013, as Advanced Education Minister, Virk signed the cabinet order to appoint former CFL player David Sidoo to the University of B.C. board of governors. Virk did not respond to messages left with the company on May 2. 

David Sidoo donated more than $166,000 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2017.

He has pleaded not guilty to paying $400,000 for Mark Riddell to write college entrance exams for his sons, who eventually received degrees from universities in California. Riddell pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston and is co-operating with prosecutors. The indictment against David Sidoo also accuses him of paying Riddell to travel to Vancouver in June 2012 to write a provincial exam for Dylan Sidoo. 

Jordan (left) and Dylan Sidoo (Disappears.com Inc.)

Virk replaces the resigned Douglas Leishman on the board. His addition to the Meridius board was announced in an April 22 news release that touted his 26-year RCMP career and cabinet posts. It did not mention that Premier Christy Clark shuffled Virk out of Advanced Education before Christmas 2014 and into Technology, Innovation and Citizens Services after he misled the Legislature about a salary top-up for a vice-president at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Virk was the vice-chair of KPU before running for office.

A February information circular for Meridius shows that Dylan and Jordan Sidoo each hold 18.7% of shares in the company and David Sidoo has a 17.4% interest.

Dylan Sidoo graduated in 2016 from the University of Southern California’s film school. Jordan Sidoo graduated in 2018 from the University of California Berkeley with a political economy and history degree. The week after David Sidoo’s March arrest in San Jose, UC Berkeley confirmed that it was investigating Jordan Sidoo’s admission.

 The circular states that the company is “currently undertaking a strategic review of its business and, additionally reviewing new business sectors with a view to entering an emerging industry instead of the current business.”

Meridius trades on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol MRI.V. It closed at 18.5 cents on May 2.

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Bob Mackin The retired Mountie who was the

Bob Mackin

The NDP cabinet minister responsible for sport and B.C. Place Stadium is disturbed by reports of sexual harassment, bullying and racism in the Vancouver Whitecaps organization.

Tourism Minister Lisa Beare (BC Gov)

“Any physical, sexual or psychological harassment and abuse of athletes is completely unacceptable,” according to Minister Lisa Beare in a statement provided to theBreaker.news. “Athletes have the right to play free of abuse, discrimination and harassment. Inclusion and respect for all British Columbians is a fundamental principle of this government, and we stand with those who have experienced abuse or misconduct in sport or any other part of life.”

The Whitecaps issued a statement signed by owners Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett on May 1, more than two months after former women’s team player Ciara McCormack blew the whistle about ex-coach Bob Birarda. The soccer club never explained publicly why it severed ties with Birarda in October 2008, but is now apologizing and admitting there were complaints of inappropriate sexual behaviour. Vancouver Police are aware of the situation, but have not said whether they are investigating.

McCormack said on Twitter that the club has not contacted her. She said the Kerfoot/Mallett letter lacks sincerity and accountability. 

The club also employs former Notts County youth coach Brett Adams, who was hired in 2013 after he left Notts County while under investigation for racism against players. The Adams matter was not mentioned in Kerfoot and Mallett’s statement.

Kerfoot (left) and Mallett

“The Whitecaps are an independent professional sport organization, accountable to their leadership and their fans as stakeholders,” Beare also said. “Reports that a coach of a major soccer league [organization] acted contrary to a safe, inclusive sport environment and made racist remarks are extremely disturbing. I am encouraged to hear the Whitecaps are committed to working with sport partners to take a leadership role in safe sport initiatives.  It is incumbent on all sports organizations to ensure players are protected and any incident of player abuse should be reported to the appropriate authorities for investigation.”

The situation happens while the provincially-funded amateur sport group viaSport holds a five-day meeting with athletes, coaches and sport leaders on making sport safer. On May 8-9, meetings are scheduled for Ottawa to discuss a new National Code of Conduct for amateur sport.

Tremendous work is being done right now within amateur sport at both the national and provincial levels. We will share the outcomes of that meeting with all sport organizations in B.C., including the Vancouver Whitecaps, to ensure they have complete information on best practices,” Beare said.

Whitecaps supporters clubs, led by the Southsiders, held walkout protests during the last 10 minutes of the first half at the last two home games to bring attention to the Whitecaps’ slow response to the scandals.

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Bob Mackin The NDP cabinet minister responsible for

Bob Mackin

A former Vancouver-based SNC-Lavalin executive owes it to Canadians to explain whether the engineering and construction giant reimbursed him for donations he made to the Liberals and Conservatives, says an NDP Member of Parliament.

theBreaker.news reported on James A. Burke’s nearly $8,500 in political donations from 2008 to 2011, while he was the executive vice-president of SNC-Lavalin in charge of B.C. operations. South Surrey resident Burke made two donations  to Conservative riding associations in Quebec in 2009. In 2008, he donated $1,100 three times to the Liberal Party and twice to the Michael Ignatieff leadership campaign. The individual cap was $1,100 for total donations to a registered party and a leadership contestant in 2008.

SNC-Lavalin’s B.C. head James Burke in a 2014 Canada Line video (SNC-Lavalin)

“I can’t speak to Mr. Burke, I haven’t heard his side of the story, he hasn’t commented, but he has a duty to come clean and investigate and provide whatever information is required to either clear him or shed total light on what went on in this case,” said Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies in an interview. “This is not just a private issue, this is an issue of public interest. We all have an interest in our public democratic institutions and fairness of our elections.”

Burke’s pattern of donating was eerily similar to that of 18 SNC-Lavalin executives, directors and spouses who were illegally reimbursed by the company for contributions between 2004 and 2011, according to a list leaked to CBC. The donations to the Liberals totalled $100,000 and to the Conservatives $8,000. The Commissioner of Canada Elections originally sent the list to the Liberal Party in 2016, the same year SNC-Lavalin made a compliance agreement to avoid penalties.

theBreaker.news contacted the Commissioner of Canada Elections with questions about Burke’s donations, but spokeswoman Michelle Laliberté said the agency does not confirm whether it has investigated or is in the process of investigating a particular matter.

Vancouver-Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies (HoC)

Burke worked for SNC-Lavalin from 1995 until 2015, when he left the company and started Cougar Creek Consulting. The corporate registry lists the Dentons law firm as Cougar Creek’s registered office. Dentons’ Vancouver managing partner John Sandrelli said he was unable to connect theBreaker.news with Burke’s lawyer because of solicitor-client privilege.

“The Liberal Party received the confidential memo from Elections Canada in 2016 and they kept that under wraps for almost three years,” Davies said. “Mr. Trudeau promised a new transparency in government as an approach and we’re seeing anything but that.

“They’re clearly attempting to hide this and they’re acting like these contributions don’t matter. If I’ve got a spending limit in my riding of $100,000, $10,000 or $20,000 makes a huge difference, it can tip the balance. I was very disappointed with Mr. Trudeau’s dismissive attitude.”

Davies said it is crucial that campaign finance violations be properly investigated and publicly reported.

Normand Morin, a former vice-president of SNC-Lavalin, was the only person charged. He was fined $2,000 after pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges in court last November. Davies called that “pocket change.” By comparison, Conservative Dean Del Mastro was sentenced to a month in jail for overspending by $21,000 during the 2008 election.

“A lot of the rules in our system work on the honour system,” he said. “It’s so critical to make sure that those who would cheat are fully exposed.”

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Bob Mackin A former Vancouver-based SNC-Lavalin executive owes

Bob Mackin

A scathing report by a security company describes a toxic work environment rife with assaults and racism at River Rock Casino Resort, where employees were often too scared to report incidents to their superiors for fear of being punished or their complaint would be ignored.

The Project Guardian report by Paladin Security senior investigator Jared Brin, commissioned by B.C. Lottery Corporation in November 2017, was published May 1 with the names of complainants redacted. The report said those who gambled with more money at the Great Canadian Gaming-owned casino were cut slack, even when those high-rollers misbehaved and harmed staff. (Great Canadian has yet to respond to theBreaker’s request for comment.)

River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond (Mackin)

“Two individuals told us that a manager or supervisor explicitly told them that they are to acknowledge and actively facilitate a different standard of behaviour for VIP patrons as compared to non-VIP patrons. According to several dealers and supervisors, verbal abuse bordering on uttering threats occurs daily, if not hourly,” said the 37-page report.

“Also identified as a concern were the extra considerations given to VIP players; in some cases, Chinese players are allowed to refuse a non-Chinese dealer at their tables, and are allowed to keep a dealer at their table who they deem good luck even if it means the dealer must miss a break or the opportunity to use the washroom.”

The high rollers’ Dogwood Room was singled-out for its combination of “overwhelming bet volume, poor standard of player behaviour and complicit supervisors and managers. They note this combination can, and has led to serious patron on dealer incidents.”

Staff that did not speak Mandarin felt they had no chance to work in a high-tipping VIP area. Players were swearing at dealers in Mandarin or Cantonese, to get around house rules against swearing at tables.

“A number of non-Chinese speaking dealers told us that if they’ve ever asked a Chinese-speaking supervisor or manager what a player was swearing or saying toward them, they are regularly told, ‘it’s better you don’t know what they’re saying,’ only to find out later that many of the Chinese language swears involve disturbing threats against the dealer and/or his or her family,” the report said.

Paladin gathered information from nearly 40% of the casino’s 1,200 employees via questionnaires and interviews. Interviewees that said they didn’t report incidents to their supervisors and managers felt nothing would be done and/or there would be negative consequences for complaining. They said that supervisors and managers often told complainants to “handle it yourself,” “turn a blind eye” or “they’ve lost a lot of money, let them blow off steam.”

Paladin was originally hired to examine complaints of sexual harassment by high rollers against staff, but it found problems much worse: at least 18 instances of documented physical assaults and at least seven instances of assault with weapons, at least four reported patron-on-staff instances of sexual harassment, and at least four unreported staff-on-staff instances of sexual harassment.

Paladin found one case of a table games dealer who had been threatened with death by a player, but the suspect was given only a 24-hour ban. Respondents said managers discouraged table games dealers from reporting assaults with unspecified weapons to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch and RCMP.

While BCLC has not required staff to sign a non-disclosure agreement, reviewers learned that members of the River Rock Human resources department did. River Rock refused to provide copies to Paladin. Based on interviews, Brin believed the gag order says that the undersigned agrees to the content and conversation in the investigation be kept confidential and that it warns of discipline, including firing, if confidentiality is breached.

Workers suggested solutions such as: mandatory player education about treatment of River Rock staff; standardized training about what constitutes sexual harassment and how to address it; undercover BCLC or GPEB presence in high-light areas to witness inappropriate behaviour permitted by supervisors and managers; overt plainclothes officers to discourage behaviour before it begins; and employee education about labour laws and human rights codes.

A related report by GPEB said it reviewed all incidents at River Rock against the Criminal Code and consulted with retired law enforcement personnel who are now GPEB investigators, and it assessed the unreported incidents, but found they “did not meet the criteria necessitating [police of jurisdiction] notification.”

GPEB said those that it spoke to during the investigation said they had never been pressured or coerced into not reporting incidents of concern. Instead, GPEB found errors in incident categorization, lack of training, and discretion mistakenly exercised by lower level managerial staff (i.e. VIP managers / gaming managers) are contributing factors resulting in incidents of non-reporting.

“No one spoken to during GPEB investigation claimed to have signed a document where it was stated that they could not report an incident of concern to the necessary authorities,” said the GPEB report.

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Bob Mackin A scathing report by a security

Bob Mackin

The Commissioner of Canada Elections is refusing to say whether political donations by SNC-Lavalin’s top British Columbia executive were investigated.

James A. Burke was the executive vice-president of airports, mass transit, ports and marine when he left the company in 2015. From 2008 to 2011, South Surrey’s Burke donated almost $8,500 to Liberal and Conservative campaigns, just like several other senior executives and directors of the Montreal engineering and construction giant, theBreaker.news has learned.

SNC-Lavalin’s B.C. head James Burke in a 2014 Canada Line video (SNC-Lavalin)

Burke made three $1,100 contributions to the Liberal Party in 2008 and another pair of $1,100 donations to Michael Ignatieff’s leadership campaign in the same year. Burke also donated to a pair of Conservative riding associations in 2009 that were closer to the St. Lawrence River than his home in Ocean Park near Boundary Bay: $733.33 to the Conservative association in Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Quebec and $1,100 to the Conservative association in Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier, Quebec.

Since 2004, only individuals have been allowed to donate to federal parties and candidates. On April 30, CBC reported on a leaked list of SNC-Lavalin executives, directors and spouses who the company illegally reimbursed for their political donations, contrary to the Canada Election Act.

Burke’s name was not on the list and theBreaker.news wanted to know whether it should have been.

“In keeping with the confidentiality provisions of the Canada Elections Act, we do not confirm whether we have, or are in the process of, conducting an investigation into a particular matter,” said Michelle Laliberté, spokeswoman for the elections commission in a statement to theBreaker.news. “As a result, I’m not able to address the specifics of your question.”

SNC-Lavalin was caught making $110,000 in donations to the Liberal party, riding associations and leadership campaigns and $8,000 to the Conservatives, but signed a compliance agreement with the commissioner in 2016. Ex-vice-president Normand Morin was the only person charged. Last November, he pleaded guilty to two Elections Act charges and was fined $2,000.

The Charbonneau Commission into Quebec corruption heard details of SNC-Lavalin’s provincial and municipal political donation reimbursement scheme. Between 1998 and 2010, the company donated more than $1 million to the Quebec Liberals and Parti Quebecois.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said Canadians deserve full transparency on the campaign finance scandal, just like the rest of the allegations against SNC-Lavalin.

“What a number of people who support a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC [on Libyan corruption charges] are losing in the debate is the fact that by going to trial the evidence will come forward, Canadians will know what it was that caused the federal prosecution office to charge and take to trial SNC,” Travis said. “If we get a DPA, that information will not come out. We see it exactly that way with the compliance agreement with the Commissioner of Canada Elections.”

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

In 2015, Burke incorporated Cougar Creek Consulting Ltd. The registered office is at the Dentons law firm in Vancouver. One of Burke’s clients is Acciona Infrastructure. Efforts to contact Burke through Dentons and Acciona, and by his home phone, were unsuccessful.

Burke joined SNC-Lavalin in 1995, eventually becoming an executive vice-president and member of the office of the president. He oversaw operations in B.C. and Malaysia. In April 2013, several SNC-Lavalin affiliates connected to the Vancouver office that Burke headed were banned from bidding for World Bank projects because of bribery in Southeast Asia.

Since leaving SNC-Lavalin, Burke was appointed to the project board for the Capital Regional District’s sewage plant and sat on a PartnershipsBC due diligence panel to review TransLink’s Broadway Subway business case. He has advised Acciona, the Spanish company with contracts at Site C and the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant. In February, the B.C. NDP shortlisted Acciona and SNC-Lavalin’s joint bid for the new Pattullo Bridge.

Burke is not the only B.C.-based SNC-Lavalin bigwig to write big cheques to political parties.

Burke’s predecessor, the late Robert Tribe, donated $13,647 to the BC Liberals from 2005 to 2009 for SNC-Lavalin. In late 2007, Tribe was appointed to the TransLink board of directors for a two-year term. Tribe had retired in 2002 as executive vice-president, but continued to advise the transportation division.

Gwyn Morgan chaired SNC-Lavalin from 2007 to 2013 and donated $285,600 under his own name to the BC Liberals from 2009 to 2018. During that period, Morgan was on Christy Clark’s transition team. After Clark came to power in 2011, the BC Liberal government picked SNC-Lavalin to build the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line for TransLink and the $1 billion John Hart Generating Station for BC Hydro.

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Bob Mackin The Commissioner of Canada Elections is

Two privacy commissioners say Facebook is thumbing its nose at the privacy rights of Canadians, so they are going to Federal Court in hopes of teaching Mark Zuckerberg a lesson.

In an April 25 report, Federal commissioner Daniel Therrien and his British Columbia counterpart Michael McEvoy found Facebook mishandled citizens’ personal information in the Cambridge Analytica political profiling scandal.

This report happens six months before the federal election. Therrien and McEvoy warned that Canadian laws are not strong enough to prevent social media interference in the election. “Our legislators need to wake up and take action,” McEvoy said.

Listen to highlights of Therrien and McEvoy’s news conference on this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast.

Also on this edition, a clip from Jody Wilson-Raybould’s first major speech on the west coast since the SNC-Lavalin scandal erupted.

Said the MP for Vancouver-Granville, during a First Nations conference in Richmond: “If we do not voice what is true and pass it on, our societies will fracture and erode.” 

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Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

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Two privacy commissioners say Facebook is thumbing

Bob Mackin

The manager for the troubled North Shore Wastewater Treatment Project (NSWWTP) joined a Texas-based construction giant while work ground to a halt on the North Vancouver site, theBreaker.news has learned.

It is not known whether Paul Dufault’s move was connected to the stop work order issued April 10 by the District of North Vancouver or the $20 million lawsuit filed April 4 by subcontrator Tetra Tech against builder Acciona and Metro Vancouver.

Engineering firm Tetra Tech claims in the B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit that it was wrongfully fired Feb. 22 after Acciona breached its contract by failing to provide, “in a timely way, fully and accurately all information as might reasonably be required for Tetra Tech’s performance of all the services, including decisions and directions passed down to Acciona from GVSDD and Acciona Wastewater.”

April 10-issued stop work order for the $779M North Shore sewage plant project (Mackin)

Tetra Tech also claims Acciona failed to provide viable integrated schedules, including procurement and construction schedules, and that Acciona provided late and incomplete responses to requests for information and failed. None of the allegations has been proven in court and Acciona has yet to file a statement of defence.

Dufault began his new job as senior municipal infrastructure project manager at Jacobs this month. He did not respond to requests for comment. Likewise, neither Acciona nor Metro Vancouver agreed to interviews.

Tetra Tech’s lawsuit claims it agreed to terms of a conditional contract with Acciona for design services in January 2017. Metro Vancouver chose Acciona in April 2017 for the $525 million design, build, finance and provision contract. The $778 million project has a deadline of 2020 to correspond with new federal regulations requiring secondary treatment of sewage. The only activity since last summer has been the delivery and compacting of sand to prepare the site of the former BC Rail station for construction.

North Vancouver District Mayor Mike Little said the stop work order was issued because Acciona did not have proper certified professionals in place — although little or no work had been performed for about a month before the stop work order.

Charles Trad, the senior vice-president of operations at Acciona’s Vancouver office, refused to answer questions about the project when reached by phone on April 23.

“We have a committee that handles all communications,” Trad told theBreaker.news. “I’ve forwarded your request to them.”

Charles Trad (Acciona)

More than six hours later, the company delivered a one-sentence statement by email that said: “We are currently in confidential discussions with Metro Vancouver and are unable to comment further at this time other than to assure you that steps are being taken to move the project forward and have the stop work order removed.”

In January, sources told theBreaker.news that contractors and subcontractors were in discussions with lawyers who were preparing to file claims against Metro Vancouver and Acciona, which had apparently underestimated the cost of the contract.

At the time, Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal said it was on-budget and on-time, but he was contradicted within a week by Dufault’s report to the liquid waste committee that included a $77.9 million increase to the $700 million budget. Dhaliwal did not respond for comment on April 23. 

“With respect to the project timeline, Acciona is contracted to deliver the project on the timeline approved by the board,” Dufault wrote in the January report. “As both the plant construction contract and conveyance works contract are design build projects, the contractors for these two projects are required to complete the projects on the basis of the fixed price contractual terms within the overall budget as set out above.”

Nowhere in Dufault’s report did it say the project was on-time or on-budget. It also did not include a calendar of project schedule milestones or any diagram showing how much of the budget had been spent.

A similar project near Victoria is also suffering. Capital Regional District injected another $10 million to a sewage plant project, where the budget is now $775 million. Higher costs for labour and materials were blamed and the $69 million project contingency has dwindled to $13 million.

Meanwhile, Trad denied that the former head of SNC-Lavalin’s B.C. office is working on NSWWTP. But he did say Jim Burke is involved elsewhere in Acciona’s B.C. operations.

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

“Jim Burke is a consultant that works with Acciona on several contracts,” Trad said.

A joint Acciona and SNC-Lavalin bid was shortlisted in February for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement. Both companies are also working on the $10.7 billion Site C dam for BC Hydro. Burke was on the expert, due diligence panels that were struck in 2017 to review the TransLink business cases for the Broadway Subway SkyTrain and Surrey LRT.

Burke has run Cougar Creek Consulting since 2015. He was SNC-Lavalin’s senior vice-president and general manager of the Vancouver-based transportation division from 2002 to 2007 before promotion to executive vice-president from 2008 to 2015. The company considered Burke a member of the office of the president.

In the 2010 SNC-Lavalin annual report, Burke was photographed standing beside CEO Pierre Duhaime and vice-president Riadh ben Aissa. The latter cooperated with the RCMP to investigate SNC-Lavalin corruption, after pleading guilty in Switzerland in 2014 to bribing the son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The former is serving 20 months house arrest for breach of trust related to the McGill superhospital project.

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Bob Mackin The manager for the troubled North