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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, 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 “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 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

Bob Mackin

British Columbia is a major movie and TV production centre.

Hyundai ad shot at the Westin Bayshore (Hyundai)

It is also one of the hottest locations for automobile ads.

But even nature and the built environment aren’t ideal for some directors.

One of the city’s biggest downtown hotels was dressed-up as a hospital for a Hyundai ad airing on CBC and Sportsnet Stanley Cup playoff broadcasts.

A city skyline was added to the closing scene of a Kia ad that ran last year.

Similarly, a city skyline was added to a scene from a Lincoln ad.

Lincoln ad shot in Campbell River, where there really are no towers (Lincoln)

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe “It’s Go Time” ad features a husband rushing his in-labour wife and her mother through Vancouver streets to a hospital maternity ward. Except the ad doesn’t end at a hospital, but the Westin Bayshore.

The waterfront hotel has been dressed-up before, in 2009 as the Lotus Casino, for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The film was released the same day the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics opened. Coincidentally, the Bayshore was the official International Olympic Committee hotel during the Games. Reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes put the Bayshore on the map in 1972 when he rented the top four floors and stayed in the three-room penthouse suite for six months.

The 2018 Lincoln Pickup and Delivery: The Rower ad’s last scene is nearby, outside the Vancouver Rowing Club in Stanley Park. Look closely around the 10-second mark and you’ll spot a city skyline in the distance, behind U.S. Olympic rower Meghan O’Leary.

Kia ad shot near Horseshoe Bay. (Kia)

“We placed a skyline in the background of the Campbell River shots (the images in question) to make the travel passage feel shorter and connecting the two areas – her rowing in a picturesque backdrop and the site where the keys are exchanged,” said Lincoln spokeswoman Amanda Park.

In the 2019 Kia Sorrento Natural Habitat ad, at the 53-second mark of the 60-second cut, the vehicle is driven south on the Sea-to-Sky Highway near Horseshoe Bay. A city skyline appears in the southwest, beyond Horseshoe Bay.

Kia’s corporate communications manager Mark James said that “the shoot locations were chosen to fit within creative concept visuals. On occasion, we use public venues and if the visuals do not entirely match the creative concept we may in some circumstances modify elements to align to the creative concept.”

  • WATCH highlights of the three auto ads below.

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Bob Mackin British Columbia is a major movie

Sunset Beach Park in Vancouver hosted the 25th anniversary edition of the 4/20 festival, the first since last October’s nationwide legalization of marijuana.

Promoters called it a protest. The Park Board called it a commercial festival.

Promoters set-up nearly 300 booths for rent on the soccer field, without a permit from the city. One of the biggest banners on the site was for an automated teller machine.

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck. Well, the Park Board wins.

Despite the promoters covering part of the pitch with plastic, it will be several weeks before the green, not-for-toking grass near English Bay is back to normal. See photographs from April 18 vs. April 21. 

Sunset Beach, April 18 (Mackin)

Sunset Beach, April 21 (Mackin)  Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.

Sunset Beach Park in Vancouver hosted the

Alberta is returning to right-wing rule, after Jason Kenney and the United Conservatives handily defeated Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government in last week’s provincial election.

An impressive 71% of voters turned out.

“[United Conservative Party] did remarkably well, getting to 55% of the vote, it’s not something you see every day,” said Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco in an interview with Podcast host Bob Mackin.

The NDP share of the vote was lower than last election when it won, but still historically better for a party used to getting much less in a province dominated by conservative politics. Now Alberta has a clear two-party system after the Alberta Party lost its three seats.

“It’s starting to look a lot like the United States, which is something that many people in Alberta will like,” Canseco said.

But there could be a bumpy road ahead for Kenney, his panoply of populist promises and his trademark blue pickup truck. Successful UCP Calgary-East candidate Peter Singh’s auto parts business was raided by RCMP in the final days of the campaign, which could be connected to a police investigation into Kenney’s unite the right leadership campaign. Canseco said it could erode Kenney’s base of support, if police find evidence of wrongdoing. 

On this edition of Podcast, Canseco also talks about the ripple effects of Kenney’s election for B.C. leaders and the upcoming federal election. He also takes a glance south of the border, where the redacted Mueller Report was finally released. No charges for President Donald Trump for collusion with Russians or obstruction of justice, but the report revealed how Trump tried to shut down the probe.

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Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries, including Mackin’s take on the Vancouver Whitecaps’ harassment and bullying scandal.

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Jason Kenney picks up Alberta, but is there a bumpy road ahead?

Alberta is returning to right-wing rule, after

Bob Mackin

The University of British Columbia has spent nearly $4.5 million on advertising since the NDP came to power in 2017.

Documents released to under freedom of information show that the most-recent campaign, which ran last fall and into early 2019, cost $2.88 million.

The “Potential is yours” ads, created by Taxi and placed by MediaCom, highlighted seven professors and students who appeared in the ads with images projected on and behind them.

UBC student Alicia Lau in the Potential is yours campaign (UBC)

UBC did not fulfil a request to interview president Santa Ono. Instead, it delivered a prepared statement from Rick Hart, the university’s senior director of brand and marketing.

“The ads challenge the audience, as we at UBC challenge ourselves, to not accept the status quo,” Hart wrote. “We’re very proud of the work of our researchers, students and staff in embodying that spirit and the advertisements reflect their work.”

Hart said it was the first time UBC advertised nationally and the cost of media space in Eastern Canada runs six to seven times more than in B.C. The lion’s share of the campaign, almost $1.26 million, was spent on TV ads. It also included $322,000 for ads in newspaper ads and $274,000 on websites and social media. 

The previous UBC campaign cost $1.55 million and was themed “For a better B.C.,” a variation of the NDP’s 2017 campaign slogan. One of the ads featured a student wearing an NDP orange toque. The amount spent on ads in the last two years is the equivalent of one year’s tuition for 842 nursing, science and arts students. 

Scenes from University of B.C.’s “For a better BC” ad campaign, including Okanagan student Tim Abbott (UBC)

A two-and-a-half page client brief by Taxi about “Potential is yours” was fully censored because UBC considered it policy advice. However, a similar document about the 2017 campaign was not censored. It said “it is imperative that UBC invests in its profile and reputation — locally, nationally and globally.” The 2017 Provincial Tactical Positioning Campaign was intended to create “positive perceptions regarding the mission of the university to the benefit of industry, government and NGO partnerships and projects.”

The Sept. 13, 2018 report to the UBC board of governors justifying the latest campaign said UBC’s reputation was affected by “a series of negative news headlines through 2015 and into 2016.” The subjects of those stories were not mentioned. That period included the controversial departure of president Arvind Gupta the year after he was hired, sexual assault allegations by female students against a grad student and professor and campaigns for and against ex-Vancouver 2010 Olympics CEO John Furlong’s speech to an athletics department fundraiser after he was accused of abuse by aboriginal students he taught four decades ago.

“Global competition for the best students and faculty, funding investments and charitable donations continues to increase,” said the report. “For all these reasons, defining UBC’s brand proposition and communicating it broadly take on heightened importance.”

UBC’s increased ad spending reflects a trend in the U.S., where paid advertising by U.S. institutions hit a record $1.65 billion in 2016, an 18.5% jump over 2015, according to research by Kantar.

UBC was supposed to deliver the records about the latest ad campaign to by March 21, but missed the deadline because it claimed it has a large backlog. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner intervened and the documents were finally released April 18.

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Bob Mackin The University of British Columbia has

Bob Mackin

SNC-Lavalin is lobbying the B.C. NDP government without a registration, but it may be perfectly legal.

As exclusively reported, SNC-Lavalin’s vice-president of government relations, Sam Boutziouvis, arranged to meet with Claire Trevena, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, on Feb. 19 in Victoria. The meeting, however, was canceled on Feb. 14 because of a death in Boutziouvis’s family. The meeting has yet to be rescheduled.

SNC-Lavalin lobbyist Sam Boutziouvis (Twitter)

Feb. 14 was also the day that Trevena announced SNC-Lavalin and partner Acciona were among three groups shortlisted to build the new $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge after applying to bid in the fall. SNC-Lavalin is also expected to bid on the Surrey-Langley and Broadway SkyTrain extensions.

Boutziouvis’s targeting of Trevena is not visible in the lobbyist registry because he has not registered provincially. The only way found out was in email released under the freedom of information laws after SNC-Lavalin hired Whistler lobbyist Richard Prokopanko to register on its behalf in order to set-up meetings with government officials last November.

Jane Zatylny, spokeswoman for the B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, said she could not discuss specifics of the SNC-Lavalin registration.

“There are certain circumstances where registration is not required, for instance, if the lobbyist is meeting with the public office holder for general information purposes,” Zatylny said. “Secondly, when organizations lobby B.C. public office holders, the 100-hour threshold applies, which means that organizations are only required to register when they have lobbied 100 hours in the previous 12 month period.”

The 100-hour threshold is based on the honour system and came into force in April 2010 under the BC Liberal government, to replace the requirement for an employee to register if he or she spent at least 20% of his or her time lobbying. The 20% threshold is still used by the federal lobbying registry, where Boutziouvis is listed as the only SNC-Lavalin executive whose lobbying activities represent 20% or more of his duties.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC called the rule “blatantly absurd” and said the threshold should be reduced to the bare minimum.

NDP Transport Minister Claire Trevena (BC Gov)

“Here’s a company that is actively pursuing contracts in B.C. — probably 365 days a year — it is tough to imagine that they can somehow keep that lobbying under the 100-hour ceiling,” Travis said in an interview. “The legislation has created a bureaucratic nightmare for anyone who wants to try to monitor lobbying activities of various companies in Canada, at the same time has presented an appetizing opportunity for those companies who want to hide their lobbying activities.”

A June 2018-published ORL guidance document states that if an organization employs one or more individuals who, alone or together, spend 100 hours lobbying or preparing to lobby, the organization is required to register all in-house lobbyists. 

“When calculating your organization’s lobbying activities, you do not need to track each and every activity to the minute,” reads the ORL guide. “However, you must record time spent in activities that are directly related to and necessary for lobbying as accurately as possible.”

Those activities include research, hiring and training staff to lobby, deciding which public office holders to target, and lobbying by letter, email, phone or in-person.

Duff Conacher of DemocracyWatch said both the 100-hour threshold in B.C. and the 20% of time threshold used federally are wrong.

SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver office (Mackin)

“They’re both loopholes that allow for secret lobbying and there is no reason to allow for secret lobbying,” Conacher said. “The only people who should be exempt from disclosure is a voter who clicks send on an action alert sent to them by an interest group. The organization should be registered and the registration should show that what they’re doing is sending out action alerts, other than that, even if you’re a voluntary organization, if you’re dedicated to winning some change and doing more than just clicking send on an action alert letter you should have to register.”

Travis said the Act should contain no wiggle room, because the intent is to increase transparency.

“The idea that we can somehow allow small companies to large corporations such as SNC to hide behind this 100-hour rule is the same sewer pit that we ended up with in Ottawa related to Facebook,” Travis said.

In April 2018, Maclean’s reported that while Google had registered eight lobbyists, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy Kevin Chan was not registered because he said he did not spend 20% of his time lobbying. The former public servant and political aide was executive assistant in the Privy Council Office (PCO) before joining the office of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in 2011.

Coincidentally, Conacher complained to the federal ethics commissioner on April 17 alleging that Chan’s former boss in PCO, SNC-Lavalin chair Kevin Lynch, received preferential treatment from retiring Clerk Michael Wernick when Wernick took Lynch’s phone call on Oct. 15, 2019.

Lynch was Wernick’s boss from 2006 to 2009, during Wernick’s tenure as Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

April 17 was also the sixth anniversary of the World Bank’s 10-year blacklisting of SNC-Lavalin over bribes related to a bridge project in Bangladesh and power project in Cambodia. Dozens of SNC-Lavalin associated companies, including several involved in B.C. infrastructure projects, were suspended from bidding on World Bank projects.

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Bob Mackin SNC-Lavalin is lobbying the B.C.

The Andrew Scheer-led Conservatives erected a wall of noise on federal budget day, to protest the Trudeau Liberal government’s shutdown of justice committee hearings into the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

That inspired the BC Liberals to turn up the volume in Question Period at the B.C. Legislature. So much, that NDP cabinet ministers’ answers could not be heard over the din.

Speaker Darryl Plecas had enough. He issued an extraordinary and lengthy warning on April 10, directed primarily at his former caucus-mates.

“We will not have interruptions of a speaker,” said Plecas, the independent MLA for Abbotsford South who could revoke an MLA’s question privileges and order the expulsion of an MLA for disorderly conduct.

On this edition of Podcast, listen to highlights of two April 9 incidents and Plecas’s April 10 address to the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the BC Liberal Opposition caucus has joined the NDP Government caucus in spending taxpayers’ money on partisan radio ads, after the NDP broke an election promise to ban partisan government ads.

Like the NDP, the BC Liberals are refusing to release the amount spent. 

Also on this edition, hear unapologetic BC Liberal house leader Mary Polak and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who said the caucuses should pay back the public treasury. The spending is happening in secret because the Legislature is not yet covered by the freedom of information law.

This is all happening under the cloud of an RCMP investigation into corruption at the Legislature. Retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is expected to report May 3 to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee on whether to stop the paycheques for the Nov. 20-suspended Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

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Plus the latest on the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Question Period cacophony earns BC Liberals an earful from Speaker Plecas

The Andrew Scheer-led Conservatives erected a wall

Bob Mackin

Luxury condo developer Westbank would be a 50-50 partner with the Squamish Nation and share profits with the band if a high-density project proceeds on the Kitsilano 6 reserve beside the Burrard Bridge, has learned.

Westbank’s Ian Gillespie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 (Westbank)

On April 10, the North Vancouver-headquartered First Nation announced it was trying again to build on the 11-acre site called Senakw that its lawyers regained at the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2002. Two years earlier, Squamish Nation surrendered a 60-acre claim for Kitsilano Point as part of a $92.5 million settlement with the federal government.

“The fact we have an opportunity to do something for the city like building around 3,000 rental units is so exciting on so many levels,” Tweeted band councillor and spokesman Dustin Rivers, aka Khelsilem.

However, a document prepared for a March 21 information meeting of Squamish Nation members said the project would be a “mix of primarily rental housing, along with offices, retail, public space and community amenities.”

“Real estate sales opportunity: Potential to develop a portion of project as strata condominiums for sale,” the document said.

Obtained by (Squamish Nation)

The development would be in two or three phases, but no timeline is mentioned. Long-term rental income would allow the Nation “to take advantage of rising rents and real estate values over time.”

The project would also offer job, training and education opportunities for Squamish Nation members through each phase and component of development. Rivers Tweeted that the band would be applying in the fall for BC Housing subsidies.

The Squamish Nation undertook a “comprehensive third-party review of proposals from multiple development partners” and engaged in non-binding talks with Westbank. Westbank would be the project manager “for which it would receive market rate fees” and would guarantee loans required to fund construction, including major upfront utility infrastructure.

A source who attended the March 21 meeting said that Westbank CEO Ian Gillespie delivered a presentation about his company.

The Squamish Nation documents contemplate two rounds of information sessions with members in Squamish Valley, North Vancouver, Seattle and Nanaimo and two referenda: one for designating the land for development and another to vote on the business terms. The documents also include a questionnaire, seeking input on concerns about the project, how ancestors who lived at Senakw more than a century ago should be honoured through the development process and ways to spend Senakw development revenue.

Artist’s rendition of the 2010 Squamish Nation plan for its Burrard Bridge land (Squamish Nation)

Westbank redeveloped Woodward’s which has a substantial rental quotient, but it has become better-known for high-end luxury tower projects marketed in Asia, including Shangri-La, Telus Garden, Vancouver House and Horseshoe Bay. The penthouse at its Fairmont Pacific Rim sold for more than $50 million to Prince Hamdan of Dubai.

This is not the first attempt to develop the land. Squamish Nation politicians said in 2010 they wanted to build a tower on the west side of the bridge and mid-rise office buildings on the east side. In recent years, the band council shifted its attention to partnering with the Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam, with major backing from the Aquilini family, to acquire a portfolio of federal and provincial properties in Burnaby, Vancouver and West Vancouver. Projects on the former RCMP land and in Jericho are in the drawing board stage.

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Bob Mackin Luxury condo developer Westbank would be

Bob Mackin

SNC-Lavalin’s pursuit of Transportation Minister Claire Trevena continued in February, as bureaucrats were nearing a decision on the shortlist for the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge project, has exclusively learned. previously reported that the Montreal construction and engineering giant sent lobbyists and an executive to Victoria in late November.

NDP Transport Minister Claire Trevena (BC Gov)

SNC-Lavalin hired Whistler’s Richard Prokopanko to arrange meetings for government relations vice-president Sam Boutziouvis and oil and gas division executive vice-president Joseph Lichon with four senior bureaucrats on Nov. 26. A fifth, Transportation Deputy Minister Grant Main, joined in by phone.

Documents obtained under the freedom of information law said SNC-Lavalin wanted to make a presentation about the company’s “history and recent projects in Canada” and pitch its LNG plant-building expertise to the NDP government.

Prokopanko also sought a “10 minute stand hand shake and greeting” with Trevena in November. The NDP cabinet minister was unavailable, but one of her aides proposed Feb. 6.

According to a newly released email from Boutziouvis to Jobs,Trade and Technology deputy minister Fazil Mihlar on Feb. 1, Trevena had agreed to meet on Feb. 19 with Boutziouvis, Francois Morton, executive vice-president of infrastructure engineering, and Jussi Jaakkola, vice-president of investment development.

“We will be in Victoria and have a couple of meetings booked, including with Transport and Infrastructure Minister Trevena at 9 a.m.,” Boutziouvis wrote to Mihlar. “It’s budget day in B.C. So this is a long shot, but if you have some time in the morning, it would be great to bring Francois and Jussi by to introduce them and talk about our infra[structure] priorities in B.C. in greater detail.”

Jussi Jaakkola (SNC-Lavalin)

Boutziouvis did not respond to request for comment.

Morton joined the company in 2015 as senior vice-president for Western Canada and became the executive vice president in February 2018. Jaakkola was a financial advisor on SNC-Lavalin’s $889 million contract to build the Evergreen Extension to SkyTrain’s Millennium Line. He also directed SNC-Lavalin’s successful bid for BC Hydro’s $1 billion John Hart Generating Station and helped the company get shortlisted for the $3 billion Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, which the NDP cancelled after coming to power in 2017.

The meeting with Trevena, however, was cancelled Feb. 14 because of a death in Boutziouvis’s family. SNC-Lavalin spokeswoman Daniela Pizzuto said the meeting has not been rescheduled, but she would not disclose who else the Boutziouvis-led delegation planned to meet in Victoria.

“We will not provide comment,” Pizzuto said by email.

There was good news for both Boutziouvis and the company: On Feb. 14, Trevena issued a news release that announced SNC-Lavalin and fellow Site C contractor Acciona’s joint application was among three shortlisted for the next phase of bidding on the new Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC is concerned that the NDP is not enforcing standard anti-lobbying rules in tendering documents.

“Do we want companies that are bidding on contracts to be lobbying deputy ministers and politicians on areas that overlap with those contracts they may be bidding on?” Travis said.

SNC-Lavalin lobbyist Sam Boutziouvis (Twitter)

SNC-Lavalin is expected to bid for the Broadway subway and Surrey to Langley SkyTrain extensions. The company has been involved in building every phase of rapid transit in Metro Vancouver.

The shortlisting for the Pattullo Bridge was among the only rays of good news for SNC-Lavalin in an otherwise dismal week. Share prices hit a 10-year low after a dim forecast about projects in Saudi Arabia and Chile. Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould quit the federal Liberal cabinet. She later revealed the Prime Minister’s Office wanted her to meddle in a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin for corruption rather than negotiate a remediation agreement over bribes paid to the Gadhafi regime in Libya from 2001 to 2011.   

Last month, a federal court judge rejected SNC-Lavalin’s bid to pursue the deferred prosecution agreement. Chilean miner Codelco canceled SNC-Lavalin’s $260 million contract at the Chuquicamata copper mine and SNC-Lavalin announced it hoped the sale of 10% of its shares in Ontario’s Highway 407 toll freeway would bring in $3.25 billion. The company also filed a lawsuit against former CEO Pierre Duhaime, who is serving a 20-month house arrest for aiding a bureaucrat in rigging the bid for the $1.3 billion McGill superhospital project.

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Bob Mackin SNC-Lavalin’s pursuit of Transportation Minister Claire

Bob Mackin

The NDP government will not expand British Columbia’s freedom of information law to cover the Legislature this spring, has learned. 

In the wake of reports by Speaker Darryl Plecas on waste and corruption in the offices of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, the province’s information and privacy watchdog urged the government to add the Legislative Assembly to the list of 2,900 government offices subject to the transparency law.

Mike Farnworth announcing the suspension of the B.C. Legislature clerk and sergeant-at-arms on Nov. 20, 2018 (Hansard TV).

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said Feb. 5 that he accepted the recommendation from Commissioner Michael McEvoy and vowed it would happen. Just a week later, the NDP’s throne speech for the first session of 2019 climaxed with a section titled “Trust in Our Public Institutions” that stated the government “values transparency and takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain the integrity of our public institutions.”

“Your government will work with this Assembly to implement reforms that restore trust in this core institution, so that our democracy is stronger going forward,” read the speech. 

On April 9, Farnworth told that he did not know when the bill would be tabled, but it would definitely not be during the spring session, which is scheduled to end May 30.

“Just from a practical sense, the fall would be the earliest you could do it,” Farnworth said.

“First off, you have to write it. We have a whole legislative calendar, you don’t just say we made a decision to do something and then it gets done,” Farnworth said. “There’s a whole range of things that have to be done, in terms of legislation has to go to the legislative review committee, it has to be drafted by legislative counsel along with all the other legislation. So most legislation that’s being done this spring has, in fact, last fall or last spring, been approved and gets worked on during that time.”

Speaker Darryl Plecas arrives on Throne Speech Day Feb. 12, 2019 (BC Gov)

McEvoy preceded the open letter, which was co-authored by the merit commissioner and ombudsperson, by telling that there is no good reason why the law should not cover the Legislature, its staff, offices and members.

On April 9, McEvoy said that he takes Farnworth at his word that drafting proper language to reform the Legislative Assembly may take until the fall sitting, because it is not as simple as adding the Legislature to the list of public bodies in the Act. “In my view an amendment to FIPPA will be required to ensure accountability of the Assembly,” McEvoy said.

“When the government reopens the legislation, however, they must also make other badly needed amendments. The most significant changes were unanimously recommended by an all-party committee of the Legislature three years ago. They include mandatory breach notification, an offence provision for wrongly accessing someone’s personal information, and making sure subsidiary corporations set up by public bodies are covered by access to information legislation. 

“The present administration now has the opportunity to make government more transparent and accountable. My office and the public expect they will embrace that opportunity.”   

A poll released Jan. 28 by Research Co found 70% of respondents agree that amending the FOI law to include the Legislature is a leading remedy to the waste and corruption that Plecas exposed. Only 12% of respondents disagreed.

Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were immediately suspended Nov. 20 and the RCMP announced it was investigating undisclosed allegations about them. Two special prosecutors were appointed to oversee the RCMP’s work. 

James and Lenz say they are innocent and have demanded their reinstatement. In early March, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee retained retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin to review James and Lenz’s conduct. She is scheduled to report back to LAMC by May 3. The all-party committee will use her report to determine whether James and Lenz should remain on paid leave or be fired. 

The Legislature publishes quarterly statements and receipts about MLA spending, but the four top officers, including the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, only publish total dollar amounts they spend, without any hint of where they traveled or what they bought. 

The Legislature’s annual financial report shows payments to suppliers $25,000 and up and payments to staff $75,000 and up. The public has no legal right to seek correspondence and contracts, like it does from government ministries, agencies and Crown corporations.

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee met in late afternoon on April 9.  The all-party committee heard that the Legislative Assembly spent $73.2 million on operations through Dec. 31, 2018 — $4.2 million less than projected. Auditor General Carol Bellringer told the committee that her audit is in the early stages. She said the Legislature’s accounting system is slow and “not the most contemporary model.” She also pointed out that there are a lot of purchasing cards in circulation. “A red flag, if you will,” Bellringer said.

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Bob Mackin The NDP government will not expand