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Bob Mackin

The BC Liberal government launched a secret project involving Uber almost two-and-a half years ago to create an insurance policy for the ride-hailing app’s drivers, says an Information and Privacy Commissioner’s order obtained by theBreaker.news.

According to adjudicator Layli Antinuk’s March 29 findings, the Ministry of Transportation began the Modernizing of Passenger Transportation Services Project in 2015 to update passenger transportation policies and laws, including those that govern taxis and so-called transportation network companies (TNC). It asked the Insurance Corporation of B.C. to participate.

B.C. government was secretly collaborating with Uber in 2016.

“The Ministry required every ICBC employee involved in the project to sign a confidentiality undertaking because of the sensitive and controversial nature of the project,” Antinuk wrote. “The Ministry and ICBC also interacted with Uber in relation to the project. To this end, the Ministry and Uber entered into a non-disclosure agreement in November of 2016.”

During 2016, former Christy Clark aide Dimitri Pantazopoulos and former Gordon Campbell aide Carling Dick were registered as Uber’s lobbyists in B.C. The BC Liberals heavily promoted Uber during two unsuccessful February 2016 by-election campaigns. In the same month, Minister Peter Fassbender challenged the taxi industry to improve, but also offered continued support from the government in a speech to taxi owners

The BC Liberals waited until March 2017, just before the provincial election, to reveal their “made-in-B.C.” plan for ride-sharing companies. But the news release made no mention that the government was collaborating with Uber. Instead, the news release mentioned that it was “collaborating with the taxi industry to streamline the claims process, and is committed to working with the industry to improve their insurance to make it more flexible and cost effective, which could save taxi drivers significantly. Depending on the number of kilometres they drive, these savings could be in the range of 25%.”

The BC Liberals promised a 2017 holiday season rollout for ride-sharing companies, but the Clark government was toppled in a confidence vote after the election by the NDP and Greens.

Trevena (left) and Horgan. (BC Gov)

The John Horgan government delayed the introduction of ride-hailing with more studies in order to enable the taxi cartel to launch its answer to Uber through Surrey’s Kater, whose cause was championed by former NDP cabinet minister and party president Moe Sihota.

NDP transportation minister Claire Trevena said last November, when the ride hailing legislation was tabled, that “We are limited by insurance. Nobody’s going to be on the road until there is an insurance product that works for them.”

But the relationship with Uber dating back to the Nov. 20, 2016 non-disclosure agreement suggests some kind of “insurance product” has been developed.

The records in dispute include a project charter, internal emails, draft briefing notes, PowerPoint presentations, an implementation plan, insurance for TNCs sheet, question and answer sheet, insurance backgrounder, technical fact sheet and a letter from ICBC to Uber. None of the information is related to Lyft, however.

Antinuk ordered a variety of information about ICBC’s project be disclosed by May 14 to the applicant, after dismissing ICBC’s claims that disclosure would breach cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege and harm ICBC and Uber’s business interests. Some information, however, falls under advice or recommendations and will be withheld.

The project charter “describes the objectives, critical success factors, scope, assumptions and dependencies for the project,” not recommendations or advice. Same with four email chains that include correspondence with Nicholas Jimenez, who is now CEO, and with Uber’s senior director of insurance.

“ICBC prepared the implementation plan for the Ministry. It contains a recommended insurance regime for TNCs and part-time taxis and a proposed work-plan and timeline,” Antinuk wrote. “ICBC also provides its opinion on foreseeable challenges and the potential impact of the recommended insurance regime. In my view, all of this information qualifies as advice or recommendations.

BC Liberals promoted Uber and similar companies before a 2016 by-election (Twitter)

“The Ministry prepared the technical fact sheet for the Minister. It explains and summarizes the proposed insurance regime ICBC developed for TNCs and taxis. As such, the release of the information in the fact sheet would reveal the advice and recommendations ICBC developed for the Ministry.”

Antinuk was not satisfied the disclosure of the information in dispute could reasonably harm Uber’s competitive position.

“ICBC does not explain how or why Uber could lose business to competitors if competitors knew about the proposed insurance product or prices described in the letter,” Antinuk wrote.

“Furthermore, I do not see how knowing what ICBC proposed with respect to premium pricing would allow a competitor to understand Uber’s expense load. The letter does not reveal what ICBC and Uber eventually agreed to in terms of price or whether ICBC and Uber came to any such agreement at all. In other words, the disclosure of the information in the letter would not allow a competitor to understand how much Uber spends on insurance.”

Antinuk’s order said that Uber argues its drivers pose less of a risk than taxi drivers, because TNC drivers spend less time on the road, driving fewer kilometres and the TNC drivers own the vehicles they use. Therefore, they drive with greater care and attention than taxis.

ICBC and Uber have until May 14 to seek a judicial review, which would have the immediate effect of delaying disclosure. The NDP legislation requires drivers for app-based companies follow the same rules as taxi drivers and be licensed commercially. The ICBC website says it will sell blanket insurance to ride-hailing companies beginning this fall. 

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Bob Mackin The BC Liberal government launched a

Bob Mackin

Three days after the BC Liberal government chose Craig James to fill-in as chief electoral officer in 2010, the Legislature’s law clerk made a court application on behalf of James, theBreaker.news has learned. 

James was the Legislature’s clerk of committees when he became the acting head of Elections BC by cabinet order on June 4, 2010. James, who was named clerk of the house a year later, was suspended with pay, along with sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, last November because of an RCMP investigation into alleged misconduct. They both deny any wrongdoing and nobody has been charged.

Portrait of Craig James outside the Clerk’s Office at the Parliament Buildings (Mackin)

Legislature law clerk Ian Izard filed a requisition to the B.C. Supreme Court registry in Victoria on June 7, 2010 for a grant of probate regarding the estate of James’s mother Eileen, who passed away at age 86 in March of that year. Izard also witnessed her Dec. 17, 1999-signed will, which named James as the executor, trustee and one of nine beneficiaries.

When contacted by theBreaker.news, Izard said “I’m not going to answer any questions” and hung up the phone. Neither of James’s lawyers, Mark Andrews and Gavin Cameron, responded to requests for comment. 

Izard was called to the B.C. bar in 1974 and became the Legislature’s law clerk in 1977. He also offered legal services at the Clay and Company firm in Victoria. Izard was awarded a Queen’s Counsel designation by the government in 2003, but the news release does not mention any private practice work. Izard was paid $178,888 in 2010-2011, his last full fiscal year at the Legislature. In November 2015, Izard ceased practising as a lawyer and became a retired member of the Law Society. Izard is an honorary governor and former chair of the board of the Victoria Foundation.

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC called it “inappropriate” for Izard to have handled co-worker James’s personal legal matters. He said the outcome of the Legislature scandal needs to be “adequate separation of work-related activities and personal activities.” 

“You would like to think, as well, that people appointed to these positions would know better, that even in the absence of guidelines they would clue-in,” Travis said. “Obviously they didn’t and this is going to be one of the tasks for the Legislative Assembly Management Committee to tackle.”

The Legislature operates separately from the Public Service Agency, the human resources office of government. The PSA does have a code of conduct that states a conflict of interest can happen when an employee uses his or her position, office, or government affiliation to pursue personal interests or the interests of another organization.

One of the four NDP members on the eight-member LAMC said Legislative officers should not be allowed to moonlight like Izard did.

Ian Izard (Association of Former MLAs of British Columbia)

“I would strongly advocate that all employees in positions like these be prohibited from other employment that might reasonably be inferred to be in conflict with their duties at the Legislature,” said Garry Begg, the Government Whip and Surrey-Guildford MLA. I am not aware of what steps were/were not taken to ensure there was not a real or perceived conflict, but I am confident that matters such as this will be covered by the pending Workplace Review that is to be conducted.

Izard received an $80,224 payout after his Jan. 15, 2012 retirement. That was only revealed in January of this year when LAMC released Speaker Darryl Plecas’s damning report about waste and corruption in the Legislature. Izard and three other officials were part of a $660,000 retirement payout scheme that saw James receive more than $257,000 in 2012. In February 2013, deputy clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd had a change of heart and returned her $119,000 payout.

James and Lenz were suspended with pay on Nov. 20 by the Legislature. An RCMP investigation, with two special prosecutors, was announced the same day. James and Lenz have pledged to assist the investigation and demanded their reinstatement. 

Retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is scheduled to report to LAMC by May 3 on whether James and Lenz used their positions for improper personal gain. She has the power to put witnesses under oath and order production of documents. LAMC will use McLachlin’s report to determine whether James and Lenz should be fired.

In early February, NDP house leader and LAMC member Mike Farnworth pledged to add the Legislature to the freedom of information law. The spring sitting of the Legislature is half over and the NDP government has not tabled the promised amendments.

Clerk George MacMinn swore-in Premier Christy Clark as Vancouver-Point Grey MLA in 2011 (BC Gov)

How the dominos fell 

In February 2010, Elections BC head Harry Neufeld approved a petition seeking a referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax. Neufeld’s first term as head of Elections BC was to expire June 5, 2010, but, according to the Plecas Report, Speaker Bill Barisoff told him in April 2010 that he would not be reappointed for a second term. The May 6-struck, all-party committee to find Neufeld’s replacement met only once, on May 18 of that year. Instead of giving it time to advertise and interview applicants, the BC Liberal government appointed James. 

James was still the acting head of Elections BC on June 2, 2011 when the BC Liberal government appointed him clerk of the house effective Sept. 1, 2011. The NDP opposition was furious because it was not consulted.

The Plecas Report said that James was the fourth-ranking clerk and that Izard would have been the natural choice to replace 50-year veteran clerk George MacMinn. Instead of retiring outright when James was promoted, MacMinn scored a two-year “clerk consultant” assignment for $500,000. Under pressure from the NDP, MacMinn later agreed to bequeath $500,000 to the Legislature Library through his will.

When contacted by theBreaker.news, MacMinn declined comment on the Legislature scandal, choosing to wait for McLachlin’s findings instead.

“I spent 50 years there and they were all non-controversial, cooperative and pleasant. That’s really the whole story of my life, I’m retired now and happily watching the world,” MacMinn said. “I’m not going to go near this thing in terms interjecting myself into the difficulties.” 

In a 2012 report, Auditor General John Doyle concluded that the Legislature had done little to improve transparency and accountability since a 2007 audit.  

“The Legislative Assembly Management Committee, the Speaker [Barisoff], and the Clerk [MacMinn] are not effectively operating as a governance and management oversight body to ensure that the Legislative Assembly’s resources are properly utilized and that its operations are well managed and in compliance with all relevant legislation and stakeholder expectations,” Doyle wrote.

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Bob Mackin Three days after the BC Liberal

Bob Mackin

A member of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal likened a Christian fundamentalist’s flyers against a transgender NDP candidate in 2017 to a “whites only” sign.

Morgane Oger fell short of unseating BC Liberal incumbent Sam Sullivan by 560 votes in the May 9, 2017 provincial election. William Whatcott distributed 1,500 flyers under the title “Transgenderism vs. Truth in Vancouver‐False Creek” on street corners, taped to doors and in mailboxes around the riding, prompting B.C. NDP vice-president Oger to file a human rights complaint.

Morgane Oger (Twitter/NDP)

Whatcott was not a resident of the riding and he decided not to vote in the election, but claimed he was inspired by God to print the flyers against Oger. He claimed that a candidate’s morality and integrity are fair to scrutinize, pointing to Bill Clinton, Roy Moore, Donald Trump and even David Duke.

In a written decision, released March 27, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau dismissed the morality argument and called Whatcott’s smear campaign “an attempt to block the doors of government with a message that the political realm is for ‘cisgender people only’.”

Cousineau and fellow panelists Diana Juricevic and Norman Trerise found Whatcott violated section 7(1)(a) of the Human Rights Code and awarded Oger $35,000 plus $20,000 in costs. The section of the Code makes it illegal to publish any statement that indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or group because of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age.

Cousineau wrote that Whatcott deliberately identified Oger as a transgender woman and, “on that basis alone, impugned her moral integrity and fitness to hold public office.” The flyer used rhetorical techniques aimed at exposing Oger and transgender people to hatred and contempt and was designed to interfere with her participation in politics, she wrote.

William Whatcott and the anti-Oger flyer in 2017 (Lifesitenews)

“It drew on the most insidious stereotypes and myths about transgender people and called on the electorate to conclude that Ms. Oger was, by sole virtue of her gender identity, unsuitable for public office,” Cousineau wrote.

The flyer caused Oger to seek help from the Vancouver Police, who advised her not to park her car in front of her house and to advise the hate crimes division when she was going to appear at public events and to follow complex security arrangements.

Cousineau diplomatically described Whatcott’s conduct at the Dec. 11-17, 2018 hearing as “improper.” For instance, every day he wore a T-shirt with a large picture of Oger that said, on the front, “Mr. Oger, no matter how you use the state to silence your critics, you are still a guy” and “Male and Female he created them: Genesis 5:2” on the back.

Whatcott referred to the process in social media posts published during the hearing as a “kangaroo inquisition” and the panelists “kangaroo judges.” He testified it was an “affront to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience.”

Cousineau demanded Whatcott pay $20,000 in costs as the “strongest possible condemnation” of his behaviour during the hearing.

“Most people would not have been able to withstand the level of discrimination that Ms. Oger faced during the Tribunal’s hearing,” Cousineau wrote. “More importantly: they should not have to. All people, and here I identify transgender people in particular, should know that if they choose to file a complaint at this Tribunal they will be treated with dignity and respect. Ms. Oger’s experience suggests the opposite. I cannot think of conduct that strikes more directly at the heart of the integrity of this Tribunal’s process and its mission. To her immense credit, Ms. Oger comported herself with grace and dignity in the face of the persistent efforts to insult, undermine, and humiliate her.”

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Bob Mackin A member of the B.C. Human

Bob Mackin

Burdened by a litany of stories about whale gamblers from China laundering drug money at B.C. casinos, the provincial government’s gambling company hired a public relations firm for help.

Documents released under the freedom of information law to theBreaker.news show how B.C. Lottery Corporation executives grappled with a double-whammy by CTV’s W5 and Global News in early February.

Whistleblower Ross Alderson featured on CTV’s W5 (CTV)

Email reveals that embattled BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody and some of his subordinates continuously resorted to National Public Relations for advice because of national media  reports about transnational organized crime infiltrating casinos under their watch.

“There is a potential media story developing,” Lightbody wrote Jan. 14 to communications director Laura Piva-Babcock and eGaming vice-president Monica Bohm, and copied to security vice-president Rob Kroeker.

“We have heard a rumour that [former BCLC anti-money laundering director] Ross Alderson is working with Kevin Newman at W5 to do a story on AML and BCLC. We should talk to National about how we might address this. Please keep confidential.”

More than two weeks later, on Jan. 30, Lightbody exchanged messages with former Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, who was installed on the BCLC board last November. Nearly all of what Moore wrote was censored because BCLC considered his words to be advice or recommendations.

Replied Lightbody: “Greg, Yes it’s very frustrating. It’s like a feeding frenzy.”

As the W5 episode approached, tension grew in the BCLC executive office.

“This is brutal,” Lightbody wrote to Bohm, after a Feb. 5 Tweet from outspoken new Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who was interviewed for the W5 feature called “The Laundromat.”

On the same day, Lightbody asked Piva-Babcock: “Did they ever contact us?”

Piva-Babcock replied: “No they didn’t. We are reaching out to government, because Eby is featured, to get some info. We are concerned [Global reporter Sam] Cooper is now racing to beat W5 with the story. We are working with National. Would be good to connect with you later today.”

BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody (right)

Moore emailed Lightbody and copied BCLC territory manager Peter Kupiak on Feb. 6, but that was also redacted for the same advice and recommendations exception.

Kroeker’s email that morning to the executive team described it as “another hectic day shaping up.” He included an outline of obligations to employees named by a former employee in interviews with Global.

“Even if there is no legal obligation to them, what options are available in regards to reports that are based on mischaracterization, innuendo or assertions not supported by fact and that could be unfair and damaging to them,” wrote Kroeker, who was forced to resign as Justice Institute chair last October after CTV’s story about his past as the security vice-president of River Rock Casino Resort.

So rushed were BCLC executives, that Bohm’s Feb. 6 Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Media Relations & Strategy briefing note for the board headline read “Briefing BDocument (sic).”

The Global Feb. 7 story, titled “BCLC could have stopped this: Former casino investigators question whether officials willing to stop criminal activity,” prompted a Feb. 8 briefing note by Piva-Babcock denying the casino industry was complicit.

BCLC executives also circulated among themselves a Sept. 8, 2015 corporate security and compliance memo by Alderson that refers to the investigation into the Silver International underground bank and transnational organized crime using B.C. casinos to launder money. A redacted version of that memo was released to theBreaker.news.

“BCLC needs to get ahead of any potential media and public backlash,” wrote Alderson, who left BCLC in late 2017. “BCLC have been driving AML initiatives for several years and this is well documented. However we could and should be doing more. That will no doubt impact revenue, and could have a significant impact on revenue. However we must get ahead of anything that may detrimentally impact the casino industry. It is also the right thing to do.”

The memo details meetings between Alderson and officers from the RCMP and Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. It includes a footnote link to a story on anti-money laundering lawyer Christine Duhaime’s website headlined Structuring: How Moving Funds from China to Vancouver Often Mirrors How Colombian Drug Lords Move their Money.”

In late 2017, Australian professor John Langdale gave it a name: the “Vancouver model.”

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Alderson 2015-09-08 AML

Bob Mackin Burdened by a litany of stories

Bob Mackin

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says Premier John Horgan’s party should repay the public treasury for radio spots that break the 2017 NDP campaign promise to eliminate partisan government advertising.

A 30-second ad running on CKNW and News 1130 begins: “BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson wants to give a tax cut to the richest 2%. John Horgan is working for everyone.” 

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver (UBCM)

The ad touts NDP government spending on building and upgrading schools, eliminating medical insurance premiums and balancing the budget. It ends: “Instead of just working for the very rich, John Horgan is working for all of us. A message from the B.C. New Democrat Caucus.” (Click below to hear the ad.)

“The public should be insisting — insistingthe B.C. NDP party pay for such advertising, not — absolutely not — the taxpayer,” Weaver told theBreaker.news. “The taxpayer should not be paying for partisan ads, essentially trumpeting the government and dissing an opposition party. That is plain wrong and the NDP need to pay that back.”

The Office of the Premier declined comment. Spokeswoman Sage Aaron referred theBreaker.news to the caucus communications office, but director Ed May would not reveal the budget, schedule or contractors for the campaign. 

“A small portion of caucus resources have always been used to support getting out the message,” May said by email. “This includes limited printed material and advertising – often on social media. The radio ads are from within the fixed and limited caucus general budget and are consistent with what we say in the legislature, in press releases and elsewhere.”

Weaver, whose caucus supports the NDP minority on budget and confidence votes, called it “partisan electioneering advertising” and another case of “do as I say, not as I do” by the NDP. 

“I’m very disappointed that the B.C. NDP would, yet again, say we’re going to be different and they’re no different. It’s the same coin, two sides of the same coin,” he said.

While in opposition, the NDP unsuccessfully introduced the Government Advertising Act twice, most-recently in May 2016. The bill would have given the Auditor General veto power over ads to ensure no partisan content. It was tabled in reaction to the BC Liberal government’s taxpayer-funded, $20 million “Our Opportunity is Here” campaign that ran during the final 18 months of Christy Clark’s mandate. 

“That goes to my first political rule to live by: if you did it in government, don’t criticize it in opposition, and if you criticized it in opposition, don’t do it in government,” said Dermod Travis of independent watchdog IntegrityBC. “There is more than enough money in B.C. politics today for the parties to do what they need to do, so there is no excuse saying we have to rely on our caucus budgets to make the difference.”

Travis said the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, which doles out funds for caucus communications, needs to set strict policies to stop partisan ad waste. 

NDP 2017 platform promised to eliminate partisan government ads. (B.C. NDP)

The NDP radio ads began to air after theBreaker.news revealed how Wilkinson has paid more than $44,000 to the Parksville-based Motiontide digital advertising agency from his Vancouver-Quilchena constituency office account and how Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross led all MLAs with more than $20,000 in advertising and communications spending.

Ross’s spending included ads in Terrace and Kitimat newspapers that slammed the NDP and Greens, despite rules forbidding the use of constituency funds for partisan messages. In the year ended March 31, 2017, Wilkinson spent $59,000 on advertising and communications, including a series of one-minute ads on CKNW that cost $199 each.

Caucus support services, separate from constituency office funding, cost the public $7.86 million in the year ended March 31, 2018. Details about spending and contracting by the NDP, BC Liberal and Green caucuses are excluded from the freedom of information law. 

“It is simply not acceptable in today’s age that we can have this grand secrecy over a lot of what’s going on,” Weaver said. Green house leader Sonia Furstenau is proposing that LAMC make public all caucus expenses. 

In early February, NDP house leader and solicitor general Mike Farnworth pledged amendments to the FOI law that would include the Legislature. Farnworth reacted after Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy spoke out for transparency in the wake of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s January report on waste and corruption in the offices of the suspended clerk and sergeant-at-arms.

The NDP government’s Feb. 12 throne speech reiterated Farnworth’s promise, but it has not tabled an FOI reform bill. The spring session is nearly half over. 

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Bob Mackin Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says

Bob Mackin

A Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer, who played in four FIFA Women’s World Cups, says a 2008 investigation into a coach’s conduct was inadequate.

Andrea Neil published a commentary on her website March 26, just over a month after former teammate Ciara McCormack went public with allegations of bullying and harassment.

Andrea Neil (CSA)

Neil played 132 times over 17 years for Canada and spent six seasons with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League, where she helped the team win the 2004 and 2006 championships. Neil wrote that she began to hear rumours and stories about troubles in the national team and Whitecaps the year after her 2007 retirement. She contacted a high performance national coach to alert him and ended-up playing an intermediary role between affected players and a lawyer hired by the club and Canadian Soccer Association to investigate.

Neil said the system did not support McCormack and her teammates then and she does not believe the system functions better today.

“In a world where non-disclosure agreements and fear of lawsuits silences people from speaking their truth and protecting the vulnerable, I support Ciara for taking the risk in speaking about what she has experienced and seen,” Neil wrote, under the headline “A Game of Two Halves.”

Neil said very few of the athletes involved with the Whitecaps and the national under-20 team were interviewed by the lawyer. Though Neil did not name her, theBreaker.news confirmed the lawyer was Anne Chopra, who declined to comment on the contents of her report.

Neil believes neither the CSA nor Whitecaps contacted parents of athletes who were under 18 at the time, nor did the organizations offer support to those young players.

“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.

Ciara McCormack (Twitter)

“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.”

The investigation led to the Oct. 9, 2008 news release that announced the sudden exit of head coach Bob Birarda from the Whitecaps and national under-20 team. The details of why Birarda suddenly left were not disclosed, but the news release said his departure was “in the best interest of both parties.”

More than a year earlier, McCormack and another player begged Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi for both help and anonymity at a May 8, 2007 meeting. McCormack wrote that Lenarduzzi failed to keep their complaints confidential because he subsequently told Birarda. Lenarduzzi declined comment in February, but sent a prepared statement that said the well-being of staff and players is “of paramount importance.”

“As a club, we hold ourselves accountable to a respectful workplace policy of the highest standard and expect the same from our staff and athletes,” said Lenarduzzi’s statement. “Any matter arising which may be in contravention to this policy goes through a rigorous assessment and, where appropriate, action is taken.”

After McCormack’s Feb. 25 blog post, White Rock-based Coastal FC suspended Birarda from coaching an under-17 girls team pending investigation. B.C. Soccer Association announced an independent third-party review that Neil said “stands in stark contrast to the 2008 inquiry in a number of ways, not the least of which is [president Kjeld Brodsgaard’s] commitment to transparency.”

“Whatever happened, we all have a responsibility to seek the truth, take responsibility for healing our community and bring everyone together to go forward,” Neil wrote. “If we do not, whatever the outcome of BC Soccer’s review, we will still be failing our young people.”

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Bob Mackin A Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer,

Bob Mackin

In February, theBreaker.news reported that Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross had racked-up a $20,000-plus advertising and communications bill for the first half of the current fiscal year. 

Ellis Ross’s ad on CFTK TV (CFTK)

Ross led all MLAs in that category for the six-month period ended Sept. 30, 2018. An analysis of Ross’s taxpayer-funded ads in the Black Press-owned Terrace Standard and Kitimat Northern Sentinel found he has a penchant for partisan rants against the NDP government and sometimes the Green Party.

Legislature rules prohibit the use of constituency office funds for partisan ads. The Office of the Clerk told theBreaker.news that it is available to MLAs for guidance, but it is not actively enforcing the rule.

Ross has not replied to repeated requests for comment, but his latest ad in the March 21 edition of the Terrace Standard is evidence of damage control. 

Under the headline “My offices are here to serve,” Ross explained that he has two offices, in Terrace and Kitimat, because his riding is bigger than Belgium.

“I also want to make it clear that my offices are non-partisan and help is available to all residents of Skeena,” Ross wrote.

Ross, however, misled readers in the very first line of the ad. 

BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross’s March 21 ad in the Terrace Standard.

“There is no handy guide book available for newly minted MLAs once they cross the finish line on election night,” he wrote.

Actually, there are two handy guide books available for MLAs.

One of them is called “New MLA Educational Resource Guide” to assist MLAs in constituency outreach activities. “An open house was held in September 2017 to provide information support and services for Members,” the website states.

Another is called the “Members’ Guide to Policy and Resources” and even has its own web page.

The chapter titled “Managing Your Constituency Office,” under the heading “Use of Constituency Office Allowance,” reads:

Members may also use the constituency office allowance for communications with constituents whether in the form of a newsletter, household flyer, and print, online, radio, or television advertisements. The content of these advertisements and messages is restricted to outlining constituency office activities, and the role played by the Member in the legislative process. Members may not print or mail, at the expense of the Legislative Assembly, any material seeking financial support or containing any identification or information of a partisan, political nature.

The leader of the BC Liberals is not setting an example of prudent spending for rookie Ross.

Instructions on how to run a constituency office, in the online handbook for MLAs (BC Leg)

theBreaker.news also reported that Andrew Wilkinson charged taxpayers more than $44,000 for a digital advertising agency at his constituency office during the first six months of the fiscal year. Neither NDP Premier John Horgan nor Green leader Andrew Weaver pay for such services through their riding offices.

Wilkinson blew $59,000 on advertising and communications in 2017, the biggest spender of all MLAs. More than half the funds were spent on pre-election ads on CKNW and CFMI that reached far beyond his Vancouver-Quilchena riding.

The all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee, prompted by Speaker Darryl Plecas’s damning January report on waste and corruption at the Legislature, has pledged new transparency and accountability measures.  

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Bob Mackin In February, theBreaker.news reported that Skeena

When longtime Vancouver media personality David Berner returns to the public eye on March 30, he promises to introduce the audience for his one-man show to “stars, scoundrels and saints.”

An Evening with David Berner at the PAL Theatre will feature stories from Berner’s life in show biz, broadcasting, journalism, writing and addictions therapy work. He is the featured guest on this week’s edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, in a conversation about two of his favourite topics, weather and politics. 

On Justin Trudeau: “What he and his minions did was wrong, they quite clearly tried to beat up on this minister [Jody Wilson-Raybould] and tell her to not proceed with a criminal case, and it’s all about politics… I’ve been calling it ‘Lanolin’ for years, ‘Lanolin’ is a a greasy company, it always has been. They are the sister of Bombardier, who built all these SkyTrain [cars]. I want to know who has the cement contract, because all of those cement pillars.” 

On Donald Trump: “There are a lot of people who think Trump will get away with everything; he might be defeated in 2020, he might even be re-elected. Even if he’s defeated, he’ll walk away laughing. I’m not one of those people.”

On the wacky Vancouver weather in 2019: “I haven’t shifted to spring clothes, I shifted to summer clothes. Typical Vancouver mentality, y’know, you’ll see people wearing shorts in February because we’re trying to convince the gods to move along. I do think about climate change and those kinds of serious issues, but when a beautiful spring day comes along with 15 above and the tennis courts are packed, I’m a happy camper.”

Listen to host Bob Mackin’s full interview with Berner, followed by the latest on the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

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When longtime Vancouver media personality David Berner

Bob Mackin

The Law Courts in downtown Vancouver are under stress whenever Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou appears, according to the judge handling her extradition case. 

Meng was not in court during a short-notice hearing on March 22 when Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes asked Meng’s representative, Mila Shah of Peck and Co., and federal Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley to find ways to ease the burden of Meng’s appearances on staff at the Law Courts.

Lawyers for the Crown and Meng Wanzhou leave the Law Courts on March 22 (Mackin)

Meng’s celebrity status as China’s most-powerful businesswoman with the country’s biggest multinational corporation has attracted unprecedented local and global media attention and drawn hundreds of curious members of the local Chinese community, including protesters for and against the Communist Party of China. 

“Her attendance seems to attract an enormous amount of attention,” Holmes said. “A vast number of people attending the courthouse, as they’re entitled to do. It does place considerable stress on the court’s resources.”

Holmes asked for suggestions from either side to help balance public access with regular operations, “so that it does not overwhelm the other work of the court during these proceedings.”

“I’m not expressing a view on any of these subjects, but simply in anticipation,” Holmes said. 

“It may have been difficult for Ms. Meng as well.”

Meng is expected to be in court on May 6 in Vancouver.  

Holmes agreed to order the RCMP to create and provide Meng with forensic images of the contents of her Macbook Air laptop, iPad Pro, iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei Mate 20, Sandisk flash drive and two SIM cards that were seized when she was arrested Dec. 1, 2018 at Vancouver International Airport. Neither Shah nor Gibb-Carsley would answer any questions from reporters about the application and order.

Meng is living in her $5 million Dunbar house on $10 million bail, under electronic monitoring and curfew conditions. She is fighting extradition to the United States where authorities want to try her on charges of fraud. A date has yet to be fixed for the extradition hearing. The whole process, including appeals to higher courts, could take years. Meng has also sued the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency, alleging that her constitutional rights were infringed upon when she was arrested. 

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Order March 22

Bob Mackin The Law Courts in downtown Vancouver

Bob Mackin

The British Columbia government waited until the Ides of March to file a B.C. Supreme Court action aimed at clawing back millions of dollars of dirty money from an alleged money launderer and his family.

The Director of Civil Forfeiture’s March 15 claim against Paul King Jin also names Jin’s wife Xiaoqi Wei, niece Yuanyan Jia, Jin’s father and Jia’s grandfather Gong Ping Jia and Jin’s mother Hua Wang, and Ming Kang Ye. The province wants to scoop the $4.86 million of Jin’s money, plus cars, casino chips, cell phones, luggage, jewelry, electronics, cards and gambling equipment held by the Seized Property Management Directorate of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Paul King Jin (CTV)

“Mr. Jin has a criminal record with convictions for aggravated assault, sexual assault and sexual exploitation,” said the filing by government lawyer Michael Lawless.

In 2015, Jin had been banned from all B.C. gambling establishments because of large suspicious currency transactions in B.C. casinos. The court documents claim Jin and associates are connected to 140 casino transactions totalling $23.5 million.

It alleges that Jin and Wei “attended on numerous occasions with suitcases and bags containing large sums of currency derived from unlawful activity” at the Silver International underground bank in Richmond. RCMP saw Jin, from April to October 2015, traveling between Silver International, his property on Jones Road, the Water Cube massage parlour and his address on Brighouse Way with suitcases, boxes and bags containing large amounts of cash.

Jin, the civil forfeiture filing claims, was running illegal casinos at 13511 No. 4 Road and 102-5131 Brighouse Way. The latter was registered in Wei’s name. The filing said he profited to the tune of $32 million from June 11, 2015 to Oct. 8, 2015. He received almost $27 million from and deposited $101,000 to Silver International between June and October 2015, but Jin and Wei reported a combined income ranging from $22,372 to $81,000 between 2011 and 2014.

A Fairbrook Crescent house connected to Paul King Jin (BC Assessment)

The filing alleges Jin laundered dirty money to buy four properties in Richmond, a 2013 Cadillac Escalade and a 2013 Bentley Continental GT.

The criminal case against Silver International and its principals, Caixuan Qin and Jian Jun Zhu, collapsed last November and the charges stayed when federal prosecutors errantly exposed the name of an informant. A trial had been scheduled to begin in January.

None of the allegations has been tested in court. Jin has three weeks to file a defence statement. 

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Civil Forfeiture Jin TheBreaker by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The British Columbia government waited until