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Bob Mackin

The suspended clerk and sergeant-at-arms of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly may be under investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency, in addition to the RCMP investigation that began last year.

In his Jan. 21-published report about misconduct by senior officers of the Legislature, Speaker Darryl Plecas wrote about his conversation with Clerk Craig James during their December 2017 business trip to the United Kingdom for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting.

Clerk Craig James (right) and Speaker Darryl Plecas (left) meeting in London with Akbar Khan of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 2017 (BC Leg/Twitter)

“When we were preparing to fly home, I commented that I had bought quite a bit of scotch and that it was likely to cost me a fair sum in duties,” Plecas wrote. “Mr. James replied along the lines of, ‘do as I do — don’t declare anything’. I didn’t take that advice, and I was struck by the brazenness of that comment.”

theBreaker.newsreviewed the exhibits for the Plecas Report and found no expense claims submitted by either James or Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz for repayment of customs duties and related federal and provincial taxes. During that Dec. 1-11, 2017 trip to the U.K., for example, James bought $1,447.06 in goods, including souvenirs, cufflinks, a watch, liquor and luggage. James also claimed $1,327.29 after an August 2018 business trip for “chamber attire (uniform)” from Ede and Ravenscroft, which advertises itself as the oldest tailor shop in London and Queen Elizabeth II’s robe maker and tailor.

theBreaker.news asked CBSA whether it was aware of the relevant passage in the Plecas Report and whether James and Lenz declared to CBSA the purchases they made while on business trips outside of Canada.

“It is not the practice of the CBSA to confirm or deny whether or not it is investigating a certain individual or entity,” wrote Benjamin Letts, senior communications advisor for  the CBSA operations branch, in a statement to theBreaker.news.”

The CBSA website states that Canadians are entitled to claim duty exemptions on $200 of personal purchases after a 24-hour absence and $800 for 48 hours or more. The CBSA website is also clear on the rules that apply to business travellers.

“Goods you bring in for commercial use or for another person do not qualify for the exemption and are subject to applicable duties and taxes,” the CBSA website states. 

“You must declare all goods you acquired while outside Canada, including purchases, gifts, prizes and awards that you have with you or are being shipped to you. You must declare goods purchased at a Canadian or foreign duty-free shop.”

When in doubt, the CBSA website states, declare and let the customs officer sort it out.

Craig James’s expense claim for a suit bought in London (B.C. Legislature)

“If you do not declare goods, or if you falsely declare them, the CBSA can seize the goods. You may permanently lose the goods or you may have to pay a penalty to get them back. Depending on the type of goods and the circumstances involved, the CBSA may impose a penalty that ranges from 25% to 70% of the value of the seized goods.”

When Plecas’s report was published Jan. 21, the Legislative Assembly Management Committee asked James and Lenz to submit a response by Feb. 1. James and Lenz asked for and received an extension to Feb. 7.

The Legislature voted unanimously to suspend them with pay on Nov. 20. Two special prosecutors had been appointed earlier in the fall, after the RCMP asked the Attorney-General’s ministry for one. Almost a week after the suspension, at a Vancouver news conference, the men claimed they did no wrong, offered to cooperate with the investigation and demanded their reinstatement. “He is innocent,” Christine James said about her husband, after theBreaker.news rang the doorbell at Craig James’s Saanich house on the day the Plecas Report was published.

James travelled annually to London from 2015 to 2018. He also visited India, Malta and Guyana in 2015, Guyana again in 2016, U.S. and Mexico in 2017 and Hong Kong, Macau and China last year. In the two years after he was appointed clerk by the BC Liberal government in 2011, James visited Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and Poland.

“Going back as far as the trip to Kenya [for Craig and Christine James to attend the 2010 Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference] and going through all those receipts, there is no indication on any duties being paid,” said Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC. “In light of what the clerk is alleged to have said in the presence of the speaker, it raises serious concerns about whether all of Canada’s customs regulations were respected by the clerk and staff when they were traveling outside the country.”

In December, theBreaker.news reported James was on track to meet or beat his 2017 expense tally before Nov. 20. For the period of April 1-Sept. 30, he claimed $33,892 for domestic and international travel, accommodation, meals and per diems. In 2017, he racked-up $51,649 in expenses on top of his $347,090 salary. Lenz filed claims for $20,248 during the first six months of the 2018 fiscal year, compared to $23,606 for all of last year, when he was paid $218,167 in salary. They also claimed a combined $6,587 in per diems. 

Interim Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd told theBreaker.news that the Clerk’s office has no policy about collecting frequent flyer points. That means James could have collected loyalty points from using his personal American Express card for Legislature business.

MLAs, however, cannot collect Air Miles or other airline bonus points on government-issued credit cards. When MLAs accumulate bonus points on their personal cards from business travel, the points must not be used for any purpose other than legislative business, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association travel or as a donation to a recognized charity. 

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Bob Mackin The suspended clerk and sergeant-at-arms of

Bob Mackin

The devil is always in the details, but sunshine is finally coming to the British Columbia Legislature. 

More than a quarter century after B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was passed by the Harcourt NDP, the Horgan NDP is poised to apply the law to the Legislative Assembly. 

There are 2,900 provincial and municipal government offices, big and small, that are subject to the public records law. Such as provincial ministries and Crown corporations. Hospital authorities. City halls. Regional districts. School boards. 

The Legislature, which spends more than $75 million of your money every year, is not one of them. 

Alan Mullen, special advisor to Speaker Darryl Plecas, with the damning report on the suspended officials (Mackin)

Change is coming, not because the NDP is finally fulfilling election promises from 2017. It is because of the corruption unearthed by Speaker Darryl Plecas and his chief of staff, Alan Mullen in the damning Jan. 21 published report.

The tipping point was a Feb. 4 letter by three official watchdogs, who joined forces to call for the freedom of information law, whistleblower protection and merit-based hiring at the Legislature. 

Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, Merit Commissioner Fiona Spencer and Ombudsperson Jay Chalke told the Legislative Assembly Management Committee that three “reasonable and common sense changes” would enhance accountability, transparency and good governance. (McEvoy’s contribution was previewed a week earlier, when theBreaker.news was first to report on his reaction to the Plecas Report on the suspended and under RCMP investigation clerk Craig James and  sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz.)

“Specifically, we urge all legislators to, in the public interest, enact a framework that ensures that the Legislative Assembly is subject to freedom of information law, offers statutory public interest disclosure recourse and protection to Legislative Assembly staff, and enables oversight of processes to ensure that Legislative Assembly staff are appointed on merit and dismissed only in accordance with fair dismissal practices,” they wrote in the letter, which they released on Feb. 5.

Their letter said the Legislature is a public institution like any other. It employs people, owns property, provides services and spends taxpayer dollars. “When it discharges these functions there is no policy reason to exempt it from accountability and transparency rules that apply to other public institutions.”

They made the case to reform laws, while allowing individual MLAs to carry-out confidential constituency work on behalf of citizens in need and for the Legislature to continue the privileged process of crafting bills. 

Mike Farnworth, the Solicitor General and Government House Leader, was blunt, but vague, when he spoke to reporters in Victoria.

“Let me be really clear: Those three recommendations are going to be implemented,” Farnworth said. 

When? Not overnight, he said. Farnworth said he would work with the watchdogs “as quickly as possible and get things done as soon as possible and work with them on what the appropriate timeline is.” The next Legislature session runs Feb. 12 to May 30.

It is long overdue. The NDP had eight more years in power after the FOI law came to be. The BC Liberals had 16 years and never did pierce the veil of secrecy, despite promising in 2001 to make the B.C. government Canada’s most open and accountable. 

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, sworn-in by Clerk Craig James in April 2018 (BC Leg/Twitter)

The Horgan NDP promised in the 2017 election to make FOI reforms, beginning with a Duty to Document law and fines for the destruction of records. We are now in 2019 and nothing has changed. In some cases, the NDP has taken steps backwards.

Farnworth’s words were the first, welcome words about transparency reforms of any type since the Horgan Horde was sworn-in July 18, 2017. They’re now aiming to take ownership of the issue, the week after BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson proposed a 20-point accountability plan for the Legislature that crazily omitted FOI reform.

The executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association said this is “just one piece of the puzzle” in the struggle for reform. 

“We continue to be in reactionary mode and we need to move a step further and be proactive,” said Sarah Neuert.

Neuert said the May 2016 report of the all-party Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act called for Duty to Document, penalties for interference, and to end exceptions and plug loopholes that public bodies often use to subvert the law. 

“These comprehensive reforms are the only measures that will provide government transparency and establish a system of accountability that will prevent future government scandals from occurring,” she said.

Advocates for open government have good reason to be skeptical of the NDP’s intentions. On Feb. 5, when I contacted the offices of the Premier, Attorney General and Minister of Citizens Services (who is responsible for the operations of the government’s FOI department), nobody would answer if and when a Duty to Document bill would be tabled. 

So, we can thank Plecas and Mullen for getting this far. Their work is bearing fruit. 

It is time for Premier John Horgan to catch-up and fulfil his promises. 

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Bob Mackin The devil is always in the

Bob Mackin

theBreaker.news was first to report on Feb. 4 that the NDP government is putting B.C. Place Stadium’s naming rights on sale, seven years after then-premier Christy Clark scrapped a lucrative deal with Telus and ignited a firestorm of controversy. 

When it published a new request for proposals on the BC Bid procurement portal, PavCo set a May 15 deadline for bids, pledged a shortlist by June 7 and notification of bidders by July 24. The schedule for renaming the stadium is to be announced. PavCo wants to sign a 20-year contract with a sponsor that has “the financial capacity to treat this as a cornerstone of their sponsorship and marketing strategy in Canada,” the tendering document stated.

PavCo said it will evaluate bids based on a five-point checklist that includes: the sponsor’s brand strength, resources and suitability; brand activation strategy and budget; community engagement concepts; sponsorship fees and term; and PavCo’s confidence in the proponent. PavCo enlisted the expertise of sports marketing and branding expert Yoeri Geerits of Calgary-based threesixtythree inc. Geerits is a former senior vice-president of Nielsen Sports Canada. 

Whitecaps’ captain Jay DeMerit (left) and Premier Christy Clark at the Sept. 30, 2011 reopening of B.C. Place Stadium (Whitecaps)

“We’re going to be excited to see who puts their name forward,” Tourism and Culture Minister Lisa Beare said in an interview with theBreaker.news. “At the end of the day we’re going to be looking for the best fit and for the best value for British Columbians.” 

Telus had a 20-year contract worth $40 million to change the 1983-opened venue’s name to Telus Park. Pat Bell, the BC Liberal minister responsible for PavCo in 2012, was heavily criticized for claiming B.C. Place was an “iconic” name and that Telus “did not provide the best value for taxpayers.” 

Asked whether Telus would be receive any special consideration, Beare said: “It’s going to be a fully open and transparent process to ensure the best possible outcome, so any company that is interested will be encouraged to apply.

When the BC Liberal government cancelled the Telus deal, taxpayers were stuck with a $15.2 million bill to buy Telus-installed equipment, including video screens, software and wifi.

Longtime BC Liberal bagman Peter Brown quit the PavCo board in disgust. The B.C. Place naming rights controversy was cited by John van Dongen when he quit the BC Liberal caucus in late March 2012. “When more and more decisions are being made for the wrong reasons, then you have an organization that is heading for failure,” van Dongen said in the Legislature.

Lisa Beare, NDP minister responsible for PavCo (BC Gov)

A “telecom war”  broke out in June 2011 when the Clark cabinet gave Telus a 10-year, government-wide telecommunications supply contract worth $1 billion after abruptly ending a two-year bidding process on nine separate contracts. Bell, Rogers and Shaw threatened legal action. 

Bell was already the top sponsor of the Vancouver Whitecaps, majority owned by Clark friend Greg Kerfoot. The Whitecaps referred to the playing surface at Empire Field and then B.C. Place as “Bell Pitch.” Neither the Whitecaps nor the B.C. Lions contributed to the $514 million, taxpayer-funded renovation and installation of a German-engineered retractable roof that was leak-prone for more than two years.

“We were only just made aware that this announcement was taking place,” Tom Plasteras, the Whitecaps’ director of broadcast and communications, said Feb. 4. “We are not in a position to comment at this time except to say that as a primary tenant we anticipate being an integral part of this naming rights process.”

While in opposition, the NDP slammed the BC Liberals for fast-tracking B.C. Place rejuvenation, because the renovation or replacement of the decaying St. Paul’s Hospital and seismic reinforcement of public schools were bigger priorities for British Columbians. 

In 2013, then-PavCo critic Spencer Chandra Herbert complained to Auditor General John Doyle, seeking a value for money audit because the B.C. Place project was originally estimated at $100 million after the roof ripped and collapsed in 2007 under snow and sleet. Russ Jones replaced Doyle as Auditor General before the BC Liberals won the 2013 provincial election and the B.C. Place audit never proceeded. During that campaign, NDP leader Adrian Dix promised to explore privatization of the stadium. 

The renovation, which began before the 2010 Winter Olympics, was supposed to be financed by the sale of naming rights and lease revenue from a casino next door. Parq Vancouver finally opened in fall 2017. An amount equal to the first three years of lease revenue was paid last year to the Musqueam Indian Band, under an $8.5 million land claims compensation pact negotiated by the previous BC Liberal government. Last week, Ottawa-based PBC Group announced the buy-out of Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming’s stake in the money-losing casino for an undisclosed sum. 

BC Place Stadium was supposed to become Telus Park, but the BC Liberal government cancelled a $40 million agreement. (Telus)

For the year-ended March 31, 2018, B.C. Place ran a $12.12 million deficit, more than $5 million worse than the previous year. According to official 2018 attendance figures released by PavCo to theBreaker.news under the freedom of information law, the Vancouver Whitecaps averaged 18,211 per game, while the B.C. Lions drew an average 14,769. Beare said she did not consider soft attendance for the stadium’s two anchor tenants to be a challenge for the sale of naming rights in 2019.

After the NDP came to power in 2017, it installed lawyer Ian Aikenhead as the chair of the PavCo board, with orders to improve the balance sheet. Aikenhead was president from 1992 to 2001 of the Pacific National Exhibition when it was a B.C. Crown corporation. 

Meanwhile, on Jan. 25, an Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner adjudicator ruled in favour of theBreaker.news, which sought the uncensored, 27-page sponsorship addendum agreement with the Whitecaps. 

“The agreement sets out the locations within B.C. Place that the Whitecaps can use for sponsorship activities and how the Whitecaps can use them,” wrote adjudicator Erika Syrotuck. “The agreement also addresses how the potential future sale of naming rights to B.C. Place Stadium would affect the Whitecaps.”

The adjudicator rejected claims that release of the contract would harm PavCo finances and reveal Whitecaps’ trade secrets. 

“Finally, I do not agree with the Whitecaps’ assertion that a purpose of [the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act] is to protect the interests of private organizations. The purposes of FIPPA are set out in section 2 and include giving the public a right of access to records and specifying limited exceptions to the rights of access. Private organizations that contract with public bodies do so with the knowledge that public bodies are subject to FIPPA.” 

Syrotuck ordered PavCo to disclose the contract by March 11. 

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Bob Mackin theBreaker.news was first to report on

Bob Mackin

(Updated Feb. 5) 

The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating after a female member of the Vancouver Police Department died Jan. 27 at her residence.

A source told theBreaker.news that the member died shortly after being discharged from Vancouver General Hospital and driven home by two members of the VPD human resources department. She had been on job-related stress leave and had also filed complaints alleging sexual harassment by her male superiors, a source said. Her body was found the next morning by her boyfriend. 

According to an internal VPD email, a funeral service for Const. Nicole Chan, 30, has been scheduled for Feb. 15 at Broadway Church. Sworn members of the VPD are asked to wear dress uniform with full medals, while civilian members are asked to be in business attire for the 1 p.m. service. 

Late VPD Const. Nicole Chan (Legacy.com)

Deputy Chief Steve Rai referred a Jan. 29 email request for comment to public information officer Const. Jason Robillard. 

“I can confirm that we are grieving the loss of a colleague,” Robillard wrote in an email. “She passed in her home over the weekend. We are dealing with it internally and I don’t have anything additional to share.”

theBreaker.news noticed Chief Adam Palmer Tweeted a message in support of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health awareness campaign on Jan. 30. Like Rai, Palmer did not respond to a request for comment.

Andy Watson, spokesman for the B.C. Coroners Service, confirmed the agency is “in the early stages of our fact-finding investigation involving the death of a female in her early 30s.”

“The cause of death and any contributory factors would be part of the investigation and available through a Coroner’s Report upon conclusion of the investigation,” Watson wrote.

Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis did not respond.

Palmer and Rai also did not respond when theBreaker.news asked late last year for their reaction to the findings of a coroner’s inquest into the 2013 suicide of RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. At that time, they also referred the request to Robillard. 

VPD Chief Adam Palmer Tweeted a Let’s Talk message, but wouldn’t talk to theBreaker.news about a fallen comrade. (Twitter)

In a prepared statement, Robillard wrote: “The mental well-being of our officers is a big organizational priority and we have created and initiated programs over the years to help ensure our members are fully supported.”

Robillard said recommendations from the coroner’s inquest overlapped with some existing VPD programs, including a critical incident stress management peer support unit, internal mental health training program, human resources department support and assistance, and annual mandatory debrief sessions for those in high-stress positions. 

“Members must see a psychologist of their choice,” Robillard wrote. “There are also some positions where members are mandated to go twice a year for this.”

A discussion paper on police mental health published last October by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said police are more likely to engage in suicidal behaviours than the general public. CAMH cited exposure to trauma, such as car crashes, murder scenes, child abuse, sexual assault and violence, and a rigid workplace culture as contributors to mental illness in police officers.

A number of campaigns have launched domestically and internationally in recent years, to end the stigma of mental illness among first responders. Last year, the NDP B.C. government amended the Workers Compensation Act to allow presumptive coverage for police, firefighters, paramedics, sheriffs and jail guards suffering PTSD and other ailments. 

Anyone feeling distress can call 9-1-1, the 24-hour crisis line (1-800-SUICIDE in Canada; 1-800-273-TALK in the United States) or visit a hospital emergency room. People are ready to help. 

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Bob Mackin (Updated Feb. 5)  The B.C. Coroners

The Nanaimo provincial by-election did not live up to the hype. Will the Burnaby South federal by-election?

By-elections, says theBreaker.news Podcast guest Mario Canseco of Research Co, have less identification with leaders and less media exposure. But Burnaby will buck the trend, because of the spotlight on NDP leader/parachute candidate Jagmeet Singh. Singh is fighting internal forces to retain his leadership as he aims to take Kennedy Stewart’s vacated seat in the House of Commons..

Canseco said Singh’s future hinges upon the NDP caucus lining-up behind him, en route to Feb. 25.

“If we wind up in a situation where nobody from the NDP federally, nobody of name, nobody with certain fame knocks on doors with Jagmeet Singh, then that’s going to send a message that he’s way in over his head and he’s doing it alone,” Canseco told host Bob Mackin in this week’s feature interview.

Meanwhle, the NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson handily defeated BC Liberal Tony Harris, while Green Michele Ney finished a distant third in the Nanaimo vote. A BC Liberal win would’ve brought B.C. closer to a provincial election. Ontario’s Mainstreet Research was way-off when it predicted a Harris win by double digits. 

Canseco said the wildcard in Nanaimo was the release of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s scathing report on corruption at the B.C. Legislature. Clerk Craig James was a BC Liberal appointee and evidence pointed to a cozy relationship between James and the party. 

“It made a lot of people, who maybe were flirting with voting for the Liberals, a little bit uneasy about the situation,” he said. 

Listen to Canseco, commentaries and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines. 

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theBreaker.news Podcast: By-elections a go-go
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The Nanaimo provincial by-election did not live

Bob Mackin

Welcome to this new feature on theBreaker.news. A compendium of the latest headlines on corruption in British Columbia.

What took so long? 

Almost two years after Chilliwack BC Liberal MLA John Martin called the RCMP to investigate theft in his office, the B.C. Prosecution Service finally revealed that it hired a special prosecutor. 

Robin McFee was appointed March 20, 2017 by Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General John Labossiere, but McFee’s involvement was kept secret for 682 days. 

Lawyer Robin McFee (SMRLaw.ca)

The Jan. 31 statement from the prosecution office said the announcement was postponed pending completion of the investigation and submission of the report to Crown Counsel. After the report was submitted to McFee, “Mr. McFee requested and received further investigative materials, and the charge assessment process is now underway,” the statement said. 

The announcement comes on the heels of the Jan. 21 release of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s report on corruption in the B.C. Legislature. 

When theBreaker.news renewed queries to the RCMP’s Lower Mainland public information officer about the case on Jan. 23, it took five days before Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said “the matter remains under investigation.”

Pressed further, Shoihet admitted the case had been referred to the B.C. Prosecution Service, whose spokesman, Daniel McLaughlin, finally admitted on Jan. 31 that a special prosecutor had been appointed. Minutes later, McLaughlin issued a news release. 

Martin declined comment. 

In a March 2, 2017 Chilliwack Progress story, Paul Henderson reported that Martin fired an employee after discovering tens of thousands of dollars missing from the constituency office bank account. 

Chilliwack MLA John Martin (Facebook)

Martin told reporters in Victoria that “in the process of implementing the new system, I became aware that money from my constituency account may have been inappropriately used.”

That new system that Martin referred to is believed to be a project of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee that was carried out by Craig James, the clerk who was suspended with pay on Nov. 20 because of an RCMP investigation involving two special prosecutors. 

At its Dec. 13, 2017 meeting, LAMC heard that Legislature spending rose 37.1% on information systems, driven, in-part, by the centralization of constituency office expenses and document workflow software. That three-phase centralization project wrapped-up last April. 

This is not McFee’s first rodeo as a special prosecutor. On June 25, 2010, the Criminal Justice Branch announced McFee approved a breach of trust charge against former Chilliwack city planner Grant Sanborn. He did not file a similar charge against BC Liberal MLA John Les, the former Mayor of Chilliwack, because there was no substantial likelihood of conviction. In 2012, Sanborn pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failure to enforce provincial agricultural land regulations. 

Deadline extended

Meanwhile, also Jan. 31, LAMC extended the deadline for James and suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz to respond to the Plecas report. Feb. 1 was the original deadline set at the committee’s Jan. 21 meeting. But the two men have until Feb. 7 to explain their controversial expenditures exposed by Plecas.

House leaders Mike Farnworth (NDP), Mary Polak (BC Liberal) and Sonia Furstenau (Green) agreed to the six-day extension. 

To begin the day after losing the Nanaimo by-election, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson released his 20-point Legislature reform plan, including: proactive disclosure of travel expense claims from Legislative Officers, the Speaker, Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms; no foreign travel without six-week prior approval by LAMC; mandatory retirement at age 75 for all Legislative officers; no booze buying except B.C. products for use at public ceremonial events; and income limits and retirement and severance based on public service guidelines. 

Gary Lenz (left), ex-speaker Linda Reid and Craig James (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

“We propose that these be implemented immediately, and where legislation or votes in the Legislature are required, they should proceed by agreement of all parties at the earliest possible date,” Wilkinson wrote to LAMC.

There was a glaring omission from the list. Wilkinson did not include reforms to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to expand the right to know. In an exclusive interview with theBreaker.news, Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy said there is no reason to continue shielding the Legislature from the FOI law. 

“This is something that my predecessors, all three of them, and myself, have called for over the years and I’m very pleased that it’s now in the public spotlight and the discussion is happening about it,” McEvoy said. “There is no reason why they should be treated any differently from the other 2,900 public bodies that are subject to the legislation.” 

AudGen rings in 

Auditor General Carol Bellringer added an audit of the Legislative Assembly to her 2019-2020 agenda, released Jan. 31. 

“Of note, while we were finalizing this plan, allegations surfaced about administrative processes in the legislative assembly,” Bellringer’s report said. “We have commenced an audit in this area in light of the issues brought to our attention and concerns that my office previously raised in 2007, 2012 and 2013.”

Bellringer’s work is separate from a forensic audit that LAMC will order from an auditor general from another province, as per the Jan. 21 meeting. 

Bellringer’s office has 17 audits in progress for this year and another 50 it hopes to complete before 2022. 

Mountie’s illegal five-province sex romp 

Ex-RCMP Sgt. Derek Brassington broke down in B.C. Supreme Court and admitted he treated a witness in the Surrey Six gangland slaying case “like a girlfriend.”

Brassington, who was attached to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, pleaded guilty to breach of trust and compromising the integrity and safety of a witness on Jan. 18. CBC and Global successfully challenged a publication ban. 

Brassington had a boozy affair in 2009 with the unnamed woman, that included a coast-to-coast sex tour across Canada, with trysts in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Victoria. 

Satirical Richmond button (Facebook)

Brassington’s sentence is two years, less a day, house arrest. Brassington’s superior David Attew and cohort Danny Michaud pleaded guilty to lying about Brassington’s affair and sentenced to three months house arrest. 

Five people have been convicted of the deaths of six people on Oct. 19, 2007 in a Surrey apartment tower.

And, finally…

Behold, a new satirical souvenir in Richmond. As seen on the Richmond’s Changing Neighbourhoods Facebook group.

Sure to be a hot button.

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Bob Mackin Welcome to this new feature on

Bob Mackin 

In the wake of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s damning report about corruption at the British Columbia Legislature, the province’s information and privacy watchdog called on the Green-supported NDP government to put the Legislative Assembly under the freedom of information laws.  

“There is no good reason why freedom of information legislation should not cover the Legislature, the assembly staff, offices, and members,” Commissioner Michael McEvoy told theBreaker.news. “This is something that my predecessors, all three of them, and myself, have called for over the years and I’m very pleased that it’s now in the public spotlight and the discussion is happening about it. 

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy (right), sworn-in by the now-suspended Clerk Craig James in April 2018 (BC Leg/Twitter)

“There is no reason why they should be treated any differently from the other 2,900 public bodies that are subject to the legislation.” 

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.

“I found it quite fascinating,” said Research Co.’s Mario Canseco. “This isn’t happening, 70% want it to happen. One of the most interesting findings.”

Canseco was surprised that more respondents who identified themselves as BC Liberal voters from the 2017 election (41%) than Green (39%) and NDP voters (33%) agreed with subjecting the Legislature to FOI.

McEvoy said that he does not expect adding the Legislature to the Act would add significant costs. While legislative privilege has been raised as a defence to secrecy, McEvoy said that can be balanced with the public’s right to know. 

“Access to information is not an absolute right, there are exceptions under the legislation,” he said. 

Administrative records, he said, should not be exempted because they are matters of public interest and the public has a right of access.

Ending secrecy at the Legislature is just one part of McEvoy’s wish list.

“Public bodies’ use of subsidiary corporations, section 13 on advice and recommendations, lack of penalties with regard to destruction of records,” he said. “These are some of the issues that I constantly bring up to government and raise to the public. I’m glad this now is a discussion that is happening amongst members of the public and hope that will encourage members of our legislature to reform our legislation.” 

Research Co. pollster Mario Canseco (Mackin)

The Legislature has paid lip service to transparency and accountability. It 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. 

As such, Plecas’s report was the first glimpse British Columbians ever got to correspondence between the speaker and clerk about spending.

Canseco conducted the poll Jan. 25-27 with 800 adults in B.C. online. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5%, 19 times out of 20. Respondents agreed the wasted money should be repaid (74%) and that Plecas acted properly (54%). Some 63% said they are watching the scandal closely. 

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Bob Mackin  In the wake of Speaker Darryl

Bob Mackin

Two days after Canada’s ambassador to China was fired for saying it would be “great” if the United States dropped its case against Meng Wanzhou, top officials in Washington, D.C. announced they would pursue the Huawei chief financial officer’s extradition.

In a Jan. 28 news conference, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker and heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Commerce revealed 10 charges that were filed Jan. 16 against Chinese telecom giant Huawei in Seattle and 13 charges filed Jan. 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The latter case centres on the Hong Kong-incorporated Skycom, which the U.S. says functioned as Huawei’s Iran-based subsidiary in order to get around trade sanctions. The other 10 charges accuse Huawei of stealing trade secrets about T-Mobile’s Tappy mobile phone testing robot. 

U.S. officials annouce charges against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou (DoJ)

Meng, who was arrested on a U.S. warrant at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, is one of three people charged in the Brooklyn filing. Names of the other two defendants are censored because they have not been arrested. 

Meng was released on $10 million bail and curfew conditions Dec. 11. She returned to B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 29 to reorganize her sureties and to set March 6 as the next date. Canada’s justice ministry has received the official extradition application from the U.S. Deadline for approval and referral to the court is March 1. 

China retaliated by arbitrarily arresting Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig, and sentencing convicted drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg to death. Schellenberg had previously been sent to jail for 15 years. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired ambassador John McCallum Jan. 26 after McCallum first told reporters that Meng had a case to beat extradition and then for saying it would be “great” for the U.S. to drop the case. 

The Brooklyn indictment says that, following a November 2007 transfer of Skycom shares from one Huawei subsidiary to another, “Huawei falsely claimed that Skycom was one of Huawei’s local business partners in Iran, as opposed to one of Huawei’s subsidiaries or affiliates.” 

Meng was on Skycom’s board of directors in 2008 and 2009, before becoming Huawei CFO in 2010. Huawei employed at least one U.S. national in Iran whose identity is known to the Grand Jury. The U.S. alleges that Huawei repeatedly misrepresented to the U.S. and various victim banks and their U.S. and Eurozone subsidiaries and branches that “although Huawei conducted business in Iran, it did so in a manner that did not violate applicable U.S. law.”

Meng Wanzhou in Stanley Park (B.C. Supreme Court exhibits)

Had the banks been aware Huawei had violated the sanctions, the U.S. contends, they would have thought twice continuing to do business with Huawei. 

“There are additional, troubling allegations in the indictment as well, including that Huawei lied to the federal government and attempted to obstruct justice by concealing and destroying evidence and by moving potential government witnesses back to China,” Whitaker said at the news conference.

Without naming him, the indictment says that FBI agents interviewed Meng’s father, Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei, in July 2007. 

“[He] falsely stated, in substance and in part, that Huawei did not conduct ay activity in violation of U.S. export laws and that Huawei operated in compliance with all U.S. export laws.”

After Reuters’ 2012 and 2013 stories about Huawei selling goods to Iran contrary to sanctions, Huawei representatives and employees told victim banks that the allegations were false and that Huawei complied with U.S. law. Based on those false representations, the banks continued to do business with Huawei. 

The indictment says that Meng met Aug. 22, 2013 with a bank executive and relied on a PowerPoint presentation written in Chinese. “Upon request by the financial institution 1 executive, Meng arranged for an English-language version of the PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to financial institution 1 on or about Sept. 3, 2013.” 

That PowerPoint presentation was entered in B.C. Supreme Court as evidence during Meng’s December bail hearing 

The Brooklyn indictment alleges that the presentation includes four major misrepresentations about Huawei’s ownership and control of Skycom, including that Meng’s membership on the board was to “help Huawei to better understand Skycom’s financial results and business performance, and to strengthen and monitor Skycom’s compliance.” 

Meng traveled to John F. Kennedy International Airport in early 2014, “carrying an electronic device that contained a file in unallocated space — indicating that the file may have been deleted.” The file was headed “Suggested Talking Points,” but how the U.S. obtained the file is not mentioned.

Security guards outside Meng Wanzhou’s Dunbar house on Jan. 28.

The U.S. charged that in 2017, Huawei and Huawei U.S.A. learned of the U.S. government’s investigation of Huawei, so the companies “made efforts to move witnesses with knowledge about Huawei’s Iran-based business to the PRC, and beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, and to destroy and conceal evidence in the United States of Huawei’s Iran-based business.” 

The indictment listed five Skycom transactions in U.S. dollars in 2013 and 2014 totalling almost $314,000 and said that the U.S. would file for criminal forfeiture of real or personal property upon conviction. That opens the door for the U.S. to take over a second property on Matthews Drive in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy. 

But first, Meng would need to be extradited, which could take months or years.

Meanwhile, another 10 charges were filed in Seattle alleging that Huawei stole T-Mobile trade secrets between 2012 and 2014 about the telecom’s Tappy Robot System which was developed to find software errors and other problems before new phones are sold to customers. 

“The Tappy robot performs ‘touches’ on phones that simulate how people use their phones. Tappy tests, among other things, the responsiveness, performance, and stability of the phone’s user interface.” 

In 2010, Futurewei Technologies, the predecessor of Huawei USA, agreed to supply phones to T-Mobile. In 2012, T-Mobile granted Huawei engineers access to Tappy for testing Huawei phones. Huawei signed two confidentiality agreements in August 2012, promising that its employees would not photograph or copy Tappy, attempt to reverse engineer Tappy’s software or hack the robot. 

The Seattle court filing says Huawei used various means to subvert the agreement and copy T-Mobile-developed technology for Huawei’s xDeviceRobot.

The FBI discovered email that said Huawei offered incentives to its workers based on “the value of information they stole from other companies around the world, and provided to Huawei via an encrypted email address.”

A federal jury awarded T-Mobile $4.8 million in damages in 2017 after it sued Huawei for $502 million for stealing trade secrets. 

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Huawei PowerPoint by on Scribd

Bob Mackin Two days after Canada’s ambassador

Bob Mackin

The managing partner of a Vancouver-headquartered personal injury law firm went to social media on Jan. 25 to announce his vote for Tony Harris in the Nanaimo by-election. 

“I voted for the BC Liberals in Nanaimo because they won’t slap 17 new/increased taxes on the city and screw the injured victim on an ICBC claim,” wrote Wes Mussio at 11:11 p.m. Jan. 25, in a since-deleted Tweet from Qualicum Beach. “Yes the Liberals have ‘issues’ but the NDP are terrible for Nanaimo business, the local economy and most homeowners.”

Nanaimo Clippers’ owner’s deleted Tweet (Twitter)

Mussio’s profile listed Vancouver as his location. He since changed that to Nanaimo. 

Mussio bought the Nanaimo Clippers of the B.C. Hockey League in fall 2017 and told theBreaker.news that he works at the Nanaimo satellite office of his Mussio Goodman firm. He said his principal residence is in the Departure Bay area of Nanaimo and that he spends only one day a week in Vancouver during hockey season, at the Shaughnessy house his wife owns.

“I live [in Nanaimo], I run a business there — two businesses — I’m there more than I’m in Vancouver,” Mussio said. “I’m more connected to Nanaimo than most people around Nanaimo. A lot of people have secondary houses there.”

Before last fall’s Vancouver civic election, he listed his Shaughnessy address on the nomination form for wife Penny Mussio’s unsuccessful city council run on Wai Young’s Coalition Vancouver ticket. Mussio said he since moved to Nanaimo to manage the Clippers’ business operations and live with his son, defenseman Devon Mussio who was traded to Nanaimo in October. He said he did not vote in either Vancouver or Nanaimo civic elections because he was in transition. 

Vancouver vs. Nanaimo; before and after (Twitter)

Social media has been rife with photographs of BC Liberal and NDP supporters from the Lower Mainland and Interior taking BC Ferries to work on campaigns for the Jan. 30 by-election. Sheila Malcolmson supporter Jinny Sims, the NDP Minister of Citizens Services and a Surrey MLA, lists Nanaimo residential property in her annual public disclosure. B.C. Conservative candidate Justin Greenwood lives in Langley, but was raised in Central Saanich and has a brother in Nanaimo.

With such a high stakes by-election, could some partisans be visiting the Hub City on extended vacations in order to cast a vote for their favourite party? 

The Election Act says Canadian citizens who are at least 18-years-old and B.C. residents for six months are eligible to vote. There is no time requirement to be resident of a certain riding. It is possible for transients to vote.

“A temporary residence, such as a hotel, can be a home address only if you consider this to be your home,” says the Elections BC website. “Individuals with no fixed place of residence may use the address of a shelter, hostel, or similar institution that provides food, lodging, or other social services.”

Elections BC spokeswoman Rebecca Penz said the Election Act prohibits individuals who are temporarily in the electoral district from voting in the by-election. 

“An individual’s residence is the place where they live and to which, whenever absent, they intend to return,” Penz said. “An individual may only be a resident of one place at a time, therefore it would be a contravention of the Act to live outside of the district and claim residency in the district for the purposes of voting.”

Clarification:

Mr. Mussio is required by the Junior A B.C. Hockey League to be a local owner as part of the Nanaimo Clippers franchise agreement. As such, he has lived in rental residences in Nanaimo since buying the franchise in November 2017 — all within the Nanaimo provincial riding boundaries — and is actively pursuing the purchase of a residence in Nanaimo. He is neither owner nor renter of personal space in Vancouver. We sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding.

In October of 2018, Mr. Mussio expanded his role with the Nanaimo Clippers and took over the business operations of the franchise when two senior managers departed. He is also the sole lawyer working at the Nanaimo office of the Mussio Goodman law firm, which specializes in ICBC cases, published the guide What ICBC Does Not Want You to Know and operates the ICBCHelp.com website. Mr. Mussio also co-publishes Backroad Mapbooks, the must-have guides for outdoor recreation enthusiasts across Canada.  

The Clippers play home games at the Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo. Four games remain in the regular season and tickets range from $7.25 for children 12 and under to $16.70 for adults. Go Clippers! 

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Bob Mackin The managing partner of a Vancouver-headquartered

Luxury overseas travel. Expensive custom-tailored suits, shiny watches and major league baseball tickets. A log-splitter. Schemes to collect insurance benefits, retirement allowances and pay-in-lieu of vacation. All on the public tab. 

Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz have a lot to answer to, after Speaker Darryl Plecas followed through on his pledge to reveal some of the reasons why he went to the RCMP, which is investigating the Nov. 20-suspended officials. 

Plecas’s outrageous 76-page report, published Jan. 21, contains shocking revelations on almost every page. Plecas said it is the tip of the iceberg. 

“The impact that all of this has all had on taxpayers, I want us to get to a place where we get our money back,” Plecas said at an event in his Abbotsford South riding, two days after the Legislative Assembly Management Committee agreed to publish the report, seek a forensic audit by an out-of-province auditor, review workplace policies and procedures and consider whether James and Lenz should be fired outright. The two officials, suspended with full pay and benefits, have until Feb. 1 to respond to the report. They maintain they did no wrong. 

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, hear from Plecas, his chief of staff Alan Mullen, Premier John Horgan, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and others. Plus, we go into the Legislature’s audio vault to find out how it all began in June 2011 when the BC Liberal government made James the clerk without an open competition and without unanimous support. 

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Luxury overseas travel. Expensive custom-tailored suits, shiny