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Bob Mackin

Now we know why the alarm bells went-off for Speaker Darryl Plecas, after the Jan. 21 release of his scathing report on corrupt activity in the B.C. Legislature.  

The spending scandal has not been the finest hour for some of the biggest names who report for some of the biggest media outlets about provincial politics. Outlets that have lost substantial marketshare over the last decade amid the tango of technological change, corporate media consolidation and newsroom cutbacks. 

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

I have compiled a selection of the goofy groupthink and ludicrous lines that just didn’t age well, beginning the day that Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were unanimously suspended by the Legislature and the RCMP investigation came to light.

[James and Lenz] are two very well-liked and highly-respected people who have been on the scene at the B.C. Legislature for a number of years. 

–Keith Baldrey, Global BC, Nov. 20

James, a friendly fellow who rides his bike to work and who will happily invite you into his office for a chat, claimed to have no idea. 

—Mike Smyth, The Province, Nov. 21

Right now, it appears to be Darryl Plecas and Alan Mullen that are in control of the Legislature, not the MLAs… the morale, I can tell you of a lot of people who served under both [James and Lenz] has suffered as a result of this.”

—Keith Baldrey, CKNW, Nov. 22

Tom Fletcher (Black Press)

Before [Linda] Reid, Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff kept a tight leash on the press gallery and a veil over legislature finances, ruling with an imperial disdain not usually seen in trucking company owners. At least I’d buy a used truck from Barisoff, which is more than I can say for the current occupant of the ornate old speaker’s office, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas. 

Last year Plecas played a key role in toppling the B.C. Liberals…*

—Tom Fletcher, Black Press, Nov. 25 

[*editor’s note: Plecas was not involved in “toppling the BC Liberals.” He was actually among the toppled. Plecas and 41 other BC Liberal MLAs were outvoted by NDP and Greens in the June 29, 2017 confidence vote on the throne speech. That led to the John Horgan government.] 

James said there is a strict auditing system in place at the building to track public dollars and prevent their theft or misuse. 

“I have established processes in the legislative assembly that are essentially bulletproof,” he said.

Both men seemed very confident of their innocence. And the fact that they would hold a press conference and take questions from reporters also says a lot.* 

—Mike Smyth, The Province, Nov. 27

News 1130’s Bill Good (Capital Direct)

[*editor’s note: Just because someone hires a public relations company and invites cameras and microphones does not automatically mean the subject is candid. Exhibit A, Donald Trump.] 

It’s hard not to lay the blame for the current mess at the hands of the speaker Darryl Plecas.

—Bill Good, News 1130, Nov. 28

Despite how wondrously this matter has been botched by the Speaker’s office, and I mean from the start, the fact remains two men are under RCMP investigation… I don’t see how the two men can return to their jobs (as they are requesting) until the investigation has been completed — as much as I sympathize with them for the suffering it’s undoubtedly caused. 

This will come to a conclusion, hopefully soon. And when it does, my gut tells me there will be some explaining to do. Lots of it. And not by the two men whose activities are being investigated.

—Gary Mason, Globe and Mail, Nov. 28

Postmedia’s Rob Shaw (Twitter)

But Reid, to her credit, never tried to investigate [Craig] James… To prevent another scandal, MLAs will need to pay more attention to who they pick for the position, as well as keep an eye on what the Speaker is doing. 

—Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, Dec. 3

It seems equally unlikely Plecas will actually, as he promised, explain all his concerns when he reconvenes MLAs in mid-January…

The NDP, now increasingly anxious about how the stability of its government rests on the shaky foundation of the Speaker’s credibility…

—Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, Dec. 10

While other outlets were madly intent on grilling the whistleblower and his aide, theBreaker.news was focused on specious spending and clandestine contracting in what is often called “the people’s house.” It was a scandal waiting to happen because the B.C. Legislature is an anachronism.

James and Lenz never imagined their secrets would be exposed by the speaker (who they seemed to forget was a renowned criminology professor), because they functioned comfortably in a high-paying vacuum where B.C.’s freedom of information laws do not apply and, according to the Plecas report, those that questioned their authority were shown the door.

Now it’s your turn, Premier Horgan, David Eby, Mike Farnworth and Jinny Sims, to amend the FOI laws, bring the Legislature into the 21st century and restore public trust and confidence.

Will you?

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Bob Mackin Now we know why the alarm

Bob Mackin

The saga of Meng Wanzhou is fraught with geopolitical intrigue. 

Some wags say it’s a kind of dog-and-pony show. 

The Huawei chief financial officer, arrested Dec. 1 at Vancouver International Airport, has lived comfortably on-bail for more than a month at the $5 million Dunbar house in the name of her husband, Liu “Carlos” Xiaozong. 

Dog and pony walked across from Meng Wanzhou’s Dunbar house on Jan. 24 (photo submitted)

Security guards and sport utility vehicles surround her house around the clock. She is allowed to travel around the City of Vancouver and parts of Richmond and the North Shore between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. She has accepted a variety of visitors, some bearing gifts. 

Meng has a date at the Law Courts on Feb. 6, to fix a date for her extradition proceedings. The United States is expected to submit its case to Canadian officials by the Jan. 30 deadline. 

Will comments by President Donald Trump and Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum undermine the court process? Trump suggested Meng could be a bargaining chip to reach a better trade deal with China. McCallum suggested Meng has a strong defense to avoid extradition to the U.S., where she could be jailed for 30 years if convicted of fraud.

Meng’s lifestyle is in stark contrast to the treatment of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig, who were arbitrarily arrested and jailed in China in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

A source of theBreaker.news who was in the neighbourhood on Jan. 24 found none other than Chinese-American Internet celebrity Brother Sway. 

And an area resident walking a dog and a pony across the street. 

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Bob Mackin The saga of Meng Wanzhou is

Bob Mackin

As the B.C. Legislature corruption scandal widens, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver called on ex-speaker Linda Reid to resign her assistant deputy speaker post on Jan. 23. But the 28-year Richmond BC Liberal MLA told Global News that she is going nowhere.

“I would never knowingly, willingly claim for something I wasn’t entitled to,” Reid said, pledging to cooperate with an audit ordered Jan. 21 by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. “I have never done that in my career.”

Linda Reid (left) and Craig James (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association)

In 2013, Reid knowingly and willingly claimed for her husband’s business class airfare, meals and hotel when she attended a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in South Africa. In March 2014, when Reid was exposed, she said she reimbursed the public treasury for $5,528.16 for the airfare and would eventually repay the rest of her husband’s costs.

Did she? 

Beginning in 2014, this reporter persistently sought proof from Reid. She has never acknowledged phone or email messages, much less shown any proof of repayment. Reid did not respond to theBreaker.news queries on Jan. 23.

The year 2014 was also when $79,000 of renovations to Reid’s riding office in Garden City Mall caught the eye of RCMP officials. A brown bench was bolted to concrete  by the curb and surveillance cameras installed, without any recommendation from police. Reid also renovated the kitchen and bathroom, but no charges were laid. Landlord Farrell Estates donated $24,240 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2017.

Reid’s latest controversy stems from the report by Speaker Darryl Plecas into alleged corruption at the Legislature. Plecas’s Jan. 21 report recounted how a BC Liberal aide was fired for questioning Reid’s expense reports. 

Connor Gibson was applauded by BC Liberal MLAs when he was introduced in the Legislature on May 29 of last year. Former Education Minister Mike Bernier joked that members of the BC Liberal caucus “had a bit of an arm wrestle” about who would introduce Gibson, his legislative assistant. Bernier then gave Gibson a glowing review that is recorded in the Hansard transcript for perpetuity.

Linda Reid’s Richmond constituency office, where a bench was installed because of her security fears. (Mackin)

“I think that [Connor is] probably one of the strongest, hardest-working LAs, because he puts up with quite a motley crew of MLAs,” Bernier said.

Just two days later, on May 31, Gibson was fired. 

In the Plecas report, where he was identified by the initials “AB,” it says Gibson was told it was for “budget concerns.”

“[He] believed he was fired for refusing to do something that he thought was unethical, and he was upset about that,” Plecas wrote.

Gibson had come forward to Plecas’s aide Alan Mullen, and agreed to an interview with Mullen, Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Randy Ennis and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz two weeks after he was fired. “[His] concerns were that mileage claims were being made for trips the MLA had taken by taxi, and full day per diems were claimed when meals had been provided by hosts that the MLA was meeting with. Mr. Lenz remarked that he thought a forensic audit was needed,” Plecas wrote.

Later that afternoon, following the meeting, Lenz called Mullen and told him that the complaint was unsubstantiated. Meanwhile, Plecas and James were on a goodwill visit to China and having a conversation over breakfast. 

“[James] said words to the effect of, ‘I spoke with Kate [Ryan-Lloyd, the deputy clerk] and told her to rein Gary in and put a stop to this, otherwise we will all wear it’,” the report said.

Plecas spoke with Ryan-Lloyd on June 20 and she said James did not contact her about Gibson’s case. On June 20, Ryan-Lloyd told Plecas that James went to Vancouver to meet with lawyer Geoff Plant, about how to “rein in Gary and ensure he wouldn’t be conducting investigations in the future”.

Linda Reid hiding under her desk for an earthquake drill in 2018. (Twitter)

Plant is a former BC Liberal attorney general and partner at the Gall Legge Grant Zwack law firm that billed the Legislature $105,478 for the year-ended March 31, 2018.

“Any officer who takes steps to summarily quash an investigation at a preliminary stage, with an express justification of protecting expense recording patterns and insulating them from review, is a serious matter that warrants a proper enquiry,” Plecas wrote.

“I was uncomfortable with Mr. James’ suggestion that, if the matter came to light, it would have broader negative ramifications, together with his claim to have suppressed an internal investigation into a genuine issue raised in good faith by a concerned employee.”

Gibson’s case was contained in a section of Plecas’s report about shoddy workplace management at the Legislature. Some 16 ex-employees have come forward to Plecas and Mullen. Many of the fired workers had raised concerns about expense irregularities and financial mismanagement. 

“It appears that this practice of sudden without-cause terminations has fostered a culture of insecurity among staff in at least some of the departments at the Legislative Assembly that if employees spoke up about concerns or fell out of favour they could lose their jobs without warning,” Plecas wrote. “As a result, staff have stayed quiet about what they have observed.”

The all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee voted unanimously to review workplace policies and procedures. Plecas also recommended whistleblower protection. A section of the report that dealt with termination of employees included a quote from an unnamed, 2013-fired employee. 

“I still feel disheartened over losing my job there because there’s no reason I should have been let go… when I worked there, I felt I was walking in the footsteps of history, that I was actually part of history, that I was part of something in British Columbia, and something that is really, really important.”

In 2013, then-Speaker Linda Reid billed taxpayers for a South African safari with her husband. (Twitter)

Plecas wrote that a public employer should set a standard for a respectful workplace. The Legislative Assembly, however, lacks protection for workers, because it is not unionized and the Employment Standards Act and Human Rights Code do not apply.

“Unnecessary terminations in which terminated employees receive pay in lieu of notice is also a costly practice for an employer: severance payments, recruiting expenses, training costs, lost productivity and loss of institutional knowledge are costs needlessly incurred,” said Plecas’s report.

The annual Legislative Assembly financial report shows the steadily rising costs of severance settlements, from $81,739 in the 2012-13 fiscal year to $268,802 in 2015-16 and $540,421 in 2017-18. 

The spotlight falls on Reid just days before she hosts her riding association’s annual $350-a-plate Robbie Burns Dinner fundraiser on Jan. 25 at the Mayfair Lakes Golf and Country Club. There is no mention of the scotch tasting that was advertised during the years when Reid was speaker.

In his report, Plecas recalled discovering three liquor cabinets in the speaker’s office. “It had been my previous experience that the government does not pay for alcohol for staff or members’ personal consumption, so this was surprising to me.”

An RCMP investigation of the Nov. 20-suspended James and Lenz is ongoing. They claim their innocence. LAMC has asked for an explanation from both of them and could move to fire them outright.

On Jan. 23, Plecas told reporters in Abbotsford that he wants to see justice for the staffers who were fired under James and Lenz. 

“The impact that all of this has happened on taxpayers,” Plecas said. “I want us to get to a place where we get our money back.”

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Bob Mackin As the B.C. Legislature corruption scandal

Bob Mackin

Did suspended B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig James show favouritism to Christy Clark and the BC Liberals in return for awarding him the job in 2011 without competition? 

That is a nagging question that Speaker Darryl Plecas leaves open for the reader to decide in his devastating Jan. 21 report that alleges corruption in the Legislature. 

“Multiple witnesses have informed the Speaker of their view that Mr. James was aligned with the BC Liberals (with some suggesting that Mr. James’ unexpected appointment as Clerk of the House was connected to his ‘doing a job’ for the government as acting Chief Electoral Officer),” Plecas wrote, referring to James’s much-criticized oversight of the anti-Harmonized Sales Tax petition in 2010.

Clerk Craig James came to Vancouver to swear-in Christy Clark as Westside-Kelowna MLA in 2013. (Facebook)

James got the promotion from clerk of committees in a controversial vote on June 2, 2011 when Rich Coleman was BC Liberal house leader. Then-NDP leader Adrian Dix did not dispute James’s qualifications to succeed the retiring George MacMinn, but steadfastly maintained there should have been a competitive process through the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. Instead, the BC Liberals, under then-premier Clark, used their majority to rubber-stamp James’s appointment.

“If he truly wanted to respect the position he holds, he would’ve said to the government this is not the right way to do it, even if it cost him the job,” said Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC. “The institution should always be more important than the individual holding the position in the institution.” 

Plecas wrote that, early in his tenure as speaker, the suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz told him that James “was not impartial, and that he was in fact very close with the BC Liberal Party… Lenz added that I should not trust Mr. James.”

The clerk’s job description requires “full support of all political parties and [the clerk] must be seen as being even-handed and not connected to any political party.”

A comment by James nearly a year later suggested his relationship with the BC Liberals was complex.

After returning from an August 2018 trip to the United Kingdom, James asked Plecas when he would submit his bill for a $1,100 suit bought at the posh Ede & Ravenscroft store in London. Plecas said he wouldn’t charge taxpayers for the clothing.  

“I didn’t want to alarm him, so I added something to the effect of me being a public figure and that my expenses are undoubtedly scrutinized by the Members of the Opposition,” Plecas recalled. “He replied that I shouldn’t worry. He said that if they took issue with my expenses, he could put an end to it because he had ‘so much dirt on the Liberals’ and that he could threaten to ‘stop paying their legal bills’ or ‘quit paying their severance payments’. I don’t know what he was talking about, but it seemed an unusual comment.”

Said IntegrityBC’s Travis, “Anybody who is a clerk of any Legislature is going to hear anything that might pass through the halls of the Legislature. The fact that he would believe such information could be used to influence public debate is deplorable. That is so counter to what the job of the clerk of the Legislature is.”

Plecas found James spent almost $11,000 on 36 trips via Harbour Air, HeliJet and BC Ferries assured loading between Victoria and Vancouver over 18 months. He also took three trips to Penticton to meet Bill Barisoff, the BC Liberal who spent eight years in the speaker’s chair until 2013. 

“The stated purpose of those trips listed on his expense claim form is typically a single meeting; in many cases, it is not clear how the meetings fall within Mr. James’ responsibilities as Clerk of the House,” said Plecas’s report. “On these trips, Mr. James often expenses lunches for the entire group attending the meeting; if not, he consistently claims a per diem for the relevant meal. He often claims mileage that exceeds what would be expected given the indicated destination.”

Which BC Liberals did James meet? 

During the period, James traveled to meet with Clark in Vancouver: once on July 17, 2017, her final day as premier, and the remainder — Oct. 13, 2017, Dec. 14, 2017, and May 2, 2018 — after she was out of politics. On the latter date, James billed taxpayers $120.18 for lunch at the Seasons in the Park restaurant.

Ex-BC Liberal attorney general Geoff Plant (LTSA)

Clark did not respond to email and phone interview requests about her meetings with James. 

“She won’t be providing any comments on that,” said Gul Gulsen, Clark’s chief of staff at the Bennett Jones law firm where she is a special advisor. (Gulsen spent two tours of duty as executive assistant in the premier’s office.)

James traveled to Vancouver most often for meetings with Geoff Plant, the former 19-year BC Liberal MLA who was attorney general from 2001 to 2005. Plant remains active in the party: a year ago, Plant was the chief returning officer for the leadership contest that resulted in Andrew Wilkinson’s win. 

theBreaker.news counted 14 meetings with Plant. He is now a partner with the Gall Legge Grant Zwack law firm that billed the Legislature $105,478 for the year-ended March 31, 2018.

June 20, 2018 was a particularly interesting day. James’s meeting with Plant was related to the quashing of Lenz’s investigation into a complaint by whistleblower Connor Gibson, a BC Liberal staffer fired after questioning orders to submit improper expense claims on behalf of Linda Reid, the longtime Richmond MLA who was speaker from 2013 to 2017.

That same meeting included an $80.40 lunch at the Marriott Hotel’s Showcase Restaurant with real estate lawyer Paul Barbeau. At the time, Barbeau was Wilkinson’s handpicked representative on the party executive board, which manages the party’s budget, finances and promotes its purposes and principles, according to a March 21 announcement on the Barbeau Evans website. Last November, Barbeau became BC Liberal president. His firm did not show up on the list of Legislature suppliers over $25,000 for the last fiscal year. 

Neither Barbeau nor Plant returned phone calls or emails from theBreaker.news.

Most-intriguing, however, was the reason for the meeting.

James’s expense form reads: “Vancouver-Point Grey.”

That is the name of the riding represented by NDP Attorney General David Eby, whose responsibilities also include auto insurance, gambling and liquor. Eby knocked-off Clark in the 2013 election. Wilkinson’s right-hand-man Barbeau has openly opposed the NDP’s new tax on residential property worth more than $3 million (he lives at a Dunbar property worth more than $5 million). Staff at party headquarters helped organize lawn signs, protests and anonymous online petitions targeting Eby in Vancouver-Point Grey over what the NDP has euphemistically called a “school surtax.”

While James visited Vancouver that day via BC Ferries assured loading — which cost $310 round-trip — he also took a detour to Vancouver International Airport and included a $4.50 charge for a 14-minute stay at the parking lot in his expense report. It does not identify who he was dropping-off or picking-up. 

Paul Barbeau (LinkedIn)

James also traveled to Vancouver for a Jan. 31, 2018 meeting at the Liberal Vancouver offices, four days before the party’s leadership election. The expense claim does not say who he met there. On April 4 of last year, he visited BC Liberal MLA Dan Davies in a Vancouver hospital, after Davies suffered an injury while working part-time at a Fort St. John construction site.

James’s expenses also show he met on four occasions with lawyer John Hunter, whose Hunter Litigation Chambers billed the Legislature $44,866 for the last fiscal year. Two of the meetings, on May 4 and 17, 2017, are in dispute. 

Hunter was named as a judge to the B.C. Court of Appeal on April 12, 2017 and sworn-in eight days later. theBreaker.news provided Bruce Cohen, the spokesman for B.C.’s superior courts, a copy of James’s May 17, 2017 expense claim. But Cohen said Hunter told him he did not speak to or meet with James “at any time” after his judicial appointment was announced. 

James and Lenz are under investigation by the RCMP and two special prosecutors, but deny wrongdoing. They are represented by lawyers from the Fasken law firm, which donated $439,785 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2017.

Plecas was twice-elected as a BC Liberal MLA in Abbotsford South, but his membership was cancelled after becoming speaker in September 2017. He had threatened earlier that summer to leave caucus and sit as an independent if Clark did not quit as leader. 

theBreaker.news exclusively reported that the “final straw” for Plecas was Clark’s plan to replace non-partisan constituency office workers with BC Liberal staff in a bid to undermine the NDP government. Legislature rules require constituency offices to be non-political environments.

Plecas, who was a criminology professor before entering politics, is a rare independent speaker. He is not beholden to any party leader to sign his nomination papers, should he seek re-election. 

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Bob Mackin Did suspended B.C. Legislature Clerk Craig

Bob Mackin

According to Speaker Darryl Plecas’s bombshell report, suspended British Columbia Legislature Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz didn’t just enjoy luxury travel, custom-tailored suits, shiny watches and major league baseball tickets on the taxpayer tab. 

They also hatched numerous schemes aimed at collecting insurance benefits, retirement allowances and pay-in-lieu of vacation to pad their six-figure salaries. 

Plecas (left) and Ryan-Lloyd on Jan. 21 (Mackin)

The most-egregious appears on page 22 of Plecas’s Jan. 21-published report on allegations of misconduct against James and Lenz. It happened in late October of last year, so close to the duo’s sensational Nov. 20 suspensions that it appears to have been the tipping point for Plecas.

As Plecas tells it, an employee of the sergeant-at-arms department had been diagnosed with a serious degenerative health condition. It was so serious that the man’s doctor advised him to get his affairs in order. Plecas chose to identify him only as “CD” and, for understandable privacy reasons, did not include documents about his situation with the report’s appendices. 

Plecas wrote that James and Lenz created a new job for CD, so that he could work at home and still be paid as his health deteriorated. In the event that he died on the job, his life insurance benefit would pay three times the salary he was receiving as at the time of death. The plot did not stop there.

“Mr. Lenz said that CD’s plan was to commit suicide while he was still in employment, and before his condition deteriorated too far,” Plecas wrote. “I had serious concerns about this, primarily because it appeared to establish conditions that effectively incentivized suicide, but also because of the implications of the scheme in terms of the proposed use of public funds. I did not react to it at the time but I knew I would not be approving any such action.”

Plecas wrote that James came to him almost a year earlier, in November 2017, with two pieces of paper, both containing a typed-out paragraph, seeking Plecas’s signature. 

Darry Plecas’s June 2018 letter to Craig James, rescinding bonus payments (LAMC)

“One of these related to a life insurance benefit for him. He said he needed my signature as confirmation that he was entitled to a life insurance policy in the amount of three times his annual salary. He explained that everyone else at the Legislature had life insurance and that it was something he was entitled to receive. The other paper related to salary and benefits (including life insurance) for the sergeant-at-arms.”

“I can’t believe he’s doing it again”

James and Lenz were suspended with pay on Nov. 20 and escorted from the Parliament Buildings. When they held a news conference the next week at their lawyers’ office in Vancouver, they denied any wrongdoing, pledged to co-operate with the investigation and demanded their immediate reinstatement. 

James made a second request for life insurance early in November 2018, with a piece of paper with his name on top and language that would provide him with life insurance benefits. 

“He asked me to sign it,” Plecas wrote. “I did not know why he was asking this, but I inferred that the document I had previously signed a year earlier, which purported to do the same thing, must have been ineffective for some reason. I said I would need to think about it.”

Last spring, Plecas wrote, James tried a similar tactic, asking Plecas to sign a piece of paper with one paragraph that was not on letterhead. James proposed a transition payment for executives with more than 10 years service at the Legislature and who had resigned. The Legislative Assembly would pay an amount equal to 12 months salary. For James, that would be more than $347,000, on top of his pension, and $218,000 for Lenz.

“My recollection is that the document provided to me named this allowance as applying to the clerk, the sergeant-at-arms, and the executive financial officer, Hilary Woodward,” Plecas wrote. “I was shocked to be presented with this request directly and so abruptly, as it was a significant liability, there was no apparent justification for it, and it would have to be cleared with [Legislative Assembly Management Committee] and the Finance and Audit Committee, as Mr. James well knew. I knew it hadn’t been cleared with those committees because I had been sitting on them for the past seven months and we had not discussed anything of the sort.”

Plecas thought that if he declined the request, James would leave with the evidence. Plecas decided to sign it and resolved to eventually rescind the benefit, which he did after speaking to James on June 26, 2018.

“After he left, I asked the deputy clerk, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, if she could meet with me in my office. I said words to the effect of, ‘I can’t believe what Craig James just asked me to sign’. I then explained it to her and said that I didn’t see her position  included, but that Mr. Lenz’s and Ms. Woodward’s positions were named.”

Plecas said Ryan-Lloyd replied, “I can’t believe he’s doing it again.”

In 2012, she told him, that James received $257,000 under the guise of a “retirement allowance.” 

“She said that a group of executives received smaller amounts at that time (totalling almost $660,000), including her, based on some program established decades earlier for senior house officers. However, she didn’t believe it was appropriate and told me that she repaid the amounts allocated to her. I have since confirmed her statements and looked further into the issue.”

A 2013 letter from Kate Ryan-Lloyd to Craig James, returning a retirement bonus (LAMC)

James “rarely to be seen at work on Fridays”

Speaker Walter Davidson, in 1984, created a benefits program for the three senior clerks and chief of the Hansard broadcast and transcript service, as they were not covered by the Public Service Act or executive benefit plan. James was hired Feb. 2, 1987.

A 2012 memo from then-speaker Bill Barisoff said James was entitled to an outstanding payment of almost $258,000. The Barisoff memo terminating the 1984-instituted benefit states that the body of the document made no reference to retirement. While technically true, the 1984 memo stated “upon vacating their respective offices… they shall be paid…”, and “…to be paid… in the year of termination of office.”

Ryan-Lloyd also opened up to Plecas about James’s high-flying travel expenses and cash payments in lieu of allotted vacation time.

Legislative Assembly policy states employees must use at least 15 vacation days a year, but could roll unused days into the next year or receive a cash payout. 

The 1994 policy of a five-day limit was tripled to a 15-day cap in 2004. Plecas said multiple sources told him that James and Lenz regularly took payment in lieu of vacation days, but still took time off and did not work on holidays. 

“In Mr. James’ case, for example, it was observed by a number of witnesses that he was rarely to be seen at work on Fridays. A review of relevant records confirms that Mr. James and Mr. Lenz record almost no official vacation – and in Mr. Lenz’s case, there have been years in which he has taken zero officially-recorded holidays, and instead been paid out in lieu for the entirety of his vacation days.”

The payments in lieu of vacation amounted to “unbudgeted cash bonuses” that, in some years, added up to a bonus worth a fifth of their salaries. In James’s case, Plecas wrote, there is evidence that he has done this since joining the Legislature and that human resources staff expressed concerns as far back as 1994. 

“At times, in addition to requests to be paid out in lieu of vacation days previously accrued which could not be taken, Mr. James has requested to be reimbursed in advance for vacation days which he has not yet accrued, but which he presumably does not intend to take. In Lenz’s case, it was James who approved rolling over unused vacation days and paying out. 

“Although it has not been possible based on the evidence reviewed to quantify with precision the total amount paid to Mr. Lenz and Mr. James in lieu of vacation, it is, at a minimum, several hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

A reporter rang the doorbell at James’s residence on a secluded cul-de-sac in Saanich several hours after the report’s release on Jan. 21, to seek his reaction to the allegations. James did not come to the door, but his wife, Christine, did. She said James would comment after consulting his lawyer. Before she asked the reporter to leave, Christine James said her husband is innocent. 

James and Lenz have until Feb. 1 to file a response to LAMC.

The RCMP investigation that involves two special prosecutors is ongoing.

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Bob Mackin According to Speaker Darryl Plecas’s bombshell

Bob Mackin 

VICTORIA: Now we know more about why British Columbia Legislature Speaker Darryl Plecas called the RCMP to investigate the Legislature’s clerk and sergeant-at-arms. 

And why the Abbotsford South MLA vowed that taxpayers would be sick to their stomach. 

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) spent the better part of two hours behind closed-doors on Jan. 21 to consider a legal opinion on whether to publish a report by Plecas about misspending by the suspended clerk and sergeant-at-arms. 

Speaker Darryl Plecas (left), interim clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and the black binder of evidence (Mackin)

“Following this meeting, my strong view is that the entire 76-page report be made public and perhaps even including this,” Plecas said, pointing to his left. “There is a five-inch binder here of associated evidence from that report.”

Plecas said there is a clear public interest in what is happening at the Legislature. 

After the in camera session, the all-party committee reopened the doors of the Douglas Fir Room to reporters and unanimously voted to conduct a financial audit, a workplace review, have house leaders consider the serious allegations against Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz and to publish the report.  

MLAs unanimously suspended, with-pay, James and Lenz on Nov. 20 for misconduct and they were escorted from the property. Later that day, the RCMP confirmed it had been investigating since the summer and the Public Prosecution Service said that two special prosecutors had been appointed at the start of October. The reasons were not made public, but Plecas vowed at the Dec. 6 LAMC meeting that he would offer an explanation that would not compromise the criminal investigation. 

“He came through on his promise,” said Alan Mullen, Plecas’s chief of staff in a news conference after the LAMC meeting. 

When James and Lenz held a news conference at their Vancouver lawyers’ office the week after they were suspended, they denied any wrongdoing, pledged to co-operate with the investigation and demanded their immediate reinstatement.

A reporter rang the doorbell at James’s residence on a secluded cul-de-sac in Saanich several hours after the report’s release, to seek his reaction to the allegations. James did not come to the door, but his wife, Christine, did. She said James would comment after consulting his lawyer. Before she asked the reporter to leave, Christine James said her husband is innocent.

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

Booze, baseball, iPhones, trips

The report, Mullen said, is clear “why I was so concerned, why the speaker was so concerned and why everybody should be so concerned.” He began to read a litany of accusations against the pair, such as flagrant overspending on luxurious trips overseas with questionable business rationales, expensing of all manner of personal purchases through the Legislative Assembly totalling tens of thousands of dollars, and insurance payout schemes. The report suggests millions of dollars may have been misspent by James and Lenz. 

The Clerk’s office spent $10,362.46 to host a “Legislative Assemblies Business Continuity Network” conference in Bellevue, Wash. in August 2017. The Plecas report says “neither the purpose of the conference, nor the reason why the British Columbia Legislative Assembly would be hosting a conference in Washington State, is evident from the documents, nor is the total amount spent on hosting the conference.”

The program included whale watching in Victoria, the Victoria Clipper to Seattle for nine people, dinners at McCormick and Schmick’s and Daniel’s Boiler in Seattle, transportation and tickets to a Seattle Mariners’ game against the Baltimore Orioles, transportation to and from the Washington Capitol in Olympia and a tour of Safeco Field. 

The report said James bought a wood splitter and work/tools trailer with more than $13,000 of Legislative Assembly funds, but the items never arrived at the Legislature. They were delivered to James’s house and allegedly used by James and Lenz.

“On the receipt for the wood splitter it is indicated that it was to be picked up by ‘Craig’. On Dec. 4, 2018, Mr. James’ lawyers, Fasken Martineau, wrote to the Speaker and advised that Mr. James wished to deliver the wood-splitter to the Legislative Assembly,” the report said. “The RCMP intervened and now have possession of the wood splitter. The trailer was not at the Legislative Precinct as of Nov. 20, 2018, but the Speaker understands from Facilities and Maintenance staff that it subsequently materialized, parked in the parking lot, without any indication of how it arrived there.” 

Plecas believes James bought the wood-splitter in case a tree fell on the Legislative grounds, it could be split for use as firewood at the Legislature. But, the report said, a chainsaw and axe would suffice.

“Nevertheless, if there was any justification for its purchase, it is difficult to understand how it assisted the Legislative Assembly to have the machine at Mr. James’ house, being used for his personal purposes.” 

A letter from James’s lawyers said he had been advised by Legislative facility services to hold the splitter, because there was no room to store it at the Legislature. 

“That supposed rationale is surprising given the size of the Legislative Precinct, and if there was indeed no space to store it, then that begs the question of why it was purchased. The matter of the wood splitter and trailer ought to be enquired into further from an employment and workplace conduct perspective.” 

Plecas received reports about booze loaded into James’s truck and perhaps taken to ex-speaker Bill Barisoff’s home in the Okanagan. 

“The alcohol was apparently left over from a conference or event that the Clerk hosted and was placed in a basement vault from which it was later loaded into the truck. The Speaker has asked for receipts relating to the purchase of conference alcohol in the 2012-2013 time period and has received expense claims that show purchases of $8,789.84 were made from BC Liquor Stores or Distribution Branches, but whether those are connected to the reports of the alcohol allegedly taken by Mr. James is unknown.

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

“Although multiple witnesses had independent (though not first-hand) awareness of the allegation about removal of alcohol, to date, the information has not been corroborated through a first-hand source. However, it is a serious allegation that warrants investigation, particularly as other Legislative Assembly employees are said to have assisted with the loading of Mr. James’ truck.” 

James bought numerous subscriptions totalling over $5,000, including a monthly Apple Music plan, yearly iCloud storage plan, Bicycling magazine, Arizona Highways magazine, Palm Springs Life magazine, Sunset magazine, Wired, Flightradar24, History Today, India Today, The Economist, New Scientist, Electric Bike Action magazine, the Times of London, Marine Traffic – Ship Tracking, Popular Mechanics, and Forbes.

“In one month alone, Mr. James claimed $720.47 in digital subscriptions. Additionally, in October and November 2017, Mr. James claimed $236.11 and $278.54 through the Clerk’s Office for a monthly subscription for Spot Satellite Messenger, a tracking device that uses the Globalstar satellite network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking.”

James bought a waterproof camera for $658.45 in December 2017, a camera case for $78.39 two days later, $515.18 in memory cards in March 2018 and a tripod for $800.78 in July 2018. He bought Bose noise-cancelling headphones in June 2017.

He was reimbursed for $966.83 in September 2018 for seven dress shirts and a tie at Brooks Brothers.  

“Notably, the word tie is crossed off and “tabs” is hand written in. Mr. James’ house uniform includes judicial tabs; it does not include conventional neckties. Brooks Brothers confirmed in a recent telephone call that the store does not sell tabs.”

In the introduction, Plecas said that as speaker, he is responsible for the overall administration and operations of the Legislative Assembly.

“In the months after I became Speaker, I learned of a number of allegations, and personally observed or was party to numerous conversations or activities, which made me deeply uncomfortable with the conduct of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and the Sergeant-at-Arms, and with the impact it has had on the functioning and culture of the Legislative Assembly more generally,” Plecas wrote.

Asked if James and Lenz exploited their jobs and the Legislature’s special exemption from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Mullen would only say: “I would read the report and make your own decision about that.”

Asked why the BC Liberals neglected to amend the FOI law to include the Legislature while in power for 16 years, house leader Mary Polak said “clearly there needs to be more done as a result of this report, but FOI is not the only way to get information. The proactive public release of information, which we changed, is the best way and doesn’t require the public to go through FOI and pay those expenses.”

MLA expenses and their receipts are published quarterly, but not so for the top four executives of the Legislature. Their quarterly expense report does not include receipts or a description of their purchases only total amounts spent on domestic and international travel, accommodation, meals and per diems. When theBreaker sought details about James and Lenz’s spending from interim clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd in December, she said “I am not in a position to provide the details that you are seeking.”

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Speaker’s Report to LAMC by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin  VICTORIA: Now we know more about

Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin spent more than three weeks in jail in China in early 2016 after he was arrested at Beijing’s airport.

His crime? His organization, Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, advocated for lawyers and journalists facing persecution for simply doing their jobs in the one-party, surveillance state. Chinese authorities claimed Dahlin was jeopardizing national security. He suffered the humiliation of delivering a forced, false confession on state TV. 

Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin in a 2016 forced, false confession (CCTV)

Dahlin is taking a keen interest in the plight of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig, who were arrested and jailed more than a month ago in retaliation for the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou. Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei, is wanted for alleged fraud in the United States. She awaits the U.S. extradition application while living on $10 million bail in a posh Vancouver neighbourhood under court-ordered surveillance and curfew.

“You are in a state of being disappeared rather than detained,” Dahlin told host Bob Mackin, recalling the hours of daily interrogation and isolation from a lawyer and his family. “When you’re inside the system, which can last for up to six months without any court order, even the state prosecutor is regularly denied the right to visit, to supervise.”

Last week, China increased convicted drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg’s sentence from 15 years in jail to death row and rejected Canada’s pleas for clemency. That prompted Canada’s government to lobby allies for support and warn Canadians about traveling in China.

China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, threatened more consequences against Canada if Huawei’s 5G telecommunications network is rejected. Members of Canada’s Conservative opposition have urged Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to directly contact Chinese president Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, Meng’s father and Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in a rare interview that his daughter was treated kindly while she was jailed for a week-and-a-half in December.

“The resistance shown by Canada has taken [China] by surprise and they will try to escalate the situation step-by-step until they can see that Canada is willing to negotiate and take the step to de-escalate the situation,” Dahlin said. 

Kamloops radio host Brett Mineer (Twitter)

theBreaker.news Podcast also debuts a new, occasional feature called Reporter’s Notebook, in which a reporter talks about the story behind the story and an issue impacting the media.

The first guest is Brett Mineer, afternoon drive host from Radio NL in Kamloops, B.C. Drone pilot Mineer discusses Transport Canada’s new drone regulations, to take effect June 1, and recounts how he unwittingly became the focus of a story. Mineer criticized the tone of a protest that coincided with Trudeau’s visit to Kamloops and was threatened with physical harm by Yellow Vest Canada supporters on social media. 

“It’s not anonymous, people were more than happy to put their names to it,” Mineer said. “Still, there is no accountability because the bar is pretty high for the police to go knock on your door for online harassment.” 

Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentaries.

Click below to listen or go to iTunes (aka Apple Podcasts) and subscribe

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Canada's resistance has taken China by surprise, says ex-political prisoner
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Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin spent

Bob Mackin

Kevin Falcon, the former BC Liberal transportation minister, was among the 150 North Vancouver residents who attended a sometimes raucous public information meeting on Jan. 16. 

Most want the District of North Vancouver to reject a proposal from the Capilano Suspension Bridge’s owners to demolish vacant townhouses and put up a parking lot for visitors to the commercial park. 

Capilano Suspension Bridge is facing opposition to its proposed demolition of vacant townhouses to expand parking. (Capilano Group)

The popular tourist attraction is already the cause of summertime and Christmastime traffic jams in Capilano Highlands. Parent company, Capilano Group of Companies, contends that it needs the new pay parking lot for 100 vehicles because it will lose an overflow lot at Handsworth Secondary, which is scheduled to undergo a major seismic replacement. Capilano Group applied for a three-year temporary use permit, but envisions erecting a permanent parkade on the site someday. 

As the line-up of speakers grew, Falcon, a real estate development executive who has been out of politics for more than six years, coyly whispered to a reporter “I’ve got concerns.” When one of the area residents raised his voice at the two meeting facilitators in the Cleveland Elementary gymnasium, Falcon whispered, with a nod and a wry smile, “I love public meetings.” 

The Capilano Group executives and managers seated in the front rows were not enjoying the event, which ran beyond the scheduled two hours and featured a litany of neighbours who say they are the victims of the tourist attraction’s success.

“Maybe our sister city will be Anaheim, maybe this won’t be a park anymore, this will be ‘Capilano Suspension-Land’,” said Song Lee, a Canyon Manor resident who said he has experience in development. “Let’s not break people’s hearts for the money.”

Neighbour Howard Meakin, who was part of the development team that rejuvenated Gastown in the 1970s, called the bridge a “wonderful Canadian attraction,” but said pollution is taking away from its stature in the community. 

“The noise from the buses all the up and down Capilano Road is horrific,” Meakin said. “They don’t turn their engines off, they like to keep them idling.”

Another neighbour, Dann Konkin, CEO of Ampco Manufacturers and Ampco Grafix, said the Capilano Group is “basically choking the life out of us homeowners” and taking away green space.

Capilano Suspension Bridge managers (foreground) listened Jan. 16 at Cleveland Elementary to a stream of opposition to the proposed demolition of vacant townhouses to make way for a parking lot. (Mackin)

“Your value is going up, my value is going down,” Konkin said. “I do not support this.”

Laura Clarke, a real estate agent, said her family moved-in to a cul-de-sac behind the proposed parking lot 10 years ago because of the multi-generation makeup of the neighbourhood that is walking distance to schools and Edgemont Village. 

“What you’re asking us, as taxpayers, is to negatively affect the value of our property for the commercial gain of the suspension bridge,” Clarke said.

She said the existing 266-spot parking lot is a magnet for misbehaviour, including sex acts and drug abuse. “I hope that the district councillors see that this parking lot is not needed.”

Outside the meeting, Canyon Manor resident David Bannerman said bridge management is bent on expansion and needs to be contained. It started as a humble footbridge over the Capilano River in 1889, but now features a cliff-hugging walkway, a suspension bridge system built between trees in the forest, restaurants and a gift shop.

“We’re dealing with serious vehicle congestion,” Bannerman said. “Adding more cars is not a solution to the vehicle congestion problem, it’s that simple. I just don’t think building parking lots is fashionable these days.”

The public information meeting was the third of a six-step process. Next is a detailed staff report, statutory notice to adjacent residents and a council meeting.

Capilano Group, which claims 1.2 million visitors a year to the bridge, got such a rough ride from neighbours at the meeting, that its vice-president of sales marketing had little to say afterward to a reporter.

Photographs of the vacant townhouses earmarked for demolition under the Capilano Suspension Bridge’s parking expansion proposal. (Capilano Group)

“We’re very receptive to the information and we’ll take it back and we’ll discuss it further,” Sue Kaffka told theBreaker.news.

Kaffka refused to answer questions about the empty townhouses, which were built in the 1960s and previously eyed for replacement and redevelopment into 30 new condos by Townline Homes. The Richmond developer sold the three townhouse parcels, now assessed at $10.5 million, to Capilano Group when North Vancouver District suggested redevelopment was not feasible. 

Kaffka was asked whether the aging buildings could be rented as affordable housing to university students, senior citizens, refugees or even suspension bridge workers. “I don’t know, I can’t answer that,” Kaffka said. 

theBreaker.news also tried asking the same question to director of sales Doug McCandless, but he walked away.  

Capilano Group owner Nancy Stibbard did not respond to an email query from theBreaker.news, which sought her reaction to the Jan. 16 meeting and to know whether her company would pay the new provincial vacancy and speculation tax or apply for an exemption while the townhouses remain in limbo.

The suspension bridge is the flagship of Stibbard’s Capilano Group holdings which include the Stanley Park Pavilion and Prospect Point, Moraine Lake Lodge in Banff National Park and Cathedral Mountain Lodge near Lake Louise. The company website says Stibbard bought the bridge from her father, Rae Michtell, in 1983. The price, however, is not mentioned.

The meeting heard that no independent transportation study has been conducted. Both Kaffka and McCandless admitted the parking lot proposal, which also includes lane reconfiguration on Capilano Road, does not contemplate the eventual legalization of Uber and Lyft, which could further impact traffic flows and parking demand. 

The rift between Capilano Suspension Bridge and its neighbours is another case of the growing global “overtourism” trend. The “Coping With Success” 2017 McKinsey & Company report for the World Travel and Tourism Council cited China and India’s growing middle class and easier access to travel as reasons for stress on tourism sites across the planet. “More places will likely be threatened by their own popularity in environmental, social, or aesthetic terms,” the report said. 

The report called overcrowding “easier to prevent than to recover from” and recommended better communication with communities and adjusting hours and pricing to balance supply and demand. 

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Bob Mackin Kevin Falcon, the former BC Liberal

Bob Mackin

Something doesn’t smell right, and not a drop of urine or feces is supposed to arrive in the Lower Mainland’s new sewage plant until the end of 2020. 

Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste committee meets in the afternoon of Jan. 17 to get an update on the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is to be built on the site of the former BC Rail station at the the foot of Pemberton Avenue in North Vancouver. 

North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is in the preload stage (Acciona)

Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal said in a Jan. 10 interview that “it is exactly what we have signed, on budget and on time.”

Is it really? 

Two sources have told theBreaker.news that the project to replace the 58-year-old plant near the Lions Gate Bridge is already facing budget and schedule trouble. A report to the board sure points that way.

The three-and-a-half-page status update from project manager Paul Dufault says the project has an approved budget of $777.9 million, which is $77.9 million higher than the estimated $700 million cost.

Dufault’s report says that the budget is to be “partially offset by $405.3 million” in contributions from federal and B.C. taxpayers. Spain’s Acciona Infrastructure leads a consortium that includes Dialog Design, AECOM, Golder Associates, Louis Berger, Wood Group and WSP. 

“With respect to the project timeline, Acciona is contracted to deliver the project on the timeline approved by the board,” Dufault wrote. “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 the report does it say the project is on-time and on-budget. Nor does it include a calendar of project milestones. Nor does it include a diagram showing how much has been spent and how much remains to be spent. 

Neither Dufault nor senior project engineer Joan Liu responded to written questions from theBreaker.news.

The report states that the engineer of record authorized the initial preload on Nov. 27, 2018 and the work is proceeding on the site from west to east. It does not say what percentage of preload has been completed and does not say the target date for completion of the preload. 

What the $700 million, er, $777.9 million North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is supposed to look like when finished (Acciona)

Coincidentally, on Nov. 27, 2018,

theBreaker.news filed three freedom of information requests to Metro Vancouver for:

  1. The most-recent project status report (showing financial status, approved amendments, dollar amounts for submitted invoices to date and payment of invoices to date, a description of contract changes, task descriptions, value and status, schedule, design, construction, production, installation, operations and maintenance, and opportunities, risks and challenges for all aspects of the project;
  2. The change order log showing the individual dates that changes were initiated, negotiated and finalized, the transaction or file numbers for each of the changes, the costs or credits for each change, the cumulative amounts to date, the time in calendar days of the extensions and the adjusted totals, and the detailed description of the individual changes;
  3. All names and titles and/or job descriptions of personnel involved with the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment project, including, but not limited to, personnel from Metro Vancouver, provincial, regional and municipal government departments and agencies, and contractors. 

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act sets 30 business days as the deadline for a response from a public body. That deadline came and went on Jan. 10. 

Metro Vancouver’s Deputy Corporate Officer Klara Kutakova said via email that she is “actively working on the files,” and the records are “going through the final stages of our internal review process.”

Kutakova says she hopes to provide the records by the end of the week, “but earlier than that if possible.” 

I am not holding my breath.

But I am holding my nose, because something doesn’t smell right about this project. 

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Bob Mackin Something doesn’t smell right, and not

Bob Mackin

A BC Hydro internal audit of smart meter operations found the system is suffering from a lack of management teamwork. 

The Oct. 24, 2018 report, obtained by theBreaker.news under freedom of information, assessed governance, operations and monitoring and reporting.

Itron OpenWay smart meter (BC Hydro)

“Strategic governance is not clear or socialized across the organization,” the audit said. “With the smart metering operation spanning across four business groups, prioritization and decision making occurs in isolation resulting in inconsistent objectives. There is no long term strategy to realize additional value from the investment in smart meters.” 

BC Hydro spent $930 million on installing 1.9 million smart meters province-wide by 2015. The report said 45,000 customers continue to have their meters read manually. BC Hydro claimed the program would improve reliability and efficiency, enhance customer service and reduce electricity theft.

In fall 2017, BC Hydro distributed the smart metering function across four business groups: integrated planning, operations, technology and customer service. A smart metering management oversight committee struck in 2017 had met only twice to review results and prioritize significant ongoing issues, the audit said.

“The committee involves management from the four business groups however a mandate is not yet defined, meetings are infrequent, and the committee is not endorsed by the executives. Executive leaders are focused on other strategic initiatives and supporting the current government mandate to improve affordability. The priority is to meet performance and functional obligations in the business case, such as outage management within allotted budget.” 

BC Hydro COO Chris O’Riley (BC Hydro)

There is an abundance of data stored in multiple systems, but the audit found no coordinated approach to using the data. 

“It is unclear who is responsible for leading a strategy to leverage the value from data analytics.” 

The report was distributed to 14 executives, including COO Chris O’Riley. BC Hydro retained Bridge Energy Group’s director of technology delivery, Roy Pratt, as a subject matter expert. 

The audit said areas that also require attention include more advanced testing and deployment of smart metering technology, and improved integration of meter data into the outage management system. 

In July 2018, BC Hydro measured a 97.5% registered read rate, meaning the utility received at least one meter read per day from the majority of smart meters. 

“The smart metering system is well monitored at the operational level but requires enterprise level metrics to assess overall performance,” the audit said. “Smart meter data is leveraged formally in some cases, but many groups are just beginning to understand and develop uses for the data.”

BC Hydro spokeswoman Mora Scott said the findings were reviewed and the utility is working towards improving smart meter integration with the outage management system.

“This will be corrected through firmware upgrades and enhanced data filtering to better integrate the smart metering system and the outage management system by the end of 2019,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “We have also identified a lead to ensure we’re leveraging the data analytics to the best of our ability so we can continue to deliver additional benefits to our customers.”

She said smart meter data is used to pinpoint outage locations, determine how many customers are without power and determine which customers remain without power after restoration is completed in the field.  

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Smo Management Audit Report… by on Scribd

Bob Mackin A BC Hydro internal audit of