Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From #QuickWins to Touchdown?

The beleaguered BC Liberal government needs a quick win. Pronto.

No, not one of the Quick Wins of the Multicultural Outreach Strategy variety. The party's playbook to use government (read: public) resources to win the ethnic vote was exposed by the NDP on Pink Shirt Day and threatens to end the Liberals' 12-year dynasty on May 14. 

The quick win I'm talking about would involve an orange shirt. Definitely not NDP orange, but, instead, an orange B.C. Lions' jersey. Premier Christy Clark has one of those (number 35, to be exact) and it is displayed in a frame in the reception area of the downtown Vancouver cabinet office.

On Feb. 19, I revealed how the Lions were granted $2.7 million of taxpayers' funds via B.C. Pavilion Corporation to buy the rights to the 102nd Grey Cup in 2014. 

The 2014 game was expected to be awarded to Winnipeg, but the Canadian Football League began looking elsewhere because the stadium's construction is behind schedule.

If CFL commissioner Mark Cohon hasn't already given Lions' owner David Braley the touchdown signal, then he is on the verge of doing so.  

Lions president Dennis Skulsky told me in late February that he expected the CFL's decision to be announced before the end of March. 

Sources tell me that such a big announcement is coming Fri. March 8 at B.C. Place Stadium and preparations are being made for the Premier to be there. She could even be wearing her orange jersey. 

"Jersey Girl" Clark, B.C. Lions edition, Sept. 30, 2011
While the Bell-sponsored Vancouver Whitecaps have the pitch reserved for an 11 a.m. training session, the Telus-sponsored Lions are planning a big announcement at or near Gate H. Tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m.

Well-timed, because the Vancouver Canucks, who dominate local sports media attention, will be on the first day of their only two-day break of the month, amid a trio of road games. 

Cohon is not expected to be in Vancouver, but another high-ranking CFL executive may be. Coincidentally, CTV and TSN's top sports anchor Brian Williams, a veteran of 37 Grey Cups, will be in the area. He is the emcee for the 47th British Columbia Athlete of the Year Awards on March 7 at River Rock Show Theatre in Richmond.

Asked March 6 whether the 2014 host had been decided, CFL spokesman Jamie Dykstra told me: "An announcement is forthcoming but I can't confirm when at this time."

Pressed further, Dykstra would neither confirm nor deny that the announcement would be this week. 

B.C. Place has hosted eight Grey Cups, most recently in 2011, when the Lions were victorious. 

The timing is intriguing.

Remember this week last year? The Liberal scandal du jour was over the cancellation of the 20-year, $40 million plan to rename B.C. Place as Telus Park and the muddled explanation offered by the government for nixing the deal. It may have had more to do with the direct award of a $1 billion, 10-year government-wide contract to Telus than the politics of the Whitecaps dubbing their field Bell Pitch. 

The Telus Park sign is still in storage at a Pattison-owned warehouse. The Liberals paid Telus an undisclosed sum in August 2012 under a B.C. Place telecommunications supply agreement. That was not the "exclusive telecommunications supplier" agreement that Telus wanted as consolation. 

Then, last fall, talks began anew to resurrect the naming rights deal. B.C. Pavilion Corporation minister (and Deputy Premier) Rich Coleman even huddled with Liberal bagman and ex-PavCo director Peter Brown and Telus CEO Darren Entwistle on Oct. 5. Brown and Entwistle represent $740,000 of donations to the BC Liberals.

The Liberals desperately need some B.C. Place quick wins. The stadium is to host the Times of India Film Awards on April 6, the $11 million-plus pre-election ploy. The Auditor General is taking a look at how the renovation project went from $75 million to $514 million. Steel contractor Canam Group and cable subcontractor Freyssinet Canada are lawyered-up for a 100-day, B.C. Supreme Court trial to begin Oct. 21. General contractor PCL and PavCo were named as defendants by Freyssinet. All the while, PavCo seeks to silence this inconvenient sleuth.

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