Friday, March 22, 2013

Liberal big shots skip historic news conference

The March 21 announcement that FIFA chose Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium as the site of the 2015 Women’s World Cup final was both historic and underwhelming.

Vancouver's nine games, including the championship final, will make this the biggest international sporting event in the city since the 2010 Winter Olympics climaxed with the men’s Olympic gold medal hockey game at Rogers Arena. 
The July 5, 2015 final will likely have a bigger international TV audience, in more countries, than the biggest hockey game in history. FIFA estimated 62.8 million people tuned-in for Japan's upset of the United States in 2011 at Commerzbank Arena, the Frankfurt, Germany stadium that inspired B.C. Place's retractable roof. 

The 2015 Women’s World Cup final broadcast will also draw 10 times more pairs of eyeballs than the anticipated audience of the 2014 Grey Cup. 

The Grey Cup was announced March 8 with much fanfare in a B.C. Place news conference starring Premier Christy Clark (who didn’t mention Vancouver once during her speech). Nobody from Vancouver city hall was invited, not even Mayor Gregor Robertson. That was the end of a hell week for Clark, who was hammered with the Quick Wins Multicultural Outreach scandal and the Prince George plyscraper procurement scandal. Her handlers wanted a quick win before the weekend.

The March 21 Women’s World Cup news conference was a low-key affair, held at the Hampton Inn hotel across from B.C. Place. National Organizing Committee spokesman Richard Scott said top officials from all three levels of government were invited at the start of the week for the announcements in Vancouver and Edmonton, once it was confirmed that the Canada 2015 schedule would be on the FIFA executive committee agenda's March 21 meeting in Zurich. (It was not on the agenda released March 13.)

Federal Conservatives were unavailable, because of the federal budget in Ottawa. 

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel hosted Alberta Tourism Minister Richard Starke at city hall in Edmonton, where the City of Champions was told it would host the opening match on June 6, 2015.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs subbed for Robertson, who was apparently out-of-town. Small Business Minister Naomi Yamamoto attended on behalf of the provincial government. Clark, Sport Minister Bill Bennett, Tourism Minister Pat Bell and Deputy Premier/B.C. Pavilion Corporation Minister Rich Coleman were all unavailable. 

Normally, politicians would rearrange their agendas and flock, like moths to light, to a photo opportunity at a good news announcement about a global event coming to their jurisdiction. Evidently, Canada 2015 is not top of mind for the Liberals, because they may have no future after May 14, 2013. 

Polling suggests the Liberals are en route to defeat and they are focusing on clinging to power in ridings that are in jeopardy of falling to the NDP. Additionally, too many big city reporters still have too many questions about the lingering Liberal scandals, whether it be public employees breaking rules by doing party work on government time, the Prince George plyscraper procurement or a new investigation by the Information and Privacy Commissioner into public employees using personal email accounts to elude the Freedom of Information act. 

While Clark was campaigning in the interior, the Liberals quietly tweaked their website to remove the link to their MLAs and replace it with content all about candidates for the May 14 election. Make no mistake, the Liberals are in full campaign mode. The website now implores Liberal supporters to "push back" against "misinformation and bias" on radio and "misinformation and spin" in newspapers. 

The 2013 Liberals would be foolish to neglect history. Demonization of the media was also a feature of the 1991 Social Credit Party and 2001 NDP. Those drunk-on-power parties went into election campaigns desperate and emerged decimated after voting day. The Socreds fell from 47 to seven seats, the NDP collapsed from 39 to just two. 

Today's BC Liberals have 45. For now.

Morning Interviews, Liberally Fixed

More information is emerging on how Clark got into the MILF mess last year. That infamous interview with Justin "Drex" Wilcomes on 98.9 Jet FM was part of a nine interview blitz on FM morning drive shows over three December mornings, according to entries in her agenda that I obtained via Freedom of Information. 

The last interview was with a Victoria station. The preceding eight were all with small market outlets where the Liberals could suffer defeat in the election. 
Dec. 14: 7:30 a.m.-7:40 a.m. Dawn Tyndall, KISS FM Vernon, 7:50 a.m.-8 a.m. Brian Martin and Vicki Proulx, Sun FM Vernon, 8:30 a.m.-8:35 a.m. Kevin and Sonia, Sun FM Mornings, Kelowna; Dec. 18: 6:35 a.m.-6:45 a.m. Darren McPeak and John Helm, Mountain FM Kootenays, 6:45 a.m.-6:50 a.m. Bob Johnston and Bill Nation, The Eagle, Courtenay, 6:50 a.m.-6:55 a.m. Kyle Wightman, The Wolf FM Prince GeorgeDec. 19: 6:45 a.m.-6:50 a.m. Uncle Scotty, The River, Campbell River, 6:50 a.m.-6:55 a.m. Drex of Jet FM Comox Valley and 8:40 a.m.-8:50 a.m. Robin and Brian, Kool FM Victoria
These interviews were part of a coordinated strategy, perhaps inspired by the Swing Teams playbook revealed by reporter Cassidy Olivier in The Province

Bell, Bond, de-BID

PCL Constructors Westcoast was chosen to design and build the Wood Innovation and Design Centre "plyscraper" in Prince George. The announcement came March 22 in Prince George. The company is a major donor to the BC Liberals that expanded the Vancouver Convention Centre and renovated B.C. Place Stadium. The Auditor General investigated the $883.2 million convention centre expansion and is conducting a fact-finding mission on the $514 million B.C. Place project. PCL was named a defendant (along with B.C. Pavilion Corporation) in cable installer Freyssinet's B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit

Serious questions remain about the integrity of the procurement for this plyscraper. A representative of the BID Group responded on behalf of CEO Brian Fehr, turning down my request for an interview to learn more about the situation and his quotes that appear on Alex Tsakumis’s blog

Fehr claimed Minister Pat Bell reneged on a pledge that his company would be shortlisted for the plyscraper job. On Tsakumis's blog, Fehr is quoted as saying he met with the Premier, who apparently called, texted and emailed him about the project. Clark was quoted by the Vancouver Sun as saying "the issue has been handled by civil servants. It hasn't been handled by politicians at all." The NDP has called for an independent inquiry.

These are very serious allegations that deserve to be confirmed or denied, but my queries to Bell and to the Premier’s press secretary Mike Morton were met with silence. 

Lawyer Jane Shackell was the government-hired fairness monitor on the WIDC tendering, but her terms of reference were too narrow to do anything about Fehr's claims of unfairness. Here is her final report, dated March 18. Elections BC records show Shackell donated $700 to the BC Liberals in 2009.

Shackell was also the fairness monitor on the Evergreen Line Project. The main $889 million contract was awarded to SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based engineering giant that is accused of widespread corruption on a number of fronts. 

SNC-Lavalin donated $27,647 to the Liberals from 2005 to 2010. SNC-Lavalin board chairman Gwyn Morgan was on Clark's transition team when she won the Liberal leadership in 2011 and donated $117,510 from 2009 to 2012, including $10,000 to Clark's leadership bid. Director Claude Mongeau is the CEO of CN, which privatized BC Rail amid controversy in 2003 while Clark was deputy premier. Clark is under investigation by the Conflict of Interest office after MLA John van Dongen's fall 2012 complaint

According to meeting minutes that I received from the Evergreen Line Project board, Shackell's final fairness report was received by the board on Sept. 21, 2012. That was six months ago. It has still not been published. 

The Partnerships BC and the Ministry of Transportation media offices play an Alphonse and Gaston routine whenever I ask for the Shackell report on SNC-Lavalin. 

I'm not amused.


G West said...

Keep at it Bob. The drip, drip, drip of your inquiries and the echo of unanswered questions will make an impression.

Unknown said...

They're afraid of you Bob. Keep hammering them

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