Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Exclusive: Russia buys Vancouver landmark in hostile takeover

Russian clowns fooling around at Science World in 2010 (Sochi 2014)
The Russians are coming (back), the Russians are coming (back)!

Four years after Science World was temporarily transformed into Sochi World during the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Russian Federation government is set to buy the Vancouver science museum for good. 

A management source indicated the Russians had executed a hostile, $50 million takeover of the False Creek East property, financed entirely by state-owned oil and gas giant Gazprom. All 100 employees received layoff notices. It is expected they will be replaced by temporary foreign workers from Vladivostok.

“They just walked in last week and gave us notice to be out April 15,” said Avril Duren, one of the curators. “They insisted in giving us the bad news in memos printed in cyrillic; we had to use Google Translate to figure out what was going on. I can sympathize with Ukrainians in Crimea.”

The government of President Vladimir Putin plans to showcase Russian space and military innovations in the main gallery, with an emphasis on Gazprom's evolution. Art, culture and sport will have a gallery of its own. It will also contain the world's first hall of fame for oligarchs, to celebrate their contribution to building the new Russia.

The Omnimax Theatre will be programmed to show Russian cinematic works like the classic Battleship Potemkin and 2013’s Stalingrad, the highest-grossing film in Russian history. There will be special showings of Russian medal winning performances from the Sochi 2014 Olympics and Paralympics, plus repeats of the opening and closing ceremonies. The giant, crying Russian bear from the closing ceremony will be on display outside Science World through the end of summer. 

“We feel Vancouver is the ideal city in North America from where we can begin to re-educate the west about Russia’s aspirations of greatness, its desire to spread the wings of the Russian eagle so as to give the world a giant Russian bear hug and never let go,” read a statement prepared by the Russian foreign ministry. “The good feelings created by the Sochi Games ignited a Russia-wide rediscovery of ourselves, it overflowed into Crimea and is ripe for sharing with our friends in the west.” 

A restaurant serving Russian fare, such as borscht, caviar and salads, will include a bar specializing in the finest imported vodka. A vodka distillery will be built on site. The building will serve as a hospitality centre during the Gazprom-sponsored 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup to help promote the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

Opening day is scheduled for June 12, Russia’s national holiday. The planned opening day two-for-one promotion for heterosexual couples is sure to grab headlines and attract the attention of Canadian human rights watchdogs.

“Great... a potemkin village near the Olympic Village,” laid-off staffer Duren said of the Russian government plans. "Where are students supposed to go on science-related field trips now?"

Science World opened in 1985 as the Expo Centre to act as a preview for the following year’s Expo 86 world’s fair on transportation and communication. After the fair, the geodesic dome became the permanent home of the Arts, Science and Technology Centre. Leaks in the roof were fixed and a new low-energy decorative lighting system was installed.

In 2012-2013, Science World attracted 631,617 visitors and program participants and counted $10.774 million in revenue, $9.351 million expenses and a net surplus of $1.088 million. 

Russia's junior acting assistant vice deputy of foreign affairs, Deney Duraka, is scheduled to make the plan official at a news conference just before noon on April 1st.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Who went to the Preem's Prom?

Premier Christy Clark broke from tradition on June 7 with a Cabinet Naming Ceremony at Canada Place. In case you missed it, the entire 54-minute, 37-second extravaganza is available on YouTube.

Preem's Prom at the prow of Canada Place (Government of B.C.)
Normally, the members of executive council are announced the same day as they are sworn-in by the lieutenant-governor. The cabinet roster has traditionally been a well-kept secret until the swearing-in ceremony. When Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon finally made the formal appointments on June 10 at Government House in Victoria, the identities of those pledging the three-part oath of allegiance, office and confidentiality had been known to the public for three days. 

That means the ministers were not ministers under-oath for the entire weekend. Any communication any one of them may have had with a lobbyist would have gone unreported.

So who went? That is a good question. The attendance list was not released, but the list of invitees was. See it below. I pored over the 80-page document and made some lists of my own. 

For instance, there could have been a reunion of people whose names were attached to the BC Rail  privatization scandal. There were eight key figures from the 2003 controversy on the invite list: CN chair David McLean, ex-Premier/Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Gordon Campbell, lobbyist/strategist Patrick Kinsella, ex-lobbyist/Campbell aide Jamie Elmhirst, ex-BC Rail director Jim Shepard, ex-Finance Minister Gary Collins, ex-Deputy Minister/Pacific Carbon Trust chair Chris Trumpy, and ex-BC Liberal Party executive director Kelly Reichert. (No, Dave Basi and Bob Virk are not on the list.)

B.C.'s captains of industry were on the invitation list. Same with movers and shakers of the Vancouver real estate scene and holders of lucrative liquor licences. The B.C. Liberal campaign's inner-circle and some of Clark's closest friends and relatives gathered. The guest list included owners of the Vancouver Canucks, B.C. Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Canadians and even some of the folks who are Liberal members but whose allegiance to the party was hidden from viewers when they appeared in that pre-campaign infomercial. (Surrounding a beaming Clark in the photo above are Ryan Beedie, Liberal MP Joyce Murray, Mayor Richard "Shutterbug" Stewart of Coquitlam, Industry Minister James Moore, federal cabinet regional affairs director Colin Metcalfe and ex-Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day.)

B.C. Federation of Labour's Jim Sinclair and B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union's Darryl Walker were invited. They would rather have been front-row-centre at Adrian Dix's premiership swearing-in, but that obviously didn't happen because of the Liberals' surprise win over the NDP in the May 14 election. 

Representatives of 13 industrial lobby groups, a half-dozen corporations and a federal Crown corporation donated money to fund the ceremony. How much? B.C. Trucking Association disclosed that it paid $2,500. Watch this space in the coming weeks to find out who else donated what.


Private Forest Lands Association (Robert Bealing), Port Metro Vancouver (Alan Baydala), Microsoft (Barb Berg), Society of Notaries Public of B.C. (G.W. Wayne Braid), Eminata Group (Randy Cox), Domtar (David Cunningham), B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association (Jack Davidson), B.C. Interactive (Lance Davis), Independent Contractors and Business Association (Phil Hochstein), Clean Energy B.C. (Paul Kariya), B.C. Hotel Association (John Kearns), B.C. Real Estate Association (Jim McCaughan and Cameron Muir), B.C. Construction Association (Manley McLachlan), Happy Water (Ralph McRae), Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (Geoffrey Morrison), Rio Tinto Alcan (Richard Prokopanko), New Car Dealers’ Association of B.C. (Blair Qualey), B.C. Maritime Employers’ Association (Greg Vurdela), Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (Mark Von Schellwitz), B.C. Trucking Association (Louise Yako).

Business Titans: 

Jimmy Pattison, Telus’s Darren Entwistle, Washington Group’s Kyle Washington, Canaccord founder Peter Brown, ex-SNC-Lavalin chair Gwyn Morgan, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, East West Petroleum’s David Sidoo, Fiore Financial’s Frank Giustra, Belkorp chair Stuart Belkin, publisher/refinery proposer David Black, Rogers’ CEO Phil Lind, Kinder Morgan CEO Ian Anderson, Future Shop founder Hassan Khosrowshahi, and Rocky Mountaineer founder/NPA bagman Peter Armstrong.


Polygon’s Michael Audain, Beedie Group’s Ryan Beedie, Bosa Group’s Dale Bosa, Fairchild Group’s Thomas Fung, Ledcor’s Dave Lede, Concord Pacific’s Terry Hui, Westbank’s Ian Gillespie, “Condo King” Bob Rennie, and Wall Financial’s Peter Wall.

Pro sports franchise owners and executives:

Vancouver Canucks: Francesco, Paolo, Roberto, Luigi and Elisa Aquilini; Vancouver Canadians: Jake Kerr; B.C. Lions: Sen. David Braley, Dennis Skulsky, Wally Buono, Jamie Taras; Vancouver Whitecaps: Greg Kerfoot, John Furlong, Bob Lenarduzzi, and Rachel Lewis.


Progressive Group’s Cindy Burton, Bluestone Group’s Mark Jiles, Ascent Public Affairs' Kimanda Jarzebiak, Counterpoint Communications’ Bruce Rozenhart, Hill & Knowlton’s Steve Vander Wal, Western Policy Consultants’ Mike Bailey, Gary Ley Public Affairs' Gary Ley, Fleishman Hillard’s Anna Lilly, Canadian Pacific’s Mike LoVecchio, Earnscliffe’s Bruce Young and Adam Johnson, Guide Outfitters’ Scott Ellis, and Wazuku Advisory Group's Brad Zubyk.

Liquor licensees and food folks: 

Friends of the Party and/or Friends of the Premier:

Ontario import strategist Don Guy, campaign manager Mike McDonald, ex-deputy chief of staff/Quick Wins memo author Kim Haakstad, communications director Sam Oliphant, Alberta import strategist Rod Love, Government Communications deputy minister and bridesmaid Athana Mentzelopoulos (and her husband Stewart Muir), Ministry of Justice lawyer/leadership campaign volunteer director Doug Eastwood, regional director Bruce Burley, party fundraiser/new deputy chief of staff Michele Cadario, ex-Liberal MP/withdrawn MLA candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, ex-Liberal MP/cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal, Liberal/Vision Vancouver strategist Diamond Isinger, lobbyist Steve Kukucha, pollsters/ex-assistant deputy minister Dimitri Pantazopoulos, Campaign Research principal Nick Kouvalis, Vision Vancouver director/advisor David Eaves, strategist Emile Scheffel, social media advisor Dave Teixeira, ex-Liberal leader Gordon Wilson and his wife/ex-Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji, B.C. Housing chair Judy Rogers, North Delta campaign co-manager Tim Crowhurst, Lululemon public relations/Liberal Women's Networker Erin Hochstein, Lawson Lundell lawyer Murray Campbell and wife/fellow Clark supporter/Private Career Training Institutions Agency of B.C. registrar Karin Kirkpatrick, ex-B.C. Lion Daved Benefield, strategist/gambling investor Jacee Schaefer, aide/wife of CBC reporter Stephen Smart Rebecca Scott, ex-Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, Chilliwack riding president Collin Rogers, justice reviewer/Liberal supporter Geoff Cowper, Canadian Bar Association president/Liberal supporter Dean Crawford, ex-Liberal Party of Canada B.C. president Bill Cunningham, ex-Conservative vice-president/Liberal turncoat Ben Besler, Coquitlam-Maillardville riding president Randy Paolo Rinaldo, Aga Khan Council for Canada president Malik Talib, ex-Young Liberals of Canada B.C. president/B.C. Pharmacy Association public affairs officer Coco Lefoka, ethnic outreacher Lita Nuguid, Vancouver Canucks' photographer Jeff Vinnick, CKNW sex show host Maureen McGrath, 99.3 the Fox morning drive host Jeff O'Neil, ex-Rock 101 morning drive host Bro Jake & Family, strategist Elizabeth Samuels, plus Clark's brothers Bruce and John, her ex-husband/aide Mark Marissen and son Hamish Marissen-Clark.

Allegedly average people, as seen on the Liberal election infomercial

Adrian Lu, Joey Lu, Jackie Hollis, David Fraser and Rick & Julie Marzolf (Also invited: "Celebrity endorsers" ex-Conservative MP Stockwell Day and Brad "Grandson of W.A.C. and Son of Bill" BennettProducers Don Millar and Eric Hogan).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Exclusive: Park Board steamrolling ahead with eviction, say six dissenting associations

Court documents filed by Vancouver’s six dissenting community centre associations say the Park Board is proceeding to “evict” them before the court has decided on their bid for an injunction to stop the OneCard.

Get your OneCard today!
Controversial OneCard
The Park Board terminated Joint Operating Agreements on Aug. 29 with volunteer boards at Hastings, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Killarney, Riley Park Hillcrest and Sunset community centres effective year-end. That was in reaction to the Aug. 20 filing of a B.C. Supreme Court petition aimed at blocking the citywide imposition of the OneCard membership system. The six associations, who are fighting the Park Board plan to centralize control of the 22 community centres, say they have a right to sell their own memberships. 

Justice Bruce Cohen reserved judgment after the Sept. 17-18 hearing. 

The six associations now say the Vision Vancouver-controlled Park Board is looking for other not-for-profit groups to replace them and staff transition teams have been formed to prepare for the Jan. 1, 2014 Park Board takeover.

The Oct. 15 court filing by Dean Davison, the lawyer for the six community associations, says the community associations have invested millions of dollars into the community centres and the programs “and as a result have legal ownership of a great deal of property and assets at the community centres." The six associations want the court to declare the community centres are "held on constructive trust by the Park Board for the plaintiffs."

"The Park Board is also currently taking steps to take over the programs on Jan. 1, 2014 when ownership of the copyrighted material (in the brochures which promote the programs) and the decades of goodwill is still a matter that must be dealt with by the court," according to the association's filings.

The plaintiffs applied Oct. 4 for an injunction to stop the Park Board from terminating the Joint Operating Agreements with the community associations and a declaration that the Joint Operating Agreements remain in effect and an interim injunction forcing the Park Board to perform its obligations under the JOAs.

A three-day hearing is scheduled for Oct. 22, but Park Board wants it adjourned to Nov. 18. 

The filing by city lawyer Jason Twa claims: "The Park Board has taken no steps to interfere with the plaintiffs joint operation of community centres during the currency of the JOAs, notwithstanding that it has issued notices of termination. Until the terminations of the JOAs are effective the Park Board continues to jointly operate community centres with the plaintiffs."

Twa claims more time is needed to prepare a defence because park board and civic archives must be searched for documents dating back to the 1930s about "historic financial and other contributions that the plaintiffs have made to the development, construction and renovation of community centres and related facilities dating as far back as the 1930s." 

"It will be a considerable undertaking for the Park Board to search for, locate, review and gather such documents," according to the Park Board filing.

Meanwhile, only two-and-a-half months remain until Jan. 1, 2014. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exclusive: Meet the other Quick Wins

Governments are intricate webs of offices, boards and committees that quietly go about much of their business away from the public eye.

One of the many such groups in British Columbia’s government is called the Procurement Council, an arm of the Ministry of Finance.

I obtained, via Freedom of Information, agendas and minutes for this group of bureaucrats involved in finding suppliers of goods and services to government. These documents were an instant source of curiosity and hilarity when I noticed numerous references to Quick Wins

You may have heard of the BC Liberals' Quick Wins scandal: Aides to Premier Christy Clark conceived the Multicultural Outreach Strategy in late 2011/early 2012 and their "playbook" included a list of so-called "Quick Wins" to score points with ethnic voters. The document, released by the NDP, was evidence that Liberal aides violated the government's code of conduct by spending the public dime while doing party work on government time. It is now under RCMP investigation. 

The Procurement Council documents show that there were other Quick Wins being contemplated elsewhere in the B.C. government around the same time. Procurement Council minutes mention the Enterprise Contract Management Solutions working group conceiving a list of 25 Quick Wins.

The specific list wasn’t disclosed in the documents I obtained, but “Quick Win #1” was. That was a specific proposal to consider raising the $25,000 threshold for competitive tendering on government contracts to $50,000 “to allow for a simpler selection process":
“Tamara McLeod advised that any increase in the thresholds would require a rational and defensible justification. The ECMS Working Group (Janet McGuire and,Jenny Hutchison) will do some quantitative analysis research to support the increase, including on the administration costs connected with preparing and soliciting RFPs.”
Provincial procurement rules state government contracts estimated to be worth $25,000 to $75,000 (or $25,000 to $100,000 for construction) “must be awarded using a competitive process.” 

“Opportunities can be posted on BC Bid or at least three quotes must be obtained.” 

Loopholes exist for direct awards to maintain security or protect life and health, in case of unforeseeable emergency, if a supplier is uniquely qualified supplier or the contract is with another government body. Contracts under $25,000, the rules say, "should be competed to the extent reasonable and cost-effective." Notice that the word is "should" (instead of "must").

The threshold remains $25,000. A representative of the Finance Ministry, who refused to permit publication of his name, told me: 
“The enterprise contract management solutions working group is tasked with finding ways to streamline and standardize contract management across all ministries. Any proposals put forward by this working group regarding possible changes to government core policy would require Treasury Board and Cabinet approval prior to implementation.”
Could change be on the way? 

The BC Liberals’ 2013 election platform promised to increase small business procurement by at least 20% and: 
  • Streamline RFP processes for government procurement to ensure small businesses can compete for government contracts on a more level playing field.
  • Limit RFP paperwork for government to a maximum of two pages for contracts under $250,000 so that small businesses can apply and compete.
On Aug. 29, the government appointed veteran bureaucrat George Farkas (the assistant deputy minister in the Management Services Division) to lead the "Small Business – Doing Business with Government" project. 

Keep an eye on Farkas and the red tape-cutting Liberals to see if that $25,000 threshold does get raised after all. 

Increasing the number of no-bid contracts might streamline government operations and please some small businesses, but it could also elevate the risk of waste and cronyism. 

Caps off for successful student philanthropy project

A fledgling students’ group at Capilano University in North Vancouver has raised more than enough money to house the family of a sick child at Ronald McDonald House for a year.

Ronald’s Helping Heroes, a directed study project in the School of Business, hoped to raise $27,375 by Oct. 18. The sum represents 365 nights at $75 per, the cost of housing a family at the Angus Drive property. As of 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, they had raised $28,683. 

The project was the brainchild of Sian Hebden and Kimia Tajbakhsh, who did fundraising and cooking three times a week at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver over a two-month period last semester to more than satisfy the requirement of a one-day leadership class assignment. 

“We could've gone to the SPCA and walked dogs or fed the homeless, but Kimia and I decided we wanted to do more than that. We started researching charities, we decided we wanted to do something to help children who were sick and Ronald McDonald house fits that,” Hebden said. 

The group has gone classroom to classroom wearing pyjamas, some branded with Ronald’s Helping Heroes, and elicited donations from fellow students, faculty and staff.  

“We're trying to create what is known as a changemaker campus, we're trying to really build a community here of changemakers, people that go out and do projects,” Hebden said. “We want to create things that go outside the four walls of school and reading textbooks. We think it's important to 
engage in the community.”

The Oct. 18 deadline coincides with the annual We Day inspirational conference/concert at Rogers Arena. One of the members of Ronald’s Helping Heroes is scheduled to speak to the full house of Lower Mainland schoolchildren about the project. 

“In an organization there are approvals that have to happen, there hasn't been any drama, these kids are focused on getting it down in five weeks,” said instructor and convenor Carolyn Stern. “They've learned the process of how things get done.”

Stern has been teaching at Capilano for 13 years and student projects normally “stay within the department or stay within the faculty.” 

“I've never seen a student group get an office. They've been given this office to use for this project but they have bigger plans.”

The website, including an explanatory video, is the start of that under the Cap U We Do name. And donations are still accepted.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

B.C. charities can thank public employees (and, ultimately, taxpayers)

Office philanthropy takes many forms. From the ad hoc passing of a hat to an all-out, team effort to raise funds around an event.

It turns out, the province's public employees have a formal conduit for their efforts. It's called the Provincial Employees Community Services Fund. The 1965-founded, registered charitable foundation is little-known outside government circles. It campaigns from September to December and is chaired by Lynda Tarras, who heads the Public Service Agency.

Through Freedom of Information, I received the financial statements for 2010 to 2012. 

In 2010, it raised $2.039 million for charities from authorized payroll deductions and cash contributions. A year later, $1.9 million. In 2012, it raised $1.839 million.

It’s a small sum compared to the province’s roughly $44 billion budget and is almost as much as the $1,582,126 pay packet of the highest-paid public employee, B.C. Investment Management Corporation CEO Doug Pearce.

There are large donations to some of the big, well-known charities, such as BC SPCA ($53,492.59), Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon ($39,759.94), and Canadian Cancer Society ($22,832.59).

There is a veritable grab-bag of charities benefitting from public dollars, including: David Suzuki Foundation ($2,890.62), Vancouver College Ltd. ($75), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada ($469), Helping Homeless Cats Society ($1,420.10), Canadian Luge Association ($279.80), and Dominion of Canada Rifle Association ($156). 

I was encouraged to see $183.82 given to Transparency International Canada Inc. As they say, it’s the thought that counts. 

The annual financial report and full list of donations is below.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Four big Massey Bridge contracts up for grabs.

Preparations to replace the aging George Massey Tunnel with a bridge are rapidly underway.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure issued requests for proposals on Oct. 1 for four major, long-term contracts, just a week-and-a-half after Premier Christy Clark’s Sept. 20 announcement. 
Massey Tunnel (Highways B.C.) 

Clark revealed construction of the Richmond-to-Delta bridge would start in 2017, but she did not say in her Union of B.C. Municipalities convention speech what the budget would be or how it would be financed. Does government know all the answers and is it just too afraid to give us all sticker shock? 

Companies hoping to win contracts for community relations and consultation, technical advisory, environmental management and owner’s engineer services have until Oct. 24 to file their bids. A rather short three-week window for something so complex. (UPDATE - Oct. 22): On Oct. 21, just three days before the bid deadline, the government extended the closing date for submissions by a week to Oct. 31. 

Contract values were not disclosed in the tendering documents, but the terms run November 2013 to March 2022. The government has an option to extend each contract until 2024. 

The George Massey Tunnel, opened in 1959, carries 80,000 vehicles a day and is Metro Vancouver's third busiest crossing. 

“The existing four-lane tunnel is congested for 12 hours a day in both directions, with significant impacts for commuters, goods movers and tourists,” according to the RFP documents. “It is the only major Fraser River crossing in Metro Vancouver with a single lane of traffic in the off-peak direction during the daily commute.”

The owner’s engineer contract is the most complex, estimated to be 160,000 person hours for structural, traffic, geotechnical, seismic and electrical engineering. 

“The contractor shall have extensive engineering experience in the development and delivery of large transportation infrastructure projects, including major bridge structures, in an urban environment,” said the RFP.

A two-year seismic upgrade costing $19 million finished in 2006. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Exclusive: Liquor for lieutenants, suds for sergeants: booze is legal at B.C. RCMP HQ

It took longer than they wanted, but the Mounties finally got their can.

Bottle, tap and keg, too. 

Hops and grapes can legally flow at the RCMP’s new, billion-dollar British Columbia headquarters tucked amid Surrey’s Green Timbers forest (and its mighty redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty Scots pine). 
RCMP's $1 billion new B.C. digs (Bird.ca)

In June 2012, I revealed how the federal force applied for a liquor licence for a private, on-site bar. The public reaction stemming from the blog post was no surprise. There had been too much bad publicity about cops and booze, from the justice-obstructing ex-Cpl. Benjamin “Monty” Robinson to the detachment-drinking, subordinate-seducing Sgt. Don Ray

Surrey City Council gave thumbs down to the full-time bar, but recommended the RCMP be eligible for special events permits only. In April 2013, the RCMP said it filed a new application directly to the provincial government. 

Last week, I confirmed that B.C.'s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch issued licence number 305469 to the Mounties on June 17. 

“The RCMP followed the same process as anyone else, and had to apply for a new licence because their new HQ is in a different community (i.e., from Vancouver to Surrey),” said an LCLB representative on the condition of anonymity. “Minors, other than professional entertainers, are not permitted within the licensed area(s) unless approved by the LCLB.”

The licence allows liquor service from noon to midnight for a maximum capacity of 535. The original application was for a maximum 1,198 from 11 a.m. to midnight, Sundays through Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 

Spokesman Sgt. Rob Vermeulen claims the RCMP will use it sparingly. 

“The RCMP has made it clear that there will be no general usage or regular hours in the facility – it will only be used for pre-approved private special functions, such as formal Regimental Dinners, memorial services, levees, and veteran functions and other traditional events,” Vermeulen said. “In the absence of special events or functions, the facility will be used for general meetings, gatherings and ceremonies and alcohol will be prohibited during these instances.”

Vermeulen said liquor has been served just four times since June 17 at a Vancouver Vets Fall Dinner meeting, an Officers’ Cops Against Cancer fundraising dinner and two bartender training sessions. 

“The room has also been used 65 times for scheduled meetings, training sessions, town halls, etc. where a large room was required (no liquor service whatsoever),” Vermeulen said. “The room has also been used numerous times (unscheduled) by groups looking for a meeting room on an impromptu basis (again, no liquor service).”

Vermeulen said RCMP members’ dues fund the mess, not government. 

Const. Laughing Leadfoot

Meanwhile, the RCMP has confirmed that the cop found guilty of speeding through a North Vancouver speed trap was on-duty at the time of the Valentine's Day infraction. 

Const. Michael Milo Arbulic drove his personal vehicle 60 km-h above the posted 80 km-h speed limit on the Upper Levels Highway around 1 a.m. on Feb. 14. Police chased him for five kilometres and caught up with him in West Vancouver. He wasn’t ticketed nor was his car impounded, on-the-spot penalties for those found speeding 40 km-h above the limit. 

Judge Steven Merrick imposed a $483 excessive speed fine plus $210, what he would’ve been charged for the impound. Arbulic was a no-show in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Sept. 17; defence lawyer David Butcher appeared on his behalf but refused outside the court to say whether the RCMP paid the legal bill. 

Besides confirming Arbulic was in his own vehicle, Insp. Ed Boettcher told me that the RCMP did not pay his legal bill. “Members have options to contribute to a legal fund and access that fund when necessary,” Boettcher said. 

Arbulic, 38, is subject to a Code of Conduct investigation. “Internal discipline is subject to the Privacy Act and is only a matter of public record if it goes to a formal disciplinary hearing," Boettcher said.

Arbulic’s driving record includes speeding tickets from July 1998, January 2000 and July 2004. The latter was for excessive speed. Arbulic was one of several cops around B.C. recognized by BCAA, ICBC and the parents of Alexa Middlaer for citing a dozen or more drivers for impaired driving

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Play Now's six-figure fraud

Remember when B.C. Lottery Corporation re-launched is Play Now sports and poker website on July 15, 2010?

There was a glitzy news conference on Granville Island by the taxpayer-owned legal gambling monopoly. On-again, off-again, on-again gambling minister Rich Coleman did a disappearing act to avoid a media scrum. Did he know something we didn't? Later that day, the website crashed amid an embarrassing privacy breach

Fast forward to 2012 and Play Now had more problems. This time, it wasn't a malfunction of the system. A briefing note to Coleman disclosed a case of credit card fraud. 
"BCLC security has found a total of 12 fraudulent accounts opened between March 13 and 18, and at least six additional failed attempts to open accounts. A total of $100,329 was loaded into the 12 accounts through 67 different transactions. BCLC locked down all 12 accounts once they were identified. The suspect(s) attempted to load the accounts with about 100 different stolen credit cards and three Interac cards – they were successful with 19 of the credit cards and two of the Interac cards."
The briefing note makes a possible link to a major Burnaby RCMP fraud and identity theft bust. The Mounties showed-off the contraband on March 20, 2012 and announced charges against Anthony Pavos Stulec, who was found guilty of forgery, theft and fraud.

Regardless, this incident was a blow to BCLC and its marketing claim that Play Now is not only legal but safe. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Some people had millions of reasons to say "congrats Christy"

After winning the May 14 provincial election by surprise, Premier Christy Clark's email box runneth over. There were those unhappy with the result. And there were those who were ecstatic. Read the whole bunch here

Many of those wishing Clark well had millions of reasons to do so. They had either done business with the government or had benefitted from millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies. 
Jain (left) and Clark at TOIFA

Jain's diction:

A May 17 letter from Vineet Jain, the managing director of the Times of India Group is an ideal example of the latter.

Jain sat beside Clark at B.C. Place Stadium during the Times of India Film Awards on April 6. He was smiling ear to ear for good reason. Clark gave his company a $9.5 million no-bid contract to produce the Bollywood awards extravaganza.

Jain wrote: "TOIFA was a rewarding, enriching and memorable experience for everyone involved -- celebrities, dignitaries, guests and the people of British Columbia and I commend your vision and conviction in making this possible." 

BC Liberals called it a trade promotion; the rest of us called it a re-election ploy. It would be nice to know where all our money went and who in Canada and India benefitted. Despite Freedom of Information requests, the Liberals aren't in a rush to show us. Maybe the auditor general or another agency will step in to try and extract the answers. 

Flag on the field: 

B.C. Lions president Dennis Skulsky's email starts: "Good morning Premier Clark, Wow it sounds good and feels good to say that." Then he deserves a 10-yard penalty for misspelling the Premier's first name ("Christie"). Skulsky, Lions' owner David Braley and others from the CFL club were donors to the Liberal campaign. The government earmarked $2.7 million through B.C. Pavilion Corporation for the Lions to buy the rights to the 2014 Grey Cup. 

Blacktop politics:

Repeat after me: Roads and bridges and tunnels. Promise them and build them. Even if your predecessor did the promising, make sure you show up and look good at the ribbon-cutting. B.C.'s tradition of blacktop politics to win voters' hearts with their own pocketbooks is a surefire formula and allows B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association president Jack Davidson to keep his members happy. On Sept. 20, Clark announced the Massey Tunnel would be replaced with a bridge... but she didn't tell us how much it would cost or how it would be financed. 

Ni hao:

China's Consul General Liu Fei offered greetings from the Chinese government, including Gov. Zhu Xiaodan of Guangdong Province. 


Pacific Western Brewing owner Kazuko Komatsu sent her congratulations. Her company's products include Pacific Pilsner, Cariboo and Scandal Ale. The Prince George company is a well-known donor to the BC Liberals (and wrote some cheques to the NDP, too) and even got a huge tax break that ruffled big and small brewers. 

You can't be sure:

Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore's congratulations letter was gutted by government censors. "Not responsive," says most of the letter. 

Mr. Sincerity: 

Then there is this letter from B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair. Close your eyes and imagine a grown man at a computer keyboard, with a tear running down his cheek, landing in his moustache. 

Sinclair and the BC Fed were with Adrian Dix and the NDP every step of the way and helped fill the party coffers. Then it all went wrong on May 14 and he had to write a face-saving, pride-swallowing letter on behalf of his members (who didn't all vote NDP). 

"On behalf of the B.C. Federation of Labour, I would like to congratulate you on your successful campaign to be elected to a second term as the Premier of British Columbia," wrote Sinclair. 

Well, it really is her first term. Clark was chosen by her party in February 2011 to serve the remainder of Gordon Campbell's 2009-won third term.

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