Friday, September 11, 2009

History not cheap

When VANOC looks to be hitting a home run, or even a grand slam, sometimes the dinger just dies in the wind and lands in the warning track.

The latest example is a news release issued Sept. 11 about a promotion with the Historica-Dominion Institute.

It proclaims 40 budding teenage journalists or videographers from across Canada will be chosen to come to Vancouver, be given tickets to 2010 Winter Olympic events and ceremonies and then have their stories and video diaries published on and A great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 26 Metro Vancouver students and the rest from elsewhere in Canada who enter the best essays or videos explaining why they should be chosen.

VANOC supplies the tickets and (for out-of-towners) Canadian Heritage the airfare. The 16-to-18-year-olds will get homestay accommodation. But there's a catch. Each student is required to pay $625 for "meals, local transportation and other costs during their week at the Games." Teenage unemployment is at record highs, so that's a lot of pop and beer cans to cash-in.

Normally, such a national contest would involve a big-name sponsor, be all-expenses-paid and the scales wouldn't be tipped towards Metro Vancouverites. But it's another sign of how the recession has impacted VANOC.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vancouver Olympic stadium bigwigs scared speechless?

By now you probably know that B.C. Place Stadium is a dangerous place to work.

A female janitor with the stadium's official contractor Modern Cleaners collapsed with a headache while on the job and died later in hospital.

Nobody cared to tell WorkSafeBC, the provincial workplace health and safety regulator. That's a big no-no. The Workers' Compensation Act says any serious injury or death of a worker must be reported immediately by the employer. It says so in section 172 under "immediate notice of certain incidents."

WorkSafeBC found Modern in violation of section 172. No sanction was levied on B.C. Place, however. Stadium management, however, knew about the fatality. Proof includes a Nov. 20, 2006 investigation by stadium security supervisor Eric Borglund.

When did WorkSafeBC find out? Oct. 6, 2008. Who reported it? An unidentified worker. That's right. Not an executive, director or a manager. A worker.

That's right. Not Modern management. Not B.C. Place management. But an unidentified worker. B.C. Pavilion Corporation freedom of information officer Steve Lingenfelter told me in writing that records of correspondence between B.C. Place and Modern about this incident do not exist. All this and more in these exclusive documents.

The janitor, Pritam Kaur Sandhu, died of apparent natural causes. No police investigation took place. No WorkSafeBC claim was made in her name; perhaps a payout would've helped her family with funeral expenses? Even the stadium's own management and union-run occupational health and safety committee did nothing.

Did B.C. Place and Modern simply forget to notify WorkSafeBC? Was it procrastination on a grand scale? An Alphonse and Gaston impersonation? Or were they conspiring to hide a deep, dark and dirty secret?

Wish I knew the answer to those questions. I know there are people who do, but they don't seem to be in any rush to offer their knowledge about the dome and the death. You might wonder if they're scared speechless.

B.C. Pavilion Corporation CEO Warren Buckley, B.C. Place general manager Howard Crosley and Omni Facility Services national safety manager Rennie Kissoonsingh have not responded to any of my repeated phone messages or email. I even resorted to a third-party, Pavco media relations contractor Norman Stowe of the Pace Group. No luck there, either.

Hey guys, I don't bite. I only want to ask some questions.

B.C. Place Stadium is Vancouver's Olympic stadium, where the Winter Games will open on Feb. 12, 2010.

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