Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wannabe premiers show their donation dockets

VANOC chairman Rusty Goepel (left) donated to Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott's campaign. (Bob Mackin photo)

The score is Kevin Falcon $708,664.58, Christy Clark $519,040 and George Abbott $427,842.

Those are the donation tallies released Feb. 22 by three of the four candidates in the race to succeed Gordon "Red Mittens" Campbell as B.C. Liberal leader and the new premier of British Columbia. A telephone and Internet vote will be held Feb. 26. Will the winner have the biggest war chest or will it be a cost-effective victory?

Why do people donate to politicians and parties? The tax receipt is often secondary or tertiary. Sometimes the donors are friends or business associates. Often it's a way to get noticed and even, ahem, receive future considerations. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. There are even some who -- gasp -- donate money because they actually believe in the policies of the candidate.

A closer look at the lists reveal some interesting connections.

Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena, stayed true to his word. He told me in January after a Board of Trade lunch that he'd be happy with Abbott, Clark or Falcon. The owner of the rink where the biggest hockey game in history happened Feb. 28, 2010 sent $25,000 cheques to each of them.

Concord Pacific, which hosted Molson Canadian Hockey House during the Games, gave $5,000 to Falcon and $2,500 each to Abbott and Clark. (Coincidentally, Abbott Street leads to Concord property and Clark Drive isn't far away. Falcons are few and far between on False Creek.)

Clark got $500 from former Canadian tennis pro Grant Connell, now a high-end real estate agent. Oh-so-popular and tenant-friendly landlord (oh, the sarcasm!) Hollyburn Properties donated $10,000. Does this mean Clark is beholden to the West End's notorious "renovictionists"?

Encana, the company whose northern B.C. pipelines were allegedly (and suspiciously) bombed in the months leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, gave $1,500 to Clark but $3,000 to Abbott. (Hey, whatever happened to Wiebo Ludwig or was that RCMP raid a form of "security theatre" connected to the Olympic torch relay? Just askin'.) They both received $1,500 cheques from MDA Corporation, the Richmond-based military contractor which mysteriously became involved in the RCMP surveillance camera contract for the Olympics.

Lurking in the shadows of Clark's campaign is Patrick Kinsella, the veteran political strategist, lobbyist and racehorse owner. Kinsella's Progressive Group donated $20,000. Kinsella was behind Social Credit Premier Rita Johnston's epic 1991 election loss and Tory Prime Minister Kim Campbell's equally impressive 1993 federal loss. Johnston and Campbell were crowned by their parties, but the people voted against them because of their unfit to govern parties.

Will the K-Man use Clark to complete his trifecta of female futility? For those keeping score at home, he's the Liberal insider involved heavily in BC Railscam who figuratively boasted he had a "foot into" VANOC. Who's powerful leg it was attached to remains a mystery.

Then there's $10,000 from Pacific Customs Brokers. That's the company run by Kinsella's horse racing partner Glen Todd. PCB received a lucrative and exclusive contract by VANOC to handle customs clearance and freight forwarding for the 2010 Games. Not a small job, seeing as how PCB had its hands all over heavy and expensive things like backup power generators, bobsleds and satellite dishes that came and went across the border. At previous Olympics, global logistics giant Schenker signed sponsorship/supply deals. The Vancouver 2010 bid book in 2003 mentioned customs clearance and freight forwarding as a potential sponsorship category. For some reason, never properly explained by VANOC, PCB was given a service contract. Meanwhile, Brenda J. Kinsella kicked in $3,000.

Who else is on the Clark list? Condo king Bob Rennie's Rennie Marketing Systems ($15,000) and Peter S. Malek ($2,500) of Millennium Development. Remember Millennium, don't you? The company's division that developed the Olympic Village went into receivership on Nov. 17, 2010 over a $740 million debt to Vancouver taxpayers.

Clark's coffers were also filled by developer Peter Wall ($15,000), Bruno Wall ($10,000) and Wall Financial ($25,000).

Falcon's campaign may be brought to you by the letter K. Kebet Holdings is another name for the Beedie Group. Real estate tycoon Ryan Beedie's $30,000 was only exceeded by the $40,000 from Keg Restaurants. Kyle Washington, whose company supplied the barge on which the Olympic rings floated in Coal Harbour, gave $10,000.

Shato Holdings (the Toigo family company which owns the Vancouver Giants) gave $5,000 to Falcon and Abbott. Richmond builders and former Vancouver 86ers' owners Maureen and Milan Ilich sent $5,000 to each of the three. Falcon doesn't have a slush fund, but a Slurpee fund. He had $4,000 from 7-Eleven.

Falcon is a former highways minister, so it's no surprise that Langley Concrete Group ($5,000), Mainland Sand and Gravel ($2,000), Mainroad Home ($5,000) and Pacific Blasting ($5,000) shovelled cash his way. They all had Olympic contracts. Dueck -- the massive GM dealership owned by Moray Keith -- gave $1,000 to Falcon and Abbott.

Theresa Emerson, wife of former federal Olympics minister David Emerson, gave $1,000 to Falcon but $500 to Abbott.

Rusty Goepel, the longtime Gordon Campbell loyalist and chairman of VANOC (yes, it still exists) gave $250 to Abbott. Interesting, because Abbott's logo is a crudely drawn torch.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Furlong's fuzzy math

VANOC CEO John Furlong (left) went bobsledding to nowhere with Alexander Popov (rear) during an Omega-sponsored photo op at the Vancouver Olympics. Popov was one of three Russian IOC members eligible to vote for the 2010 host. Furlong revealed in his book Patriot Hearts, that he cut a secret deal for Russia's votes.

The International Olympic Committee has read John Furlong's memoir Patriot Hearts and it wants Furlong to explain something. Specifically, it wants more details about the secret deal with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov for the votes of Russia's IOC members at the July 2, 2003 election of the 2010 Games host city.

In a nutshell, Furlong promised Luzhkov the Vancouver bid team would hold a "how to build your own bid" seminar for the Moscow 2012 Summer Games bid team. Luzhkov agreed that would be enough for Russian IOC members to vote for Vancouver at the 115th IOC session in Prague.

I was first to report on this on Jan. 31. Here is my Feb. 23 update. Luzhkov, by the way, was fired by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev last September. There is even a WikiLeak about Luzhkov.

In Patriot Hearts, Furlong incorrectly claims the Russians had "six or seven" votes. The roll call for the vote shows only three Russian IOC members with voting privileges: Russian Olympic Committee honorary president Vitaly Smirnov, Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev and four-time gold Olympic medal swimmer Alexander Popov (above). All three are now on the Sochi 2014 advisory board. See the full circa 2003 list of IOC members below.

As it happened, Vancouver beat PyeongChang 56-53. A slim, three-vote margin. The Games came and went. Moscow lost its 2012 bid, but Sochi, Russia beat PyeongChang for the 2014 Winter Games. PyeongChang hopes third time's a charm as it battles Annecy, France and Munich, Germany for the 2018 gig.

Who voted for whom on July 2, 2003 was never revealed. There were 126 eligible IOC members, but seven were disallowed from voting because they were from the three bid countries. That left 119 voters, but only 109 were counted on the last ballot. For some reason never fully explained, 10 votes were not cast or counted.

Regardless of whether the Russians respected the Luzhkov deal, Vancouver's previous claim to submitting a lily-white bid is over. Furlong claims it was all done by the rules, but one need only read the IOC's own ethics manual to see it was not legal. No promises of any value are allowed.

Expect the IOC to review the matter and line-up its specially appointed group of members in finely tailored suits to wag their fingers and go "tsk-tsk" in their central European accents during a future closed-door IOC board meeting. The Vancouver Games are over and there's no putting this toothpaste back where it came from.

Or hell could freeze over and the IOC could tell Furlong he broke the rules and he's forever unfit to ever be appointed to the Lausanne, Switzerland-based non-governmental sports government.

International Olympic Committee Prague 2003 Session Annex Roll Call

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 22, 2010

Minnesota bus driver Dale Roberge, 71, died Feb. 22, 2010 while driving fellow Olympic Bus Network drivers to their shift.

VANOC bus driver dies
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

Tragedy struck the Olympic Bus Network Monday morning when a 71-year-old driver suffered a heart attack and died at the wheel on Highway 1 near the Port Mann Bridge.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, was shuttling five other bus drivers westbound from their Fraser Valley motels. One of the passengers grabbed the wheel and safely stopped the vehicle around 4 a.m. The surviving drivers were given the day off and offered counseling.

“Health and safety, it’s our number one priority,” said VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade said. “Nothing is sadder for us than to lose someone on the workforce.”

VANOC budgeted $52.3 million for charter bus systems and hired Orlando, Fla.-based Gameday Management to handle logistics. Most of the 1,100 vehicles and their drivers are from the United States, including Alabama, Texas and Wisconsin. Gameday event operations vice-president Mike Witte did not return a Monday phone call.

An OBN driver, who asked that his name not be published, told 24 hours that a drug test was required for employment, but not a medical certificate.

Edison Transportation-contracted drivers nearly revolted Feb. 4 over 18 hour work days. Commercial vehicle safety rules say drivers cannot exceed 13 hours daily and must have 10 hours off-duty per day. VANOC replaced, at its own cost, 100 public transit buses which were supplied north by Shuttle Bus Leasing of Riverside, Calif.

(Postscript: Through the kind help of a contracted driver with Edison Transportation, I eventually found Jeanette Roberge, widow of Dale Roberge. Read about him here and here. Many tears were shed over the deaths of Nodar Kumaritashvili and Therese Rochette. Rightly so. VANOC mentioned the death of Mr. Roberge at a news conference on Feb. 22, 2010, though his name was not announced. VANOC, however, did not contact Mrs. Roberge to offer condolences. Sadly, the couple was three weeks shy of wedding anniversary number 50.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 21, 2010

Del Bosco crashes
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Another Canadian crashed on the way to the podium at the 2010 Winter Olympics. This time it was Chris Del Bosco, the Sudbury, Ont., resident who is ranked third on the skicross world cup tour.

Del Bosco was racing fourth in the final of the first skicross event in Olympic history Sunday at Cypress Mountain.

He improved to third and then tumbled before the climactic jump to the finish. Del Bosco landed on his side and hit his head and shoulder. He received medical attention before leaving the course. Del Bosco finally spoke to the media more than two hours after the race, sporting a blackened right eye from the crash.

“It just didn't work out for me,” Del Bosco said, pausing to wipe tears from his eyes. “Third, I guess it's all right for some people, but I wanted to give 100% for my sport, my country.”

Del Bosco, 27, was the 2010 Winter X-Games gold medallist in January. The Vail, Colo., native with dual citizenship previously competed as a national-level alpine skier and mountain biker for the United States until drug and alcohol violations derailed his career.

“I left it all out there, that’s what I came to do,” Del Bosco said. “It could’ve happened in any round. I made it to the final.”

World cup leader Michael Schmid of Frutigen, Switzerland became the sport’s first gold medallist. He edged silver medallist Andreas Matt of Flirsch, Austria and bronze medallist Audun Groenvold of Oslo, Norway.

"I was in fourth behind Chris and I was thinking, 'It isn't over until you cross the finish line',” said Groenvold. “I hung on his tail. When you see someone crash like that, it's a mixed feeling."

Davey Barr, a 32-year-old from Brackendale, B.C., finished second in the consolation final and sixth overall. He was called upon as an 11th hour replacement for teammates David Duncan and Brady Leman, who were both injured training at Cypress.

“Everybody else had the two days of training before today,” Barr said. “I managed to get three runs in this morning before the race.”

Skicross was the only sport added to the Olympics for Vancouver 2010.

“We showed the world today what a cool sport this is,” Barr said.

Reigning world champion Ashleigh McIvor of Pemberton, B.C., leads Canada’s women into their first Olympic skicross race on Tuesday at Cypress.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 20, 2010

OLY-curling: Canada 7 Great Britain 6
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER: Greatness begets greatness.

The marquee match of the 2010 Winter Olympics’ men’s curling round robin Saturday between the Kevin Martin-skipped Team Canada and the Scottish-based Great Britain side of David Murdoch was big enough to attract Wayne Gretzky to the Vancouver Olympic Centre.

The biggest rivalry in the curling world was rekindled before a crowd of 5,075 that witnessed Martin score a pair in the 10th end for the 7-6 win.

"They played awful well for the first five ends,” said Martin, now 6-0. “The last five we came on real strong."

Canada recorded two in the second end and Great Britain responded with three in the third. Martin tied the match on a well-executed last rock of the fourth and raised a third on his last of the fifth. Murdoch drew one to regain the lead.

Martin was beaming and the Canadian fans jubilant with his nifty double takeout for the 5-4 lead in the sixth, but the see-saw battle continued in the seventh when Murdoch tied and regained the edge yet again to enter the ninth.

A group of shirtless fans sparked a spontaneous singing of O Canada that helped rally Martin to tie and win in the 10th. The outpouring of patriotism even put a smile on the gap-toothed Murdoch as he paused for a drink.

"It was hilarious,” Murdoch said. “It's not something you'll ever see ever again.”

Martin beat Murdoch two of three times during the 2008 world championship in Grand Forks, N.D., but Murdoch found revenge with a trio of wins at the 2009 worlds in Moncton, N.B. He extended the winning streak to four last month at the Casino Rama Skins Game.

“We made a mistake in the seventh when we had a chance for two, but then we stole one in the eighth,” said Murdoch, who is now 3-3.

Martin, 43, was the Salt Lake 2002 silver medalist. Lockerbie, Scotland’s Murdoch, 31, also won the 2006 world championship and came fourth at the Turin Olympics in 2006.

Canada wraps the round-robin with matches Sunday against Switzerland, Monday against the United States and Tuesday against China.

In other action at the evening session, France upset Sweden 7-4 and Switzerland beat China 9-5.

On the women’s side, Canada’s Cheryl Bernard-skipped rink resumes play Sunday against the U.S. and China.

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