Friday, August 5, 2011

HST referendum irregularities?

If the B.C. Liberal-allied Harmonized Sales Tax fan club, otherwise known as the Smart Tax Alliance, celebrates a victory for the "No" side when all the HST referendum ballots are counted, you can bet your dime and two pennies (or three nickels) that the Fight HST "Yes" camp will contest the result over irregularities. Especially if it's a close call.

Maybe the pro-business lobby that trumpets the economic advantages of a single value-added tax (instead of two) will win fair and square?

But it could just end up being a victory for democracy, with a decisive "Yes" vote to tell the government that any major taxation changes should be mentioned to voters before or during an election, not imposed upon them afterward. Such is the reason why Gordon Campbell was forced to retire from the Premiership and British Columbians have been subject to the divisive pre- and post-Olympic value-added tax debate.

I experienced one of those irregularities when I went to the Elections BC temporary storefront at Capilano Mall on B.C. Day. The mall was open Aug. 1 and the Elections BC location was supposed to be. I arrived five minutes before the advertised 6 p.m. closing time to find the sliding door closed and lights off.

Strange. Elections BC is the same independent agency that so professionally conducts provincial elections. If a polling place closed five minutes before (or five minutes after) the advertised time on election day, there would be accusations of irregularities from all parties.

I asked deputy chief Elections BC officer Anton Boegman what happened. He replied on Aug. 2:

"The location was open on B.C. Day but the referendum official did close 5 minutes early that day because of a personal issue."

On Aug. 5, I returned to the same location and mentioned to the solo clerk that I had been there before 6 p.m. on B.C. Day and was wondering about the early closure. He admitted that he closed five minutes early because mall traffic was low and that he wanted to buy some groceries. He said I could have thrown my ballot envelope under the crack in the door, but I told him that was not satisfactory.

I questioned Boegman about whether this reason constituted a "personal issue" and why only one person normally staffed these storefront ballot collection centres.

"You are correct, collection centres should remain open for the hours that have been posted. Indeed all officials staffing these offices had been instructed to do so.
"Numbers of staff are determined based on the work requirements. During shift change-over times there are often two staff members present, as well as at other times when necessary. It was not considered a security risk to have solo staff.
"Please remember, these are not polling stations where voters go to receive and cast their ballot.  The collection centres are locations that provide another option for voters to return their mail-in ballot package to Elections BC."

Of course, we may never truly learn why Premier Christy Clark and cabinet opted for the mail-in referendum over the election-style system. They are keeping secret whatever report that justified the mail-in referendum. If it really is saving $18 million, show us the report!

Tell me about your experience with Elections BC, ServiceBC or Canada Post. Were you able to get an HST referendum ballot (if you didn't automatically receive one)? What was your in-person ballot delivery experience like?


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Canadian Olympic Committee: hacked?

On Aug. 3, I posed the question: was the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency hacked during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver? Here is the post.

That was the same day McAfee published its Revealed: Operation Shady RAT white paper showing numerous governments, corporations and non-profit agencies had been hacked, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee and an unnamed "Olympic Committee of Western Country".

McAfee hasn't assigned blame, but the source of the hacker attacks is widely believed to be in China. The report is called Operation Shady RAT -- the Beijing Olympics happened during the Chinese zodiac's year of the rat -- and it included this veiled reference to the Middle Kingdom.

"The interest in the information held at the Asian and Western national Olympic Committees, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency in the lead-up and immediate follow-up to the 2008 Olympics was particularly intriguing and potentially pointed a finger at a state actor behind the intrusions, because there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks."

Two Canadian government agencies were hacked, one in October 2009 for six months, the other for one month in January 2010. On page 7 of the report, there is that reference to the unnamed "Olympic Committee of Western Country" being infiltrated in August 2007 for a seven-month period.

The victim appears to have been the Canadian Olympic Committee.

I asked spokesperson Riley Denver whether the COC was that mysterious "Olympic Committee of Western Country" and, if so, what was the nature of the attack and how did it impact operations?

The response from Denver? "The COC isn't going to comment on this issue."

On April 6, 2005, the Canadian Olympic Committee's executive director Chris Rudge was in Beijing and signed a "Sino-Canadian" memorandum of agreement with Chinese government and Olympic committee officials. You can still find that news release on the Chinese Olympic Committee website, but the parallel news release from the Canadian perspective no longer appears in the April 2005 section on the Canadian Olympic Committee website.

Draw your own conclusions.

I say, the Canadian Olympic Committee owes athletes, sponsors, media and sports fans in Canada an explanation.

Were its systems hacked and was any personal information stolen?

Offcial Website of the Chinese Olympic Committee

Canadian Olympic Committee - News April 2005

When open doesn't necessarily mean open

If you read this blog after July 25, you'd know that A) the British Columbia government is heralding a new "open government" policy and B) it's just a superficial, smoke and mirrors public relations campaign. Premier Christy Clark's staff manipulated the release of records (and the records themselves) about the Harmonized Sales Tax referendum. See for yourself.

Clark is banging the open government drum because she wants you to vote for her B.C. Liberal Party in the next election. If Clark was serious about increasing transparency, her government would change the laws to put the power (and information) in the hands of the citizens. For inspiration, she need look no further than the State of Washington.

So here is the latest absurdity. The government is delaying disclosure of documents about the July 19 open government announcement. It invoked its power to delay disclosure from Aug. 31 to Oct. 14.

Is this another sign pointing to a late September or early October provincial election?

Open Government? Hahaha!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

WADA surprise: McAfee claims sports watchdog hacked

Was the World Anti-Doping Agency hacked during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver?

The Montreal-based, International Olympic Committee spinoff responsible for stamping out drug use and abuse in sports was involved in collecting urine and blood samples from athletes before and during the Games. WADA accredited a temporary laboratory at the Richmond Olympic Oval and its key executives and staff stayed at the Renaissance Pinnacle Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Here is the WADA independent observer report on the Vancouver Games.

On Aug. 3, McAfee published its Revealed: Operation Shady RAT white paper showing numerous governments, corporations and non-profit agencies had been hacked, including WADA and the IOC. In WADA's case, its systems were infiltrated for 14 months, beginning in August 2009. That period included WADA's Vancouver 2010 responsibilities.

McAfee hasn't assigned blame, but the source of the hacker attacks is widely believed to be in China.

In a statement provided 2010 Gold Rush from WADA Director General David Howman, the organization admitted it has been hacked before but claimed the system used to keep track of athlete records is safe and secure.

More from Howman:

"Following the release of the McAfee white paper on Operation Shady Rat, WADA can confirm that it has been in communication with McAfee and is investigating thoroughly the reported cyber intrusions.

"WADA has a highly-sophisticated security system in place which is managed by ISS (IBM), and with the information available to it ISS has to-date found no evidence of this corruption.

"In February 2008 WADA experienced a security breach of its email system and consequently filed a complaint with the Quebec State Police and co-operated with an FBI investigation.

"Nothing was compromised and following the intrusion WADA's security experts upgraded the Agency's firewalls.

"WADA's Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS), which is on a completely different server to WADA's emails, has never been compromised and remains a highly-secure system for the retention of athlete data.

"At this stage, WADA has no evidence from its security experts of the intrusions as listed by McAfee and the Agency has yet to be convinced that they took place."

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