Saturday, December 31, 2011

That's a wrap for "plenty"-eleven

After hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics last year, some of you thought Vancouver would revert to its old, boring self.

The year 2011 was anything but dull and kept us journalists on our toes.

The Stanley Cup riot on June 15 was the biggest local news story of the year and the ripple effects will continue in 2012 as accused rioters and looters are slowly prosecuted. Those of us who remembered 1994 were hoping for a victory parade instead of that ugly, four-letter word.

There was only one day better than the Vancouver Whitecaps' triumphant Major League Soccer debut under sunny skies at Empire Field on March 19. That was Nov. 27 when the B.C. Lions won the Grey Cup at home for the second time. The first time was Nov. 27, 1994. Yes, that year also included a riot by Canucks' fans.

B.C. Place Stadium reopened from a $563 million renovation on Sept. 30. The jury is still out on the engineering marvel and we don't know the final cost to taxpayers. Telus was supposed to become the naming rights sponsor; the deal mysteriously went sideways. A proposed mega-casino was supposed to help pay for the project, but an effective campaign forced city council to vote it down on April 19.

The Occupy movement provided citizens across the broad political spectrum a chance to come together Oct. 15 at the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza to vent their frustration at the varying degrees of government action and inaction with the problem of so-called crony capitalism. The movement was part of a broader wave of global rage against corruption that toppled dictators. What next?

There were elections. Federal on May 2 and municipal on Nov. 19. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives got a majority and Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver got three more years. On both counts, however, turnout was disappointing. Civic independents in Vancouver are pondering an alliance to neuter the influence of the real estate development lobby on governing Vision Vancouver and the opposition Non-Partisan Association. A desired fall provincial vote was scuttled by new Premier Christy Clark on Aug. 31. Clark was installed by the B.C. Liberal Party in February to replace Gordon Campbell. Clark has done little governing and plenty of campaigning. Evidently, you can take the host out of the talkshow, but you can't take the talkshow out of the host.

Power to the people who defeated the Hated Sales Tax. A mail-in ballotseemingly engineered to give the government the result it wanted -- to keep the Harmonized Sales Tax -- resulted in 54.73 percent of voters opting to quash the tax. The two Dutch Bills -- right-winger Vander Zalm and left-winger Tieleman -- celebrated at Jack Poole Plaza, in the shadow of the Olympic cauldron, on Aug. 26.

Alas, Tieleman (and others like Alex Tsakumis) still hope and wait for an inquiry into the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail.

Here's wishing Premier Clark has a courageous change of heart and orders one in 2012.

Families want jobs, but they also deserve a transparent government they can trust.

Happy New Year. Play hard and play fair in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

TransLink ticket scandal revealed

On Oct. 25, 2011, Transit Police announced two men were accused of stealing thousands of FareSavers tickets from the Richmond recycling warehouse where they worked.

Documents released to me by TransLink indicate the taxpayer-funded regional transit company was negligent in the way it handled the destruction of tickets deemed obsolete by a fare increase.

Read my story from the Vancouver Courier here.

The source documents below show the faulty decision-making and new policies to beef-up security next time bulk tickets are to be destroyed.

TransLink Ticket Destruction FOI Release - 2011-167 - MACKIN, Bob

City hall's first family rocked

Eight years ago, on Dec. 28, 2003, police raided the B.C. Legislature. They didn't tell us at the time it was about the corrupt sale of B.C. Rail, but indicated it was connected to an organized crime investigation. Premier Gordon Campbell was away in Hawaii.

On Dec. 29, 2011, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was away in Hawaii when the Richmond Review reported that his foster son Jinagh Farrouch Navas-Rivas is wanted for serious guns and drugs charges by the Richmond RCMP. An arrest warrant was issued Dec. 23.

Robertson's prepared statement issued to the media at 4:54 p.m. Dec. 29 aims to distance Navas-Rivas from the family, claiming:

"My wife and I foster parented Jinagh for two years until 2009. We have always believed that providing support to youth in need is of great importance and that fostering is an important contribution our family can make."

“It was in this spirit that we took in Jinagh to live with us. He has been on his own now since June 2009."

The Mayor's Dec. 14-updated bio on the city hall website says: "Gregor and his wife Amy have four children: Terra, Satchel, Jinagh and Johanna." (The same bio also claims Robertson's organic juice company Happy Planet is "Vancouver-based," but my Vancouver Courier story in October revealed it is actually now based in Burnaby.)

The 21-year-old Jinagh was onstage at the Wall Centre for Robertson's re-election victory party on Nov. 19 and introduced by Robertson as the "birthday boy."

Jinagh also had exclusive access to the Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean-hosted Hotel Vancouver party with foreign dignitaries before the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony and he also sat in the dignitaries box at B.C. Place Stadium for the closing ceremony. On the official guest list for the Feb. 12, 2010 event and on the name card attached to his chair for the Feb. 28, 2010 ceremony, he was identified only as Jinagh Robertson.

According to Court Services Online, Navas-Rivas is charged with alleged trafficking in a controlled substance on Nov. 4 in Vancouver and Dec. 9 in Richmond. He is also accused of manufacturing or transferring a firearm on Nov. 18 in New Westminster -- the eve of the election! See the charge sheet below.

This puts the Mayor, who is also chairman of the Vancouver Police Board, in a very uncomfortable position.

Court Services Online charge sheet

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What wasn't included in the Furlong and Keefe report

One of the biggest stories in Vancouver of 2011 was the Stanley Cup riot of June 15. A terrible blemish on the reputation of British Columbia unlikely to heal for some time.

When provincially-appointed reviewers John Furlong and Doug Keefe released their expensive report into the riot on Sept. 1, 2011, what they didn't include were the 85 submissions received via email and Canada Post from the public and various interest groups.

On Dec. 20 I finally received the records I requested via Freedom of Information. Here is my story from the Vancouver Courier.

Some of the comments were not flattering to Furlong, Premier Christy Clark or the Vancouver Canucks.

See the records (which were partially censored by the government) below.

Riot Review Submissions-Mackin

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