Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From #QuickWins to Touchdown?

The beleaguered BC Liberal government needs a quick win. Pronto.

No, not one of the Quick Wins of the Multicultural Outreach Strategy variety. The party's playbook to use government (read: public) resources to win the ethnic vote was exposed by the NDP on Pink Shirt Day and threatens to end the Liberals' 12-year dynasty on May 14. 

The quick win I'm talking about would involve an orange shirt. Definitely not NDP orange, but, instead, an orange B.C. Lions' jersey. Premier Christy Clark has one of those (number 35, to be exact) and it is displayed in a frame in the reception area of the downtown Vancouver cabinet office.

On Feb. 19, I revealed how the Lions were granted $2.7 million of taxpayers' funds via B.C. Pavilion Corporation to buy the rights to the 102nd Grey Cup in 2014. 

The 2014 game was expected to be awarded to Winnipeg, but the Canadian Football League began looking elsewhere because the stadium's construction is behind schedule.

If CFL commissioner Mark Cohon hasn't already given Lions' owner David Braley the touchdown signal, then he is on the verge of doing so.  

Lions president Dennis Skulsky told me in late February that he expected the CFL's decision to be announced before the end of March. 

Sources tell me that such a big announcement is coming Fri. March 8 at B.C. Place Stadium and preparations are being made for the Premier to be there. She could even be wearing her orange jersey. 

"Jersey Girl" Clark, B.C. Lions edition, Sept. 30, 2011
While the Bell-sponsored Vancouver Whitecaps have the pitch reserved for an 11 a.m. training session, the Telus-sponsored Lions are planning a big announcement at or near Gate H. Tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m.

Well-timed, because the Vancouver Canucks, who dominate local sports media attention, will be on the first day of their only two-day break of the month, amid a trio of road games. 

Cohon is not expected to be in Vancouver, but another high-ranking CFL executive may be. Coincidentally, CTV and TSN's top sports anchor Brian Williams, a veteran of 37 Grey Cups, will be in the area. He is the emcee for the 47th British Columbia Athlete of the Year Awards on March 7 at River Rock Show Theatre in Richmond.

Asked March 6 whether the 2014 host had been decided, CFL spokesman Jamie Dykstra told me: "An announcement is forthcoming but I can't confirm when at this time."

Pressed further, Dykstra would neither confirm nor deny that the announcement would be this week. 

B.C. Place has hosted eight Grey Cups, most recently in 2011, when the Lions were victorious. 

The timing is intriguing.

Remember this week last year? The Liberal scandal du jour was over the cancellation of the 20-year, $40 million plan to rename B.C. Place as Telus Park and the muddled explanation offered by the government for nixing the deal. It may have had more to do with the direct award of a $1 billion, 10-year government-wide contract to Telus than the politics of the Whitecaps dubbing their field Bell Pitch. 

The Telus Park sign is still in storage at a Pattison-owned warehouse. The Liberals paid Telus an undisclosed sum in August 2012 under a B.C. Place telecommunications supply agreement. That was not the "exclusive telecommunications supplier" agreement that Telus wanted as consolation. 

Then, last fall, talks began anew to resurrect the naming rights deal. B.C. Pavilion Corporation minister (and Deputy Premier) Rich Coleman even huddled with Liberal bagman and ex-PavCo director Peter Brown and Telus CEO Darren Entwistle on Oct. 5. Brown and Entwistle represent $740,000 of donations to the BC Liberals.

The Liberals desperately need some B.C. Place quick wins. The stadium is to host the Times of India Film Awards on April 6, the $11 million-plus pre-election ploy. The Auditor General is taking a look at how the renovation project went from $75 million to $514 million. Steel contractor Canam Group and cable subcontractor Freyssinet Canada are lawyered-up for a 100-day, B.C. Supreme Court trial to begin Oct. 21. General contractor PCL and PavCo were named as defendants by Freyssinet. All the while, PavCo seeks to silence this inconvenient sleuth.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Reading the tea leaves, pondering the end of the Liberal dynasty

Premier Christy Clark emerged March 3 from Canada Place's World Trade Centre (where her office is on the seventh floor), at 7 p.m., to spend just two minutes in front of cameras and microphones after the emergency, Sunday afternoon cabinet meeting.

Her cabinet ministers had left earlier. All trained seals, claiming to support her 100% amid growing calls for her resignation to save the BC Liberal Party from decimation in the May 14 election -- which would end 12 years of Liberal rule.

Was the timing of Clark's appearance by chance or designed to coincide with the sign-off of local suppertime TV newscasts? A lost opportunity, stemming from bad advice? Or a calculated decision to avoid the risk of embarrassment? 

Liberal Quick Wins strategy included translation
Any politician who is confident and sincere, or wants to appear to be, and wants to convey an important message directly to the masses will crave the opportunity to appear on live TV. Evidently, not Clark when it comes to this controversy which may prove to be the tipping point for her Premiership. 

Clark’s two-minute scrum ended with an apology for the Quick Wins/Multicultural Outreach Strategy scandal, but her words were very carefully chosen. 
"I sincerely apologize for the language that was used in that document. It's language that just isn't worth repeating. I think when you make a mistake, when somebody in your organization makes a mistake, the right thing to do is to own up to it and to make it right. That's why I apologize.”
The key word is "language." She said it twice. It was not an apology for government workers breaking the rule that prohibits doing party work on government time (see the evidence here). It was not an apology for trying to hide that work from the public, by using private email addresses that can't be searched under the Freedom of Information law. It was for the "language" in the memo, evidently crafted by the March 1-resigned deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad. 

Make no mistake, Clark and the Liberals are absolutely demoralized. The key BC Liberal playbook for the 2013 election is exposed, out in the public domain, after it was leaked to the NDP and tabled on Feb. 27. 

"If not done correctly, we will appear opportunist," are the ominous words contained in the document. 

The Quick Wins memo discussed the use of video greetings, translated name tags, giving equal time and effort to the ethnic media, attempting to match and exceed NDP ethnic campaign efforts, and to "Identify and advance government initiatives and projects that would be resonant in ethnic communities… Identify and correct 'historical wrongs,' ie Komagata Maru apology in the House.” (More on Komagata Maru in a moment). It mentioned "anecdotal reports suggest that some ethnic communities, particularly Chinese, feel that they are ignored by government between elections."

Any policy, program or photo opportunity that has involved or will involve a multicultural issue by the Liberals can (and should) be viewed skeptically through the lens of the "Quick Wins" memo.

Consider some of the milestones since January 2012: 
  • March 24, 2012: John Yap sworn-in as Advanced Education and Multiculturalism Minister in private ceremony at the Chinese Cultural Centre. No advance notice was given, but a video of the rare Saturday ceremony was released afterward. 
  • June 3, 2012: Clark declares “In my heart, I'm Filipina” at the Philippine Independence Day picnic.
  • Sept. 10, 2012: Clark meets for tea with Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing during a trade mission to Hong Kong, Tianjin and Beijing. 
  • Jan. 16, 2013: Liberals announce CHMB AM 1320 CEO Teresa Wat is named Richmond-Centre candidate and Richmond School Trustee Grace Tsang, who wanted to run, was instead named co-chair of the Premier’s Chinese Advisory Committee. 
  • Jan. 22, 2013: Clark announces the Times of India Film Awards for B.C. Place Stadium on April 6, to celebrate Bollywood cinema, to be underwritten with $12 million B.C. tax dollars.
  • Feb. 7, 2013: Clark, Wat, MLAs Rob Howard, Blair Lekstrom, Colin Hansen, Dave Hayer, Jane Thornthwaite, Richard Lee, John Yap, Ida Chong and Ralph Sultan appear at feast at Chinatown’s Floata restaurant to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year, the Year of the Snake. Clark reminds the crowd she was a 1965-born Year of the Snake baby. A sign on the podium (see above) displays her name in Chinese characters, Jian Hui Zhi (jan-WHAY-juh). Hui’s English equivalent is “smart.”
  • Feb. 11, 2013: B.C.’s first Family Day occurs a week before statutory holidays in neighbouring Alberta (Family Day) and Washington state (Presidents’ Day), but the day after the Chinese Lunar New Year was marked. The B.C. government effectively (and cleverly) created a Chinese New Year Long weekend during election year! 
Back on the Komagata Maru incident apology. 

It was made in the Legislature on May 23, 2008. Today's BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong was the minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation then, and tabled Motion 62.
"Be it resolved that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted." 

The Liberals admit an apology for the Chinese Head Tax is coming, but won’t say when or in what form. 

Consider this interesting historical trivia: The Chinese Head Tax's successor, the Chinese Exclusion Act, was finally repealed federally after the efforts of veteran Toronto Jewish civil rights lawyer Irving Himel and Vancouver-born lawyer Kew Dock Yip. Yip was Canada’s first lawyer of Asian descent, who was admitted to the Ontario bar in 1945. 

Yip was the second youngest son of Vancouver Chinatown’s patriarch, Yip Sang. Yip Sang lived at what is now the Wing Sang Building, which was renovated into offices and an art gallery by real estate marketer Bob Rennie. Rennie supported Clark in her leadership bid and was appointed to the board of directors for the B.C. Housing Crown corporation.

What was the date that Himel and Yip made history, when the racist head tax was repealed? 

That was May 14, 1947 -- exactly 66 years before the date of B.C.'s 2013 provincial election. 

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