Friday, October 18, 2013

Who went to the Preem's Prom?

Premier Christy Clark broke from tradition on June 7 with a Cabinet Naming Ceremony at Canada Place. In case you missed it, the entire 54-minute, 37-second extravaganza is available on YouTube.

Preem's Prom at the prow of Canada Place (Government of B.C.)
Normally, the members of executive council are announced the same day as they are sworn-in by the lieutenant-governor. The cabinet roster has traditionally been a well-kept secret until the swearing-in ceremony. When Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon finally made the formal appointments on June 10 at Government House in Victoria, the identities of those pledging the three-part oath of allegiance, office and confidentiality had been known to the public for three days. 

That means the ministers were not ministers under-oath for the entire weekend. Any communication any one of them may have had with a lobbyist would have gone unreported.

So who went? That is a good question. The attendance list was not released, but the list of invitees was. See it below. I pored over the 80-page document and made some lists of my own. 

For instance, there could have been a reunion of people whose names were attached to the BC Rail  privatization scandal. There were eight key figures from the 2003 controversy on the invite list: CN chair David McLean, ex-Premier/Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Gordon Campbell, lobbyist/strategist Patrick Kinsella, ex-lobbyist/Campbell aide Jamie Elmhirst, ex-BC Rail director Jim Shepard, ex-Finance Minister Gary Collins, ex-Deputy Minister/Pacific Carbon Trust chair Chris Trumpy, and ex-BC Liberal Party executive director Kelly Reichert. (No, Dave Basi and Bob Virk are not on the list.)

B.C.'s captains of industry were on the invitation list. Same with movers and shakers of the Vancouver real estate scene and holders of lucrative liquor licences. The B.C. Liberal campaign's inner-circle and some of Clark's closest friends and relatives gathered. The guest list included owners of the Vancouver Canucks, B.C. Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Canadians and even some of the folks who are Liberal members but whose allegiance to the party was hidden from viewers when they appeared in that pre-campaign infomercial. (Surrounding a beaming Clark in the photo above are Ryan Beedie, Liberal MP Joyce Murray, Mayor Richard "Shutterbug" Stewart of Coquitlam, Industry Minister James Moore, federal cabinet regional affairs director Colin Metcalfe and ex-Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day.)

B.C. Federation of Labour's Jim Sinclair and B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union's Darryl Walker were invited. They would rather have been front-row-centre at Adrian Dix's premiership swearing-in, but that obviously didn't happen because of the Liberals' surprise win over the NDP in the May 14 election. 

Representatives of 13 industrial lobby groups, a half-dozen corporations and a federal Crown corporation donated money to fund the ceremony. How much? B.C. Trucking Association disclosed that it paid $2,500. Watch this space in the coming weeks to find out who else donated what.


Private Forest Lands Association (Robert Bealing), Port Metro Vancouver (Alan Baydala), Microsoft (Barb Berg), Society of Notaries Public of B.C. (G.W. Wayne Braid), Eminata Group (Randy Cox), Domtar (David Cunningham), B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association (Jack Davidson), B.C. Interactive (Lance Davis), Independent Contractors and Business Association (Phil Hochstein), Clean Energy B.C. (Paul Kariya), B.C. Hotel Association (John Kearns), B.C. Real Estate Association (Jim McCaughan and Cameron Muir), B.C. Construction Association (Manley McLachlan), Happy Water (Ralph McRae), Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (Geoffrey Morrison), Rio Tinto Alcan (Richard Prokopanko), New Car Dealers’ Association of B.C. (Blair Qualey), B.C. Maritime Employers’ Association (Greg Vurdela), Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (Mark Von Schellwitz), B.C. Trucking Association (Louise Yako).

Business Titans: 

Jimmy Pattison, Telus’s Darren Entwistle, Washington Group’s Kyle Washington, Canaccord founder Peter Brown, ex-SNC-Lavalin chair Gwyn Morgan, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, East West Petroleum’s David Sidoo, Fiore Financial’s Frank Giustra, Belkorp chair Stuart Belkin, publisher/refinery proposer David Black, Rogers’ CEO Phil Lind, Kinder Morgan CEO Ian Anderson, Future Shop founder Hassan Khosrowshahi, and Rocky Mountaineer founder/NPA bagman Peter Armstrong.


Polygon’s Michael Audain, Beedie Group’s Ryan Beedie, Bosa Group’s Dale Bosa, Fairchild Group’s Thomas Fung, Ledcor’s Dave Lede, Concord Pacific’s Terry Hui, Westbank’s Ian Gillespie, “Condo King” Bob Rennie, and Wall Financial’s Peter Wall.

Pro sports franchise owners and executives:

Vancouver Canucks: Francesco, Paolo, Roberto, Luigi and Elisa Aquilini; Vancouver Canadians: Jake Kerr; B.C. Lions: Sen. David Braley, Dennis Skulsky, Wally Buono, Jamie Taras; Vancouver Whitecaps: Greg Kerfoot, John Furlong, Bob Lenarduzzi, and Rachel Lewis.


Progressive Group’s Cindy Burton, Bluestone Group’s Mark Jiles, Ascent Public Affairs' Kimanda Jarzebiak, Counterpoint Communications’ Bruce Rozenhart, Hill & Knowlton’s Steve Vander Wal, Western Policy Consultants’ Mike Bailey, Gary Ley Public Affairs' Gary Ley, Fleishman Hillard’s Anna Lilly, Canadian Pacific’s Mike LoVecchio, Earnscliffe’s Bruce Young and Adam Johnson, Guide Outfitters’ Scott Ellis, and Wazuku Advisory Group's Brad Zubyk.

Liquor licensees and food folks: 

Friends of the Party and/or Friends of the Premier:

Ontario import strategist Don Guy, campaign manager Mike McDonald, ex-deputy chief of staff/Quick Wins memo author Kim Haakstad, communications director Sam Oliphant, Alberta import strategist Rod Love, Government Communications deputy minister and bridesmaid Athana Mentzelopoulos (and her husband Stewart Muir), Ministry of Justice lawyer/leadership campaign volunteer director Doug Eastwood, regional director Bruce Burley, party fundraiser/new deputy chief of staff Michele Cadario, ex-Liberal MP/withdrawn MLA candidate Sukh Dhaliwal, ex-Liberal MP/cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal, Liberal/Vision Vancouver strategist Diamond Isinger, lobbyist Steve Kukucha, pollsters/ex-assistant deputy minister Dimitri Pantazopoulos, Campaign Research principal Nick Kouvalis, Vision Vancouver director/advisor David Eaves, strategist Emile Scheffel, social media advisor Dave Teixeira, ex-Liberal leader Gordon Wilson and his wife/ex-Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji, B.C. Housing chair Judy Rogers, North Delta campaign co-manager Tim Crowhurst, Lululemon public relations/Liberal Women's Networker Erin Hochstein, Lawson Lundell lawyer Murray Campbell and wife/fellow Clark supporter/Private Career Training Institutions Agency of B.C. registrar Karin Kirkpatrick, ex-B.C. Lion Daved Benefield, strategist/gambling investor Jacee Schaefer, aide/wife of CBC reporter Stephen Smart Rebecca Scott, ex-Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, Chilliwack riding president Collin Rogers, justice reviewer/Liberal supporter Geoff Cowper, Canadian Bar Association president/Liberal supporter Dean Crawford, ex-Liberal Party of Canada B.C. president Bill Cunningham, ex-Conservative vice-president/Liberal turncoat Ben Besler, Coquitlam-Maillardville riding president Randy Paolo Rinaldo, Aga Khan Council for Canada president Malik Talib, ex-Young Liberals of Canada B.C. president/B.C. Pharmacy Association public affairs officer Coco Lefoka, ethnic outreacher Lita Nuguid, Vancouver Canucks' photographer Jeff Vinnick, CKNW sex show host Maureen McGrath, 99.3 the Fox morning drive host Jeff O'Neil, ex-Rock 101 morning drive host Bro Jake & Family, strategist Elizabeth Samuels, plus Clark's brothers Bruce and John, her ex-husband/aide Mark Marissen and son Hamish Marissen-Clark.

Allegedly average people, as seen on the Liberal election infomercial

Adrian Lu, Joey Lu, Jackie Hollis, David Fraser and Rick & Julie Marzolf (Also invited: "Celebrity endorsers" ex-Conservative MP Stockwell Day and Brad "Grandson of W.A.C. and Son of Bill" BennettProducers Don Millar and Eric Hogan).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Exclusive: Park Board steamrolling ahead with eviction, say six dissenting associations

Court documents filed by Vancouver’s six dissenting community centre associations say the Park Board is proceeding to “evict” them before the court has decided on their bid for an injunction to stop the OneCard.

Get your OneCard today!
Controversial OneCard
The Park Board terminated Joint Operating Agreements on Aug. 29 with volunteer boards at Hastings, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Killarney, Riley Park Hillcrest and Sunset community centres effective year-end. That was in reaction to the Aug. 20 filing of a B.C. Supreme Court petition aimed at blocking the citywide imposition of the OneCard membership system. The six associations, who are fighting the Park Board plan to centralize control of the 22 community centres, say they have a right to sell their own memberships. 

Justice Bruce Cohen reserved judgment after the Sept. 17-18 hearing. 

The six associations now say the Vision Vancouver-controlled Park Board is looking for other not-for-profit groups to replace them and staff transition teams have been formed to prepare for the Jan. 1, 2014 Park Board takeover.

The Oct. 15 court filing by Dean Davison, the lawyer for the six community associations, says the community associations have invested millions of dollars into the community centres and the programs “and as a result have legal ownership of a great deal of property and assets at the community centres." The six associations want the court to declare the community centres are "held on constructive trust by the Park Board for the plaintiffs."

"The Park Board is also currently taking steps to take over the programs on Jan. 1, 2014 when ownership of the copyrighted material (in the brochures which promote the programs) and the decades of goodwill is still a matter that must be dealt with by the court," according to the association's filings.

The plaintiffs applied Oct. 4 for an injunction to stop the Park Board from terminating the Joint Operating Agreements with the community associations and a declaration that the Joint Operating Agreements remain in effect and an interim injunction forcing the Park Board to perform its obligations under the JOAs.

A three-day hearing is scheduled for Oct. 22, but Park Board wants it adjourned to Nov. 18. 

The filing by city lawyer Jason Twa claims: "The Park Board has taken no steps to interfere with the plaintiffs joint operation of community centres during the currency of the JOAs, notwithstanding that it has issued notices of termination. Until the terminations of the JOAs are effective the Park Board continues to jointly operate community centres with the plaintiffs."

Twa claims more time is needed to prepare a defence because park board and civic archives must be searched for documents dating back to the 1930s about "historic financial and other contributions that the plaintiffs have made to the development, construction and renovation of community centres and related facilities dating as far back as the 1930s." 

"It will be a considerable undertaking for the Park Board to search for, locate, review and gather such documents," according to the Park Board filing.

Meanwhile, only two-and-a-half months remain until Jan. 1, 2014. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exclusive: Meet the other Quick Wins

Governments are intricate webs of offices, boards and committees that quietly go about much of their business away from the public eye.

One of the many such groups in British Columbia’s government is called the Procurement Council, an arm of the Ministry of Finance.

I obtained, via Freedom of Information, agendas and minutes for this group of bureaucrats involved in finding suppliers of goods and services to government. These documents were an instant source of curiosity and hilarity when I noticed numerous references to Quick Wins

You may have heard of the BC Liberals' Quick Wins scandal: Aides to Premier Christy Clark conceived the Multicultural Outreach Strategy in late 2011/early 2012 and their "playbook" included a list of so-called "Quick Wins" to score points with ethnic voters. The document, released by the NDP, was evidence that Liberal aides violated the government's code of conduct by spending the public dime while doing party work on government time. It is now under RCMP investigation. 

The Procurement Council documents show that there were other Quick Wins being contemplated elsewhere in the B.C. government around the same time. Procurement Council minutes mention the Enterprise Contract Management Solutions working group conceiving a list of 25 Quick Wins.

The specific list wasn’t disclosed in the documents I obtained, but “Quick Win #1” was. That was a specific proposal to consider raising the $25,000 threshold for competitive tendering on government contracts to $50,000 “to allow for a simpler selection process":
“Tamara McLeod advised that any increase in the thresholds would require a rational and defensible justification. The ECMS Working Group (Janet McGuire and,Jenny Hutchison) will do some quantitative analysis research to support the increase, including on the administration costs connected with preparing and soliciting RFPs.”
Provincial procurement rules state government contracts estimated to be worth $25,000 to $75,000 (or $25,000 to $100,000 for construction) “must be awarded using a competitive process.” 

“Opportunities can be posted on BC Bid or at least three quotes must be obtained.” 

Loopholes exist for direct awards to maintain security or protect life and health, in case of unforeseeable emergency, if a supplier is uniquely qualified supplier or the contract is with another government body. Contracts under $25,000, the rules say, "should be competed to the extent reasonable and cost-effective." Notice that the word is "should" (instead of "must").

The threshold remains $25,000. A representative of the Finance Ministry, who refused to permit publication of his name, told me: 
“The enterprise contract management solutions working group is tasked with finding ways to streamline and standardize contract management across all ministries. Any proposals put forward by this working group regarding possible changes to government core policy would require Treasury Board and Cabinet approval prior to implementation.”
Could change be on the way? 

The BC Liberals’ 2013 election platform promised to increase small business procurement by at least 20% and: 
  • Streamline RFP processes for government procurement to ensure small businesses can compete for government contracts on a more level playing field.
  • Limit RFP paperwork for government to a maximum of two pages for contracts under $250,000 so that small businesses can apply and compete.
On Aug. 29, the government appointed veteran bureaucrat George Farkas (the assistant deputy minister in the Management Services Division) to lead the "Small Business – Doing Business with Government" project. 

Keep an eye on Farkas and the red tape-cutting Liberals to see if that $25,000 threshold does get raised after all. 

Increasing the number of no-bid contracts might streamline government operations and please some small businesses, but it could also elevate the risk of waste and cronyism. 

Caps off for successful student philanthropy project

A fledgling students’ group at Capilano University in North Vancouver has raised more than enough money to house the family of a sick child at Ronald McDonald House for a year.

Ronald’s Helping Heroes, a directed study project in the School of Business, hoped to raise $27,375 by Oct. 18. The sum represents 365 nights at $75 per, the cost of housing a family at the Angus Drive property. As of 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, they had raised $28,683. 

The project was the brainchild of Sian Hebden and Kimia Tajbakhsh, who did fundraising and cooking three times a week at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver over a two-month period last semester to more than satisfy the requirement of a one-day leadership class assignment. 

“We could've gone to the SPCA and walked dogs or fed the homeless, but Kimia and I decided we wanted to do more than that. We started researching charities, we decided we wanted to do something to help children who were sick and Ronald McDonald house fits that,” Hebden said. 

The group has gone classroom to classroom wearing pyjamas, some branded with Ronald’s Helping Heroes, and elicited donations from fellow students, faculty and staff.  

“We're trying to create what is known as a changemaker campus, we're trying to really build a community here of changemakers, people that go out and do projects,” Hebden said. “We want to create things that go outside the four walls of school and reading textbooks. We think it's important to 
engage in the community.”

The Oct. 18 deadline coincides with the annual We Day inspirational conference/concert at Rogers Arena. One of the members of Ronald’s Helping Heroes is scheduled to speak to the full house of Lower Mainland schoolchildren about the project. 

“In an organization there are approvals that have to happen, there hasn't been any drama, these kids are focused on getting it down in five weeks,” said instructor and convenor Carolyn Stern. “They've learned the process of how things get done.”

Stern has been teaching at Capilano for 13 years and student projects normally “stay within the department or stay within the faculty.” 

“I've never seen a student group get an office. They've been given this office to use for this project but they have bigger plans.”

The website, including an explanatory video, is the start of that under the Cap U We Do name. And donations are still accepted.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

B.C. charities can thank public employees (and, ultimately, taxpayers)

Office philanthropy takes many forms. From the ad hoc passing of a hat to an all-out, team effort to raise funds around an event.

It turns out, the province's public employees have a formal conduit for their efforts. It's called the Provincial Employees Community Services Fund. The 1965-founded, registered charitable foundation is little-known outside government circles. It campaigns from September to December and is chaired by Lynda Tarras, who heads the Public Service Agency.

Through Freedom of Information, I received the financial statements for 2010 to 2012. 

In 2010, it raised $2.039 million for charities from authorized payroll deductions and cash contributions. A year later, $1.9 million. In 2012, it raised $1.839 million.

It’s a small sum compared to the province’s roughly $44 billion budget and is almost as much as the $1,582,126 pay packet of the highest-paid public employee, B.C. Investment Management Corporation CEO Doug Pearce.

There are large donations to some of the big, well-known charities, such as BC SPCA ($53,492.59), Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon ($39,759.94), and Canadian Cancer Society ($22,832.59).

There is a veritable grab-bag of charities benefitting from public dollars, including: David Suzuki Foundation ($2,890.62), Vancouver College Ltd. ($75), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada ($469), Helping Homeless Cats Society ($1,420.10), Canadian Luge Association ($279.80), and Dominion of Canada Rifle Association ($156). 

I was encouraged to see $183.82 given to Transparency International Canada Inc. As they say, it’s the thought that counts. 

The annual financial report and full list of donations is below.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

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