On Conflict, Corruption, and the Diva of Deflection

Alternate title: At least four more reasons the BCLiberals ran from the legislature two weeks early….

The big question of the election campaign so far is not who is best to run the economy…It is how much conflict of interest , cronyism, and flat out illegal activity is going on from those who lobby government to the highest levels of the BCLiberal government? And how much will the electorate stand for?

My last two posts touched on an “affordable housing” deals in which Bob Rennie, presale market condo speculator somehow received a $39M loan which helped him do what he does best.. Minister Coleman, despite a promise to release documents this week proving that this actually helped acquire or build a larger number of affordable units at a separate location, has not done so.

RossK over at the Gazetteer has been poking into a story about a man named Steve Carr, the Premier’s special advisor… He retired from the civil service in 2015, then was rehired at a high salary in 2016…. In 2015 it appears, his consulting company was renamed from Steve Carr Consultants to the numbered company 1048216. That company may have received no bid contracts from the Premier’s office while Steve Carr maintained a position as one of the most powerful people in that office…Read the post here http://pacificgazette.blogspot.ca/2017/03/two-advisors-in-clarkland-with-exactly.html .

Issues arising from this if it all proves to be true involve how much information Steve Carr would be able to protect from scrutiny wearing the consultant hat as opposed to the employee of government hat.. (think Health Firings investigation, LNG deals etc.) . Further, as an advisor, legally if he performs the functions of a government hire , supervising staff, using government resources and  a government office on a full time basis, the law may see him as an employee of government in fact, rather than a retiree on contract or some sort of independent.

There are no issues proven in court around Steve Carr, nor any indication a court may be where it lands if there’s fire under the smoke. But the question of why the company name was changed to a numbered company (if the two Steve Carrs are in fact one person) surely rings alarm bells around consciously hiding questionable activity. Surely.

The “Lobbyist donation scandal” is now in the hands of the federal RCMP, rather than Elections BC, and the rats have started to come out of the woodwork. The NDP has taken action to return a couple of illegally made donations totalling about $4000 . The BCLiberals have identified $93000 (so far) and is spinning some of them as clerical errors. Integrity BC has pegged an estimate well over $1million in donations on record with Elections BC worth questioning. Ouch.. gotta hurt if all that has to be paid back , tax receipts received and re-issued.

BCLP candidate Kim Chan Logan came forward to request $18000 in donations made on behalf of Telus (who she worked for) be ‘corrected’. Sorry Kim. That’s not the way it works…. illegally made donations (third party) are illegal whether or not you can credibly claim ignorance of the law. The RCMP will presumably be talking to you and a host of others as well. Why? Because we know the practice was widespread and can’t have been entirely someone’s guilty little secret. Who received the tax receipts for Telus donations made in Kim Chan Logan’s name? Was it Kim or Telus?  Who claimed the tax credits if they were claimed?

Not just a matter of correcting some paperwork. The interesting question isn’t whether some charges will be laid under the Elections Act eventually…It’s whether Party operatives will be proven to have colluded in this “don’t ask, don’t tell” scam. I think Kim Chan Logan should resign her campaign, provide information about how this happened and concentrate on getting the best deal she can.

A brouhaha erupted on Twitter last night, with complaints forwarded to the Conflict Commissioner because Brad Bennett will be on Christy Clark’s campaign bus for the duration of the election. The problem? He is the chair of BCHydro (think SiteC) …. I used to have this innocent idea that BCLiberals wanted Crown Corps separated from politics.. that was the line about BCFerries after the Fastcats in 2001. I used to have this idea that Crown Corps operated in the public , not the partisan interest, and would soldier on whoever won electoral power..  Brad Bennett does carry the baggage of a perceived conflict here. To say the least.

All that brings us to the Diva of Deflection, Christy Clark, so named by the estimable Vicki Huntington..and the fiasco that was the last legislative sitting….

Fires aplenty to put out, but Christy managed to fan them with half measures…

To much interest, she called a news conference to announce commuter rail for Langford/Victoria. It turns out she announced that it would be studied after the election.

We were led to believe there were campaign finance reforms on the agenda one Monday at the Legislature..Donation reform!  Would the Premier finally listen and ban corp and union donations? Present a bill to limit individual donations? Sigh, that was a no. She would form a panel to study the issue after the election, if she wins. Thud.

Mike deJong was going to move on the much sought after “duty to document”. Advocated for by several Info and Privacy Commissioners as well as the opposition, this measure would ensure no triple deleting of how decisions are made in government and why. There would always be a record…..Did deJong live up to the hype?  No…he proposed that a new officer be appointed within government to make recommendations on the issue…..Another thud.

It must be hard being a press reporter and stifling your frustrations when the Premier’s press operatives raise expectations and disappoint so thoroughly.

I’ll ask again, and I know I’ve answered my own question… Why was the legislative session cut two weeks short? Why , Christy, didn’t you take the time to pass many of your own bills?  Because the way you’re behaving, you’re in trouble….and it leaves me wondering…Will the Ombudsman Jay Chalke’s review of the Health Firings scandal actually be produced and released before April 9th?? Maybe it will…



Clark Needs to Back Up Her Words – Part II

In my last post I took issue with Rob Shaw and the Vancouver Sun printing a front page hit piece full of unsubstantiated, ad hominem attacks by the pink shirted Premier Clark. For another take, a little calmer but better I think, head over to Norm’s Place… https://in-sights.ca/2017/03/17/hit-piece-journalism/ .

Now I want to address what should fill the page devoted to the efforts of a Press Gallery member. How about what actually happens during legislative debate or question period? As always, to slag the entire membership of the gallery , or even individual members in a blanket manner would be a disservice. But nevertheless, I believe the Press Gallery has become jaded and largely partisan. Tired after 15 or 20 years watching the theatre over and over,  reporters and pundits are mailing it in, convinced that nothing matters except who has the power and who is winning the propaganda war.

As an example, Keith Baldrey tweeted once (paraphrased) “I never cover opposition bills because they never pass!!”.

That’s an astonishing statement about his view of what journalism should be. On the day the great New York columnist Jimmy Breslin’s death was announced, let’s remember his words… “Whatever someone (in power) doesn’t want you to print, is news”. The  role of media should be to hold power to account. Opposition MLA’s in a parliamentary system perform the same function. To fail to report what they propose simply because it will be outvoted is to fail to inform the public on potential improvements to public policy and government behaviour.

So what happened in the Legislature this past several weeks? Why did the government cut short the session by two weeks? It’s my firm view the governing party was getting hammered and needed to escape scrutiny. I’ll quote some exchanges from Hansard and I want you to first judge for yourself, and secondly think about where you heard these issues discussed first. Was it here? On social media? In a newspaper? On the 6 PM news? If the opposition asked questions, was the answer adequate? Scroll through to the last few from David Eby to Rich Coleman on the land swaps and mortgage deals hidden from us by BCHousing if you wish….. That said, all of these questions and non-answers are important.

On the suicide of Alex Gervais, a child abandoned in a hotel while he was supposed to be looked after:

M. Mark: I must say, for the record, it sounds like a broken record in this House, when it comes time for the advocacy for our kids in care. The representative’s report made it clear that Alex would have thrived had he been placed in the care of his extended family. My question is for the Premier……Why did she choose to pay a contractor more than $8,000 a month to ignore Alex rather than have him cared for by his extended family?

Hon. C. Clark: The issue with respect to contracted resources is one that the ministry is taking on, because that was clearly a problem for Alex. Alex was not supposed to be alone, and yet he was. So this issue…. Making sure that contractor resources are appropriately hired and managed, that they have the appropriate background checks, that they are there and that they are supervised properly are changes that the ministry is going to be making — part of the response in learning from the tragedy of Alex Gervais’s death.

M. Mark: Alex had a right to be in a home, not a hotel. It wasn’t just Alex’s stepmother who wanted to care for him. His aunt in Quebec also offered to become his guardian.

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Alex could have been with his family, where he would have experienced love and stability and access to his Métis culture. That was his right, and it would have saved government thousands of dollars — thousands of dollars that could have been used to help other children in government care.

Given that opportunity, why did this government refuse to place Alex with his family?

Hon. C. Clark: The government, the minister, does not make decisions on those kinds of matters, those issues. Those decisions are made by front-line social workers, who are the experts on these issues. They make the decisions. It is very, very hard work.

Ed. Did Clark just throw social workers under the bus? Running from accountability.

The next day, the NDP presented Bills with the following titles which are self-explanatory. Each one offers improvements in government processes and accountability, but remember, there’s no point in paying attention. A majority government will shut down any attempt to improve itself.



AMENDMENT ACT   (important because public accounts aren’t complete in the Spring when we vote – ma)


CALENDAR ACT, 2017  (to prevent government running when it’s in trouble and shutting down two weeks early – ma)



That’s a partial list. Back to Question Period….. On Zero Compliance in Foster Care monitoring. ….

C. James: This government would have put the resources that were requested by the Representative for Children and Youth and the hard-working social workers in this province, who need the resources in the field. That’s what the government would have done if they took this issue seriously. They would have put those resources in place.

Yesterday we raised the fact that this minister has achieved a zero compliance rate for monitoring the safety and well-being of kids’ foster homes in the northwest, in the Kootenays and in the east Fraser Valley. So in three regions of this province, the minister could not or would not ensure that there were enough social workers to make contact with children in care at least once every three months.

My question is to the minister. Can she explain why she is apparently unable to enforce a law that she is directly responsible for?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The member opposite would have you believe that she and the NDP are the only people in this province that care about children. She couldn’t be more wrong.

The system is not perfect, not by a long shot. There is plenty to do. Quality assurance is one of those areas that we have acknowledged needs more resources, and more have been put in. There is no question that it’s unacceptable when we do an audit and our compliance is not in line. It’s not okay. Then our directors go in and they put in place an action plan with supports to fix those problems.

On an IT disaster in Healthcare. Doctors are refusing to use the system…Did you know?

D. Routley:

On Friday afternoon, the minister’s inability to ensure that health care IT systems protect patients was on display yet again. On Friday, the CEO of Island Health told staff at Nanaimo Regional Hospital that they were going to cease using key elements of the minister’s new $50 million IHealth system because physicians said it was putting patients at risk — serious risk.

Can the minister explain why he waited so long to acknowledge that IHealth was putting patients at risk?

Hon. T. Lake: Well, in fact I didn’t wait. I went to Nanaimo. I met with the medical team at Nanaimo. I met with Island Health. We commissioned a report by Dr. Doug Cochrane, a B.C. patient care quality officer, who listed recommendations and a workplan. We set up an oversight committee. But it, despite best efforts…. I will say this, hon. Speaker. The physicians and the medical team at Nanaimo and the people at Island Health in charge of this project all have a common interest in making sure we get a product that delivers a single electronic health record for the people of the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital that keeps patients safe.

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There are a number of physicians at Nanaimo, as the member well knows, that still have some concerns, so we are working with them, with Island Health and with the doctors and other medical staff to ensure that this system remains safe for patients while those improvements are taking place.

On two BCLiberal MLA’s announcing $1M funding for a youth centre in Maple Ridge that shut down two years previously:

C. James: Last week the members for Maple Ridge–Mission and Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows announced $1 million for the Iron Horse youth homeless shelter. The problem? The shelter actually closed two years ago. At that time, the government said no to the mayor’s request for support to keep the doors open.

My question is to the Minister of Children and Families. Where was the minister and where were the two
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local MLAs two years ago when this homeless shelter shut down?

Hon. R. Coleman: Thanks to the member for her question. She should know, however, that Iron Horse was actually under a federal program when federal walked away from the funding.

We’ve been building a suite of transition housings for youth that were in the market and continue to do. As we came in, they were looking at the issues in and around Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows. Some of the community people brought this up to us. At that time, we were actually looking for something that might work and thought this particular facility might work. We have the operating dollars for it. So we made the announcement, along with the MLAs.

Can you imagine the ridicule the Press Gallery would shower on an NDP MLA who announced $1 Million real for a centre which didn’t exist ?  Crickets except for one piece in the Maple Ridge News local. – MA

Here is Speaker Linda Reid shutting down the first of many questions about party fundraising and the Wild West gong show. It’s my opinion this is a partisan ruling, because government decides the rules or lack of same that political parties follow, or not….

. Horgan: Last spring media reports exposed the B.C. Liberal practice of fundraising at exclusive dinners in people’s homes and in private locations, with large sums to get access to government decision-makers. Most recently we heard from the New York Times that the practices of fundraising here in British Columbia were considered the Wild West by North American standards — quite something when you look at the super PACs that exist in the United States.

Most recently, even though we could have been sitting in this Legislature, in fact, we were not here for over 200 days. We could have been putting forward legislation to ban big money, to make sure that we’re amending our practices so that big money doesn’t distort our politics. But instead of doing that, the fall session was cancelled and the B.C. Liberals were sent off to raise money — so much so that the Minister of Agriculture cancelled a scheduled debate on agriculture issues sponsored by the B.C. Agriculture Council so he could be in his constituency raising money.

This weekend we learned that Elections B.C. is now investigating the practices of the B.C. Liberals. My question to the minister responsible, the Attorney General: if all of this doesn’t provide enough evidence to the government that they should amend their practices, what will?

Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, I will make a comment. Questions addressed to ministers must relate to matters for which those ministers are currently and officially responsible. This is the only basis upon which ministers can be expected to answer questions. Accordingly, the question is out of order.

Now to questions on Real Estate, Bob Rennie, and the 508 Helmcken $40 Million loans…. This is a scandal that could blow up and get very ugly indeed for Rich Coleman…It was handed on a platter weeks ago to the Vancouver Sun by SouthVanParks Society , but so far, not much press…A notable exception is coverage by Steele and Drex on CKNW…

D. Eby: I know the Premier doesn’t want to talk about her cozy relationship with Mr. Rennie and how that led to two years of the opposition trying to get her attention while home prices in Metro Vancouver spiked over $600,000. But we’re going to talk about that, because the Premier’s relationship and her Housing Minister’s relationship with Mr. Rennie, as chief fundraiser, is very clear.

The Housing Minister exchanged multiple emails with Mr. Rennie in which he and Mr. Rennie discussed budget measures related to real estate and the environmental approval process in relation to a major housing development near Squamish that Mr. Rennie surely hoped to market. They also talked about classic cars.

As for the Premier, Mr. Rennie forwarded a proposal for the Metro Vancouver real estate market to Carole Taylor, the Premier’s special adviser, saying: “We need a very visible approach to curbing speculation and the optics of working towards affordability.” That email was forwarded by the Premier’s special adviser to the Premier’s director of policy. Mr. Rennie apparently forgot that he talks to the highest levels in this government about real estate policy.

Will the Premier now admit that Mr. Rennie — major fundraiser, dinner party host, B.C. Liberal Party insider and friend — had it right the first time when he talked to the reporter and said he had advance notice of the foreign buyers tax?

Hon. C. Clark: I’m sure a lot of developers and people in the development industry had a lot of feelings about the foreign tax. What we discovered after we introduced it is that almost to a person, they don’t like it. Just like the NDP, they oppose the foreign buyers tax.

D. Eby: I know the Premier doesn’t want to talk about her relationship with Mr. Rennie. Again, no answer to the question.

But it wasn’t just email access to the highest levels of this government that Mr. Rennie got for being chief fundraiser for the Premier and dinner host. It got him so much more. Mr. Rennie met with the Premier’s special adviser in April of 2016 and again in June of 2016, just weeks before the foreign buyer tax was announced.

Imagine Mr. Rennie’s joy when the Premier formally announced, a few weeks later, that she’d be bringing in a foreign buyer tax but that she’d be exempting the speculation on presale condos. Now, why would Mr. Rennie be happy about that? Well, selling presale condos is why Mr. Rennie is the Condo King. That’s his core competency.

How can the Premier defend giving her chief fundraiser access to the most senior policy members in her office weeks before the foreign buyer tax was introduced and then exempting his core business from that same foreign buyer tax and then, when he told the media that he never talked to the Premier’s office and never talked to her ministers about real estate policy in B.C., not setting the record straight, because it wasn’t true?

Hon. C. Clark: Just like all the members of this House who, on that day when the legislation was introduced, were shocked because they had no advance notice, nor did anyone in the industry have any advance notice that this was going to happen.

D. Eby: In 2015, the Wall Corp., a massive development company in Vancouver, walked in a proposal to B.C. Housing. They bought some land on Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside where the zoning required them to build rental housing. Just over half of the units were required to be affordable.

Their proposal? B.C. Housing should provide them with an interest-free construction financing of $39½ million. They also proposed that B.C. Housing pay them a 10 percent developer fee worth $3.3 million for the privilege of giving the Wall Corp. interest-free money to build something they had to anyway under the zoning.

My question for the Minister for Housing is simple. Did he agree to provide interest-free financing and a multi-million-dollar fee to a rich developer to build something they would have had to build anyway under the zoning rules in Vancouver?

Hon. R. Coleman: I don’t have the details of that particular project at my fingertips, but I’ll certainly provide them for him. It would be unusual for us to do what the member described, but it is not unusual for us to enter into an agreement to take affordable rental units that we can subsidize in the marketplace for people that need housing in Vancouver or anywhere else in the province of British Columbia.

D. Eby: It’s interesting that the minister forgot about this unusual project, because B.C. Housing also forgot about this unusual project. When we asked them, under freedom of information, for a list of projects where they’d provided construction financing, they sent us a list of non-profit organizations building housing projects worth an average of $3.2 million, for interest rates between 1 and 1¼ percent.

The project they forgot? They forgot to list the project worth ten times their average construction financing. They forgot to list the project where they didn’t charge interest. They forgot to list the project they were financing that is 62 percent for-profit market housing and commercial space.

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We didn’t find out about the Wall Corp. project through the Freedom of Information Act. We found out about it because someone leaked the proposal.

So why does the minister charge interest to non-profit organizations building 100 percent affordable housing and not charge interest to a for-profit developer building a building with only 38 percent affordable housing?

Hon. R. Coleman: You usually never have any facts to back up what you’re saying with regards to anything that you do.

I will get the information for the member, and I’ll let you know exactly what happened with that particular proposal.

I do know that we do deals, where we go in…. We will do construction financing on portions of projects that are ours that we’re going to have the benefitfor the public, for affordable housing in British Columbia.

D. Eby: B.C. Housing gave a $40 million loan to a private developer to finance the presale marketing of condos that start at $1.6 million each. Who was on the board of B.C. Housing when this loan was approved? Bob Rennie, the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, the man who made the Premier’s extra $300,000 in salary possible by raising millions in big money for the B.C. Liberals.

How did Bob Rennie get on the B.C. Housing board? Well, he was put on the board by his friend the Deputy Premier through order-in-council. And who was the lead real estate agent on this condo development “designed for daily luxury”? Why, yes, it was Bob Rennie.

Why did the Premier allow tax dollars intended to build housing for the poorest of the poor go to financing a presale condo marketing campaign by her chief fundraiser?

Hon. R. Coleman: To the member opposite: I notice that you didn’t go out after last week’s question period and repeat what you said in this House, because you knew you’d probably be sued for what you said in here simply because you didn’t have the right information. You accused the government of financing a project where we financed the affordable rental units that we built as part of a mixed-use project.

This one’s a bit more complicated. Not only did we step up and make a deal work, where we actually doubled the amount and number of social housing units in a project on redevelopment; we’ve put more affordable housing in the city of Vancouver. We had no involvement whatsoever in the marketing of the market units in the project.

. Eby: In the minister’s own mortgage for this property, it says: “Give us updates on the presale condo progress. How well are you selling presale condos?” So I’m not sure this minister has any idea what he’s talking about. Not only that, but I was absolutely right about everything that I said about the last project this minister did, where they provided interest-free money to a major donor to build a project that the donor had to build anyway. And not only that, but they provided them with a fat developer fee as well.

The minister says this is such a good deal for taxpayers that B.C. Housing forgot to put it on the FOI list. They forgot to put it on the freedom-of-information list that they sent to us of projects that this government funded. Somehow they forgot the $39 million loan. They also forgot that same project, that Wall development corporation project on Hastings Street. They didn’t disclose that one either.

So my question to the Premier is: how many secret loans are there to B.C. Liberal major donors?

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Hon. R. Coleman: I know there’s one word in this House that we can’t use with regards to whether you’re telling the truth or not. I will say it to the media when I get out of here, because I can’t say it in here.

But you’re wrong. What you are saying isn’t true. There was no interest-free loan, none whatsoever. As a matter of fact, we got a number of units out of this project for affordable rental. A whole bunch of them, 50-ish, were all for core need at $375 a month. We actually went into a partnership to develop a project to make the numbers work so we could create more affordable rental housing in the city of Vancouver.

(Why wasn’t the loan disclosed through FOI Rich? It seem there was roughly 1.5% interest, not zero, but why wasn’t this loan disclosed?- MA)

D. Eby: Thank you, hon. Speaker. I did. I withdraw.

We’ve been asking questions about two major B.C. Housing financing initiatives worth about $80 million in public money for buildings connected closely to two major B.C. Liberal donors, including the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, Bob Rennie. To all of our questions, the Housing Minister has repeatedly suggested that we’re just making stuff up. He’s even threatened lawsuits. Yet even though we’ve been asking for these documents for five days, he’s produced not a single document to show that we are, in his more polite moments, as he describes it, wrong.

Now, it’s not unusual that the opposition has to wait for a freedom-of-information request or estimate or someone to leak to get the information on a story. But
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when even the media can’t get the information they need from the minister, you know there’s trouble. Five days have passed since media asked for details on a public loan to a private luxury condo building marketed by the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, and neither B.C. Housing nor this minister has given them the information they’re asking for.

To the Housing Minister: if everybody is wrong, where are the documents; where are the numbers; what happened on this deal?

Hon. R. Coleman: Madame Speaker, through you to the member, I at no time said that I was interested in suing the member. I said he should go take the comments and the accusations he said in this House and gladly take it outside and say the same thing — which I, by the way, have noted has not happened.

Um, not true Rich. Mr. Eby was on CKNW talking about this very thing….ma

D. Eby: Beyond the facts that the mortgage was registered on an entirely different property, that it asked for updates on the sale of presale condos, that it was registered the month after the social housing was built, the minister’s numbers simply don’t add up. The city owned the land. It set it aside for social housing. The city put in $30.6 million in community amenity contributions to build the project. Then B.C. Housing loaned $15.1 million to the society to lease the finished building from the city.

The 162 units were built. That puts the cost per unit at a high but reasonable $288,000 each, on average, where the city provided the land. But if we believe this minister, this deal never would have been done unless B.C. Housing gave a $39 million loan to a luxury housing developer to help that developer market presale condos marketed by the Premier’s fundraiser-in-chief, who was on the B.C. Housing board when this deal got approved. The explanation makes no sense.

Again to the minister: if everybody else is wrong, where are the documents; where are the minutes from B.C. Housing; where are the numbers on the project?

Hon. R. Coleman: Just so you’re clear, B.C. Housing had no involvement in the financing, construction or marketing of the market housing, relative to the land swap that took place on this. Our involvement was to finance the project to get 162 new units of affordable housing in downtown Vancouver, in a partnership with the city and a developer.

It was the city and the developer that worked out the idea of a land swap. We came in as a partner on this because we thought it was a good idea to add additional low-rental housing, affordable to people in Vancouver, by doing a partnership — that this would work. But on the market side, at no time were we involved.

I know that the member likes to make the other accusation with regards to the person that marketed this project. I can tell the member this. When this project came before the board of B.C. Housing, the individual recused themselves.

D. Eby: One piece missing in that answer was whether the minister was going to release the documents, release the numbers, release the minutes from B.C. Housing. And just like with Mr. Rennie’s luxury condo project for
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the 288 Hastings Street project, the minister also said we were wrong. He said there was no construction financing, no loan, nothing like that for the B.C. Liberal donor, but let’s look at what we know.

We know that B.C. Housing bought land at 288 East Hastings from Wall Financial, a major B.C. Liberal donor. When choosing a developer, we know that B.C. Housing didn’t put the contract out for tender. Instead, Wall Financial, a major B.C. Liberal donor who gave $400,000 to this party just last year, was hired directly to build a $33 million project. Now a public city of Vancouver report makes it clear that B.C. Housing plans to sell the finished market rental housing units on that site directly to the same major B.C. Liberal donor. Again, no bids, no public process, just a direct sale.

We also know that not a single unit beyond the bare requirements of the local city of Vancouver zoning was added through this arrangement. Less than 40 percent of the square footage of this building is affordable rental housing.

If it’s not construction financing, can the minister explain why B.C. Housing issued an untendered contract worth tens of millions of dollars, then agreed to sell completed rental units worth more than $10 million to a major B.C. Liberal donor with no public process?

Hon. R. Coleman: Again, the other day when the member brought this question to the House, he accused the government of giving a zero-percent-interest loan to a developer to build a building in Vancouver, which was not true. The construction financing on a combined project is not unusual — to be financed with cooperation of your partners. You do that. It has takeout mortgages when they’re taken out, and what happens is you end up with a project.

Now, just so the member knows…. I know he lives in Vancouver, but just so he understands, this area of Vancouver has been designated by the city of Vancouver as requiring 60 percent non-market and 40 percent market housing for rental. It makes projects difficult to deliver affordable rental housing in Vancouver, but we were successful in this particular case.

Just so the member knows, the building is going to provide 104 new units of rental affordable housing in Vancouver, which now takes the total up to almost 180 units by two projects, a product that wouldn’t get built in Vancouver if there wasn’t a partnership between B.C. Housing and the city of Vancouver and whoever is developing the project, along with a non-profit. We do not hold financing. We did not finance the market units. We financed the social housing units, 104 units, which are in the market today, are being built in the market so that people have affordable housing in Vancouver.

Of course, there were a range of other issues canvassed:… Seniors Care Homes 97% out of compliance for staffing levels. Seniors with broken hips waiting in hospital hallways for days. Sewage spills into the water supply in Spallumcheen.. Mary Polak’s refusal to acknowledge what a court has said on the Shawnigan Waste dump, namely that Active Earth Engineering lied and covered up its profit sharing deal withCobble Hill Holdings.

But Minister Coleman has carried the housing file with him wherever he goes for over a decade. Why is BCHousing helping rich developers (Brenhill, Wall) and Pre-sale condo marketers (Rennie) with multi-million dollar loans to simply comply with Vancouver bylaws on affordable rental units? Did the public know this was how BCHousing operated? As a mortgage slush fund ?

BCHousing promises to release some documents this week after redacting, er, vetting for privacy. But why did those loans come to the NDP via a leak, rather than through FOI?

If there’s one thing the press should be all over, it’s this story, and I haven’t seen much (with apologies to Steele and Drex, and “MetroVancouver”. Instead, we have the Vancouver Sun wasting space with printing Christy Clark’s ad hominem attacks on John Horgan. It isn’t good enough.

So why did the Legislature shut two weeks early without passing the government’s own “priority” bills?

Clark Needs to Back Up Her Words. Part 1

Premier Clark (via the Vancouver Sun), graced us with “her opinion” of John Horgan’s opposition leadership and Premier potential on the front page this morning. It may be an entertaining read, but it contributes little to actual understanding of our electoral choice May 9th.

What I think is that the Premier has a record of running from accountability at every turn. This now includes closing the legislature two weeks early without passing bills which got quite a bit of press. Those include the Green Private Members Bill to stop employers requiring female workers to wear high heels. The Liberals also ran away before passing Clark’s “real time disclosure bill”..  (A failed attempt to change the conversation on banning big money from distorting the power of donors to warp policy decisions by government.) Hell, they didn’t even pass their own budget, opting for an “interim supply bill”. 

What’s just as bad, the government failed to produce documents to disprove allegations that Minister Coleman and/or BC Housing loaned $40 million of our dollars directly to one of Bob Rennie’s big dollar condo projects with no affordable housing included in that same project….”Land swaps”, “the mortgage was in lieu of security on another project which did include low income homes” …..Prove it Mr. Coleman. Your Ministry didn’t release the details of the loan via FOI. You haven’t released them now.   Running from accountability.

Back to the VanSun front page…..

Spoiler #1, she characterized her opponent negatively. Yes, I know it’s a shock.  Full article here, and yes, it does include quotes from Horgan as well. Fair is fair. http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/premier-clark-dismisses-horgan-as-leader-who-lacks-a-spine

Spoiler #2…. What follows is my opinion. Where it differs from Clark’s is that I’ll offer facts to back it up. Clark should be challenged to do the same at every turn.

We all understand the political art of war enough to know that defining your opponent is a well-worn strategy. It’s up to us to decide if the “definition” has merit. I don’t believe it does have merit and I’m going to do two things here…1) Ask if there’s evidence… 2) If there is evidence, show what it is, pro or con.

Quotes from Rob Shaw’s article in italics, then my comments:

“John, he is not as strong a leader as I thought he would be,” said Clark. “He hasn’t been able to corral his caucus, there’s so much disunity in the group, they are always fighting with each other.”

This is pure negative campaign politics. First it was “John who?”. Then it was “Say anything Horgan” in an ad campaign fully funded by an industry front group.  Now it’s “John Horgan is weak”.

The facts are there has been no visible and quoted division in the NDP caucus. Nothing to back this up at all except an admission I saw Horgan make himself along the lines that internal debates happen and can be vigorous.

Personally I think it would be a damned shame if there were no debates within the BCLiberal caucus on important issues, like ‘getting to yes’ on answering the mystery of who fired the health researchers and consequently cost us who knows how many dollars in legal action and multiple investigations. Why did that happen 4 years ago? What is it that caused a PhD candidate , Rod MacIsaac, to commit suicide?

I think it would be a damned shame if nobody in the BCLiberal caucus advocated for welfare recipients to get a tiny raise from ten years at $610 a month. It’s terrible policy like this that grows petty crime, desperation and homelessness by government’s ideological intransigence.

I think it would be a shame if nobody on the Liberal benches wanted to stop funding Jumbo several 100K a year. That’s the town with no buildings and no citizens, perpetually awaiting being built, for a ski resort that’s been on hold for twenty odd years.

He can’t seem to take a position on any of the important policies, things it’s obvious we are all going to have to take a position on.

Let’s see… I’ve followed John Horgan’s statements pretty closely. Here are some very consistent ones. They almost certainly don’t please everyone but they are consistent.

Horgan on SiteC…. “Send it to BCUC and have somebody who isn’t a BCLiberal tell me it’s a good idea. “ I can trace this back to well before the last election. He’s not held a different position.

But what about the 1000 jobs?… According to Horgan, the plan is to create more jobs saving and producing more energy at a lower cost…. Read the Power BC plan and judge for yourself here:


It’s an approach that needs vigorous discussion during the campaign, and fleshing out so people understand. And that must happen before we spend any more of $10+ billion on a dam which hasn’t had independent oversight.

Horgan on Kinder MorganConsistently Against. JH made one error, in which he said famously “I could be convinced”. It was a mistake because it could be repeated out of context. What is not widely shared is that the paragraph that contained that quote ended with….”I can’t see how Kinder Morgan is in BC’s best interests”. Every statement JH has made since he took over as leader has included…”I can’t see how Kinder Morgan is in BC’s best interests (in its current form and with the hopelessly twisted review process that studied it). Horgan’s position on Kinder Morgan has always been “No”.

Prove me wrong. Send me an unedited link.

LNG- Horgan: Pro building the industry but minus the fantasy trillion. Supports Woodfibre’s project…wants Petronas moved from Lelu Island to Ridley or a less ecologically sensitive salmon salmon rearing area (that’s a no-brainer).

Horgan on Education: Pro.  Often talks of how a pubic school teacher straightened him up in his teen years and helped him become what he is today. Spoke consistently against the violation of teachers bargaining rights that Christy Clark championed until she was laughed out of the Supreme Court of Canada in less than twenty minutes but more than a few million dollars wasted.

Clark on the other hand, has gone from that position to being delighted by the opportunity the SCC graciously handed her to hire more specialist and other teachers and make kids lives better, when otherwise she was kinda hamstrung.

Getting Big Money out of politicsPro. Horgan has said this will be the first act of an NDP government. Consistency? It has been NDP policy since the 2005 election with multiple opposition bills introduced in the house over 10 years…Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.

Clark may promise to study the issue after the election, but clings to the idea that we aren’t pained by giving contracts at a higher rate to construction firms who donate to the BCLiberals, and at higher dollar values, than to firms which don’t donate to the party. Don’t believe me? Read this Carl Meyer piece : http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/03/07/news/new-revelations-about-christy-clarks-donors

(Ok let’s move on, because I don’t think there’s an issue that shapes the integrity of our governance and therefore every other issue than that last one.)

Clark again..  “I know how hard this is to do, but I think in John there is kind of a profound, maybe it is fear or weakness I don’t know, but he really hasn’t turned out to have the spine that Adrian Dix had.”

Be serious. Nobody who has actually heard Horgan in the house, or interviewed, or make a speech could agree with the characterization that he is spineless. It’s complete bullshit.

“I’ve got a good record to run on,”

We’ll be the judge of that, Ms. Clark, but let’s review

LNG dollars generated 0

15 years of conflict instead of honest negotiation in education.

Triple delete…

Federal investigation into lobbying scandal in progress

Home prices allowed to skyrocket out of our “affordability zone”. Leading Canada for one year at least in economic growth, but near the bottom of the heap in full-time secure job creation.  All about families..

$170 billion in combined debt, deferrals, and contractual obligations.. all of which have grown faster under the Clark regime than any other.

After Mt Polley, complete failure to rein in the practice of tailing pond lakes, when the Mt. Polley investigation recommended dry stack tailings in mining. Speaking of mining….Is it $5billion in unfunded liabilities for environmental reclamation and cleanup? Because donors.

Health care researcher firings. The single biggest act of bullying in the history of the BC Public Service, and still running from accountability.

Accusing NDP falsely of a criminal act (hacking) then after days running from it, finally admitting error and leaving an apology by voicemail.. Trumpish I have to say.  Even more so while announcing it will be a dirty election campaign because NDP. Really.

Being there when it matters… When the diesel spill happened in Heiltsuk territory, it was the NDP MLA Jennifer Rice, who spent a week there. John Horgan went too… Christy did not.

Relations with First Nations… Christy, you’ve been asked not to appear at Haida Gwaii during the Royal visit. You had Rich Coleman and his LNG booster team drummed out of a meeting with local First Nations in Ft. St. John after attempting to completely exempt LNG projects from any environmental review whatsoever… You had to back off..  See this article and video.. http://commonsensecanadian.ca/first-nations-collision-course-lng/

Okay… This rant is way too long.. It had to be, but I could go all night on the actual record….I’m done and thanks for reading and sharing. It’s clear from comments received on twitter regarding this piece there needs to be a Part II…. Watch for it over the weekend- Merv. (March 17, 17)





Speaker Linda Reid Disgraces the Office and Other Stories

Update: Today, March 14 2017, Linda Reid doubled down on refusing to allow NDP questions on governance of party fundraising.  Also, Minister of Housing and Natural Gas Rich Coleman refused three (or more) times to table documentation to prove his claim there was nothing fishy about a loan to a developer for up market housing in Vancouver. Verbal denials are not enough….

And notice the correction within item 4. Thanks


  1. Right at the core of the Parliamentary system is the notion that the Speaker of the House or the Legislature must be non-partisan and fair. At least, she must try.

Yesterday Richmond MLA and Speaker of the BC Legislature disgraced herself in that regard. Spectacularly.

Moments before attempting to shut the NDP down and ruling John Horgan’s questions to the Attorney General about banning big money in BC politics out of order, the AG Suzanne Anton had introduced a bill requiring political parties to disclose donations in the BCLiberal version of real time.

How is it then that the Minister can introduce a bill making a legal requirement of political parties, and then the Speaker shut down questions on donation limits by size or geographical origin?  Arguing that banning big money is not Ministerial responsibility? With only about five minutes space between? This is ridiculous behaviour from Linda Reid, who is required by her mandate to be much much better than this. Horgan’s second supplemental question, to which he was fully entitled to an answer, was prevented by Reid’s insistence on a new questioner.

Bullshit Ms. Reid…. Bullshit.

2. While the NDP is pressing the advantage of recent coverage of donation reforms we desperately need, two very interesting pieces were published yesterday.

Martyn Brown, former COS to Gordon Campbell, calls Christy Clark out on the idea of an independent panel to recommend electoral (and donation) reforms after the May 9th election. He calls it a love letter to the RCMP. Knowing that lobbyists and possibly party staff in the BCLiberal Offices may face charges, it amounts to an offer to fix the problem after and if she is re-elected. Worth the read: http://www.straight.com/news/880776/martyn-brown-decoding-christy-clarks-love-letter-rcmp ..


We shouldn’t kid ourselves.

It’s not just politics that has forced the government’s hand. It is also the prospect of having the governing party, and/or its unnamed actors, contributors, or agents, being charged with contraventions of the Election Act—perhaps even the Canadian Criminal Code. And by that, I don’t mean to in any way impugn any individual, as such.

Clark’s new directive calling for an independent review of B.C.’s campaign financing system is a metaphorical “love letter” to the RCMP that silently pleads for forgiveness for any unintended wrongdoing by her party that may be unearthed by its investigation.

3. Kai Nagata, of Dogwood BC, opines that the lobbyist donation scandal could be the start of a wide ranging Charbonneau Commission style affair in which all sorts of political corruption gets exposed as player after player gives evidence and  names. Here’s his argument in part, advice to the lobbyists, copied from the Facebook page..

The smartest thing to do right now is get ahead of the story: tally up the illegal donations, turn yourself in to the Mounties and cooperate fully, in the hopes you can get off with a $10,000 fine.

Even better, blow the whistle on this whole filthy system. Give an exclusive interview to a news outlet explaining how the party bagmen shook you down, how you never meant to break the law but hey, all the other kids were doing it!

You’ll look like a regular Boy Scout compared to the holdouts. I’m talking about the cockroaches that have to be dug out of their holes and dragged into RCMP cruisers, feebly trying to cover their faces.

Don’t believe it’ll get that bad? You’ve never witnessed the early stages of a corruption inquiry.

I was a reporter in Montreal in 2009 when the whole dirty puzzle began coming together. Like in B.C., straw donors were one of the first warning signs. Employees at certain firms were making political donations above their pay grade.

Around the same time there were rumors of funny business in the awarding of public works contracts.

It turned out the companies supposedly competing to clear snow, pave roads and build bridges were actually colluding with each other. They would agree ahead of time who would submit the lowest bid – which of course included a little padding.

Why did they charge extra? So company staff could cut thank-you cheques to the governing party, or even pay a cash bribe to whatever bureaucrat signed off on the project.

Don’t act shocked. B.C.’s Wild West system leaves us open to all the same abuses witnessed in Quebec. (Indeed some of the same companies now operate here, and we’re seeing the same suspicious patterns.)

Of course, these inquiries take years to develop, and while I agree there’s lots to investigate for the RCMP, I personally have no confidence the BC RCMP has the stomach for it. I hope I’m wrong because…..

4. David Eby with the help of information partly gleaned from VanParks.ca has been on a story of $40M dollar loans going out to wealthy developer donors from the BCHousing Society.. to build luxury condos….

Rich Coleman is in full bluster, denying it all…. Every deal enhanced the number of affordable housing units built, he says. But there are two fundamental elements to the story which scream for further inquiry. I do need to say at the outset that the full details of what happened are not known. There are allegation and denials, on a story where we need the full truth.

First, the loans in question were not part of an FOI package released to the NDP and Mr. Eby on the question, though it’s clear  the loans occurred. VanParks has the loan numbers on their website.  https://t.co/4dvhDsjURN

The government of Triple Delete and coverup strikes again? Certainly looks like it.

Second, Coleman’s denials so far do not include the tabling of documents which would refute the story. Coleman threatened to call Eby a liar outside the legislature yesterday. As far as I know he didn’t follow through. (I’ll update if I’m wrong).

The key to this is that Vancouver zoning already required the buildings to include a percentage for non-market, affordable housing. I doubt if we believe it should be the Provinces role to monetarily assist wealthy BCLiberal donors and their companies to comply with City zoning bylaws. That’s absurd. And there is even a question about one of two loans going to finance a full market building that contained no down market rental at all.

One of those beneficiaries allegedly is Bob Rennie, until recently the BCLiberals fundraising chair, and until recently enough, the Board Member of  (you guessed it) BCHousing. (mea culpa…I had Rennie down as a Board Chair of BCH. I apologize, but the optics are nonetheless brutal.)

Listen to this interview on CKNW yesterday afternoon and ask yourself how wide ranging the RCMP’s investigations into corruption in this province should be….. https://omny.fm/shows/steele-drex/david-eby-ndp-housing-critic-on-bc-s-affordable-ho

BCHousing is meant to help poor people with affordable rental space, not grease the business bottom line of wealthy corporations. Rich Coleman needs to table a documentary rebuttal STAT.  Don’t bet that he will. So the media will have to follow up.


Blacktop Politics

I was a child, but this is the story of the moment I became aware of politics in BC. My family was driving to a remote resort on the Northern Gulf Islands..We hopped one ferry to another..We landed on the island but had to drive across it to our destination. From the ferry, for about a mile the road was blacktop, which ended at a paved driveway into a gated estate….The summer property (I recall being told) belonged to a Socred highways minister.   The rest of the island was rough gravel.

At the height of the triple-delete scandal, I made the following observation:  “Corruption is not a necessary consequence of secrecy, but secrecy is a necessary condition for corruption”. However that blacktop road got built, I saw it as evidence of “corruption”, in the sense of an unjustifiable distortion of power, money and influence.

About that time, (it may have been the same summer) , with stories like the one above bursting through the news cycle about a tired and cynical Socred government, we threw the bums out and gave Dave Barrett and the NDP a chance. It’s high time we do the same on May 9th , and I believe John Horgan is the man to give us all a rest from the distortions of power foisted on us by the Clark Liberals. Horgan can’t be all things to everyone, but from what I know of him, he’s a normal, honest man with a vision of helping ordinary people in a way that’s only ever a matter of political convenience to the Clark crew.

To make that happen though, we have to have a memory. We have to share memories. Blacktop politics has been a force in BC for a very long time. Money flows to friendly ridings.  As an example, Dermod Travis of Integrity BC has been noting how “affordable housing” announcements since the end of September have focused nearly exclusively on BCLiberal held ridings. Blacktop politics has been proven effective in BC over and over. People are people. They often vote based on narrow short term  interests and the very latest news from an often lazy television media.

The latest from the weekend, via Kathy Tomlinson of the Globe and Mail, is a dramatic confirmation of the “pay to play” culture of the current government. Read this : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/wild-west-bc-lobbyists-breaking-one-of-provinces-few-political-donationrules/article34207677/?utm_medium=Referrer:+Social+Network+/+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links The money quote for me is here: ““At that point I realized – I have been totally corrupted.” .

It’s about a system of government in which if you don’t pay, you don’t play. Lobbyists break rules, falsify proper disclosure of the sources of funds to the ruling party and probably break tax law in the name of career survival. Companies understand that donations to the BCLiberals are a necessity of getting on with business, but don’t necessarily want the scale or frequency of contributions known.

Rich Coleman shrugs it off, saying if rules have been broken it’s not the party’s fault……. But this has apparently been going for years, common knowledge to insiders and a complete surprise to the Press Gallery. And to be fair, Horgan’s NDP is now reviewing its own records of donations to find out if the same thing has gone on in their own camp.  Although less likely, Mr. Weaver and the Greens should do the same.

Ah well.. It’s today’s news and history shows May 9th is a long way off. I honestly don’t think Rich Coleman or Christy Clark care very much.

Back to secrecy:  When the triple delete scandal broke, the BCLiberals promised not to do it again and an order went out to keep emails and so on in the civil service…. At the same time, they eliminated the application of the Offenses Act to the improper destruction of government records. They weakened the rules. And anyone who follows Bob Mackin knows that FOI requests are coming back “No Records” as much as they ever were.

Once again, it’s not necessary to prove corruption to note that the conditions for it have been created. And then we must wonder why…. And then we must vote.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I’ve only said who I will vote for.  But like the dying days of the WAC Bennett Socred regime, the stories are legion, and between now and May 9th we have to share them widely. Get active. Get involved.