British Columbians go to the polls for the 40th time in the province’s history on May 14. They will get to do what billions of people around the world cannot: Say yes to change and no to corruption. Democratically and peacefully.
This has been a nasty election, marked by attack advertising from the ruling party and a lack of discourse around important issues like healthcare, education, crime and the declining trust in public institutions.
Christy Clark and the BC Liberals hyped their natural gas pipe dreams and the NDP under Adrian Dix opposed pipelines and tankers. The Liberals spoke deceptively about deficit and debt. The NDP admitted it would speed-up spending, perhaps sell a stadium and order a judicial inquiry into the 2003 sale of BC Rail.
When the Liberals came to power in the 2001 provincial election, they swept aside a worn-out and corrupt NDP. The Liberals had a bold, “New Era” plan for a prosperous B.C. that included the pledge to be Canada’s most open and accountable government.
But did they achieve that goal under Gordon Campbell during his decade at the helm? Or under Clark for the last two years? No and no.
Consider these 10 stories.
The Liberal government was obsessed with selling the warehousing and distribution operations of the Liquor Distribution Branch in 2012 after being lobbied by Exel Logistics, a division of the giant Deutsche Post DHL. Proceeds from the sale were supposed to help balance the budget. One of the drivers of this plan was none other than Patrick Kinsella. Then, suddenly, tendering was cancelled and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union’s new contract was the convenient excuse.
What was the real reason?
The Private Career Training Institutions Agency of B.C. is a Crown corporation that regulates private post-secondary education. Last fall, it moved to shut down two schools: Royal Canadian Institute of Technology and Prana Yoga Teacher College. PCTIA registrar and CEO Karin Kirkpatrick admitted that RCIT had no financial problems or student complaints.
Kirkpatrick approved the hiring of the law firm Lawson Lundell to represent PCTIA in these actions. There was no formal tendering process.
One of Lawson Lundell’s partners is Kirkpatrick’s husband Murray Campbell.
Why was this potential conflict of interest allowed?
The government doesn’t want you to know.
The Province of B.C. was the guarantor for VANOC, the organizer of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Yet, the City of Vancouver (which derives its power from the province) was given authority to cut a deal with the Canadian Olympic Committee and VANOC to seal the financial records, board minutes and legal correspondence away from the eyes of the public until the year 2025.
Why keep the people who paid for the Games in the dark for so long?
B.C. Place Stadium was renovated for $514 million to the benefit of the Vancouver Whitecaps and B.C. Lions. Do the Whitecaps and Lions pay fair market value for rent? Why did the Whitecaps get a taxpayer subsidy for a training centre in Premier Clark’s riding, when the team’s managing director has a personal hockey rink at his mansion in Whistler?
B.C. Pavilion Corporation called me frivolous and vexatious and tried to have me blacklisted from making Freedom of Information requests about the operations of money-losing B.C. Place. Then it withdrew the complaint at the 11th hour. The net result? PavCo succeeded in delaying my FOI requests until after the election. Whose idea was this?
The SNC-Lavalin engineering firm is one of Canada’s biggest companies. It is under investigation for corruption on four continents, yet the B.C. government felt it was worthy of receiving the contract to design and build the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line Rapid Transit Project in the Tri-Cities. The company was also blacklisted for bribery by the World Bank from receiving construction financing for development projects.
BC Liberal appointees to the Premier’s Office were found to have broken rules of their employment when they did party work on government time, using the public’s dime. Only one person lost her job. Deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad quit, and therefore was ineligible for severance. She showed up at Clark’s riding campaign office during the election as a volunteer. Pamela Martin, Brian Bonney and Barinder Bhullar also remained party insiders, despite dishonouring their commitments.
We will have to wait until the week of June 10 before we can see some of the 10,000 documents gathered in the Quick Wins, in-house investigation by John Dyble.
We should have been able to see the records before election day.
Did complaints from Bell, Rogers and Shaw over the direct awarding to Telus of a $1 billion 10-year government-wide service contract lead to the cancellation of the $40 million, 20-year Telus Park naming rights for B.C. Place?
Evidence I have gathered suggests there is a link.
Life is simply awful for some of the most vulnerable children and youths in British Columbia. Some of those who struggle with addictions, abuse and mental illnesses are housed in the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre in Burnaby, where staff complain they work in a climate of fear.
WorkSafeBC found that incidents were covered up.
The Times of India Film Awards business plan and contract (below) was finally released to me the day before the election, even though I asked for it on Jan. 22. All the dollar figures were censored and only 18 pages of the 168-page file were released. There is even a clause that protects financial information about the controversial April 6 awards show from public scrutiny — as long the records are held by the Times of India.
Why did the government spend $9.5 million (out of contingencies, no less!) on a Bollywood Awards show and omit the Hollywood North film industry from the B.C. Jobs Plan? Why did the government do this deal, while claiming that it was controlling spending?