On Jan. 22, via Freedom of Information, I asked for records about the controversial April 6 B.C. Place Stadium Bollywood awards. I wanted the contract and the business case. Jan. 22 was the day Premier Christy Clark announced TOIFA and, coincidentally, when thousands of film industry workers gathered at North Shore Studios to promote the Save B.C. Film campaign.
After the government invoked a delay, I finally received some of the records from the Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Ministry on May 13 — the day before voting day. I reported on the documents on The World Today with Jon McComb on CKNW AM 980. I got some more documents from the Finance Ministry on May 17, three days after election day.
I have published those records below. I am disappointed to say that there are still more questions than answers. You will see that the government has withheld most of the information.
Below you will see a Financial Impact Assessment dated Oct. 9, 2012 and the Nov. 27, 2012 Treasury Board approval from Finance Minister Mike de Jong (who danced for the crowd of 35,000). Notice in de Jong’s letter to Pat Bell that the funds came from contingencies. With four months remaining in the fiscal year, de Jong was already dipping into the rainy-day fund for non-essential spending. This is the same Finance Minister who claimed on Nov. 28 that he was controlling spending.
The contract with Times of India subsidiary BCCL International Events Private Ltd. was dated Dec. 12, 2012 and the government previously claimed it was worth $9.5 million, but there are no dollar values visible. Which begs the question: how much did this event really cost British Columbians?
Organizers failed to sign any mainstream, Canadian national advertiser as a corporate sponsor. There simply was not enough time. BCCL eventually found a title sponsor. Lux Cozi is a Kolkata-based underwear company that you might say has some dirty laundry. Chairman Ashok Todi was charged by Indian authorities in connection to the 2007 death of his son-in-law. Todi, who has not been proven guilty, and daughter Priyanka were on-stage in B.C. Place Stadium. The awards are scheduled to air on Sony Entertainment Television in India on June 16.
In the contract, the government required BCCL to create an “online virtual data room” — a glorified website — containing records about its services. But the very next line in the contract says that any records held by BCCL are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This is a new trick that I hope Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will deem illegal.
The government has the power to show you and me as much or as little as it wants. In this case, it chose secrecy. It conveniently chose to cloak this very expensive event behind the closed doors of cabinet because it knew this was not for the benefit of all. How can we believe the information contained in the government’s propaganda?
It is obvious that the Clark Liberals wanted to avoid questions about TOIFA spending after Ontario media outlets got the line-by-line list of costs for the 2011 International Indian Film Academy Awards via FOI. Despite that, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty parlayed IIFA into his re-election. McGuinty’s chief of staff was Don Guy, who was part of Clark’s 2013 campaign backroom.
Remember: there was no involvement by the Canadian Tourism Commission nor the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This was not about building bridges between the vibrant South Asian community and the rest of B.C. This was not about multiculturalism. This was about the Multicultural Outreach strategy — the expenditure of public funds to benefit the ruling party’s bid to perpetuate its hold on power.
For $9.5 million, how many more cops could have been investigating unsolved murders and rapes in B.C.? How many homeless people could have been housed? How many cancer patients could have been treated? How many more scientists could have been in labs, trying to solve diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s?
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.