Sea to Sky highway retaining walls safety inspection reports released, raise more questions on quality of build and maintenance.

One of the advantages to blogging is the ability to follow up on stories as many times as one needs to get to the bottom of it. And as is becoming more common with stories involving the BC provincial government, it’s a matter of digging deeper,looking beyond the ministry media handler statements and sometimes going back and comparing them to new ones.

Such is the story of everything to do with the Sea to Sky highway, that lovely scenic drive and engineering marvel that takes one out to Squamish and Whistler. Not only scenic, its construction,cost and maintenance has been a source of many stories that give British Columbians a glimpse into how major projects are built and paid for.

Stories like the reason there why will never be a toll on that highway – at least until the current contractual obligations are paid out. The hidden shadow toll is based on vehicle usage counts and distance, and is included as a part of the total payment to the concessionaire ( the private partners the government must pay back every month for footing the bill of the construction) If you are a newer reader, you can find all those stories on my Best Of page, just over half way down :

Another story that has been just as compelling for me because of the potential implications of the research, revolves around the more than 200 retaining walls built along the Sea to Sky highway.

On April 30th, 2014 I broke the story that the Ministry of Transportation was investigating the condition of a series of retaining walls after photos were taken that showed gaps between blocks, seepage outside of drains, blocked drains, and walls that were wavy and in some cases bulging.

The ministry responded on  May 1st,2014, that they had done their own investigation and that the issues were all merely cosmetic in nature.

In November of 2014, it was discovered that Kiewit had inspected their own work as per a Ministry of Transportation Operation managers emails, who advised the ministry was reviewing what Kiewit had discovered.

It was then revealed – not by government but by a resident in the area of the repair – in April,2015 that two other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway that showed little to no visible defects, were undergoing extensive repair work.

Transportation minister Todd Stone was on the hot seat in the legislature looking nervous that week, but instead of answering any meaningful questions he tried to deny,deflect and discredit the opposition who were finally doing their job well.

Just days later it was revealed by yet another Ministry of Transportation manager that Kiewit, the builder of the highway, had used substandard materials.

Repairs have been ongoing this summer at the Pasco Road rebuild and at the CN rail overpass near Brandywine falls past Squamish, and in both cases the repairs are extensive in scope.  But why such extensive rebuilds?

An FOI  requested and released to someone in the media in August of this year, gives some insight into what went wrong on these two walls in particular. And the results are damning.

A letter dated June 17th,2014 from Hatch Mott McDonald to Sea to Sky highway builder Kiewit,  states that Kiewit flagged those two walls for internal review and testing, after an internal Kiewit audit showed the possibility that deformed wire was used in the walls instead of the contract standard wire. ( pg 98-106 below)

The safety inspection reports also show that despite the Ministries earlier claim in May 2014 that a full investigation had already been undertaken of the walls, the safety inspections were not conducted until October 2014, a full 5 months after I first broke the story.

The FOI package includes  just 12 inspection reports from 2013. In all, most walls were rated well, with several in the fair to poor range for particular components. All the issues identified by the photos posted here previously are noted, including erosion, drainage issues, water seeping between blocks, misaligned blocks, walls built of out line resulting in a wavy formation, bulges of compacted fill walls, a result of over compaction during construction.

Motion sensors also tracked movement on the walls reported here earlier for a period of time and no significant motion was detected.

However, questions remain as to how and why substandard material was used in the construction of the CN wall and the Pasco Road wall, and why it took until this point in time to address it.

Questions also remain as to why walls clearly built out of line and with defects were approved as acceptable for completion, considering the cost of building this highway. This is something I have never been able to get an answer on from the ministry of Transportation but is concerning to me for a couple of reasons.

  1. The highway is only  6 years old in some areas. To have so many issues that need maintenance and repair -some that are extensive- at such a young age indicates issues during construction that someone still signed off on. If things are popping up so quickly, and in at least a couple of cases are still not being addressed, what can we expect for the longevity of this highway?
  2. Kiewit is on half of the partnership with Flatiron that built the Port Mann Bridge, which also had very tight contractual deadlines, and also experienced significant issues during construction. The continual decline and eventual replacement of a brand new retaining wall on Lougheed Highway and the gantry collapse are just two. Kiewit has had a long history of issues in the US and elsewhere in Canada, which are detailed here.

With industry sources indicating there have already been incidents of spalling under the  new Port Mann ( falling concrete bits and pieces) and geotechnical issues with settlement.soft earth at both the north and south ends, one wonders if  BC’s great transportion projects will suffer the same crumbling fate as those in Montreal. 

Calls to the Ministry of Transportation made this morning, were not returned as of the time of this posting. I’m not surprised – I would have hard time explaining how an $800 million plus highway ended up like this too. ( and that doesn’t include the 25 years of PS payments either…)

Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.
Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.

IMG_20150819_142012 (2)

Hindsight is only helpful if you apply the lesson learned to future actions.

It was a day like any other day of my childhood summers; quick breakfast,clothes on and then running out the door to do the morning rounds of the yard.Checking to see where all the salamanders and toads had settled for the night was always the first thing on my mind,since I found both creatures so interesting.

Next up was a stop in the garden to quickly raid the raspberries or pea patch if it was the season-quickly because if mom caught us eating the goods meant to freeze for fall there would be trouble! Our garden wasn’t for looks,it was for necessity.

As I headed off to the edge of the garden to go down to the creek, I stopped  to pull the green bits out of some Indian Paintbrush growing in the ditch, sucking what little nectar a butterfly would find hard to release, with relish.

I loved our road.

At that time there were only a few homes besides ours,all on acreage and surrounded by lovely forests full of kinnickinnick, huckleberries, and native plants I’d weave into vines to make crowns for my hair. Free time in summer was spent looking for agates on the road, riding bikes all over and for me, playing at the creek.

It was on the far bank of the creek where I was exploring that I saw it. A flower unlike anything I had ever seen before anywhere in the forests around our house, or camping in the bush. To a young girl growing up in an area like this, it seemed alien and exotic in comparison to the daisies and Indian paintbrush so common elsewhere.


I sat there for a while, completely in awe. I looked around and could see no others. Where did this flower come from? How did it get here? So many questions for a young girl with no answers.

And then I picked it.

It was wilting even before I could get it home to a glass of water and completely limp shortly afterwards. I had killed it.

I recall very clearly going back and searching the forest floor all around the creek banks on both sides, then going around the forest in the back yard in my desperation to find another, but there were none. I was devastated in the knowledge of what I had willingly, without thought,done.

And for the rest of my years growing up in my childhood home, I never saw another flower like it. Even as an adult visiting home I have looked,although the creek is all but gone now and there are more homes in place of the forests of my youth- to no avail.

I know now, it was a native orchid often found in boreal forests and sub-alpine/alpine meadows in the province, called Calypso Bulbosa, or the Fairy Slipper orchid. I’ve seen them hiking in Whistler and around Manning Park but apparently I picked the only one that somehow found its way to the creek by my yard.

And even as a woman in my forties, I’ll never forget the feeling of regret of my action. I can’t go back and unpick that flower, but I can apply what I learned  in this stark lesson elsewhere. Sadly, I don’t often see that need to reflect in government.

They say hindsight is 20/20- and perhaps it is, but it only serves a purpose if you learn and act accordingly. Otherwise it’s about as useful as smoke in the wind.

For example, the housing and affordability crisis in Vancouver. While it’s still making the news, it’s anything but a new problem. Looking back there have been signs and complaints years for years but to what result? Not much until it now-again-makes the news and politicians muse solutions,spurred only act when public outrage reaches a level that can’t be ignored.

In Delta, farmland is once again under threat of expropriation in a time when drought and climate change is threatening crops elsewhere,creating higher prices in supermarket for many products. Looking back, this isn’t new either, yet I can foresee the day when politicians look back and go:”What the hell were we thinking??” Once that land is gone, it’s gone. Do we want to risk our food security at a local level?

Surrey is still, rampantly deforesting to build and there are stories popping up now of new homes on ALR land approved without due process. The pressures of phenomenal growth without keeping pace with vital social infrastructure is starting to show in ongoing issues around the city. Roads are in crumbles in many areas, yet this has been known and allowed willingly to fester for years. Playing catch-up is never a fun game when it comes to a community.

Forest fires this year already a massive concern, but has the province learned anything from past events? Have forest communities been built differently, more safely? Is scrub being removed, controlled burns being conducted,and are crews sent out early and aggressively enough? According to some people I’ve talked to, no. Communities need to be asking why.

It’s as much about learning from our past, as it is, taking care of the basics. I don’t like the words, shoulda, woulda, coulda….Sometimes you have to take a break, look at what you know and where you have been, so you can figure out the best way forward, for everyone.

Because although I believe it is never too late to change course and head in the right direction, it’s equally true that sometimes you only get one opportunity to really get it right. 

And do you really want to take that chance?

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

For your Sunday coffee break

coffeeThere’s a number of stories I’m working on for next week, but for today, here are a few things to read on your Sunday coffee break.

The BC governments move into the Renminbi market last year should be news again shortly, as the one year bonds issued come to maturity: this is the story from last fall I posted on this to refresh your memory:

Will the BC government issue a press release heralding this experiment as a success for the province, strengthening ties with investors from China? Or will silence reign supreme in an effort to avoid examination considering the current unrest and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong? The actions of the Chinese government during these protests are currently being questioned by many, with allegations of the Hong Kong government working with gangs to break up the protests:

Keep your eye on this situation, and I’ll keep you updated on the outcome.

The situation with Mount Polley and Imperial mines has largely fallen from media view now, but still very much ongoing.

Imperial mines has issued a response to the Vancouver Sun article in which it was noted a crack was noticed in the tailings pond dam as far back as 2010. This is the article in question:

And this is their response:

The company has been busy seeding grass over tailings sediment, raising questions by many on whether or not that poses any risk to wildlife who may be attracted to graze on the grass come spring, and whether this also indicates the likelihood it may not be cleaned up at all.

Gordon Hoekstra has consistently done excellent work on this story from day 1, and this recent story again shows his attention to details and insight.

All of this has had impact on Imperial Mines operation at Red Chris mine, where they are currently advising they are seeking an injunction to have a blockade removed from the entrance to the mine, set up by a group of Tahltan families and elders known as the Klabona Keepers.

Video footage of the blockade being set up, and the elders asking for support to protect their lands.

The latest results that were released passed right over my head with back to school and an ankle injury, but here is the write up from NW:
nd here is the link to all the results :

Last but not least, Harvey Oberfeld has a thought provoking post up about Mulcair’s support for all Canadian taxpayers to pick up the bill for a new bridge in Quebec. I was equally outraged at this turn of events, simply because we continually get dinged out here for new projects, including the Port Mann, which is part of our national highway system.

Sigh. It’s so damn easy to spend spend spend when it’s not their own money.

Read and weep.

Enjoy your Sunday and the weather it’s brought with it – you know that months of rain can’t be far off in this part of the world! :)



No… this did not come from The Onion.  

But seriously…no joking now… considering the recent release of the public accounts I just blogged about... that show that under Christy Clark,Queen of LNG fantasies:

“For a government that sought re-election on the promise, blazoned on the side of the campaign bus, of a “Debt-Free B.C.,” the public accounts released this week provide a sobering reality check.

Total provincial debt as of March 31, the end of the last financial year: $60.693 billion.

Total provincial debt inherited by Christy Clark when she took the oath of office as premier in mid-March 2011: $45.154 billion.

Increase: $15.539 billion, or 34 per cent.”


So, just so I have this correct… humour me now…

The Christy Clark BC Jobs Plan is a dismal failure…

The public debt, as shown above, has grown…

And Christy Clark still wants you to invest in a responsible government???

Please tell me that I am not alone in seeing the hypocrisy in this donation request for the 2017 election… or in wondering how much support Premier Christy Clark really has among her own caucus?

… and I haven’t even started on why this is so just so, so wrong, on so many levels… least of which is the lack of attention this government has given to what really matters: Education.


Third and final installment of Playing with the Dragon series coming next week.

At long last, the final installment of  the Playing with the Dragon series is nearly done, effectively creating a trilogy. It is perhaps, the most incendiary of the three posts, and for good reason-it speaks to the reach of the Chinese government in a Canadian arena where it should have no access whatsoever.

As a primer to provide background and context for readers unfamiliar with the series, I am re-posting the prior installments leading up to the new post.

Originally posted here:

Playing with the Dragon:  Who is looking after Canadian interests while China outwits our governments?

“We cannot enter into alliances until we know the designs of our neighbours.” ~ Sun Tzu

It should come as no surprise to anyone, that the script of a 6th century general and military strategist has been converted into a business playbook. Yes, Sun Tzu 孫子, author of The Art of War, was indeed a brilliant strategist and in this day when war is a business and business is war, his words are referred to by many for guidance.

Canadians would do well to take heed, and find a copy to read. Not only will it offer you a deeper understanding of the strategies used by many corporations, it will also help you to understand why the Chinese government is so interested in investing in Canada, if not only for our natural resources.

Indeed,as many news reports show, China seems to have decided – after several years of little to no investment – that Canada is one again a good place to invest. Therein lies the heart of this post.

Are all these new Chinese corporate or state investments and ownership good for Canada ?

Or has China simply played the part of the sleeping dragon for another reason, waiting for our government to become willing again to allow such open and easy access to our resources, our technology and our proximity to the United States? What is the real motive for China’s increasing interest in Canada ?

Although I have followed foreign investment interest in British Columbia for some time, via the Macquarie group in particular, it was Richard Fadden’s remarks in 2011 that really sparked my interest in the potential for foreign influence over domestic governments.

Fadden took an incredible amount of flack from then premier Gordon Campbell, along with several provincial MLA’s and municipal politicians after remarking that in B.C., CSIS was investigating foreign influence over several politicians/ government employees.

Oddly enough, this revelation was considered a racial swipe at the entire Chinese community in B.C.,as if every immigrant were suddenly tarred by the actions of a few associated with foreign governments. In fact, Fadden did not single out China as the only foreign country of influence, and it was clear that this was not a racial issue, but a government influence issue.

This is the full Fadden interview, with reference to his now infamous speech. Please watch in its’ entirety, for a pre-cursor to what comes next.

There you have it.

If anything, I think Fadden was trying to warn Canadians, British Columbians, to wake up and smell the coffee.

Look what has happened in our country – look what may be happening now.

Of course, he became the object of many B.C. politicians wrath and ire for his statements, had to do some damage control, but again, most assumed he was referring specifically to Chinese influence, and perhaps he was, but the interview does not reflect that.

You have to have some background understanding of espionage threats in Canada- most of which are vastly under the radar of average Canadians, but I think he wanted to let those know who might be too friendly with foreign governments, that CSIS was watching.

Others have looked at the American influence on BC politicians, and while I do agree that is occurring, there has been much discussion and attention in the past to China.

That is why, it was with great interest this article popped up on my alerts recently: China trying to politically infiltrate NZ and Australia.

Not because it involved China, but because the article details an alleged leaked intelligence briefing for Australian law enforcement agencies that boldly refers to the Sidewinder Report… a report many assert was killed, debunked and shredded directly because of political pressure.

In fact, in the comments section below this very brief preview of the article online, someone tries very hard to negate the reference and again, debunk Sidewinder as conspiracy, even over ten years after the fact.

When you consider that an ex-envoy who defected from the Chinese consulate in Australia came to Canada with evidence of a Chinese spying program in Australia, stating the Chinese used the same methods in western countries to exert political influence over sensitive issues… this alleged leaked intelligence brief takes on a new significance for Canadians.

Here is that brief preview, the full article is available only with a subscription:

“A leaked intelligence briefing for Australian law enforcement agencies suggests China may have already deeply penetrated Australian and New Zealand political and business circles for espionage purposes.

The document, reprinted in the new Investigate magazine out this week, says the pattern of Chinese “investment” in Australia and New Zealand is following exactly the same lines as it did in Canada, where intelligence agencies discovered Chinese government agents posing as rich investment migrants had bribed and corrupted Canadian politicians and officials.

“Few of you will have heard about the “Sidewinder Report”,” states the briefing paper published in Investigate.

“Allowing it was tabled over a decade ago, after which money, influence and corruption were all brought to bear to have copies shredded, that isn’t surprising. Fortunately a single digital copy survived, so we can still analyze/learn from this in-depth and rather alarming study, which is a very good example of Asian/Triad/Organized crime/long term planning.

“I personally believe a similar scenario exists/is being established in the likes of NZ and Australia, where similar immigration policies are in force. For this reason, I want to give you a detailed breakdown of the report, and you can perhaps reach your own conclusions.

“The report was commissioned in the mid 1990′s codenamed “Sidewinder” and was a joint effort prepared by Canada’s Secret Intelligence Service and the National Security Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Its mandate was to look at Chinese Triad involvement and integration into Canadian Financial and Governmental sectors.

“The report clearly found that over a period of time many Chinese triads, agents of the Chinese Secret Intelligence Service, and Hong Kong tycoons, had firmly established themselves in Canada and had acquired Canadian nationality.”

The document states that Western governments have relied on official Chinese agencies to “vet” prospective immigrants to Canada, the US, Australia, UK and New Zealand, because local law enforcement has no way of independently verifying the identity or history of migrants.

That’s allowed China to slip its own agents into Western nations under the guise of immigration vetting.

“Canadian and Chinese consular staff were selling visas to members of the Chinese mafia and China’s intelligence service, prices were as high as $100,000 per visa,” says the leaked report.

In return for being approved to live and do business in the West, the migrants were given orders on how they could repay the favour to Chinese intelligence.

“They were instructed to make donations and get involved with political parties. Children studied hard and were directed at Government positions, many becoming well established in the ranks of the Immigration dept.  [Name withheld] was Minister of [Portfolio withheld] during the 90′s. He forged close links which China. “Somehow” he and his cronies are now all millionaires.

“By the year 2000, Chinese people affiliated to Triads owned one-third of downtown Vancouver. China invested over one billion dollars in 2001 to buy Canadian businesses in strategic areas and is also a large stockholder in Canada’s Imperial Bank.  It controls 15 corporations in the country’s technology sector.   By 2002, over 200 Canadian Companies were under the direct control of China’s International Trust & Investment Corporation (CITIC).

“CITIC (Pacific) has many links to major Australian and NZ businesses. The Pengxin Group currently bidding to buy Crafar farms in New Zealand are linked to CITIC. CITIC operates directly under the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It is also the world’s largest private operator of container terminals, having lucrative stakes in 17 ports in Europe alone.”

The full report is in the latest Investigate magazine, but its publication coincides with reports this week that Australian intelligence has vetoed the involvement of communications giant Huawei in Australia’s broadband network, for fears it will help China spy on Australia.

Huawei has already been given approval to take part in New Zealand’s broadband rollout.

The chairman of Huawei was formerly a senior official in the Chinese state intelligence agency, and its founder was formerly a solder in the People’s Liberation Army.

Huawei denies any involvement in espionage, but this week its links with US corporates were also cut over similar fears.”

How interesting, that an intelligence document alleged to have been leaked from an overseas source trusted enough to publish it, would mention Sidewinder after all these years.

Sidewinder, for those of you who may have not have heard of the scandal, was a controversial report worked on and put together by a group of RCMP and CSIS officials in the late 1990′s, that was ultimately suppressed, denied as conjecture and theory rather than fact by the SIRC – the Security Intelligence Review committee – the government agency that oversees CSIS.

All copies and supporting materials were ordered destroyed, however several copies were leaked to various media outlets, as well as  several writers across Canada. A full accounting of the scandal can be found here

From Operation Sidewinder – there are many, many other media reports, this is the most concise, comprehensive article:

“It was Sidewinder that sounded the first alarm bells that China is one of the greatest ongoing threats to Canada’s national security and Canadian industry.

But even after Sidewinder was side swiped by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, intelligence proves that there is no doubt that an active Chinese Intelligence Service has been able to gain influence on vital sectors of the Canadian economy, including real estate, high technology and security. The bottom line is that this unprecedented influence gave China ongoing access to economic, political and some military intelligence in Canada.

Operation Sidewinder met with a fate that silenced ringing alarm bells. Officially entitled Chinese Intelligence Services and Triads Financial Links in Canada, it was buried. Following orders from persons unknown, CSIS watered down Sidewinder’s worrisome conclusions and replaced it with a revised document called, Echo.

CSIS officials maintain that they buried Sidewinder because it relied on nothing more than conspiracy theories—even though heralded the news in August 2003 that some 3,500 Chinese spy companies had been identified operating in Canada and the United States.

While CSIS claimed that conspiracy caused them to go mum, other intelligence sources are saying that political pressure forced CSIS to abandon the Sidewinder report.

Prominent among Sidewinder’s case studies was The Chinese, state-owned China International Trust Investment Company (CITIC), which already has a subsidiary up and running in Canada. CITIC has spent about $500 million to buy a Canadian pulp mill, a petrochemical company, vast real estate and hotels. At the time of the Sidewinder report. CITIC already had connections with one large Canadian corporation.

Add to that portfolio, the Alberta oil sands, ownership of which is currently being contemplated by a state-owned Chinese company and a Toronto-based mine company, Noranda Mines–a deal worth more than $7 billion.


Conspiracy theories were tossed out the window when U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Export Affairs, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Rand Corporation had identified Li Ka-Shing and Hutchison Whampoa (Li’s primary business) as financing or serving as a conduit for Communist China’s military in order for them to acquire sensitive technologies and other equipment.”

To read what remains of the SideWinder report, you can access it in PDF format here:

At this point, I will mention that two men were, with calculated dedication, targeted with respect to their careers and reputations because of what they knew about SideWinder and because they would not drop it.

Cpl Robert Read, was fired from the RCMP for a ‘lack of loyalty to the government’, after a long legal battle. You can read about his battles, here:

Brian McAdam, a former Canadian diplomat, had his career toppled after discovering the sale of Canadian Visas and government connections to organized crime. You can read his story here:

Read those stories and you can see why I find it so interesting that an alleged leaked intelligence briefing, reported overseas, would candidly refer Sidewinder with clear respect for the information.

In my opinion, it bears re-examination of the past to learn for our future. And yet our government still denies all of the SideWinder report as conspiracy theory, even after ex-CSIS head Jim Judd had declared China the number one concern for espionage in Canada and that the agency spent half its counter espionage budget on dealing with China.

It is no wonder foreign governments mock Canada as the country bumpkin cousin.

Here is a telling( even the cached version is no longer available following the posting of this article)  2011 report from Embassy Magazine, Canada’s foreign policy newspaper, titled : Are Chinese spies getting an easy ride?    It is an absolute eye-opener,  and I recommend you read the entire story, however here is an excerpt:

“Since 2008, there have been at least 57 defendants in US federal prosecutions involving Chinese espionage or efforts to pass classified information, technology or trade secrets to operatives in China, according to a May 7 Associated Press report.

Armed with legal tools, and a sense of urgency fuelled by reports to US Congress citing a paramount risk to American technological superiority, the FBI enthusiastically goes after spies in their midst. One US judge, in the 2010 case of a former B-2 bomber engineer convicted of sending cruise missile technology to the Chinese, said he wanted to send a signal to China to “stop sending your spies here.”

But in Canada, several individuals with expertise in the field argue that a mix of federal agency infighting, insufficient legal frameworks, difficulties with prosecuting espionage cases, and fear of upsetting ongoing investigations has resulted in Canadabeing unable to bring any spies to court in the last few years.

They also say Canada’s “new era” of business-friendly relations with China, recently highlighted by Foreign Minister John Baird’s trip, has led to a hesitation by government to pursue legal action against spies.

Historic warnings

The lack of Chinese espionage prosecutions presents an odd situation for a Conservative government that burst into power carrying ominous messages about Chinese espionage in Canada, and that has recently been hit by a major hacking incident that was traced back to the Chinese embassy.

In 2006, then-foreign minister Peter MacKay told CTV the government was “concerned” that Chinese spies were stealing industrial trade secrets, and said it was something he would raise with the Chinese government.

For years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have assessed the threat posed by Chinese organized crime and intelligence services on Canadians. There were reports in 2005 suggesting that there were as many as 1,000 Chinese economic spies operating in Canada, for example.

And despite earlier efforts to downplay the threat, CSIS has been trying in the last few years to alert the public. In 2007, CSIS director Jim Judd told a Senate committee that China “pretty much” ranked as the top country sending agents to Canada, with “close” to 50 per cent of all agents in the country.

Most memorably, in June 2010, CSIS director Richard Fadden told the CBC that municipal officials and provincial Cabinet ministers from two provinces were under the influence of foreign governments, and hinted that the Chinese government was one of the culprits.

Chinese-Canadian groups criticized him for inciting needless widespread suspicion, and he subsequently backed off his comments. Yet in another speech, he said that the recent explosion of Canadian technological prowess in the areas of agriculture, aerospace, biotechnology, mining and other sectors makes it a prime target for economic espionage from countries like China. And CSIS’s report to Parliament in June made some similar comments.

This year, the Treasury Board, Department of Finance and Defence Research and Development Canada computers, as well as the computer system of the House of Commons, were hacked and sensitive government information was stolen. Reports said the attack was traceable to the Chinese Embassy as well as computers in Beijing, but the Chinese government denied involvement. “

It brings me back to my headline: Exactly who is looking after Canadian interests while China seemingly outwits our governments?  Is anyone? Who is watching the watchers?

Considering the past and current BC Liberal agenda seems nearly at times entirely dependent on investment and trade with China and other asian countries, who is making sure the political decisions being made are right for British Columbia, and Canada as a whole? Yes, we as a country, and here in B.C. as a province, are banking on trade with China as an economic force to keep the economy strong, but is this happening with our eyes wide shut? I’m not saying bring it all to a grinding halt, I’m saying we as Canadians need to be asking our politicians some serious questions here.

I’m not the only person questioning our politicians motives and agendas, by far.

In this recent Edmonton Journal article, the direct link is made to a large majority of Chinese state control of the Enbridge Pipeline project ( 2014 update, cached version of this article is no longer available either) :

“More recently, the Chinese have turned their attention to securing control of the pipeline infrastructure that would take Canadian bitumen to refineries in China.

Perhaps you thought the Northern Gateway pipeline was solely a project of Canadian pipe-line company Enbridge Inc. Think again.

Enbridge offered a limited group of investors the right to equity ownership in the project in return for financing the National Energy Board regulatory approval process and predevelopment of the project. For $10 million each, these funding participants receive preferred access and toll rates as shippers on the pipeline.

Only six of the funding participants have identified themselves. This means there might be four others, or, perhaps some of the six participants hold more than one partnership right. The six companies are Sinopec, MEG Energy Corp., Nexen Inc., Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy Marketing Inc., and Total E&P Canada.

With these funding partners, almost all roads lead to Chinese state control.”


All of this raises serious questions about the Harper government’s decision to champion a “rip-it-and-ship-it” export strategy over a value-added strategy for Canadian resources.

It’s not a surprise, nor is it inappropriate, for the Chinese to look after Chinese national interests. That’s why they want the Northern Gateway pipeline.

But the resources in question are not owned by the Chinese or the Americans. They’re not owned by oil companies. They’re owned by the citizens of Canada.

Who, we ask, is looking after the Canadian interest?”

Terry Glavin, goes even further in his recent column in the Ottawa Citizen, (***yet another error 404 in 2014, but here is another for you: ) examining the seeming about-face Harper has taken with respect to policies, regulations and the Northern Gateway project.

His column is an absolute must read from beginning to end, to understand the flips and flops the Conservatives have taken on this, but here is an excerpt:

“Sinopec had barely settled into its director’s chair at Syncrude’s board table when it revealed that it was partnering on Enbridge Inc.’s proposed $6-billion pipeline from the oilsands to awaiting supertankers at Kitimat on the B.C. coast.

Checkmate. Well, that’s odd, you might say. Isn’t this the same pipeline that Harper and Industry Minister Oliver are now calling a project that is vital to Canada’s national interests? Anyone can see how it’s in Beijing’s interests. But Canada’s?

It all depends on what you mean when you talk like that.

Way back in the 1980s, the Security Intelligence Review Committee was urging amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to spell out what Canadians mean when we talk about foreign-power connivings that are “detrimental” to Canada’s national interests. “It is almost wholly subjective: no criteria are provided to offer any standard for determining what is ‘detrimental’,” a SIRC report once pointed out.

The definitions in the CSIS Act still don’t clearly define what “detrimental” means, but unlike Investment Canada, CSIS has muddled through and is properly content to couple Canada’s “national security” with “the security and economic welfare of Canada.” Until late last year, Harper himself was happy to use language just like that whenever he returned to his solemn vow to keep Alberta’s oilsands jobs and investment opportunities in Canada, and not ship bitumen offshore to countries with haywire environmental rules like China. It was a Conservative party pledge in 2006 and 2008 and 2010.

But the rules had got hollowed out, and after Sinopec’s checkmate at the Syncrude table, everything went sideways.

Now, Harper is insisting it’s Enbridge’s Sinopec-backed bitumen-export project that is in Canada’s national interests. It’s positively vital to Canada’s interests and furthermore, it’s something we must all rally around because Canada’s very future depends on it…”

Glavin ends his column with this passage:

“Sinopec has managed to get away with being Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most reliable sanctions busting ally. It succeeded as the protector of the genocidaire Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Khartoum. It’s still getting away with being the guarantor of the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad’s bottomless bank account in Damascus.

And Sinopec is Canada’s new best friend. We are all sitting ducks.”

Defenceless indeed, when Harper seems to be more than eager to push this pipeline though, gut regulations and allow transactions and buyouts that give the Chinese government tremendous leverage over our land, resources and yes, our governments.

And to be honest, I still don’t know who exactly is looking after Canadians interests – if anyone – while China continues to make strategic acquisitions and takeovers. Our governments seem to be only giving constant applause as they do.

( Also worthy of a read are the comments under the original post )

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

… you see this story:

”   Chuck Strahl, Chairman of the federal body which oversees Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has registered to lobby on behalf of Enbridge’s ‘Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership’.


“Strahl replaced disgraced Chairman Dr. Arthur Porter, who is currently in a Panamanian jail facing a range of charges from money laundering, to taking kickbacks and conspiracy to commit fraud while acting as a middleman for SNC-Lavalin and other private business interests.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee reports to Parliament on all activities undertaken by CSIS – and with the exception of cabinet secrets, Strahl’s position affords access to all intelligence gathered by the organization. “

Ah yes…. so of course it makes perfect sense for his firm to lobby for Enbridge….

And no… this wasn’t a story from The Onion. Although it could have been…

It’s actually real news, here in Canada. I clarify that for my many American readers.. :)

Read the rest of this unbelievable story, at this link..,0

How this is legal in our wonderful country, I don’t know. But when I look back at some of the stories I have done where political interference in CSIS affairs plays a role, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised after all…

Oh wait.. but wasn’t there some kind of fuss over statements Premier Christy Clark made over Chuck Strahl helping her campaign?

Statements like Stockwell Day and Chuck Strahl are “very actively helping us on the campaign and I’m really proud of the contribution they’re making,” ????

I guess I must have imagined that…

Because when you look at all of these as parts of one bigger story… it doesn’t look very good now… does it?

BC Liberals pat themselves on the back over SFPR ‘highway’ opening a year late and $464 million over budget

I’ll give the BC Liberals this: they sure know how to crank out a photo-op and they know how to spin a deuce into silk and make it look like they invented it.

Case in point, the grand opening the of much heralded… and criticized… South Fraser Perimeter Road -aka Highway 17 ( the old highway 17 is renamed 17A).

Spin, rinse, repeat.

Yes indeed all the politicians came out to glad hand and pat backs, including Rich Coleman, Peter Fassbender, Barinder Rasode, Todd Stone, Nina Grewal and Kerry-Lynne Findlay.

Remarkably enough, they even managed to tie this project that is over a year late in completion, to Christy Clarks biggest failure to date, the BC Jobs Plan:

“Completing the SFPR was a key goal in the province’s Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy, which supports the ‘The BC Jobs Plan’ to expand markets for B.C. products and strengthen infrastructure to get goods to market, ensuring B.C is North America’s gateway for Asia-Pacific trade.

The SFPR will generate economic and business opportunities and lead to 7,000 long-term jobs in Delta and Surrey through improved industrial development opportunities along the corridor.”

But what is more ridiculous than claiming that the South Fraser Perimeter Road will lead to 7,000 jobs ( how the Liberals get these numbers no one really knows) , is this this little gem on the press release:


On-time and On-budget?

Some of you will have caught this… and will be laughing, scoffing or otherwise shaking your head in disbelief, but for those of you not privy to the joke, the punchline is “ SFPR opens on-time and on-budget.” This is a Liberal patented tag-line, and is a complete fabrication. They count on very few reporters knowing the full history of this project that was plagued with problems from day 1.

In July  of 2008 when the project was announced and the Requests for Qualifications went out,the press release with it stated construction would start in 2009 and completion was 2012.

In early 2009, the short list of consortiums were issued the Request for Proposals and again, the completion date was stated as 2012.

However, something went wrong between April 2009 and May 2o10, the date of the next press release that announced who the successful bidder was: not only had a major change had been made in the corporate makeup of the winning bidder, but the completion date had suddenly been delayed for an entire year, with no explanation given!

BC Liberal Claim number 1 -South Fraser Perimeter Road on time?  False.

Let’s talk budget now.

In 2006, the  construction budget in future dollars for the SFPR was estimated at approx.  $700 million dollars.

However, rising costs of land expropriations drove that cost far higher ( a very disgusting but routine story in itself when it comes to Ministry of Transportation projects, see my end links for how the MOT conducts its land deals…), and the Liberals announced that an additional ‘contingency’ was set for $300,000. ( what budget doesn’t include a contingency, I don’t know..but that’s how the Libs work)

In fact, in August of 2010, it was announced that the ministry had increased the budget by $37 million found in savings to other capital projects… never saying where those savings had come from:

*Total cost of construction upon announcement: $700-800 million dollars (  it depends on which press release you look at- it changes)

*Total cost being heralded by politicians today? $1.26 billion dollars. ( this figure also varies depending on past press reports)

*Total actual cost overruns according to my calculations ?  approx. $264 million – or around a 40-45% increase

BC Liberal Claim number 2- South Fraser Perimeter Road on Budget? False

What else the BC Liberals press release didn’t tell the public

Beyond the fallacy that this project was on time and on budget, the press release failed to mention a number of other items. The project was plagued by controversy from the beginning:

-Even losing bidders win, when it comes to the BC Government… who hands out million dollar stipends to losing bidders to compensate them for their time and expense. SFPR included.

-Despite the fact it was pushed as a nonstop freeway route where trucks did not have to stop and idle, and despite the massive cost overruns, the project was still downgraded significantly from a highway with no stops, to a highway with lighted intersections… intersections that would not only result in congestion on opening day ( hence the Saturday before Christmas opening), but intersections that will result in safety issues as well.

Now, not only will trucks to the port have to stop and idle, they will be mingling with cars and minvans since the province is now pushing this route as  not only the only free alternative to the tolled Port Mann bridge, but a fast way to the ferries. Unfortunately a lack of clear signage has already resulted in lost motorists, prior to the opening.

– Nor will the Liberals tell you about the Railgate connection to all of it…which is huge. It is not something that has been talked about other than a side story, but is very significant of itself.

– And they certainly left out about how absolutely vital the SFPR is to the shadow plan to industrialize and build homes on the ALR land south of the Fraser…which might explain all the smiley faces in the photo above. This is a must read.

No… the BC Liberals won’t tell you any of that in their feel good, lets all hold hands and sing Kumbaya together press opp. They don’t want you to know they are going to have to rebuild all those intersection a few years from now, and that they could have saved taxpayers a ton of money by doing it now. They don’t want you to know that the safety of the road was questioned before it was completed, as linked to above.

They just want you to drive on the damn road so they have enough road count numbers to justify the construction of the items they chose not to do as costs escalated. They just want to share the momentary joy of having completed one portion of the plan to remove much of the ALR south of the Fraser, to share the momentary joy of getting truck to the port before the expanded Panama Canal takes a portion of our shipping container traffic away.

Fiscal responsibility went out the window long ago. Don’t be surprised when the traffic jams start being reported on the news every day… this new road/aka highway was destined to be a dud before it even opened.

Merry Christmas Todd. I know it’s not the mess you created, but you certainly stepped into it.

Silence is the ultimate weapon of power. -Charles de Gaulle

Just this last summer, I discovered one of the few remaining gems in B.C., one I happily admit I will only share the location of with my trusted friends.

2013-09-01 022What more could you possibly want from this province? Stunning hills and mountains, unadulterated natural,see- yourself- in- the- mirror- pristine lakes filled with whatever nature intended to be there…and all to yourself.

No clearcuts visible ( a rarity in the province of BC, as those who travel here know!) No invasive species dumped in the lake and surrounding areas from wannabe pet owners tired of turtles/koi/carp/bunnies and whatever else has been deemed a socially acceptable pet fad.

In short, a bit of heaven here on earth, or at least what I would want heaven to look like,coming from a woman who was born and raised in the northern interior.

Sad thing is, Christy do-anything-to-make- even- a- tiny-buck-for-this-debt-ridden-province- Clark, is putting this and many more locations like this at risk to not only balance the budget for 2014, but actually make it look like there is hope for the years beyond that.

And…the BC NDP sure as hell are not doing anything to change that.

More on that tomorrow.

For now, appreciate what we have… while we actually have it.

While Duffy squeals foul on Harper et al. … let us not forget from whence he came

While the trough feeders of all trough feeders Rob Ford provides a momentary distraction from the Senate Scandal, Press Progress has posted a video reminder of  ” The Old Duff” fundraising for the Conservatives in 2010. From their post:

“One of the defining features of the modern Senate is that, for decades, the government of the day has appointed party fundraisers, organizers and former staffers, tapped to do party work on the public dime.

That’s exactly why Stephen Harper appointed Duffy to the Senate in December 2008. Fast-forward to today, and the Prime Minister is desperate to cut him loose.

That’s difficult to do – and we’ve got the video that shows why”

No kidding!

A prime example of why partisan appointments of any kind do less for the people than they do for the governing party.

Kudo’s to for finding this prime example of  ‘The old Duff’.