Dear Lord, you can’t make this stuff up. Seriously.

Want to know the definition of irony?

Peter Fassbender, minister of everything under the kitchen sink,  a man who, in his own word, is  “one who believes strongly in democracy and people’s right to be engaged” using his concern over free speech and democratic rights to defend the reason he will not ban or limit corporate or union donations in civic elections. 

The proposed legislation from Peter Fassbender’s office does set limits on campaign expenses, based on a city’s population, and on third-party advertising.

But it sets no limits on campaign donations, no bans on corporate or union donations, no requirement to disclose donations before the election and no requirement to report donations in years outside the election year.

That goes against what the province’s union of municipalities, with Vancouver council leading the way, has asked for since 2013 because of concerns about multimillion-dollar elections or campaigns in which one donor appears to have too much influence.

But the minister said there are problems with setting tight limits on donations and who can donate.

“I’m one who believes strongly in democracy and people’s right to be engaged,” said Mr. Fassbender, a former mayor of the City of Langley. “If there is too tight a box [around campaign donations], people will say it affects free speech and democracy.”

And by that, as one person commented when I posted this online, he means ” Could effect my chances for re-election.”

The irony?

That this sudden champion for democracy and the people’s right to be engaged, remains silent in the face of ongoing scandals involving his own governments efforts to circumvent democracy.

Sorry Fassbender but I’d have to give you a ‘D’ for effort on this one. Elections unfettered by monetary influence, free from large corporate, personal or unions donations are essential for democracy.  The only ‘people’ who are going to complain about limits, are the ones handing out the cash.

Om the Bridge cancelled, Premier is going to Namastay home, but don’t fret – official UN International Day of Yoga events were already planned elsewhere.


It’s over, done, kaput. The disaster that started as #Omthebridge has been cancelled after all three sponsors pulled out this morning. If you ask me, it was the tweet above that she issued yesterday that signaled the point of no return on this debacle, because this was never about yoga.

It was a  silly tweet and really angered people who were upset over the closure of the bridge /that this event was on National Aboriginal day and she has said nothing/ that it was corporate driven event that even the premier billed as a photo-op.

Now it’s time to move on to more important things – this event provided more than enough cover for a variety of government related news items.

There have been a few tweets about how now a great city like Vancouver will be the only one not celebrating a UN International Day event, which just isn’t true.

In fact, there are several events around Metro Vancouver hosted by the IDY Canada, and in Vancouver, the committee has been working hard on a great event at Plaza of Nations. I’m still not sure why the premier simply didn’t offer to partner with these organizers, who are endorsed by the Consulate of India.

So, head on over to one of these events if  you want to truly celebrate the spirit and tradition of yoga, and check out a number of events for National Aboriginal Day-There is a big event at Trout Lake, and another at Canada Place on the 20th( Saturday)

idy events











And if you want to find out what you missed while Yoga-gate unfolded, simply click on any of the links below:

BC Govt diverts funds meant for Legal Aid :

Om the bridge covers for Health Firings Scandal:

Govt removes penalties for mishandling of information and documents :

Whistleblower says Govt deletes emails regualrly, fails to document:

Legal Aid funds diverted by BC Government in excess of $100 million dollars. Legal? Yes. Moral or right? No.

Without a doubt, there has been ample attention this week to Yoga on the bridge and today, the flippant, somewhat childish attempt by the premier to poke fun at the thousands of people who are upset and outraged.

A welcome distraction from the ongoing health care scandal that revealed the BC government did not actually give the RCMP information they claimed they had, to the press and the public. One man took his life-let us not forget.

I’ve written of many of the BC Liberals most compelling failures over the years – and there are many. Failures of policy, failures of action, you can find it all here.

But among the list of more than 100 reasons the BC Liberals need to go are the many sweeping cuts made to the services that assist the provinces most vulnerable population.

When Campbell came in, he made massive cuts to personal income taxes, and to corporate tax.  While British Columbians cheered at having more money in their pockets, the resulting hole in provincial revenue those tax cuts made, had to be accounted for. And to be honest, it never really was.  We began seeing MSP increases and user fees, which are a form of regressive taxation.

And the most vulnerable among us, the ones least likely to complain as they struggle to make it through what life’s handed them,began to see cuts.

Cuts to legal aid, cuts to women’s centres, cuts to funding social service agencies and non-profits. The list is long and extensive. And very sad.

Legal aid took a huge hit.

85% of legal aid offices in BC were closed, including 5 regional officers. 75% staff reduction.Family law cut by half. Closure of the law line.

A complete timeline of the cuts can be found here.

But there is no money, the government has said time and time again with only minimal increases to funding.

So imagine the surprise many are going to feel when they hear that according to this lawyer, the BC government has been diverting in excess of $100 million dollars of the funds meant to go to Legal Aid, into other things?

And while it is perfectly legal, it is indeed morally wrong and it takes help out of the hands of those who need it most.

The special tax  paid on legal services is meant to fund legal aid. But apparently… it’s been used elsewhere.

CFAX radio had the exclusive today. I urge you to all read this, and to listen to the interview.

” Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan on CFAX 1070 with Pamela McCall discussing new freedom of information data the reveals the amount of money being diverted from the legal aid system by the provincial government. The FOI information reveals that $171.7 million was collected in 2014 by a special tax on legal services while only $74.9 million was used for the intended purpose.

The special tax on legal services was introduced by the NDP in 1992 for the express purpose of funding legal aid. After several years the tax was collecting more money than the government was providing to legal aid. When in opposition, the BC Liberals were critical of the NDP for the diversion of $15 million from this special tax.

When in opposition the then Liberal critic asked the following in the legislature, “I’m sure we can quibble about the numbers but the larger public policy question remains. Isn’t there something wrong with the government taking all this money from legal accounts as a result of a tax which was imposed, the justification of which was for legal aid, yet it doesn’t actually really direct all of that revenue into the legal aid system.”

As a result of substantial cuts to legal aid funding including for the provision of poverty law and family law services, the amount of tax revenue being diverted is now in excess of $100 million per year as the federal government provides the provincial government with more then $13.5 million per year to assist with the cost of criminal legal aid.”

‘Our posterity will wonder about our ignorance of things so plain.’ ~ Seneca

credit to Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp , posted publicly to Facebook at this link:
credit to Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp , posted publicly to Facebook at this link:

“We are being made aware that the organization of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly.”
T.S. Eliot

25 days ago the good people of Likely and surrounding communities were awoke to a roar that many still say ” sounded just like Niagara Falls.”Except there aren’t any waterfalls near that size in the area and the roar was the sound of billion of litres of wastewater, and solid tailings obliterating local creeks before flooding into lakes and rivers.

And there, it stills sits with chemical scents so overwhelming they make one feel nauseous, and swirls and worries locals who still refuse to drink the water and I don’t blame them.

With weeks having passed, so much still bothers me about all of it. That this was no accident and should never have happened.  ( fantastic blog with many Mt.Polley posts worthy of reading)

That some with positions of public influence are mocking others who call this a disaster. It may not be a disaster to someone who doesn’t live in the community or rely on its natural bounty for sustenance and commercial economic activity, but it’s a disaster on many levels nonetheless.  And why nothing is really being done yet, 25 days later other than discuss whether or not perhaps it would be the cheaper, easier, more convenient, “best” course of action to leave the toxic sludge alone, is incredibly worrisome and why this story must be followed continuously.

The news that the water is fine to drink was enough to slow the panic down, until it was discovered there very well may an interflow between waterways that is allowing a layer of polluted to exist within cooler and warmer layers.. meaning that the sediment did not all disperse as previously thought. And that fact that ongoing water test results are based on samples taken in some cases, weeks earlier, is hardly reassuring.

As initially linked to in an earlier paragraph, there remains a sediment cloud in the lake that moves, and changes water quality,taste and appearance. It may very well be that what is safe in one testing area on one day, changes a week later as the sediment cloud moves – which is why they are testing that now as well.

Toss in the blue sheen witnessed and sampled by Alexandra Mortonthought by ministry officials to be organic in nature as per ‘the poke test’. Tested for two forms of organic compounds, but apparently for nothing else as far as I can see on the initial tests, the sheen was not only found near debris, but also out in the lake and in the Quesnel river.

And of course, you’ll be totally fine to eat the fish as long as you don’t eat the gonads….worrisome because this is still so early in terms of monitoring accumulated levels in fish and other species, which can build up over years. Will salmon and trout spawn successfully in this water? Will the hatchlings survive? What will be the impact as bear, eagles, coyotes and others eat the fish, and it is passed down the food chain?Will humans be able to eat this fish long term? The moose or dear that graze on the foliage and willows that grow along the banks? What about berries or wild foods collected by many First Nations?

The fact is, an incident of this great magnitude hasn’t happened before in Canada, so no one really knows what’s going to happen and in my opinion that is why every effort must be made to mitigate ongoing contamination. In reading through the various memo’s to sample results posted on the governments Mount Polley update site, there are too many “at this time” ” however more monitoring is needed” etc etc.

Despite concerns over drying sediment being carried in the air by wind, there is no air quality assessment done. There is still no talk about the impact on anything other than water and aquatic life.

It’s all quite up in the air and still very much a fluid situation for all purposes. With fall and rain on it’s way and later on the snow of winter, the sediment that shows evidence in photos taken of what appear to be chemical reactions and leaves a heavy chemical smell in the air, is unlikely to moved in time. That raises even more questions as to the impact of heavy rains and melting snow on toxic, heavy metal, chemical laden sediment that surely will be washed into the water system all over again.

And that’s a huge concern. The response to this failure of policy and industry has been a complete and utter failure, slow and lethargic. The only thing that happened quickly was  the efforts to get payments reached with some locals at a time when the full impact of the failure was clearly not known – it still isn’t nearly a month later – an unconscionable action worthy of scorn in my world.

This mess needs to be cleaned up, and it needs to be made right.

It’s not enough to makes some conciliatory actions, toss out some cash and pretend it’s ok just because it didn’t happen right along the highway where everyone could have seen it. Because if this had happened in a highly visible area easy to access for the general public you and I both know a full clean-up would have already been well underway for the world to see. That’s sadly, kind of how it works.

The Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp has released their own initial assessment today and it’s worth the read. They will not let this one rest.

Today marks the start of the long weekend we celebrate Labour Day and instead of thinking about relaxing I’m thinking about the good people of Likely, and the surrounding areas who chose to make this area their home.

They have everything on the line and there is still so much to be seen in this area. Please think about driving up or flying to Williams Lake and renting a vehicle to get to Likely. Stay at the Inn, talk to the people, explore the area and most of all learn. Take your own water. There is so much to see and do and learn in the area.

Learn how a community deals with something so large and so public that it threatens their jobs, their homes and their way of life.

Learn why it’s important for each of us, no matter where we live or what the industry around us, to know how and if our government regulates them.

Take a bit of Likely home with you, because we all are in this together and the community needs help.  We can’t leave these people behind, and we must not let this happen again.


 “Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .”
Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water



Why exactly, is the Mars Bomber sitting idle?

As a northern girl born and raised just north of Prince George, I can tell you firsthand how important first response to a wildfire situation is, just as many British Columbians are saying now. Once a fire is reported and the decision is made that it’s a situation that must be handled, the earlier crews and/or aircraft can tackle the blaze, the more cost-effective it is, and the safer it is for all involved.

The Mars Bomber has for many years, been one part of an effective arsenal of fire -fighting in the province of BC, but last year the decision was made to stop their direct-award contract, and the Mars are sitting idle on Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island – much to the confusion of many who have seen the plane in action.  The Mars is capable of a large payload of water and, in some situations, can knock back a fire with incredible effectiveness, yet it sits after years of service to the province.
From the link above:

” Despite it’s world-renowned ability to scoop up and drop 27,200 litres of water at time and a 53-year legacy of dowsing forest fires across North America, this year the provincial government opted not to renew its contract with Coulson Flying Tankers, the Hawaii Mars’ owner.

Instead the province looked to Abbotsford-based Conair for aerial fire suppression, gaining the services of four smaller turbinepowered aircraft instead of the massive Hawaii Mars.

Early into the forest fire season, it appears the situation in B.C. will be particularly serious this year.

Halfway through July, 624 fires have been documented by the Wildfire Management Branch, encompassing 105,697 hectares. The spread of forest fires this summer has already eclipsed the 2013 total of 18,259 hectares, and appears to be approaching the average burn total of 141,000.T

he cost of fighting these blazes is yet to be released, but as a relatively calm season drained $122.2 million of provincial funds, the 2014 forest firefighting costs should be enormous.

According to Coulson Group of Companies CEO Wayne Coulson, the Mars bomber’s firefighting contract in 2013 amounted to $750,000, yet this year the province decided to go with Conair’s smaller, more modern aircraft for $1.8 million.

After the deal was made Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource operations cited the bomber’s “operational limitations” with respect to performing multiple drop patterns in B.C.’s mountainous terrain.

The decision to with the Abbotsford company was made while considering the “more cost-effective, efficient options available due to advances in airplane technology,” Thomson said. But the price disparity between the two options warrants a more detailed explanation of why the government chose the costlier contract.”

Hmmm.. who would be best suited to offer a knowledgeable perspective on the governments choice to go with the costlier contract to Conair?

How about someone with first-hand, government experience, who joined Conair in the spring of 2013 after a 36 year career with the British Columbia Forest Service, all in the forest fire domain with 26 years specifically in airtanker operations. Jeff was the head of British Columbia’s Airtanker Program from 1996 to 2013.”

With Jeff’s direct and long experience within the BC Forest service, he might be able to lend some perspective on why the Mars sits idle…

Incidentally, and I am sure, purely coincidental… it was the spring of 2013 when the owner of the Coulson group came out strongly against the  BC Liberals prior to the election, and the poor Liberal forest policies that impacted small communities all over the province.


While Conair has donated exclusively to the BC Liberals since 2005, with one donation in the spring to the BCNDP when it appeared they may win the last election:

Conair Group president and CEO Barry Marsden also received the Order Of BC :

Some backstory on the Mars contract and service:

Documents released by government to Province reporter Sam Cooper, leave more questions than answers.

It’s appalling that I say I am not entirely surprised by this story:

 In sophisticated frauds, a number of provincial government workers have teamed up with dodgy businesses and contractors to steal from you, the taxpayer.


The schemes — including an apparent rogue network of “public servants” bilking the health care system, and frauds aimed at autism, adoption, and childcare funding pools — are revealed in documents obtained by The Province through freedom of information.


The documents tell the story of 10 scam probes completed between July and October 2013, and they come from B.C.’s special investigative unit of the comptroller general, a team tasked with protecting against insider theft of taxpayer funds.


The government has so heavily obscured these files, Bateman said, that it is impossible to know how much money was stolen in these cases, how many public servants are guilty, and what consequences they face.

In The Province’s estimation, more than 20 public servants are implicated in these schemes, and not a single identity is revealed.

“I’m astonished how many of these staffers seem to still be working for the government,” Bateman said. “And there is no reason why government should not release the amount of money involved in each of these cases.”

First of all, before anyone starts jumping on government employees, there are rotten apples in every barrel and that applies to politicians as well as employees.

But this story leaves me and no doubt others, with more questions than answers, thanks to the secrecy of the BC government – which if you recall, Christy Clark said she was going to make’ the most open and transparent government in history!

Why can’t the public know exactly how much money was stolen, how many people were involved and what happened to them? It’s alarming to think that any of them would still be working in government at any level. Why the secrecy?

And the mention of purchase card spending? That’s always one to watch, as I first reported it here and  here in 2012 , even asking who verifies that the money being spent is truly for government use?It appeared to me then, that it was a sloppy system with few checks or balances, which also may be part of the issue in Sam’s story.

Even back in 2012, Ministry of Forests had second highest spending on purchase cards, and some transaction being quit dubious at  that.

It’s a slap in the face of British Columbians, and I can’t wait for the return of the legislature – hopefully the opposition will hammer them on this one.

It’s bad enough that the government has taken the ‘Free’ out of freedom of information- (Bob Mackin has written extensively about this), when you do fork over the $$ to get your request started( you have to put down a deposit if you don’t want to pay in full right away), more often than not you end up with a stack of paper where most of the info is blacked out.

Essentially, you  might end up paying for nothing, making it a gamble whether or not you want to invest those funds in the first place. And sadly, I suspect that’s exactly what they want.

Props to Sam Cooper for this great story. I recommend a full read and share widely.

As well, ‘recovering journalist’ Rod Mickleburgh has a bit of a tease up today – check out his first post in a series covering the Top 1o list of BC Government clangers.

I’m sorting through the info on the new mystery post, which requires a very diligent presentation. Again, more questions than answers on that one, but I am hoping that it will generate new information and tips. Look for that tomorrow.




“There has always been, and there is now, a profound conflict of interest between the people and the government…” ~ Howard Zinn

theyworkforusOn the eve of what is most likely going to be a change in government in this province, one would think that I would be exceptionally excited about all of it. After all, I’ve spent many years researching and writing stories on the current Liberal government, holding them to account.

Sadly, over the last two years I’ve come to the realization that electoral change is desperately needed for any form of real democracy to exist in this province, and a big part of that change must come from with the parties themselves.

As we near the date of the upcoming election when voters will go to the polls to choose the candidate they believe will represent them in the legislature, I wonder: do they consider how well that person will be able to do that? Do they consider whether or not the party that candidate is a part of, truly allows each MLA a free vote?

Do they think about how they would feel if they discovered their MLA voted in favour of something that was not in the interests of their riding…because if he didn’t he might be disciplined for it? Or perhaps even worse, politically shunned and ignored, in essence persona non grata?

As I sat and watched the new documentary Whipped, by Sean Holman, where he speaks with several former MLA’s about their experiences with party discipline, at one point I actually found myself in tears. I can’t explain it. They just started rolling down my cheeks. I was just so mad, so disappointed, so disillusioned.. and I felt very bad for the many voters who were cheated of representation because of it. I wondered how those same voters would feel, watching their former MLA speak so honestly, and with remorse, about not being able to represent them the way they deserved.

It’s a fact that many political parties will discipline those MLA’s who do not vote with the party line. Sean Holman addressed this in an open letter he wrote to first time political candidates, published on the Huffington Post:

As you may have heard, MLAs belonging to both the BC NDP and the BC Liberal Party are usually required to vote the party line.

In fact, I’ve discovered, out of the 32,328 votes cast between June 2001 and April 2012, just 80 or 0.25 percent were cast by MLAs voting against their own party.

That means a party with a majority can essentially do whatever it wants in the legislature — so much so that last time a government bill was defeated was 1953, the same year Joseph Stalin died. But those numbers also suggest, as one former MLA told me, “There’s got to be times — random chance if nothing else — that some of us actually disagree with what we’re voting on.”

It’s a position, if you’re elected, you could find yourself in.

The reason that’s tolerated is MLAs are supposed to have a chance to discuss the public’s business in private before coming out with a position each has agreed to uphold. But, because of cabinet and caucus confidentiality, British Columbians really don’t know if those secret debates are actually taking place.

Your party leaders and campaign handlers, of course, would know. They might not feel comfortable talking to you about this subject. But if you come to the première of my documentary, you’ll discover such discussions sometimes don’t take place.

For example, another former MLA told me he found out about a major government decision just 45 minutes before it was announced. That decision went against the interests of his constituents. Nevertheless, he said, “I have to be there in the legislature, pounding on my desk, smiling.”

” … the decision went against the interests of his constituents.”  It makes you wonder what you were elected for when you can’t speak up without consequence for the interests of your  constituents. It is, without a doubt, a profound conflict of interest between the people and the government.

When I first wrote about the première of Whipped,it was clear by the discussion that followed in the comment section, that it’s a very contentious issue that many people in the Liberal and NDP party don’t want to talk about… or want to change. But it’s a discussion that needs to be had and this moment is the perfect time to start the dialogue, as you consider your choices at the polls. There will be many things you might consider when making your choice at the polls- this is definitely one of items I will be considering.  Solid,independent candidates are becoming an increasingly attractive choice for many voters who are tired of party politics.

Remember the HST? Those Liberal MLA’s who supported the HST – and their party – over their own constituents demands, may pay the price for towing the party line in a few short days. Would your MLA stand up for you? Would you even know it, if he or she did not?

Whipped is replete with self-reflection and regrets, and a testament to the illusion of democracy as we perceive it. When you consider that 99.75% of votes cast in the BC legislature followed the party line.. it might be time to do some self-reflection of your own right now… to avoid having your own regrets later on.

Celebrating 6 years of blogging here at


Well, it was a bit of a shocking reminder as I logged into my blog this morning and received a celebratory congratulations on my 6th year anniversary – it was on this date 6 years ago I registered my blog and I haven’t looked back since.  And the timing couldn’t have been better since last weekend I participated in a Political Writing Workshop at Douglas College with my fellow 24Hrs Vancouver columnists, Bill Tieleman and Daniel Fontaine.. which effectively brings the entire experience full circle in lending my experience and knowledge to others.

Today, so many years later, the stats still amaze me. As of this post,I’ve written 1,222 posts, there have been 12,994 comments and I’ve had 1,183,450 unique page views…and I owe it all to you.

The evolution of this blog has been very akin to child rearing- you don’t always know what you are doing but as you learn more, you do better! I’ve been very lucky to have had input and guidance from other stellar writers and journalist’s over the years, and to them, my eternal thanks. There is no pay for this effort, simply the satisfaction and fulfillment of being able to share, and educate others who may or may not find my work relevant.

So on this very auspicious day, as the writ drops and we whirl into yet another election season, may I say congratulations to all of you who have helped make our blog such a success!!

Here’s to you, and to continuing success revealing and breaking stories, secrets and keeping all of our politician’s and governments on the straight and narrow.



“Money and corruption are ruining the land…”

“…crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits, treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep.” ~ Ray Davies

Here on this site, we have revealed many breaking news stories of secret deals,evidence of corruption, collusion and a number of other shameful instances of how ‘money and corruption’ are ruining the land -our land here in British Columbia.

Sea to Sky Highway Shadow Tolls and the insidious relationship between the BC Liberals and long time, private partner Macquarie. The same partner that oddly, still managed to keep a position as advisor to the Port Mann project after a failed P3 bid, the terms of which remain secret to this day.

Canada Line construction and the ongoing, equally insidious relationship between SNC Lavalin and the BC Liberals.

Tercon vs British Columbia, a landmark case where the Ministry of Transportation and several high level government employees altered documents and hid details to purposely rig a bid and give a large contract to another ‘ preferred’ bidder.

You name it, there is not a P3 deal, nor a major transportation project that I have not examined,with confidential documents or hard sourced evidence, that does not give rise to an extensive list of questions about the governments ad hoc policies, and the lack of integrity in the bidding process. ( For newer readers, each can be read in detail, on the Best Of page up top)

Throughout these stories, there remained a dark undercurrent that repeats itself time and time again. In many stories, there are what I would consider clear indications of unethical and questionable behavior that lean towards collusion and influence of officials, both crimes in Canada under the competition bureau and of which I have previously written. Yet we see no investigations. Business continues as usual, from Gordon Campbell  onto yet an even more disastrous leader who has openly discussed her relationship with a powerful man who remains on the Board of Directors for SNC Lavelin – while the company has ongoing contracts and new bids outstanding.

This is how it works in British Columbia, with the BC Liberals.

This is the, in your face, we do what we want, way of doing business that everyone seems to have no problem with in the provincial government, that spans all ministries – none have been exempt from scandal or inference of preferred bidders. People like myself rely on close sources and data-mining to acquire evidence and documentation of contract and project details kept hidden from the public, since most FOI requests result in pages of useless redacted information.

Earlier this year, CBC did a brief story online, on a study conducted by the ministry of Public Safety into corruption in the construction industry in B.C. and in Quebec. The only real details given to the press on this report,which was not released, were that very few wanted to talk about the issue of  construction corruption in B.C. , and that the industry overall was at a medium to high risk of corruption.

Imagine that. So few of the people or organizations contacted wanted to talk about this issue of corruption in commercial construction – and by association of public sector projects, the government –  that it made it difficult to get a firm vision of what is going on. In fact, the report relied on many anonymous sources in some instances to get the information needed to make an assessment.In spite of this aura of reluctance and opposition to prying questions, the report did manage to uncover some revealing ways our public projects are at risk for corruption… and the way our government makes this possible.

The report in question was released informally to me recently following an FOI request, and confirms much of what I have reported here in many stories over the last few years. I recommend a read of the entire report, for the insight it offers into the problems facing large public projects here in B.C.

Here are some highlights:

  • Investigators found that the most vulnerable aspect of the commercial construction process, including public projects, was the procurement process ( bid process) and project management. Sources indicated officials responsible for procurement were often uninformed about the cost of construction project costs and the lack of accountability and transparency in the bidding process across Canada was noted.
  • Investigators found many factors that contributed to an environment where bribery and fraud flourished and were nearly impossible to detect,including the large scale of public projects,the uniqueness and complexity of projects,the concealment of some items of work by others, the lack of transparency in the industry and the extent of government involvement.
  • Situations that facilitate the formation of construction cartels and bribery, included the size of the project. Some projects like dams, power plants and highways that are extremely large in nature and costly,making it easier to hide bribes and over inflated  claims. It was also noted these larger projects often have a limited number of bidders, and those bidders are often well known to public officials and other bidders, again facilitating bribes and cartels.
  • Lack of transparency – costs are often kept secret even when public money is being spent. Commercial confidentiality takes precedent over public interest, and publication of financial information and routine inspection of books and records which could uncover irregularities or prevent them, does not take place. ( in the case of the Sea to Sky highway project, companies participating in the project had to sign confidentiality agreements preventing them from talking about their involvement in the project in some cases, for up to 7 years, as you can read in the Sea to Sky shadow toll series on the Best Of page at the top of my site – Laila)
  • The extent of government involvement– There is significant government involvement in public projects. Even private sector projects require government approval at different levels. the power wielded by government officials in every stage of the construction process,when combined with the structural and financial complexity of these projects, makes it quite easy for unscrupulous government officials to extract large bribes from those undertaking the projects.
  • The impact of corruption in projects goes beyond bribes and fraud, to poor-quality construction and low funding for maintenance. Because much of the infrastructure is hidden behind concrete or brick, builders can cut costs, bribe inspectors to approve sub-standard construction leading to poor quality construction.  ( In Quebec, years of this kind of construction on public infrastructure is creating a problem for the province, with crumbling bridges and overpasses that need extensive rehabilitation. Will we see the same thing happen here in British Columbia with some of our major transportation and infrastructure projects? Certainly many projects have already shown evidence of substandard quality, via the expansion joints on the William R Bennett bridge in Kelowna, and the ever collapsing retaining wall on Lougheed, part of the Port Mann project. – Laila)
  • Sources in British Columbia indicated that government officials responsible for the procurement process ( tender and bidding process) lack the required experience in relation to the commercial construction process. Many who did have the experience retired or moved onto the private sector. Government officials often failed to follow their own procurement policies. ( I have explored this in detail on a previous post, where a source revealed to me that often, the officials in charge of a project will rely on employees of a bidding company for direction, via hiring them as a consultant in the process. Fairness reviewers deemed with examining the bid process for fairness, are often seen as being in a perceived conflict via work with the government on other projects- Laila)

It is simply not acceptable, nor is it in the publics interest, to allow often incompetent, and more often unethical business practices to continue within the B.C. government. It absolutely must stop.

In 2010, in following final ruling of the decade long Tercon vs. British Columbia court case, I said the following:

“.. What is needed is a full and independent inquiry into the actions of the government then, and now, to reveal the truth of what is going on in that portfolio. If the government intends to stand by its claim of administering an honest and open government with integrity, let it start with the Basi-Virk trial upon our doorstep, and end with the Tercon Judgement. The integrity of the entire bidding process, the future of local industry in our province, and what little faith we may have remaining in our elected officials, depends on it.”

 That was 2010. As we know, the Basi-Virk trial was shut down faster than a bear trap snaps its victim, and while Vaughn Palmer picked up the Tercon story, the government denied and ignored any lingering questions.

Two years later, we find ourselves with a premier who campaigned on bringing open government to the people and then quickly revealed herself as being more secretive than Campbell ever was. A premier who mandates transparency and accountability to ensure tax dollars are being spent wisely to give British Columbians a better quality of life… but applies that mandate selectively, targeting her foes and protecting her friends.

I say now, that this report bolsters and supports my repeated calls for a full investigation  and public inquiry into the public procurement process within all ministries of the government of British Columbia, and the sooner the better.

To do anything other, is to condone corruption within government by our elected officials -a concept which should have never been tolerable in the first place.

Public Safety Construction Corruption Report PDF format ( I will be happy to email you a copy of this report upon request)

Prison Town,Lumby BC : UPDATE

First, I have to give a big shout out to the lovely people of Lumby, BC, who have sent emails of support and thanks in droves at the recent post on Lumby’s contentious bid for a prison. Clearly this is a community that cares about the future, however divided the direction is to get there.

Second: the village of Lumby has posted a letter from the mayor recently, to address some concerns brought to the mayors attention. This link is to that letter from Mayor Kevin Acton:

The village has also posted some videos to a corrections meeting , presumably in response to the videos linked to in my last post showing council members and the mayor in an unfavourable light, mocking people opposed to the prison prior to a council meeting.

New information has come forward from a provincial source who substantiates the real reason behind the push for Lumby’s prison by current mayor Kevin Acton is to get the Province of BC to cover the cost of  getting water, sewer and Hydro power out to the Lumby Industrial Park, and possibly other lands zoned industrial which are currently unserviced, at a cost of about $3.8 million. The village   claims they have inadequate finances to pay for such improvements themselves.

The source also states that the province would likely also cover the cost of rebuilding the village sewer treatment plant which regularly overflows and discharges septic wastewater into Bessette Creek.  The source also confirms that this prison bid concept originally began with former Lumby Mayor, now Liberal MLA, Eric Foster, and continued with Kevin Acton as councillor and now in his position as mayor.

Interesting enough is this letter to the editor of the Vernon Morningstar that Len Gudeit wrote supporting the prison. He does list the improvements that would come, the sewer etc… and a host of other short term spin-offs that might( and that is a big might) happen, but he fails to mention he owns a portion of the Lumby Industrial Lands – a large omission by any estimation, since  it could be argued that he would stand to benefit almost as much as the city if the prison built on his lands, which have been considered as one of the possible locations.

Originally there was really no other properties in consideration around Lumby for the prison other than the Lumby Industrial Park, however once a group of residents went on a fact-finding bit of research and started making waves about the real reason for the prison, the village changed the story so that the prison could be built on any 20 acre parcel inside the village and outside the ALR.

Also very interesting to note, is that other industrial properties  that have emerged as ” possible sites” where owners have expressed an interest are owned by the former mayor of Lumby and friend of MLA Eric Foster, Dave Simpson. A map of the ” jail lands ” can be viewed here: Lumby_correction_centre_map

I leave you with this notice sent to me today, and I hope all Lumby residents consider all the facts behind this push for a prison when they vote in that NON-BINDING referendum tomorrow. You know, the one where the mayor hasn’t even decided how many votes against the prison would be required before he backs off this deal? 

One thing I would like to remind the mayor and council is that if you deny the people democracy now, you can be sure they will take it back when municipal elections occur later this year.

 I predict Mayor Acton will be out of office and back to what he does best – massaging stressed and injuredLumby-ites -and there might be quite a few of both before this issue is over.

I’ll leave you with a letter from someone who is deeply concerned not only for the community,  but also the people who live there. His points are well researched, well thought out and factual, not hysterical. And to the people of Lumby and surrounding areas, I hope you vote smart, because this is a vote that could change your village, forever.

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 30th our community will decide if it wants to proceed with being home to a 700 inmate provincial jail.

 If we say “yes” we can expect 2-3 more years of backroom deal-making as big government charts a new course for Lumby’s future as a one-industry town – a prison town.

 If we vote “no” we can stop the jail from proceeding further and return to building a diversified economy based on our successes and local empowerment as described by one Vancouver journalist: “Lumby, from my understanding, has been doing well economically (growing at about 3% per year) and revenue increased 30% between 2006 and 2009.  This is actually quite impressive during a nationwide recessionary period for a town of this size. 

Instead of sticking to the facts, Lumby Village Council and pro-jail supporters have taken us on a nearly one year journey of bad press and misleading information.

 Fabrications presented in a recent flyer circulated by the pro-prison group LINE should be enough to get voters to the polls on Saturday to vote “No”.

·         The pro-jail group tells us that 400-500 jobs would be created by the jail in a community that could scarcely provide 50 workers in the construction trade because there simply is not a high enough unemployment rate in the Lumby area. They also claim that contracts will be put out to bid, but what they don’t say is that the companies capable of bidding on these large 3-P projects are multinationals like Plenary Justice, Brookfield and Bouygues/HSB. Bidders have to move through an eligibility process provided by Partnerships BC. Check out the “Pre Qualification Process” for bidding on a job like this:

This document describes clearly that the jail will be built and operated by a single company that specialized in prison construction and management.

·         The pro-jail group has neglected to tell us that BC Corrections publicly stated in Lumby that they cannot guarantee in any way they contractors will be hired locally. On the contrary, companies capable of winning the bid will more than likely bring much of their workforce with them from their previous job.

·         The pro-jail group is misleading the public when they say 60 percent of corrections staff will be experienced and that the balance of the jobs will be posted so that anyone can apply. BC Corrections made no commitment to either point, and in fact stated that they did not know what the hiring policy would be.

·         BC Corrections stated that they have a single “counseling contractor” for all the provincial jails and prisons, and that contractor may decide to hire locally or they may not. At the public information meeting in Lumby, BC Corrections made no guarantee to hire support staff and sub contractors locally – they couldn’t even define what “local” means to the ministry.

·         BC Corrections has made no guarantee that they will pay $1.1 million in grant-in-lieu of taxes – whatever amount they will pay will be decided behind closed doors after the referendum. The pro-jail group and the village staff compare the jail to having 1100 new homes. This comparison suggests that 700 in-mates would be the same as having 1100 new home owners in the village along with their families and children. The pro-jail group has deliberately misled the public by stating that the “grant monies” would be available to NORD Areas D and E in a deliberate attempt to buy support in the rural areas which are in no way eligible for tax money from a “Village tax jurisdiction”.

·         The pro-jail group has outlined enticements of where the jail grant money can be spent, like supporting programs and beautification and even building a pool – but no where do they state how much of that money is required to maintain the services and infrastructure for the jail itself. Clearly they are making the same mistake the village has made in recent years – using taxpayers money for things other than maintaining core infrastructure and services. This spending behaviour will cause extreme property tax instability that may result in local taxpayers supporting the jail facility because of shortfalls.

·         The pro-jail group state that the jail will bring new people to Lumby, but without clearly identifying that these new people will be inmates in a provincial jail and that some of these inmates will be high-risk re-offenders released into this community. According to BC Corrections the jail will release 50 inmates per day into Lumby, with another 50 inmates per day entering the jail.

·         BC Corrections has not secured building and site issues in writing or for the public record. All such details will be decided behind closed doors with the Lumby Mayor and Council. While they state the attributes of pleasant design, they have yet to tell the public where the jail will be located – it could be next door to your neighbourhood or business.

·         There is no public record of BC Corrections providing a healthcare contract that overlaps into the community.

·         BC Corrections are on public record as stating that they do not know how the jail will impact RCMP policing and ambulance services. The pro-jail group has provided misleading information regarding the costs of covering such services. The province determines the number of police that it will contribute funds towards, however if the community requires more police it has to pay for additional officers through the local tax base and then try to convince the province to contribute to those extra costs. If Lumby requires more police as a result of the jail, Area D and E along with the rest of NORD will have to contribute to those additional costs. Surrey pays $97 million a year for RCMP operating costs, one-third of the city’s budget. Check out the problems that BC Corrections hasn’t told us:

·         BC Corrections has not promised that there will not be half-way houses and parole offices in Lumby. In fact it’s questionable whether they have jurisdiction over such matters. If they were asked about “group homes” they certainly would not comment. What the pro-jail group should ask themselves is this: When there are 50 inmates a day released into Lumby and some of them have no money and no place to go – what would they do? Non-profits like Howard House would most certainly provide a group home in Lumby, perhaps a number of them so that these people would have shelter and be off the street.

·         The pro-jail group should also ask themselves what happens to the mentally challenged as they move through the court and jail system? The answer is that there will most likely be a demand for group homes. Check it out:

Most certainly, Lumby will have many new residents and visitors if there is a 700 inmate provincial jail located in this community – but they’re not exactly the ones that we have been seeking within our past community planning exercises.

There is so much missing and misleading information regarding the jail it’s staggering. I invite you to read some of the background to this event at:

YOUR VOTE COUNTS – Please help us stop the jail from being built here – our community is too small to absorb 700 inmates. We need you to vote “No” on Saturday and please convince your family and friends to do the same. Your vote counts whether you live in the Village or in rural Area D; the two communities are closely linked as are the costs of our local infrastructure.

On April 30th – If You’re in the Village or in Area D – Vote No to Incarceration in Lumby

The vote is held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the White Valley Community Centre.

Bring at least two pieces of I.D. perhaps a BC Hydro Bill or something that can prove your address.

If you need a ride to the polling station call 250-547-9464