SNC Lavalin takes further ( damage control ?) action, replaces Gwyn Morgan and 3 directors.

Stunning news this morning in the business world.

Gwyn Morgan, chairman of the board of SNC Lavalin, will be stepping down following the 2013 AGM in May :

In addition, three more directors will be replaced : David Goldman, Pierre H. Lessard and Edythe A. Marcoux.

This comes following  recent revelations and allegations during Quebec’s anti-corruption Charbonneau Commission that SNC Lavalin executives financed political parties and activities in exchange for contracts.

Gwyn Morgan has maintained a long relationship with the BC Liberal government via his positions with EnCana and SNC Lavalin.

A history touched on in this older article from the Financial Post:

 Back in the fall of 2003, Gwyn Morgan was the chief executive of Encana Corp. when he phoned the Liberal premier of British Columbia with news that a big cheque was on its way.

The government of Gordon Campbell had just implemented major reforms to encourage oil and gas investment, providing Calgary-based Encana with the right political foundation to make a huge bet on Cutbank Ridge, the natural gas shale play that eventually grew into one of North America’s largest.

“Mr. Premier, you are going to have some $400-million more in your treasury tomorrow than yesterday,” the founder of Encana recalls telling the politician after the company revealed itself as the main buyer in one of the richest oil and gas rights auctions in the province’s history.

“You and your government can take this as an endorsement of your policies,” Mr. Morgan said.

And of course, billions more slid in after that.


Mr. Morgan is just as committed to nurturing a pro-business environment in the province.

That’s one of the reasons he said he got involved in B.C. politics, supporting Christy Clark’s bid to succeed Mr. Campbell as the province’s premier, which she won in February. An expert on business, finance and energy, Mr. Morgan then served on Ms. Clark’s transition team and remains engaged, although he said his role is not official at this point.


The point is that we see the damage that was done by the NDP for so long, and you can spend decades building wonderful structure of some sort, but you could tear it down very quickly. The province is still recovering from those things, even though it’s 10 years later. So, first and foremost, I felt that Christy had the best chance of keeping the province from going socialist in the next election.”

The relationship with Ms. Clark allowed Mr. Morgan to continue to help shape public policy at a time the province has never been so crucial to the Canadian energy sector, which needs to build new infrastructure through B.C. to reach new customers in Asia.

Read the rest of this insightful article here:

First, in my opinion, Gwyn Morgan has had no business assisting in shaping or influencing public policy in BC at all, nor advising our premier in any form while having active contracts and pursuing new ones via SNC Lavalin or EnCana.

As a keen observer of the Charbonneau Commission, which one can watch live if you can speak French, it is my opinion this latest move is designed to deflect any further examination of the companies activities beyond the jurisdiction of Quebec, as it has already been stated that the Commission can not act outside the province.

While corporate and personal donations of large amounts to political parties are not illegal in BC – they should be in my opinion- it is not unreasonable to ask if the same ‘favours’ are expected from those donors here, as were expected in Quebec.

In Quebec’s commission, it was revealed that not only executives were donating, but also spouses in order to fly under the radar of laws limiting political contributions.  ie, ‘We fund you, you give us preferred contracts.’

As I have chronicled on this site many times,most recently in this post when EnCana’s name popped up yet again with relation to the Pacific Carbon Trust, the relationship of Gwyn Morgan with the BC liberals is via EnCana and SNC Lavalin, is one worthy of examination – and I have examined it well, here :

And here, the continuing relationship of Gwyn Morgan, SNC Lavalin and the new premier, Christy Clark :

And even here, examining the activities of SNC Lavalin, and the persistent denials of any unethical activities by their company by former SNC head Pierre Duhaime, who has now been formally charged with fraud.

Interestingly enough,it was in that last post that former SNC head Pierre Duhaime revealed his hand for the world to see:

 Last year, in what I considered an odd reaction, the head of SNC, Pierre Duhaime, reacted publicly to a report on corruption and organized crime in Quebec’s construction industry, even stating that while the allegations were troubling, they did not warrant a public inquiry…

“Duhaime didn’t want to question the author’s credibility, but said most of the information came from anonymous sources.He said the measures taken by the Quebec government were sufficient to counter corruption.

He insisted the system of collusion described in the report does not affect SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) which has “zero tolerance” for ethical misdeeds. Duhaime acknowledged, however, that SNC-Lavalin is currently investigating allegations of corruption concerning a project in Bangladesh. The RCMP recently conducted a search of SNC offices in Ontario in connection with this matter.”

A clear cut case of  ‘He doth protest too much.’  Considering the allegations from Quebec in recent weeks, it is no wonder he didn’t want a public inquiry.

The question now is, will the departure of Gwyn Morgan and the three directors quell further examination of the companies vested interests in projects across Canada?

Or will it prompt more, particularly here in British Columbia where Morgan is on the record of being involved in both shaping and influencing pubic policy,and financially supporting the Liberal government and Christy Clark personally to further achieve the business environment both SNC Lavalin and EnCana profit from.

Time again to re-visit the top post of 2012 here on, which contains a copy of the Public Safety report on Corruption in Construction that also examinations  the likelihood of corruption within the BC’s construction and infrastructure industry….

Read it again if you need a reminder, and ask yourself why so few people questioned and contacted in BC wanted to talk about the issue at all :

“Money and corruption are ruining the land…”

“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)

With Recall in the Fall soon upon us, it’s time to push for stronger oaths of office

 Last night, I spent some time thinking about everything I didn’t see on the BC ferry, Coastal Inspiration. Even though the vehicle decks were filled to capacity, the passenger decks above were hardly packed. People mulled about the one cafeteria that was open,or simply sat and watched the view. The free WiFi room was empty, and as I mentioned in my previous post, one entire passenger deck was locked to public access. The ferry employee told me it was because BC ferries didn’t want to pay 5 staff to open it – and that may very well be the truth- but more likely the truth revolves around the fact that the ferry is still far bigger than required. It’s massive, more cruise ship like in stature than ferry -like.

The motive behind the purchase of these ferries is still a contentious issue for many. While news reports flourished when the ships first arrived here in BC, the vagaries of the press soon drew our attentions to other stories deemed newsworthy. No more questions about the thrusters, the propellers, the size, the cost  or the actual need of purchasing these massive ships in the first place. So it seems since my return, everything old is new again, and once more the questions surface without any substantial answers.

Ferry issue aside, the lack of answers in all of this  brings to mind a deeper issue, one that has doggedly remained a priority for my blog posts for years. Why are our politicians and public officials not held to a higher, and stronger level of accountability?  Where does it all start and how do we fix it?

Take for example ex Coquitlam mayor Scott Young, whose story I followed with great interest for some time. Mr. Young assaulted his ex-girlfriend and an acquaintance of hers, and was given a 12 month conditional sentence with 18 months probation. While Mr. Young refused to step down following the charges, and ensuing trial, the city was left trying to run the show with a mayor that had assaulted an ex-partner. His arrogance astounded many when he returned to a crucial council meeting and again, refused to deal with the publics and councils anger. 

It was during this entire debacle that I publically called for changes to the oaths that are sworn by politicians and public officials upon taking office. It’s simply ridiculous to think that an elected official can remain on the job while facing criminal charges, and that there remains little recourse to oust them should they refuse to step down.

I noticed an oath of the wall of the legislature when I visited Victoria last month, the Oath for Public Service Employees.

As a member of the British Columbia Public Service, I, ………………………………… , [employee name] do solemnly swear/affirm [circle one] that I will

1 loyally serve the people of British Columbia through their democratically elected government,

2 honour and faithfully abide by the Standards of Conduct for Public Service Employees, and

3 to the best of my ability,

(a) act with integrity, putting the interests of the public and the public service above my own personal interest and avoiding all conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived,

(b) safeguard confidential information, not divulging it unless I am either authorized to do so or required to do so by law,

(c) base my advice, recommendations and decisions on the objective evidence that is available to me,

(d) serve the government impartially, and

(e) conduct myself honestly and ethically, in a manner that maintains and enhances the public’s trust and confidence in the public service and does not bring it into disrepute.

Interestingly enough – and I would love it if someone could help me out here – I could not find anything more than the following for the oath an MLA must swear before the Lieutenant Governor before becoming a member of the Legislative Assembly:

I, ………………, swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II [or her successor], her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.

( It is interesting to note that it does not state ” I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the people of BC…” but rather, they still bear faith to the queen of  a country that bears no real status in our governance in modern times.  To me, changing this would be a start. )

I,______________________, affirm that I will serve Her Majesty duly and faithfully, and to the best of my ability fulfil the responsibilities and trust granted to me as a Member of the Executive Council of British Columbia.

I,______________________, affirm that I will keep confidential all matters dealt with in the Executive Council, and I will not disclose any of the same to any person other than a Member of the Executive Council except as authorized by it or as required in the lawful discharge of my duties as a Member of the Executive Council.

Affirmed before me at Victoria, British Columbia

this___ day of________, AD 20____


Wow.  Apparently, our government expects and  holds public service employees to a higher standard of professionalism and dedication than they do themselves… Really. Go back and read those oaths again, and then you tell me what’s wrong with this picture.

Funny enough, I came across another link calling for the same changes to public oaths that I have… and it was written in 2002 by The Centre for Public Accountability .

Strengthening the Oaths of Office Sworn by our MPs, MLAs, Ministers, Public Officers, and Judges

Canadians probably think the oaths of office taken by their MPs, ministers of the Crown, and public servants contain explicit commitments that the MPs, ministers, and public servants uphold the Constitution and comply with the law. They don’t. They should. And it’s time they did. Compliance with the spirit and letter of the law is the first safeguard against public officers misusing their powers.


From an accountability point of view, it is also important to keep in mind the capacity in which a public officer acted, when he or she did what he or she is subsequently called upon to account for. It is that capacity which the person must account for what they did, and not any other. For example, a minister of the Crown is also a member of a legislature. He or she may not avoid responsibility and accountability for what they did in their capacity as a minister of the Crown, on the basis of some privilege they enjoy in their capacity as a member of the legislature.


Twenty years have passed by since we “patriated” the Constitution Acts 1867 to 1982 including the Charter, which makes the Constitution of Canada the supreme law of Canada. So far as I am aware, however, no jurisdiction in Canada has, in those intervening twenty years, updated the oaths of office to reflect the reality of these new constitutional provisions. It is time that the Federal and provincial legislatures strengthened these oaths. Stronger oaths would tell the public officers making them what we expect from them. Producing common oaths in each jurisdiction would further strengthen them. Without the element of compliance with the law formally placed in the oaths, and without officials’ reporting of their compliance, we cannot tell how seriously they regard that compliance. The response, “Well, all that is surely implied in the oaths” won’t do.

At the outset of a person’s assumption of public office, his or her oath serves at least as a useful personal mission statement. The oath of office ceremony makes officials’ acceptance of their obligations all the more visible to the public. But regardless whether legislators strengthen the oath wordings, in my opinion officials have a natural duty to comply with the Constitution and laws of Canada, and are bound to act in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of Canada and its provinces, as if they had taken the oaths proposed here. They can reasonably be asked to report publicly and regularly whether they have so acted.

G.F. Windsor,

Barrister and Solicitor


It surely won’t solve everything, and it certainly will not prevent an unethical and dishonest person from being elected into public office, but it would be a start. As we head into the latter part of summer and the impending political upheaval that is coming in the fall, never before have I talked to so many people  whose eyes have been opened to the absolute, and nearly dictatorship power of the government. Never before have I heard from so many citizens who are ready to march door to door, again, to collect signatures to recall their local MLA, no matter what.

Gordon Campbell has made the greatest mistake any politician can make. He failed to recognize both the importance, and the power, of the people’s vote.  Most of his fellow Liberal MLA’s are in the same boat.

The time has come when the people of British Columbia will not be taken for granted any longer, because after all, it is was not Gordon Campbell and the Liberals who made this province what it is, it was us, and it will always be us.

  Politicians of every party across this great province would do well to remember that, because  British Columbians are a powerful political force in their own right.

The Legislature


 From the Fight HST website:

 The people have spoken with the Fight HST petition and the campaign to repeal the HST will continue until the B.C. government listens. Come and join Fight HST volunteers and other British Columbians in another rally to demonstrate unity, strength and support for the ongoing Fight HST campaign.

Date: August 8, 2010 (Sunday)

Time: 1:30pm Assemble in the parking lot of the Devonian Harbour Park on Denman St. @ W. Georgia St.

 Receive sign and instructions.
2:00pm Proceed to walk to the sidewalks along Georgia St. on both sides to start our rally.
3:30pm End rally and return signs at parking lot.

Just a pleasant 15-20 minute walk from the Burrard Skytrain station or if you prefer to take the bus, grab the 19-Stanley Park or any of the many other buses available.

Street meter parking – $2 per hour

Since all British Columbians are affected by the HST, please pass on this invite to your personal contacts and ask your friends and family to pass it on to everyone they know. Only by working together can we show this arrogant government that it cannot impose such a funda­mental change in taxation without the expressed consent of the majority.

Please RSVP by email through the “CONTACT” Form here: so we know we can count on your support.

Signs will be provided at the rally

” Just the tip of the iceberg…” : Why Railgate and the Basi-Virk trial are about so much more than just Basi and Virk.

* * * * *
Facts are technically accurate statements
made by the mouth or penned by the hand.
Truth is a larger statement, a holistic statement.
Truth is not just factually accurate
, but also utterly honest.
Truth is the whole statement of one’s total being:
a unified expression of word, deed, motive,
and emotion—all of which are True.
* * * * *

If there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty, it is that in addition to the facts surrounding the events leading up to the sale of BC rail and the allegations made involving Dave Basi and Bob Virk, we will hear plenty of truth regarding the shameless manner in which government business has been, and continues to be conducted in British Columbia.

” Wait!”,  some may cry: ” That is an inflammatory statement, based on conjecture and speculation!”    To which I would reply:  ” Maybe… or maybe not. ” 

In the time I have been researching and investigating the activities of the BC Liberals, I have encountered both facts, and a far greater truth that might surprise the most jaded among us all…and may I say, it is one that would call for a full inquiry into the business activities of the BC Liberals in every ministry.

Let’s talk about icebergs for a moment. 90% of the icebergs that appear off of Newfoundland’s coast originate in Greenland, and it takes nearly 2 to 3 years for them to travel the roughly 1800 km journey to that location. As most of you know,  the ice we see above the surface of the ocean is ” just the tip of the iceberg” – nearly 7/8th’s of  the total mass of that berg lies below the surface… That being said, even the most mammoth bergs melt quickly upon reaching the relatively warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean and its powerful currents.

Remarkable, isn’t it? When we look at an iceberg, what we see, no matter how large and magnificent it is, is a mere 1/8th of what lies beneath the ocean… waiting to be discovered.

This fact is why I can’t help but refer to the Basi-Virk trial as being only the tip of the proverbial iceberg! There is so much more below the surface  of  this series of events that is indicative of a much larger mass of corruption below the surface of government that most of you see! I laugh when I read opinion editorials that denounce the defense strategy of making this trial about Gordon Campbell, or about the Liberals at large, rather than only Basi and Virk, because I truly believe that even only the facts will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these two men acted on their own accord, without the instructions of those in the highest echelon of the government.

That, my friends, is my truth, and the one that keeps me inspired in continually digging to find the facts that will end this Liberal charade forever.

Facts like the ones revealed in the Tercon case I’ve blogged about many times.

Facts like Ministry of  Transportation officials in that case, who knowingly colluded to deceive and hide the true nature of a winning bid, as to not invite the anger of the bidders who lost.

Facts like the completely unpredictable and irregular manner the government conducts the entire public project bidding process in general. Rules are created and changed at the whim of those charged with overseeing the process.

 Facts  like the government cares more about cabinet confidentiality than it does cooperating and caring for children and families in need, and those  charged with ensuring that process occurs properly.

Facts like the government will ask and pay for people to pretend to be supporters of a contentious issue, going as far as hiring mock supporters for a fish farm protest, or posing as callers on a well-known radio show…

Need I go on? I think not. Those of us who work to reveal both the facts and the truth about Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals mockery of democracy know full well how deep the rot goes, and yet, there is more.

This trial is  also about the manner of which our provincial  justice and policing systems operates – rather defectively, at times, I might say. Prosecutors being appointed who donated to the Liberal Party of BC.  Court Listings not being posted so those lowly of all observers, THE PUBLIC, are virtually left clueless as to when and if any proceedings are scheduled. A court press accreditation panel that is composed of working press members, several of which work for a media conglomerate known for its government advertising revenue.

Again, I could go on, but I won’t. It will be argued that this trial is not about any of the above, but in the end, it is, and it will be the misfortune of Gordon Campbell that the press has suddenly jumped on what promises to be the sensational, controversial trial we have all known it would be. Kevin McCullough has been somewhat reviled for bringing the HST into the courtroom, but I say, why not? Shows a pattern of deception within the government that has become as inherent as submitting padded expense accounting, or rewarding losing bidders  with millions of dollars that make even being a losing bidder, a lucrative process.  I cheer Kevin McCullough  and his team on, not so silently at times, and for me it is a rarity to cheer a criminal defence lawyer at all. I have seen him at work, and he is passionately dedicated to his clients, to the facts… and  to revealing the truth. 

And I would be remiss to mention to criminal angle this all started with, so many years ago :

And in this case, I predict he will become the hero to many British Columbians if he plays the right cards, because as we all know, this trial is just the tip of the iceberg. 

 ( I originally planned to be cover the trial as much as possible, however with my current commitments that is not possible. I will be in session as frequently as I can, but I also realise that this is the opportune time to concentrate on other stories that are much in line with the allegations surrounding the BC Rail sale and the activities of the MOT in general, while the press is hot on BC government and before the summer break.

I appreciate your patience during this time.) ( how does what is going on in Quebec, relate to BC? More to come on that in weeks to come)

Bits and Bites, Thursday February 11th,2010

After long last, Bits and Bites is making a return on this cold rainy Thursday !

The once weekly Wednesday feature has been on a hiatus for a while, as I’ve devoted as much spare time as possible to investigating and researching a very special project. Over the next month or two, I will be bringing you several posts in a series that takes a very revealing look at the way government and industry do business together in BC . 

With that in mind, what better way to start today’s edition of Bit’s and Bite’s, than with a look at what is going on in Quebec now.

You may have heard the allegations of organized crime running much of the construction industry in Quebec,and for that matter, doing business with both municipal and provincial governments. In fact, over the last few months the issue has exploded following the arrests of 10 men, with calls for an independent probe into the many allegations of mafia funded political contributions, bid-rigging and collusion- all  between construction companies controlled by organized crime and both levels of government.

Leading the charge to investigate and show the depth of  corruption, is former judge John Gomery, although reception from the federal government has been embarrassingly weak, as this excerpt from a report last year details:

     ….an explosive report last week on Radio-Canada’s investigative show “Enquete,” highlighted extensive Mafia control over infrastructure spending. The report alleged that up to 80 per cent of the road construction contracts in Montreal are controlled by the powerful Italian Mafia. Price-fixing and collusion between about 14 companies has driven up the price of infrastructure contracts in the Montreal region 35 per cent higher than they should cost, the report said. Federal parties have refused to weigh in. The governing Conservatives called it a provincial matter last week, the NDP refused to comment, and the Liberals never responded to a request for a reaction

Today, Premier Jean Charest is still resisting the call for a public inquiry into the issue, stating he wants police investigations to end first… (or his time as premier is over, I suspect!)

 Another report about this continually developing story came across my desk a couple weeks ago and details a real horror story of what one  concrete company owner experienced,  after learning the hard way who really makes the deals in town… Think ” meet my little friend..” and you have the right idea. The article goes on to say this   :

   ….recent reports have come to light of an intricate bid-rigging system for contracts in Montreal, whereby a group of construction firms agree in advance on a price and which company will submit the lowest bid for each project. Industry insiders say a group of 14 companies, dubbed the Fabulous 14, receives the lion’s share of public tenders from the city. As a result, construction work in Montreal costs about 35 per cent more than anywhere else—this according to retired Transports Québec official François Beaudry.

Sauvé says political parties and organized crime take a cut of the inflated prices in order to contribute to these big political campaigns.

There is a long history of collusion in Montreal’s construction industry, says Antonio Nicaso, an award-winning journalist, a bestselling author and an internationally recognized expert on organized crime.

“This is something that has existed at least since the 1970s,” says Nicaso. “That’s why when the reports came out about this, I wasn’t surprised at all.”

Nicaso doesn’t doubt that the mob is a big investor in the construction industry, and has been for many years. It makes sense for organized crime to get into the construction industry, as it allows criminals to launder money that comes from smuggling and dealing drugs.

Nicaso says Montreal isn’t alone. There are similar ties between construction companies, the mob, and politicians in every city in Canada. The difference is that the Montreal mafia has wielded influence for much longer, since the 1940s or 1950s, so the system is much more intricate there.

Serious allegations, and serious consequences, some of which I will be exploring in the series to come.  While we are on the topic of corruption in government, you may want to check out a couple of my recent postsfor some  related background information, both of which take a look at tendering irregularities here in the ministry of transportation.

 The first is found here:  .

The second is here  – and construction/legal publications aside – has not been covered  anywhere else by the local media to date :  

 Shocking, not only because it promises to be one of the most important legal cases for the construction industry across Canada, but because it also details how the  BC ministry of transportation ( MOT) actually tried to hide the involvement of an unqualified participant in a bid for a provincial project. Check back tomorrow for an important update on that case.

Moving on to other political venues… You must have heard the phrase, ‘the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing’ ?  Perhaps someone could let the Surrey School board in on it, because they are guilty of the biggest bit of hypocrisy I think I’ve ever heard of! 

Parents in School District 36 ( here in Surrey) have reacted strongly and loudly on behalf of the School board, who asked all of us to speak out against the massive budget shortfall in the coming 2010-2011 school year -a whopping  $15 million dollars shortfall that it.  Of course, parents have responded in droves, because last year the school board actually cut the number of teaching days to meet the budget, so the announcements that more jobs and programs will have to be cut- again-  is yet another smack in the face of all parents. Surrey is one of the few districts in BC that still has a rapidly growing enrollment, one so large that new schools often  have portables on site the very first year they are open!

So, considering all the doom and gloom promises of children suffering educational cuts, lack of teaches or supports, and no more programs for the wee kiddies…imagine my surprise, and anger when I found out that this very same school board is building themselves a fancy, brand-spanking new office building with a conference  centre? At the cost of $ 40 million dollars, which is twice the price of our budget shortfall this year. Yes? Can you imagine the apoplectic spitting that charged from my mouth, accompanied by a stream of very foul language? I bet the School board can…

I have to send a hearty thank- you out to The Sun education reporter/blogger, Janet Steffenhagen for this one, because a reader sent her first post to me, followed by her second, which has the response of this hypocritical school board to her inquiries. Which, in my opinion, is a lot of bafflegab considering what dire straits this district really is in.

Here’s some budget ‘input’ for you Doug Strachan,

 Education IS NOT about nice new, modern buildings where the board and district employees can perpetuate more bureaucratic bafflegab  while lunching on overpriced catered chicken in your new conference centre, but IT IS about making sure kids have the right tools and staff to learn. We’ve already lost 9 days in this school year,making the days our kids do go to school all that more valuable, so what’s your next move?

Virtual teachers where one person can teach 5 kindergarten classes at once?

I for one, will make sure every parent I know in Surrey, knows about this  ridiculous amount of spending. I will make sure they know that a fiscally responsible board could have, and should have seen this current situation coming over the last few years, and  still chose to allocate funds to needs other than direct education. And, I will make damn sure that  the parents remember this when the time comes to vote for a new school board. How’s that for budget input?

Last but not least…as a HUGE fan of the Discovery Channel show ‘ Deadliest Catch’, it was the saddest  of news to hear of the passing of Captain Phil Harris, at the age of 53.  Phil was that rough and ready, manliest man captain of the Cornelia Marie, but inside that tough, tattooed exterior was the most sensitive of hearts that the camera was so good at showing viewers. My best regards to his family and friends.

Monday morning round – up

Wonderful morning out there, rather ‘nippy’ if you catch my drift! It’s kind of funny how I cringe and freeze when the rain and wind are here, but now that it is sub-zero and bright, I love it! Different kind of cold, I guess, but I’ll take this over the rain any day.

First up this morning, is an update on the HandyDART strike. Yes, the union  and the company are returning to the bargaining table on Thursday, but many employees have contacted me with some unsettling questions surrounding the” pension” deductions the company had been taking off of their cheques. This excerpt from one employee email sums it up:

I work for HandyDart in Vancouver, and as you know we are currently on strike.

A couple of days ago John Siragusa said on the air( on CBC) that the union knew from the beginning that the pension was not on the table. This is a BALD FACED LIE.

We have a memorandum of understanding( MOU) signed by MV in late 2008 that they will honour previously existing contracts and will register for the MPP( municipal pension plan). When they did register for the MPP they asked for a temporary membership. MPP informed them that there is no such thing and invited them to apply for the usual membership.

MVT did not do that.

They told us that the deductions coming off our cheques were being put in a trust account, but until recently refused to tell us the financial institution holding the funds. They recently sent information to the executive which showed that low interest GIC’s had been purchased on NOVEMBER 6, 2009! ( There was no accounting sent as to what this money has been doing, since the date deductions were being made-the statement only shows an opening balance as of October 2009 –  l.y.)

Where has our money been between Jan 01 and Oct 01, 2009 ? What has happened to the interest that would have been earned during that period of time?

I also received this set of documents in questions from an anonymous source, and it states that the trustee for the funds is  a numbered company- 0843627 BC Ltd. The funds deposited were not put into interest bearing investments right away because  the MOU did not contemplate that this should be done. Interestingly enough, those funds were put into one year GIC’s in a series of transactions starting November 6th of this year!  The letter also states that an amount will be deposited equally the interest these funds would have earned had an investment been initially done. 

I have also come across a blog that has a number of allegations regarding the company that bear some investigation:

My hope is that for these workers, the issues before them can be worked out with the company on an equitable basis. It still tastes bad to me, however, that we continually seem to see American companies being contracted to more often in British Columbia. One would think part of keeping BC strong, would be to keep the money in BC.

Onto another labour dispute – it looks like gravel truck drivers will wait until after Christmas to decide what action to take in order to deal with the ever dropping gravel hauling rates  that owner-operators are facing. Teamsters president Don McGill says it looks like nothing short of an industry wide shutdown will be needed to rectify the situation, which is having a huge impact on truck safety as owners try to save money on maintenance just so they can stay in business. The dispute is the result of Port Mann Bridge contractor, Peter Kiewit and Sons, cutting the current rates they are paying gravel truck operators, from previously established  higher ones.  Stay posted in the New Year, as we could see construction grind to a halt on the Port Mann project.

Well here’s funny twist on things…. The BC  government issued a press release  last week (FRIDAY, by the way) because 4 of the provinces P-3 projects have been given national awards from the Canadian Council for Public Private partnerships.  

Which projects got the kiss of approval? The  Sea to Sky Highway, The Canada Line, The Golden Ears Bridge, and the Royal Jubilee Hospital Patient Care  centre. *Click on those links for a good read on those projects…. ; )

So,curious as ever to see who this ‘council’ is composed of, I clicked on the About Us link, and guess whose smiley face is the first thing I see? 

Gordon Campbell. Yes, our honourable premier is the  Honourary Chair. (Quite the profile…) But wait, it gets better. The board of directors,executive and members lists contain a veritable who’s who of Liberal business partners and contractors….which kinda-sorta-makes it look like all the people involved on the 4 winning projects just gave themselves a big award…

Now,isn’t that just grand? Good grief.

” 10 arrests in Quebec building industry bust “

Will we ever see a similar headline here in British Columbia?

Quebec police say they have arrested at least 10 people linked to the province’s construction industry.

News of the arrests follows a recent announcement by the Quebec government about the creation of a special squad to crack down on corruption involving the construction sector and public officials.

Read the  rest of the details HERE.