A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. ~ Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Jame Madison

And never have I felt more rebellious, more incited to revolution than tonight, when I sat down to read who, and what, really controls what you, and I, and our friends and neighbours read and watch in the evening news….

And you think you live in a democracy?

I suggest you read the following. And think again.

 Because when journalists employed by publications that benefit from very lucrative government advertising revenue are among those who are designated to pick and choose who may obtain media accreditation on behalf of the Supreme Court…. something has gone terribly wrong.

 From The Legislature Raids :

BC Supreme Court Media Accreditation Committee … say again?

What is a working journalist? Wouldn’t it be someone with a set of high skills who attends all the hearings, studies the process, and reveals the story in its fullest form? I think so. And I think Robin Mathews is that highly skilled working journalist who is telling us the BC Rail story in its fullest meaning.

Recently Robin wrote to Court Scheduling to ask for accreditation.  Why? So he could do his job better. He said that if the court is jammed (as it was for the first jury-picking) he needed to get a place where he could hear what’s going on … which isn’t always easy in the back row with 150 people in the public gallery. A reply came to him from H.L.McBride, Supreme Court Law Officer, with material describing the Accreditation Process and it referred him to the committee of journalists which does the initial accrediting.  Of the four named as representative of the committee, Robin chose Keith Fraser to write to.

Robin Mathews has been in the BC Rail courtroom with other paid journalists for over three (3) years. Sometimes Robin Mathews is the only working journalist in the public gallery reporting on the BC Rail Trial.  I would imagine that he has logged more hours in the public gallery than any other journalist at the BC Rail hearings. So in my view, the public should know the dark side of what goes on.

Heaven knows we berate the journalists often enough for not doing their jobs better. I, for one, never quite imagined them doing these kinds of things as part of their duty to the public.

First, here’s Robin’s inquiry:

Dear Keith:  First:  I wrote to Mary Ellen Pearce to ask if I could get accredited as a court reporter. My reply came from H.L.McBride who I can never decide if it’s a woman or a man.  Anyhow, the reply was I have to go to someone really powerful to ask – and you were listed among the really powerful!!!!

                     Yes, I would like the right to record.  But also I’d like the right if the court is jammed (as it was for the first jury-picking) to get a place where I can hear what’s going on … which isn’t always easy in the back row with 150 people there. I notice that you and CP could slip in to a corner where you were in good relation to the goings-on …

                    I’d like to know about “accreditation” if you can spare a few minutes over the next days (before the 17th.)

                    good wishes, Robin

Next: Neal Hall of Vancouver Sun offers the formal reply, as follows:

From: “Hall, Neal (Vancouver Sun)”
Date: May 11, 2010
To: , “Fraser, Keith (The Province)” , ssmart@ctv.ca, JSeyd@nsnews.com,
Subject: Court accreditation application

Robin Mathews:

The B.C. Supreme Court media accreditation committee considered your application but has decided you are not a working journalist, so do not qualify for accreditation.
We are aware of the valuable role you play as a “blogger” and analyst of the court proceedings, so would encourage you to apply by letter to the trial judge, requesting permission to use a recording device in court.
As for seating, so far, there doesn’t appear to be any special arrangements for media seating in the courtroom. So we’re all in the same boat – we’ll be trying to find the best available seat each day.
Any questions, please feel free to contact me (I can always be reached by e-mail).

Neal Hall
The Vancouver Sun
(604) 605-2067
Email: nhall@vancouversun.com

Now. If you don’t get what is wrong here, I feel for you. I really do. But for the rest of you, click on the The Legislature Raids  and read the rest of the story…

Fraser Transportation Group chosen as preferred bidder for South Fraser Perimeter Road, surprising many.

The  Ministry of Transportation  issued a long-awaited press release Friday- late,late Friday –  surprising many industry insiders by announcing  that the Fraser Transportation Group  has been chosen as the preferred bidder and will proceed to the final stage of the procurement process for the South Fraser Perimeter Road project. 

I say surprising because many industry insiders thought SNC Lavelin of the Riverway Partnership were shoe-ins following the Port Mann bidding debacle that awarded that project to Kiewit-Flatiron, despite their failure to secure financing as required. Had the MOT deferred to the next best bid when that occurred, SNC would have been building the Port Mann right now, instead of Kiewit.  Rumour also had it that SNC had been considering legal recourse because of this, but decided against such action so as not to be blacklisted by the province on other projects- ( See Tercon vs. MOT/Province of BC, to find out what happens to contractors who complain too loudly) 

However, there was something else very surprising that I notice in the  SFPR Press Release

VICTORIA – Fraser Transportation Group has been selected to proceed to the next stage of procurement as the preferred proponent for delivery of the next phase of the South Fraser Perimeter Road project. This stage involves detailed negotiations for finalizing a contract. 

 Fraser Transportation Group includes ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc. and Ledcor Industrial/Mining Group Ltd. as equity partners, and Dragados Canada, Inc, Ledcor CMI Ltd., Belpacific Excavating and Shoring Limited Partnership and Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. as the members of the design-build contractor. 

There appears to have been a significant change in the make-up of the proponents in the group itself, because in the announcement of the three qualified short-listed bidders,   The Fraser Transportation Group looked like this: 

Fraser Transportation Group –  includes Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras, S.A. of Spain and Zachry American Infrastructure of Texas as equity partners and Dragados S.A. as the lead design build contractor. 

Wow. So… Am I right to ask the question : What the heck happened to that pre-qualified bidding group? Iridium( From Spain) and Zachry ( of Texas) are now gone as the equity partners, replaced by ACS infrastructure Canada, and Ledcor Industrial /Mining Group Ltd.  That is a complete change from the “Pre-qualified bidders” listed in the original announcement. 

Not only that, Dragados Canada  were listed as the lead design/build contractor in the original announcement, which now lists Ledcor CMI Ltd., Belpacific Excavating and Shoring Limited Partnership and Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. as part of the design-build team. 

What happened to the original bidding team? Why the complete change in equity partners? No money? Companies backed out?  Call me a cynic, but I would say that Jane Shackell, the ” fairness  reviewer”  appointed to oversee and monitor the procurement process, has her hands full on this one. One of the most popular blog series I’ve ever written covered the near decade long Tercon vs. BC/MOT lawsuit, in which  a change to the makeup of a ” pre-qualified” bidder during the procurement process, ultimately led to a supreme court win for the contractor. In Tercon vs. the MOT/Province of BC, an unqualified contractor was added  on as a concealed partner with an already qualified bidder, and  this change was subsequently concealed by MOT staff  at many different levels to avoid complaints from  the other qualified bidders who may have been rightly awarded the MOT job. Full details are in this post, which contains links to the other two parts of the series. http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/tercon-contracters-ltd-vs-british-columbia-the-rest-of-the-story/ 

One would certainly hope the province has not overstepped in this case, because this seems to be a significant change to the makeup of the preferred bidder. (Not that I mind seeing smaller local companies doing work, rather than Kiewit and SNC Lavelin- so long as the bidding process was fair, transparent and honest ) 

 Also of extreme importance in this press release is the notation that the SFPR is now slated for completion in 2013,  which is a full year behind the original completion date 2012. I stand by my source that the project has been scaled back with significant scope changes and that can only mean one thing. Money. money. money… ( out of interest, click HERE to see political donations by LEDCOR)

While I am on the subject of money, it certainly would seem that Kiewit, the main contractors on the Sea to Sky highway and of course, the Port Mann bridge…. have a hell of a lot of extra money to toss around on campaign contributions -and the timing of them is  certainly interesting, to say the least. 

S-A1-A – Your Search Criteria
Contributor Name Date From Date To Party
kiewit      (ALL)
  S-A1-A – Your Search Results
  Total Contribution For This Search: $81,575.00 
Records 1-13 of 13 
Contributor Name Date Amount Party Class Principal Officer 1 Principal Officer 2
PETER KIEWIT SONS CO LTD. 2008/12/03 $1,875.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
PETER KIEWIT SONS CO LTD. 2006/09/29 $3,000.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
PETER KIEWIT SONS CO LTD. 2007/04/24 $1,000.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
PETER KIEWIT 2009/04/02 $2,000.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 1

Note the rather obese contribution to the BC Liberals mere days after the last election….and in the rest of 2009. Now, call me speculative, but if I were a  contractor who had just been chosen to build the Port Mann Bridge, even after my financing fell through,( see link above on Kiewit)  and the province went to a great extent to give me that contract, even changing the project from a P3 to a taxpayers fully funded one to do so….. well, I think I would be really appreciative too.  Not sure those contributions paid off for the SFPR bid though…lol. 

It brings me back full circle to the topic of campaign contributions and conflict of interest which we have been talking about on and off over the past bit. Lets even toss in  how they relate to collusion and corruption. 

 While it is certainly not illegal for any one person,  or any company to donate to one political party or another, I find it remarkable that anybody could say these donations, especially such sizable ones such as Kiewit’s, have no bearing or influence, nor do they represent any conflicts in the various situations that invariably pop up along the way. 

Poppycock.  Do you honestly think a $50 grand donation from Kiewit doesn’t help to grease the wheels along the way? Keep them at the top of the Special Donors list? Of course it does. To think anything else is to be as naive as a new-born babe. 

Just for fun, because yeah, I’m kind of geeky that way, I did a bit of an update to a previous list of large donors to the BC Liberals, from their 2007 reported ones. Donors that also seem to get the lucrative government contracts along the way, donors who have boards of directors padded with ex-MLA’s and political movers and shakers. 

Donors that know how business works in BC. 

* 2009 donation amounts listed only- click on provided link to see past donation history. 

Teck Cominco and subsiduaries:  $150,800.00 

Goldcorp: $88,500.00 

Encana : $118,000.00 

Telus : $68,123.52 

Aquilini Group : $ 80,700.00 

Brookfield Asset Management/ Brookfield Timber Management : $ 60, 000.00 ( note Richard Legault and Barry Blattman, whose names seem to come up in everything Liberal related. 

Timberwest: $ 60,988 

West Fraser: $ 108,089 

Catalyst: $ 24, 500.00  ( guess they couldn’t have been doing too poorly if they could still afford donations to the Liberals…  

Jim Pattison Group and Great Pacific Investments: $10,500.oo ( down from previous years)   

Well, that’s all folks. If you are an average person like me, this all stinks to high heaven. Smaller companies who can’t , or won’t play the game are getting left out in the cold time and time again.  Clearly, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know -and how much you donate to them. Think about that next time you are driving over the Port Mann bridge…

“The kind of corruption the media talk about, the kind the Supreme Court was concerned about, involves the putative sale of votes in exchange for campaign contributions. “~ James L.Buckley

I wonder how our dear premier is feeling this morning? Because depending on what side you take, the latest news regarding the political campaign contributions made by various special prosecutors ( Kash Heed’s messy election campaign investigation + the Basi- Virk trial) have got to be revelations carrying a double edged sword. Yes, reveal the possibility of hidden motives and alliances, by all means –  this is the crux of what we strive for in most of the blogosphere. However the revelation of the political contribution of  the special prosecutor in the Basi-Virk Trial may also have a far greater impact on where that trial ends than any allegations or charges faced by the accused, or by any evidence presented in that oh- so secretive courtroom.

Political contributions have long been the avenue of unofficial lobbying and influence for many a businessman or corporation. Say as you may that making a monetary contribution to one party only does not exert any influence or conflict, the fact is that it does, because in election campaigns , every single penny matters – just ask Kash Heed.  It is well demonstrated in British Columbia that large political contributions by corporations often result in favourable contracts or business deals down the road,  case in point perhaps for the next in line may be Enbridge.

The Enbridge pipeline has been a favored blog topic for me in the past, because of the vast impact this one project will have on all British Columbians.  For more  of my posts on Enbridge, check out these links:






Enbridge operates a smooth, well oiled( no pun intended) public relations team that makes the project seem like the best thing to hit this province since…. run of the river projects. Enbridge has since received staunch opposition from First Nations in this province, as well as residents and business alike in the northern part of our province where the pipeline is proposed.

With all the Liberals seemingly on board with such a contentious proposition, and with so much profit at risk for Enbridge should the project fail to proceed, one would wonder if Enbridge  dabbled in the political contribution arena at all….. so, off to elections BC to check the contributors list… and BINGO.


Combined Contributions Search Results (S-A1-A)

S-A1-A – Your Search Criteria
Contributor Name Date From Date To Party
enbridge      (ALL)
  S-A1-A – Your Search Results
  Total Contribution For This Search: $50,290.00 
Records 1-19 of 19 
Contributor Name Date Amount Party Class Principal Officer 1 Principal Officer 2
ENBRIDGE INC. 2008/04/30 $520.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
ENBRIDGE INC. 2008/04/30 $3,500.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
ENBRIDGE INC. 2005/12/31 $3,500.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
ENBRIDGE INC. 2005/12/31 $4,000.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
ENBRIDGE INC. 2007/09/14 $100.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
ENBRIDGE INC. 2007/12/31 $4,000.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    
ENBRIDGE INC. 2007/12/31 $4,000.00 BC LIBERAL PARTY 2    

Roger Harris, Vice President of Aboriginal and Community Partnerships  for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines has personally contributed as well. http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Contributor=roger%20harris&PartySK=0&Party=(ALL)&DateTo=&DateFrom=&DFYear=&DFMonth=&DFDay=&DTYear=&DTMonth=&DTDay=

While $50 k might not seem like a lot, in the grand scheme of a mult-million dollar project, I think it speaks volumes, just as the recent revelations do of political contributions of the special prosecutor  involved in charge consideration in the Kash Heed matter, and as it does in the special prosecutor appointed to the Basi-Virk proceedings. And while for all  the players involved in these debacles, it may be just’ business as usual’ in the province of British Columbia, to the rest of us it stinks to high heaven of inconsistencies and corruption at all levels of government and law. 

The questions remain: why does this still continue ? – and how much more is there to find out?

But…. before I go, take a look at this blog post passed on to myself by a wonderful reader. http://ponderingsitec.blogspot.com/ Although a newly born blog, clearly there promises to be some questions posed here that should be answered.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Green Energy Program?!?!?

A quick look at some of the Site C pre-construction reveals some interesting “green” ideas.

They claim they will recover one million cubic meters of marketable wood products. That’s a pretty good trick in today’s world.
A million cubic meters of additional wood in the Ft St John regional market is going to clearly cut logging activity in other places.
You can bet they won’t be getting premium prices for it either. This really would be a fire sale. They either have to sell it or burn it.

Better yet in the “green energy program” is the other stuff they have to get rid of.

They are apparently going to have a go at creating the worlds largest compost pile. The legacy left by Campbell and ‘Larry The Cable Guy’ Lekstrom could then include a great big mud dam and a footnote in the Guinness Book Of Records.

They note they will be removing 500,000 metric tons of WASTE VEGETATION. They are going to have to put it somewhere.

Just exactly what is waste vegetation? Is that the stuff that doesn’t filter CO2?

No matter says Larry………..lets git er done ……… now I don’t care who yar…… thats green thinkin right thar.

Posted by A Critical Eye at 9:39 AM 0 comments
Good questions, no?

“Scope changes” to South Fraser Perimeter Road fuels rumours that the project is dead – and the Liberals are out of money.

What?? You don’t say??  Are the Liberals once againover budget, and underfunded – before a project even starts? NOoooo…. say it ain’t so!!!!

A little birdie flew by my window tonight, and whispered some sweet nothings in my ear… oh so sweet… regarding that often protested and over-hyped South Fraser Perimeter Road( part of the Gateway project) we all love to hate.  I swear, I nearly had a braingasm when I heard this.

Apparently, there have been several small configuration changes already to the plans, and rumour has it that even now, after the bids have been in for several weeks, the Liberals( Ministry of Transportation)  are considering some ” scope changes ” . Which could mean there are “cash flow problems” that require a significant reduction in the magnitude of the project…..

Hmmm. Have the Liberals gone and distributed the pie before it was actually made and baked again?  Because there was already a change to the structure of construction payments done, to reduce the need to raise financing to do the project…. 

Now. Between you, and I, (and all the Public Affairs Bureau employees who are no doubt in “code red” mode right now), this information set my bullsh*t detector off like you wouldn’t believe, partly because of the way the MOT rammed the Port Mann Bride through even after the winning bidder lost their financing.  It would seem to me that the Liberals have a public procurement policy in place that seems to be rigid and besieged with rules, yet those same rules are able to be altered at a moments notice. Again- see that Port Mann link just above.

Again, as with most major transportation projects in BC, the shortlist of proponents is a who’s who of favorite BC Liberal bidders, and nary a truly Canadian company among the various consortiums.  See what I mean:

Fraser Transportation Group – includes Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras, S.A. of Spain and Zachry American Infrastructure of Texas as equity partners and Dragados S.A. as the lead design build contractor.   

 South River Connector – includes Babcock & Brown Public Partnerships Limited Partnership and Bilfinger Berger Project Investments Inc. as equity partners, with Peter Kiewit Sons Co. and PCL Consultants Westcoast Inc. as the design build contractors.

 The Riverway Partnership – includes the Spanish firm of Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. and the Canadian firm of SNC-Lavalin Inc. as equity partners, with Ferrovial Agromàn, S.A. of Spain and locally based SNC-Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc. as design build contractors.

With the exception of SNC-Lavelin, it seems that as usual,BC money is flowing out of the province. Nothing new there. And of course, all the same names, in all the same places. SNC is not without some .. creative employees, if you recall.

But, here is the thing about all of this. It stinks. It doesn’t make sense! What if the BC liberals have hedged a bet on what they thought was a sure thing… but got it all horribly wrong ?

Charlie Smith, of the Georgia Straight, seems to be thinking the same thing. Here is an excerpt of an article I just found that will surely make you go ” Hmmmmm…”

The B.C. Liberal government has tried to position our province to be the beneficiary of growing transoceanic trade.

Part of this strategy is the Gateway Program, which is an unprecedented, multibillion-dollar road-building exercise that includes a new Port Mann Bridge, a widening of Highway 1, and a South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Agricultural land is being sacrificed for pavement and to create space for containers coming from China.

Metro Vancouver has previously reported the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure secured approximately 110 hectares of agricultural land for the South Fraser Perimeter Road and the Golden Ears Bridge projects.

According to the theory of comparative advantage, we can rely on people in other parts of the world to grow our food because they’re better at this than we are. We’ll just trade for more of it as we need it.


This weekend, China reported its first trade deficit in six years. According to Xinhua News Agency, the country posted a $7.24 billion trade deficit in March. This will come as no surprise to anyone who read Rubin’s 2009 book, Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization (Random House Canada).

China still has a trade surplus through the first three months of the year. And overall trade still grew, which will be cited by those who don’t see any economic transformation occurring as a result of diminishing oil supplies and climate change.

Here at home, Statistics Canada reported last month that the pace of Canadian exports slowed in January. Exports to the U.S. declined 0.6 percent and imports fell by 0.5 percent.

Exports to countries other than the U.S. rose 3.8 percent, whereas imports from countries other than the United States decreased 3.9 percent, led by a fall from the European Union.

For the past 25 years, the corporate sector in Canada has promoted trade as some sort of economic panacea. You’ll sometimes hear economists say that countries that trade don’t go to war.

But all might not be as well as it seems, particularly if oil prices continue rising. The current price of US $85 per barrel is relatively high on an inflation-adjusted basis.

As this chart indicates, oil prices have only surpassed this level on an inflation-adjusted basis three times before: 1980, 1981, and 2008.

The inflationary period in the early 1980s triggered the worst economic slowdown since the Second World War.

Everyone knows what happened to the world economy in 2008. International trade plummeted as a result.

It could happen again.

I’m beginning to wonder if the B.C. Liberal government and its cheerleaders in the media are looking in the rear-view mirror–and not to the future–when they promote policies like the HST that blindly assume that more international trade is inevitable.

Ahhh… I love Charlie, I really do. This is a great piece, once that should be read far and wide with the rest of this blog. Of course, I have a soft spot for Charlie since  he did this wonderful bit that contains THE video Gordon Campbell would rather you not see.

Clearly, something is amiss in Lotusland this evening, and I’m not talking about the Canucks loss in OT. This HST petition is about so much more than the HST. It is about everything this man has done to BC in his alleged Golden Decade ( of delusion) and British Columbians have focussed all of that anger, on the HST

You all need to be asking some questions tonight. When we live in a supposedly free country, why is everything such a damn secret?  Have the Liberals put themselves in a position of possible litigation again if they do not proceed with this project? Are they relying on this supposedly ” revenue neutral” tax to pay for overpriced projects deemed necessary far before the current world economic conditions existed?

It may be speculation at this point, but I have learned where there is smoke, there is usually fire. I suspect this latest news is the spark for something far bigger.

 Time for Campbell to go.

**** Update to this post HERE – Sunday May 9th/2010 : http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/fraser-transportation-group-chosen-as-preferred-bidder-for-south-fraser-perimeter-road/

Tercon contractors ltd vs British Columbia(Ministry of Transportation) update WEDNESDAY – the rest of the story…

Full history on my first post : http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/tercon-contractors-ltd-vs-british-columbia-ministry-of-transportation-and-highways/

And the Supreme Court Judgement  story:  http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/breaking-news-supreme-court-rules-in-tercon-contractors-ltd-vs-british-columbiaministry-of-transportation/

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:  http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/laila-yuile-says-time-to-start-those-tolls-on-the-sea-to-sky-highway/  .

The second is here  – and construction/legal publications aside – has not been covered  anywhere else by the local media to date : http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/tercon-contractors-ltd-vs-british-columbia-ministry-of-transportation-and-highways/  

 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.

Tercon Contractors Ltd vs. British Columbia ( Ministry of Transportation and Highways)

If it can be said there is any good that has come from the infamous and inexhaustible BC Rail debacle, it would be that it opened my eyes to much of what goes on with the tendering process within many ministries of the B.C. government.

In particular, tendering irregularities, for lack of a better word. Irregularities and mysteries as to how public contracts are awarded to the companies who submit bids for them, big or small.

 I’ve blogged several times about the sea to sky highway ( or the Sea to Sly Highway, as I refer to it), and the Port Mann bridge project, both with regards to the contractors and how  or why those bids were awarded.  I’ve been told by many professionals within the  BC road construction industry that there are serious questions many contractors have regarding  the entire tendering process, whether it be the P-3 model, or what was traditionally an open bid and award process for public projects. Throughout the conversations I’ve had, one thing became glaringly clear :  something is wrong with the tendering and bidding process for public projects in BC.

And nowhere is this more substantially shown than in a lawsuit that has been quietly going on since 2004 , when  a  road construction company said enough is enough, and took the Province of British Columbia to court :  Tercon Contractors Ltd. vs British Columbia ( Ministry of Transportation) .

I say quietly only in reference to the  mainstream media, of course, because I could find naught about it in the news most people read, but law journals, legal publications and construction companies everywhere in Canada have been buzzing about it for years. The implications of the pending outcome of this case are serious for the construction industry across Canada, as well as for how governments conduct the bidding process.

It is a long case, but easily understand to most and there are certain to be arguments made for those legally inclined among you, but let me take you through the gist of it.

The  B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Highways put forth a request for  Expressions of Interest to construct  a 25 kilometre strip of highway in northern BC, in 2001. 6 companies responded to that request, and were evaluated for eligibility through the ministry’s process.

 The Ministry then issued a Request for Proposals, of which only the shortlisted companies that met the eligibility requirements would be allowed to submit proposals. Tercon  and another company, Brentwood Enterprises, both made the shortlist of  companies that met the eligibility requirements.

At some point prior to the submission of the RFP, Brentwood –  who had become eligible based on their company alone –  took steps to enter into a joint venture with another company that had not undergone the eligibility review of the initial process, and the ministry was made aware of this prior to their submission.  Now, this is where it gets sticky.

This excerpt from a case-law comment provides the easiest explanation of what happened then:

Through a series of correspondence and discussions, both pre- and post-RFP closing, the Ministry was alerted to the fact that the Brentwood proposal was, in essence, a joint venture submission on behalf of Brentwood and Emil Anderson.

However, in an attempt to submit a compliant proposal, the Brentwood/Emil Anderson proposal was submitted solely under Brentwood’s name.

  When the Ministry conducted its evaluation of all proposals, the “Brentwood” proposal received the highest rating. Recognizing the potential problem with the Brentwood submission, the Ministry sought legal advice as to how it might accept the Brentwood proposal despite the fact that it was essentially not a submission by a firm short-listed as a result of the RFEI evaluation.

In addition, the Ministry actually amended draft copies of evaluation reports to hide the fact that the Brentwood proposal was truly a submission from a joint venture and amended the terms of the construction contract (“Contract B”) to identify Emil Anderson as a “major member of theContractor’s construction team.” 

Ultimately, the Ministry awarded the construction contract to Brentwood and Tercon sued for breach of Contract A.

The judge found in favor of Tercon and awarded the company $ 3,293.998.00 in damages. She had this to say in her summary, which can be read in the following PDF file  : tercon reasons for judgement 2006 

 The Ministry acted egregiously when it knew or should have known that the Brentwood bid was not compliant and then acted to incorporate EAC indirectly in contract B whilst ensuring that this fact was not disclosed. These circumstances do not lead this court to give aid to the defendant by holding the plaintiff to this clause.

 Of course, the ministry appealed, and the judgement was overturned because the appeal judges felt the exclusion clause built into the contract spelled out the terms concisely and without mistake.

 In their eyes, despite the ministry’s involvement in accepting an ineligible bidder, and disguising that fact from other bidders and their own documents,  the clause excluded the ministry from any actions brought forth by other bidders, as Tercon took to do.  That case summary can be read HERE.

Again, the full implications of the case have yet to hit home, because Tercon took leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, who heard the case early last year : http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/case-dossier/cms-sgd/sum-som-eng.aspx?cas=32460

The Supreme court has yet to rule on this case, although the fact that they are taking so long  would seem to suggest a favorable rule towards Tercon, as relayed by some construction lawyers across Canada. Clearly, there stands at risk  the entire integrity of the bidding system, which appears to be horribly breached.

Should the Supreme court rule against Tercon, we can expect what many categorize as the currently unfair and irregular tendering process to continue, with the resulting  consequences.  As stated in this case comment on the BC appeal:

For many years, Canadian courts have recognized the need to protect the integrity of the tender process. Our courts have often acted boldly to ensure fairness in the tender process, but our courts are ultimately constrained by the law of contract in affording relief to aggrieved bidders.

Where owners have acted unfairly, courts have often decided that the bid contract (created when a compliant bid is submitted) contains implied terms prohibiting that unfairness. When owners have responded by including, in the next call for tenders, express terms which give them wide latitude in the way bidders can be treated, the courts have attempted to interpret those express terms in ways which preserve the integrity of the tender process.

This contest between owners and the courts has resulted in tender packages containing terms which are more and more explicit in favor of owners, and which have recently created much difficulty for our courts in trying to maintain the integrity of the tender process.


Owners need to understand that if they include tender terms that allow them, with impunity, to treat bidders unfairly, they may see fewer bids, intentionally non-compliant bids, and higher bids.

 If the Instructions contain terms which allow owners to treat bidders in a way not normally expected (for example, allowing owners to accept non-compliant bids, allowing owners to negotiate with bidders after the close of tenders or prohibiting any claims by bidders for anything related to the tender process), then potential bidders may decide against bidding, may submit an intentionally non-compliant bid (revocable at any time) or bid higher than they normally would.
I would be terribly remiss to fail and remind you that  Judith Reid was the transportation minister at the time this project was being bid on. Kevin Falcon took over the Ministry of Transportation in January of 2004, where he remained until last year. I wonder what either would have to say should the Supreme court rules in favor of Tercon and the $3 million dollar judgement ordered to be paid out by the Provincial Government ?
$3 million of taxpayers money, at that. 
But there is more. Although the bulk of complaints about the government procurement process have occurred in recent years, tendering irregularities  go back  further than that. In the 1990’s, Tercon took the provincial government to court in a wrongful award suit, and won damages as well.  Details are in this PDF document : tercon reasons for judgement north island highway
The government appealed and  was unsuccessful in their appeal . The judgement was upheld, and it is believed that this initial case paved the road for the case Tercon is currently awaiting ruling on from the Supreme court

 Whether  the actions of the government are due to honest mistake, ignorance, incompetence or  corruption in either of these cases, is completely open to interpretation, and I will let you decide for yourself what you believe after reading the links and documents within this post.

 Clearly, something is grievously wrong with how things are operating within public process in British Columbia, and  the question must be asked, why does it continue unabated?

My curiosities for this type of ad hoc policy began when the Port Mann bridge bidder lost their financing and the province still awarded them the contract- simply making the project a public one, rather than a P-3. 

 Even to a layperson with little knowledge of tendering, bids and contract law, it would seem odd. One would think that if the successful bidder could no longer meet the specifications and requirements  of the bid,  in particular, an inability to provide the financing demanded by the province, that the deal would be null and void and the contract would be awarded to the next lowest bidder who met the qualifications. 

It just makes sense – or at least it does to me.

 But then I became really piqued by all the emails I began receiving from very knowledgable people in the industry, who said this kind of thing happens all the time, even with public projects. I posted an excerpt from one of those emails in this post here, highlighted in yellow. I suggest you read it if you have not, because it spells out the issue with the Port Mann failed P3 proposal so concisely.

Many in the BC construction industry have been complaining for years about what they call the lack of checks and balances in public project procurement. This article from 2008, written by Steve Weatherbe,  highlights a concern held throughout much of the industry at that time. Here is  an excerpt:

Then there is the whole public procurement picture in the province, formerly done according to the traditional open and transparent bidding process. This has gone by the boards, says Knappett, since the Liberals disbanded the Capital Division of the Finance Ministry, which had enforced these practices on various spending authorities such as school and hospital boards.

Now a method called “construction management” has replaced the traditional method where the projector commissions a design and puts out tenders based on it, awarding the low bid. Now the projector seeks a contract manager based an ad-hoc points system which according to Knappett is often tailored to favour a company already doing business with the projector. School boards, universities and hospital boards on Vancouver Island are now using this method for contracts too small for P3s.

Greg Baynton, president of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, says the industry has been trying for five years to get the Liberal government to discuss the issue. His view is that the government has hitched its fortune to the P3 star in reaction to the 100-per-cent cost overrun of the Vancouver convention centre.

But the overrun was not an indictment of the traditional tendering system, he says. “They had such a sense of urgency about the convention centre they removed the checks and balances.” The originally projected cost of the centre, moreover, was concocted out of thin air. No design had been done first upon which to base an estimate.


“What happens when contracts aren’t tendered openly and the results aren’t transparent?” asks Knappett. History provides the answer in one word, he says: “corruption.”

It’s 2010 now, and nothing has changed since the publication of that article. At the time, then finance minister Carole Taylor had this to say about P-3’s and other public project procurement issues :

Finance Minister Carole Taylor told the Business Examiner that, local contractors are often let in on the big P3 projects as sub-contractors.

“They are a huge success,” she said. “There are over 20 now and all are on budget.” She cited the huge overrun with Vancouver’s convention centre as an example of what can happen without P3s.

“When we can transfer that kind of risk to P3s, we do.”

Taylor further contended that Partnerships BC is not necessarily involved in P3s: the independent spending authorities can negotiate these on their own.

As for procurement by these authorities of projects not destined for P3s, Taylor said the provincial government was looking into the construction industry’s complaints about inconsistency.

Today, the complaints remain regarding the entire tender and bid process in British Columbia. But isn’t it refreshing to hear that the person being billed as a shoe-in for premier loves the concept of P-3’s?

Another thought that occurred to me while looking over all of this, is why hasn’t someone taken this up with the competition bureau? If they can address bid-rigging, they should be able to address these procurement irregularities, because the effect is essentially the same. Collusion, and deception, resulting in the same companies getting all the jobs – over and over again. Seems to be an unfair market practice if you ask me.

  Should the Supreme court find in favor of the Province of British Columbia in the Tercon case, construction companies and contractors  can look forward to more unease when submitting bids to the ministry.  A ruling of this nature would be saying in essence, that it is perfectly legal  for the province to treat bidders however they wish to – with unfair practices, or  even with the use of deception, as long as the exclusion clause is there.  To say that this opens the door to intentionally non-compliant bids is an understatement.

My hope it that the court sees fit to uphold the integrity of the bidding process,  and rule in favor of Tercon, so that contractors can feel safe to bid in good faith without worrying whether or not the province is making deals on the side.

To do anything other, is to condone corruption within government by our highest court- a concept I find disturbing, to say the least.

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: http://joanarque.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/shady-behaviour/

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.

The decision is in: Supreme Court of Canada rules “secret witness” in Basi-Virk trial, will remain a secret.

A victory that may see the trial beginning as soon as January 201o!

Bill Tieleman has the ruling on his site now, and will be following with his analysis as the day continues, so be sure to check back shortly. Here is an excerpt of his breaking news story from moments after the decision was handed down:

Basi-Virk Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino has won a landmark appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada this morning when the court overturned two BC lower court rulings on the issue of secret witness testimony in the BC Rail corruption case.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision means testimony about why a police informer must have his or her identity protected will take place with defence counsel, media and the public all excluded – leaving only trial judge Anne MacKenzie and the Special Prosecutor team present in BC Supreme Court.

The decision also means the trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi will proceed as early as January 2010 – unless defence lawyers are successful in having it dismissed with an abuse of process motion they plan to introduce soon.

Former BC Liberal government ministerial assistants David Basi and Virk face breach of trust and fraud charges over allegations they provided confidential information about the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003 to lobbyists acting for a bidder in exchange for money and other benefits. Aneal Basi faces money laundering charges related to the case.

The case exploded into public view when police raided the BC Legislature in an unprecedented search for evidence on December 28, 2003 but the case has been repeatedly delayed from going to trial over disclosure of evidence issues. Defence lawyers say there are now “millions” of pages of evidence.


I’ve run out of memory.

Computer memory that is.Let me assure you, this is QUITE an inconvenience, not to mention very frustrating!

As a result, today you are going to get this crappy message rather than the really revealing post I’ve been working on about a large company involved in BC public projects…that has a very ” interesting” corporate history. And on that note, let me leave you with a couple quotes I found rather pertinent in this endeavor….

” The road to truth is long, and lined with annoying bastards…” ~ Alexander Jablokov

“A lie would have no purpose, unless the truth were felt as dangerous” ~ Alfred Adler