David Eby did a good thing this week. Nope, he didn’t call a public inquiry ( still waiting David), but he did reintroduce legislation that would ward off nuisance lawsuits filed just to shut up public debate and peaceful protest.
The legislation “allows people to apply to have lawsuits against them dismissed if it relates to an expression on a matter of public interest.
Under the legislation the defendant can make an application to the court.
The plaintiff would then have to satisfy the court that there are grounds to believe that the lawsuit has “substantial merit” and that the applicant has “no valid defence”.
In addition, the plaintiff must show that the harm suffered by the applicant’s expression “is serious enough that the public interest in continuing the proceeding outweighs the public interest in protecting that expression”.
It’s a good thing. But it won’t help the Peace Valley residents who peacefully camped along the Peace River in subzero weather the winter of 2015/2016.
The legislation is only retroactive until May 2018. So the remaining defendants, all women except for one, live with a $460 million dollar lawsuit over their heads. It’s not enough several are losing their homes, their dreams and family history, BC Hydro still wants more.
This government is never going to stop this dam. Sadly, sometimes man still needs to learn things the hard way. But I still hope, like that old Stevie Nick’s song, that a landslide brings it down when crews are on a break, because only mother nature can stop this now….ironically even the CD Howe institute said recently it should still be canceled. https://www.google.ca/amp/s/biv.com/article/2019/01/cancel-site-c-build-gas-plants-wind-power-cd-howe%3famp
Usually I don’t do petitions. They rarely do anything but make people feel like they did something. Which isn’t a bad thing..unless you immediately forget about the issue.
I can’t forget about this. The fight The dam. The valley. The beauty of it’s vast expanses and most of all its people. I think the right thing to do, in the spirit of this new legislation,is for BC Hydro to drop the SLAPP suit. Let them grieve what has been taken, and what is yet to be lost.
My friend Shelley started this petition today, wanting this insurmountable burden lifted from our friends. Her heart is big and she wants to see this happen. It’s my hope you’ll all sign and share and tag Michelle Mungall and BC Hydro with it too.
Stopping suits like this is exactly why this legislation was created. This was never about the money for BC Hydro. This was about silencing them… and if they couldn’t crush their spirit, they’d crush them with crippling debt.
Withdrawing this SLAPP suit, is the right thing to do.
Long time readers know well my interest in public projects in BC, and the many complaints made by insiders in the industry about ‘ irregular bidding practices’ on many projects. I’ve followed SNC Lavalin through several projects with interest and detailed how SNC employees have gone onto work in the BC government, and how BC govt employees from the transportation ministry have gone onto work for SNC Lavalin.
Which is why, when the allegations of the PMO’s office pressuring Judy Wilson-Raybould to interfere in the SNC Lavalin case became public, my ears perked up and I did a bit of looking around to see what I could see..and sure enough SNC had been trying to drum up business here in BC while this trial played out in Quebec.
On November 1st 2018, SNC Lavalins ceo spoke to the press trying to ease concerns over the trial.
On November 14th 2018, in the midst of the trial back east, a lobbyist registered here in BC, on behalf of SNC Lavalin, to “Arrange a series of meetings with BC Government officials and SNC Lavalin representatives to provide an understanding of the professional capabilities and expertise in the area designing, engineering, and construction of oil and gas projects.”
That lobbyist was Richard Prokopanko, former Rio Tinto Alcan rep who made the news back in 2012 for getting a free ride on ‘Air Christy’ https://thetyee.ca/News/2012/03/02/Air-Christy/
(Of note, although the registration was November 14th, the undertaking date for lobbying activities was posted as November 6th)
So who did Prokopanko meet with? See below.
Now.. of course SNC Lavalin, faced with woes far and wide, is going to try and drum up some business with the new government-dear God, please don’t go down this road gain!
But considering that Rich Coleman is basically a big nothing burger in the Opposition ranks now, why did SNC Lavalin meet with him, and what did they talk about? He has no sway now…or does he?
Oh to be a fly on the wall of those meetings and I do hope an enterprising reporter does an FOI on that or at least questions what occurred and what was said…particularly at the meeting with Rich Coleman. ( Perhaps they are friends? Rich Coleman was on that Air Christy flight with Prokopanko,referenced above, too)
I hope every NDP mla will share what Propopanko wanted to sell…and if further meetings with SNC representatives occurred. After all, SNC has a long history in BC.
SNC business in BC
With the revelations in the bribery trial back east, it’s often surprised me that reporters haven’t looked harder at what work SNC has done here, just out of curiosity if nothing else.
The connection between SNC Lavalin and its subsidiaries that have been involved in BC projects was very strong and close under the BC Liberal government, and often did raise questions, most unanswered due to lack of transparency, and lack of ability for most reporters to know even what to ask.
And I could go on for days – SNC Lavalin also manage to get the lead design for Site C, a project under fire for direct award bids that should have gone to tender instead.
Corruption? There ain’t no corruption going on!
One thing that I again found compelling while going through these older posts, was a link I had inserted from 2011, when Pierrie Duhaime screamed loudly that Quebec DID NOT need a corruption inquiry. He was in fact adamant about it and I knew then that there was a lot he was worried about… and it reminded me of the people opposing a public inquiry in BC right now:
“The head of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin said Monday a report on alleged corruption in Quebec’s construction industry raises “troubling” issues, but not enough to warrant a public inquiry. Pierre Duhaime said the report by former Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau was very broad and didn’t substantiate allegations that have shaken the industry for nearly three years.
“What is surprising is that the report touches so many areas with so few facts. It surprised me to see a report with so little substance but so many allusions,” he said after speaking to the Canadian Club of Montreal.
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.
Premier Jean Charest has refused to call a public inquiry even though the report alleged ties among the province’s construction industry, its political parties and organized crime.
The report prepared by a Charest-appointed anti-collusion task force was leaked to media outlets last week.
It says a corrupt and weak civil service has allowed construction companies to drive up the price of public-works contracts in Quebec.
It suggests that last year alone there was a $347-million difference between original contract amounts and the final price tags.
At the end of the process, the report says, some of the companies’ profits are plowed into the coffers of political parties.
Perhaps the most explosive allegations revolve around ties between construction companies, the Mafia and criminal biker gangs.
It says the criminals act as enforcers for friendly construction companies, preventing rival firms from getting work done with threats or by pulling strings to create red tape.
Oh that outrage from Duhaime about there being no corruption didn’t age well, did it? Because he just ” pleaded guilty to a charge of helping a public servant commit breach of trust for his role in a bribery scandal around the construction of a $1.3-billion Montreal hospital. ”
But wow…does that quoted article sound like BC or what? Donations. Bids. Overpriced projects….
Why does all this matter?
Over years of research into specific public projects in BC, some of which was picked up by media outlets, I talked to a lot of industry insiders and heard a lot of allegations. Some of the people I spoke to took the time to teach me where and what to look for, and how to know what was standard business practice or something more unethical.
Some of those stories resulted in some of the most popular posts on my Best Of page, others that could not be proven by FOI ( records not found) were not written. But as we know, the last government had a strong record of not only deleting records, but of failing to document as well. ( see Rich Colemans statement ” I don’t deal in paper” ) Just because an FOI doesn’t result in records, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And like many other stories breaking now in the money laundering file, no one wanted to go on record.
Some of what was discovered was disturbing enough that I was relieved when the Ministry of Public Safety expanded their corruption probe into Quebecs industry, to include BC… and when it was complete, I requested a copy by FOI, and it was just emailed to me immediately without having to go through the process. And like the report Pierrie Duhaime said was just a bunch of unsubstantiated stuff from anonymous sources,we know now, that those anonymous sources were right. And I must bring this up again because any judicial inquiry in BC must not be limited to money laundering and gaming.. it must go much further.
An inquiry – which must have subpoena powers – isn’t about calling international crooks to testify- that is never going to happen. It’s about the domestic government and institutional failures that allowed this all to happen. Who. Why. When. Where and How can we prevent this from ever happening again. Journalism basics practiced on a judicial level. And contrary to what Horgan said yesterday, it can’t all be chalked up to incompetence – he should talk to Pierre Duhaime about the consequences of willful blindness....
No one denied anything…because no one wanted to talk about it.
I’m going to leave you with some excerpts from that Public Safety Report into corruption in construction in BC, because if I didn’t it would be a missed opportunity. If you’ve seen it before, just go have coffee or back to work. If you haven’t, think about what happened in Quebec…and why everyone is so damn naive to think it didn’t or isn’t happening here in BC too.
Imagine that. So few of the people or organisations 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.
- 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. ( Cartels are groups of businesses that operate together to lessen competition on jobs,often dividing projects into specific area of bidding for certain companies. It has been rumoured this is occurring on some big projects in BC, and other jurisdictions are cracking down on it, asking for whistleblowers to come forward )
- 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 and more recently the sea to sky retaining walls where unapproved substandard rebar was used. – 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 public 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.
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.
Two new bits of news today that will leave you shaking your head, discussion ongoing in the comments on this too:
1) SNC Lavalin & Kiewit among qualified bidders for Patullo bridge replacement
2) SNC Lavalin subject of new criminal probe in bridge project.
Gee. I guess corruption trials and criminal probes dont bother the BC govt crew in the Ministry of Transportation…..
In light of the health firings tragic & despicable scandal, the Plecas report allegations and the weekends W5 report, I thought it would be timely to revisit an older post that still resonates. Not only does it resonate, it clearly establishes a pattern that is still often repeated within public service across Canada when individuals come forward and blow the whistle on wrong that’s been done. Instead of trying to correct the wrong, often the individual is targeted,maligned, isolated from peers, and made to feel ‘crazy’. Only…they aren’t.
This is what needs to be addressed. Whistleblower legislation must protect people, and give them a safe space to come forward, seperate from every ministry.
In reading this, it is also timely to point out one man, Brian Mcadam, must feel somewhat vindicated by many of the revelations that have now surfaced…many of today’s reports of Triads, drug trafficking and money laundering were mentioned back in the Sidewinder report debunked by both RCMP and the federal government of the days. ( surprised no ones talked about this yet in relation to all this,but then that would out the feds under scrutiny again too)
Without further delay, here is that repost from 2012:
Truth does not always come without a cost,personal or professional.
However, these men and women have not not allowed themselves to be bullied, nor silenced, nor do many Canadians know their incredible stories.
This is a phenomenal piece, detailing four Canadian lesser known heroes and how the Canadian government shafted each of them in an effort to silence the truth they bravely came forward to tell..
WHISTLEBLOWERS AND PUBLIC SERVICE GOVERNANCE
OTTAWA SOUTH ROTARY CLUB
Hunt Club Golf course clubhouse
16 July 2012
Canada has witnessed no shortage of major corruption scandals; the following come readily to mind:
Tainted Blood, in which about 60,000 Canadians were infected with hepatitis C, some of them fatally.
The Gun Registry, in which a program with a budget of $2 million spent $1 billion without authorization or adequate reporting of cost overruns to Parliament.
The Sponsorship Scandal, in which millions of dollars of public money were diverted illegally to government-favoured advertising agencies.
Other advanced democracies have adopted whistleblower protection partly as an anticorruption strategy. The U.S. is the pioneer in the field, and took the first steps more than 30 years ago. The UK has had effective legislation in place for more than a decade, which covers its entire workforce. This includes a tribunal system that has processed more than 7,000 whistleblower cases.
The history of such legislation in Canada is one of foot-dragging by politicians and officials alike. Successive governments have promised whistleblower protection for years. We still have no legislation that works effectively and no agency that reliably protects public servants at any level of government, or in the private sector, or in any part of the country. In terms of protecting conscientious and courageous employees from reprisals, Canada is still largely a wasteland.
Our Westminster system of government itself has a serious structural flaw in terms of modern best democratic practices. With the fused executive and legislative branches, our Executive Democracy encourages legislators to defer excessively to party leaders, whether prime ministers, premiers or opposition leaders. In turn, public servants in both national and provincial capitals answer to deputy ministers, not to the general public good or taxpayers.
This institutional and cultural reality is a major reason why, among related governance problems, there has been so little development of effective whistleblower legislation across our country.
Four National Heroes
As a property specialist in the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade starting in1992, lawyer Gualtieri exposed gross waste and extravagance in the procurement of accommodation for some of our diplomats abroad. In Tokyo, for example, government owned residences valued up to $18 million sat vacant while large sums were spent renting other accommodation senior diplomats preferred. She also discovered that luxury living in violation of Treasury Board policy was the norm in the Americas. Rather than correct the policy breaches, managers retaliated, harassing her and eventually forcing her out of her job in 1995. Both times she attempted to return to her job, she faced the same hostile environment and refusal to allow her to do her work. In 1998, she left the department for good.
Despite acknowledgement in internal documents that her case had merit, the ministry publicly asserted that nothing wrong had been done. When Gualtieri sued, Justice Department lawyers used a range of tactics to drag out her suit for 12 years, forcing her, for example, to answer more than 10,500 pre-trial questions. The strategy was clearly to ruin her with massive legal bills and break her spirit.
In the end, the government settled, virtually at the court house in early 2010, thus avoiding a public trial which would have exposed incompetence and waste. Gualtieri now has her life back, although she was harmed from the loss of almost twenty tears in an unequal legal battle seeking to make an example of her as to what happens to public servants who fail to tow the management line.
As part of the settlement, she is today subject to a gag order, preventing her from speaking about the misfeasance she put her career on the line to expose.
A career immigration officer, McAdam learned in 1991 that our immigration office in Hong Kong might have been penetrated by organized crime, allowing criminals to immigrate to Canada. His exposure of corruption, missing blank visas, fake embassy stamps, reports about organized criminals known as Triads, penetration of top-secret files in the computer system, inappropriate gifts to staff, and revelations about Chinese party-state espionage activities were poorly investigated.
Rather than correct serious problems, senior managers instead turned on McAdam, eventually forcing him out of his 30 year government service. As well, they stalled, blocked and undermined subsequent inquiries into his allegations. Much evidence he provided to a joint RCMP-CSIS investigation was destroyed; CSIS top management shredded ‘Sidewinder’,the report confirming his concerns in 1997. The government ignored an Auditor General report corroborating McAdam’s concerns about the computer system, a serious rebuke by the RCMP Review Committee, other agencies intelligence reports, and one of the largest espionage probes ever done in the U.S.
In 2007 and 2008, Chamberlain, a manager at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, experienced repeated sexual and aggressive harassment at the hands of the executive to whom she reported and an excessive workload from managers above him. Instead of disciplining the harasser and moving her, senior management opted to close ranks and deploy the familiar tools, “deny, delay, devalue and discriminate”, breaching workplace human rights and safety policies.
Chamberlain’s doctors diagnosed severe post-traumatic injury and requested that she be relocated to a new organization and position. This was refused despite her strong 20-year job performance. A number of officials from her department and Treasury Board even asked her to remit an assault-form and sign a declaration that the harasser was a “third party”, although he remains today in his position. Chamberlain brought her case to adjudication in the spring of 2009, asked for reassignment help and tried on her own to look for other positions. Her time before the Public Service Labour Relations Board will soon total 35 days without any resolution on the horizon (She is in hearing today).
She has lost her two-decade career; yet the perpetrators of the harassment, breaches and stalling remain, highly-paid, in their public service jobs.
In 2005, former Air Force intelligence officer Bruyea realized there were serious flaws in a new proposal for injured soldiers. It would end the comprehensive life-long benefits provided to injured veterans and replace them with a one-time lump sum payment of much lower value.
Not personally affected, Bruyea nonetheless became an outspoken critic. He also advocated the creation of a veterans’ ombudsman. Veterans Affairs Dept. officials attempted to punish him by seeking to cut off treatment and benefits while distributing in briefing notes distorted interpretations of his medical condition to persons who had no clear need to know.
Bruyea had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological and physical injuries as a result of his service in the 1991 Gulf war. The briefing notes were given in their entirety or formed the basis of briefings given to cabinet ministers, staff in the prime minister’s office, a parliamentary secretary, his Member of Parliament as well as to dozens of the most senior managers within Veterans Affairs Canada.The notes and associated briefings falsely suggested that Bruyea was mentally unstable.
Bruyea has now received more than 20,000 pages of documents through Privacy Act requests, which were held by more than 400 departmental officials. The Department’s own internal review determined that out of the 614 officials who accessed his computer based files, 54 “did not have a valid reason for access[ing]” those files.
The notoriety of the violations resulted in the Harper government issuing Bruyea, on October 26, 2010, one of only two official apologies given to Canadian individuals in more than twenty years. The Veterans Affairs media relations director has confirmed that not a single official involved appears to have been formally disciplined.
These and many other cases share similar features: hostility towards honest employees whose work threatened to expose shoddy conduct; workplace reprisals; justice long denied by legal and procedural stratagems ; and oceans of tax dollars spent protecting alleged wrongdoers and pursuing truth tellers.
The House of Commons should give priority to improving the governance of our national public service. A logical first step would be to draw on the experience of countries such as the U.S. and U.K. to enact effective whistle blower legislation without further delay.
The complicated and costly whistle-blower system created by the Accountability Act has been a complete failure. Whistle-blowers are being persecuted just as fiercely under the Harper government as they were in the past. The Conservative promise to protect truth-tellers now looks like a cynical election campaign ploy. In order to show good faith, the government should immediately stop stalling on whistle-blower cases that are before the courts, and take steps now to strengthen this country’s whistleblower protection legislation.
A recent media release by FAIR, the whistleblower NGO, (FAIR Media Release, 29 June 2012)) noted that the Government whistleblower watchdog has failed to deliver after five years. “After five years of bureaucratic charades, taxpayers have essentially nothing to show for more than 30 million dollars spent on the Integrity Commissioner’s office and the associated Tribunal,” said David Hutton, executive director of FAIR. “Not a single wrongdoer has been sanctioned and not a single whistleblower has been protected. It is time for a root and branch reform of this law.”
The new Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion has to date uncovered only one case of wrongdoing out of more than 320 complaints submitted over the past five years. The government has also failed to initiate the five-year review of the Whistleblower Act as legally required.
The time for white horses and transparency promised in 2006 in the cause of better public service governance is long overdue.
As has been my experience in past years,winter comes late here and has finally hit the island, with about 8 inches falling yesterday, and another 10-15cm ( translate a foot in reality) coming today and tonight. And while the snow wasn’t supposed to start until later today, it’s coming down now so I need to go shovel the old snow to make room for the new snow…😂
A reminder though, to check on elderly or housebound neighbours in your community to make sure they are ok, or see if they need anything. Seniors who rely on scooters or walkers cant navigate snow and may need groceries or walks and doors cleared-the wind has been creating drifts here even!
Also, while many remember those surviving on the streets before Christmas, now is when they really need your help. If you are in a position to give back, care bags are incredibly appreciated. Fill a large ziploc bag with: dry socks( a rarity on the street), hand & toe warmers, high energy or granola bars, chocolate, nuts etc, gloves, lip balm and a small moisturizer. Being outside chaps skin horribly and it then cracks and is an avenue for infection.
As well, call your local outreach or shelter. Many will take donations of winter and rain gear if they have room.
Stay safe, stay warm, but most of all…stay human. ❤