If you haven’t followed the latest #bcpoli scandal, there is quite a story brewing in Victoria….and I thought it might be a good time to look back at how the legislature has been operating for nearly a decade, and what they have done to fix it.
This week, the story broke that two top BC Legislature officials were placed on paid administrative leave, following an investigation and subsequent request by RCMP for a special prosecutor. https://www.straight.com/news/1166786/top-legislature-officials-craig-james-and-gary-lenz-placed-administrative-leave-wake
But wait. It gets more interesting as time goes on. The National Post has since reported that sources indicated to them, the two were being investigated for possible fraud and theft, and that public taxpayers were the victims. https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/two-senior-officials-suspended-from-b-c-legislature-being-investigated-for-possible-fraud-and-theft-sources
An earlier report indicated this had nothing to do with expenses, that remains to be determined. What was interesting in all this, was that the investigation was initially undertaken by Daryll Plecas’ special advisor, Alan Mullen. Who is Alan Mullen and why does Plecas have a special advisor? This recent story sheds some light on this: https://www.bclocalnews.com/news/ive-seen-a-lot-of-joy-and-a-lot-of-crying-life-as-a-politicians-assistant-can-be-eye-opening/
Few constituency offices have seen quite so much change as that of Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas, who became Speaker of the Legislature and left the BC Liberal party in one fell swoop.
As speaker, Plecas must be seen to be impartial. At the same time, though, he remains his constituent’s elected representative. So, in addition to his long-time CA, Amber Born, Plecas now employs Alan Mullen as a “special adviser.”
Mullen had previously volunteered on political campaigns, first on behalf of the NDP, then for Plecas after he decided to run in 2013.
The pair had come to know each other while Plecas was a prison judge and Mullen worked as a corrections manager at Kent Institution. So when Plecas decided to accept an offer from the NDP to become Speaker of the Legislature – a job in which he can’t directly advocate for policies – he tapped Mullen to perform some of the functions he could no longer do.
That includes things like meeting with groups and organizations seeking funding, and taking those requests to decision-makers in Victoria. And Mullen gushed at the results so far, saying he was surprised with the ability to be able to sit down with ministers – although he said Plecas’s decision to take the speakership wasn’t the reason for that accommodation.
Reports now indicate that Mullen conducted this initial investigation for nearly 7 months before handing over everything to the RCMP early this fall. That alone, has raised eyebrows, however today BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and Mary Polak came forward with an affidavit, now saying that in a meeting with Plecas, he had asked for Mullen to given the position of acting Sergent at Arms. Polak and those in attendence said it was inappropriate and that was the end of it.
However, in the context of asking Mullen to fill this position temporarily, Plecas is the chair of the LMA committee and his duties as speaker are listed at the end of this post. Part of those duties is provision of security, something many reporters seem to have missed. The issue here, if any, is the perception of conflict because Mullen is also a personal friend aside from working for Plecas as a ‘special advisor’.
(An initial thought that occurred to me after hearing of this position, was curiosity as to whether Linda Reid had a similar advisor, or is this unique to Plecas? I have yet to see any reporter ask this question. )
But lets move on, because I suspect this story will be occupying #bcpoli for some time. Let’s go back to the past to understand a bit more about how our Legislative Assemblys financial affairs have been handled for years… and how BC mla’s ignored warnings for years that conditions for … gasp.. fraud and theft were ripe in our most respected institution, before finally acting to fix things.
In 2012, Craig James made the news for his lavish expenses, that Dermod Travis of Integrity BC discovered via FOI:
It was following that debacle that it was revealed by a scathing 2012 Auditor Generals audit, that legislative affairs were a mess. Lack of bank reconciliations. No receipts. Expenses from one year classed into another. The full details are here: https://lailayuile.com/2012/07/27/politics-without-principle-makes-hypocrisy-a-governing-force-in-the-legislative-assembly/
And ironically, this wasn’t a new thing – the Auditor Generals office had
recommended way back in 2007, that the Legislature provide publicly available audited financial reports, and improve internal controls to prevent fraud and misappropriation of public funds…. and it never happened. For 5 years after that, BC MLA’s did nothing to fix their own financial affairs. So, one would think the 2012 stories would have created change, yes?
No.Two years later, in 2014, news broke that then speaker Linda Reid’s expenses were a bit like Imelda Marcos: Lavish expensed trips, excessive legislative spending.. you get the gist. And it wasn’t just Linda Reid…Raj Chouhan expensed a lavish trip as well, which he paid back. Full details on that,here: https://lailayuile.com/2014/03/26/politics-without-principle-2-0-just-because-you-candoesnt-mean-you-should/
Finally, following more than a decade of amateurish accounting practices, the BC Legislature and MLA’s within it had been embarrassed enough to move towards proper accounting practices and transparency, and published their first expense reports in 2015: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Legislature+releases+detailed+expenses/10926667/story.html
It’s now 2018 and the most recent LAMC Accountability report is available online to show you how and where the legislature spends its money and keeps track of it. Seems timely to show you: https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/CommitteeDocuments/41st-parliament/LAMC/LAMC_AccountabilityReport_2016-17.pdf
I can’t determine what safeguards they have in place now to prevent misappropriation of funds, but it’s clear that little attention has been paid to this in the past.
Darryl Plecas, in addition to speaker, is also chair of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, which would give him access to and insight into financial matters of the legislature, and certainly affords him a unique position to see things others may not…particularly with his background in criminology.
Incidentally, he is hated by most BC Liberals…and this post I wrote explains why: https://lailayuile.com/2017/09/10/educating-ryan/ Plecas was the only person to call out Clark when she tried to pass off the NDP platform as the Lib platform in a last ditch attempt to fool voters prior to the last election. And Randy Hawes said it so well. There isn’t a Liberal in that house who doesn’t want to see Plecas gone…and to see him removed as Speaker which would make it possible to try and topple the current government. Frankly this aspect alone, their contempt for Plecas, taints the situation greatly.
The BC Liberals will make much noise over Mullen and Plecas, to distract #bcpoli watchers from the REAL story: what Plecas found, what evidence was handed to the RCMP and why it merited two special prosecutors. That is the story here…not Mullen. What exactly prompted this investigation in the first place?
A snapshot of current and past members of this committee are as follows:
Other info that might be helpful to understand context of duties, during this evolving story , from the link above:
Finance and Audit Committee
The Finance and Audit Committee is an advisory sub-committee reporting to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee on financial and administrative matters. It is comprised of the Speaker, the government and opposition Caucus Chairs, the Third Party House Leader, and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly ( Darryl Plecas)
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is elected by its Members to serve as the Presiding Officer and Chair of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. Under the Committee’s direction, the Speaker is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Assembly, the provision of security within the Legislative Precinct, and the management of the use of the Legislative Precinct.
( note: Plecas has a strong background in criminology- from his mla website: “Plecas was the RCMP Senior University Research Chair and Director for the Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he worked for 34 years. He holds two degrees in criminology from Simon Fraser University and a doctorate in higher education from the University of British Columbia. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 books, international journal articles, and research reports addressing a broad range of public safety issues. His most recent book, which he co-authored in his current role as professor emeritus at the University of the Fraser Valley, focuses on how government professionals can make better decisions.”
Clerk of the Legislative Assembly ( Craig James)
The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is the senior permanent officer and procedural advisor to the Speaker and all Members. The Clerk manages the provision of professional and procedural advice and support to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee and the Finance and Audit Committee, and is responsible for the Assembly’s administrative and financial operations.
And this link explains when and why special prosecutors are brought in. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/bc-prosecution-service/about/special-prosecutors
So there you have it… and this is why people like Dermod Travis of Integrity BC and Bob Mackin matter so much. I would say both have been instrumental in bringing the legislature into a state of professionalism with respect to accounting, and transparency. I will post updates to this story as they develop, in the comments below.
” Because it’s no longer enough to be a decent person. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself.”
― Joss Whedon
It started with a post by Integrity BC, linking to a story detailing how the BC government had started a tip line, for anyone with info on money laundering in BC to contact.
“What the actual f*ck?” was literally, my first thought. Why, after everything we have read – revealed by Sam Cooper and Kathy Thomlinson – would the province ask the public to send in tips to… Peter German?
Anyone? The province of BC and Peter German are the last place I would send credible tips to, and this is why: https://lailayuile.com/2018/06/27/money-and-corruption-are-ruining-the-land-2/
Who is actually running this show? This money laundering issue is so far beyond the real estate aspect ( The NDP have tried to turn this into a ‘quick wins’, affordability issue and nothing more, to snag Vancouver voters. It goes way deeper than real estate, and they know it) , that I – and others – have serious concerns as to why the current government hasn’t moved to a full on public inquiry, with powers of subpoena to compel testimony. Quebecs Charbonneau Commission documented how this corruption works in government. In the construction industry, including public projects. And Eby himself chose to learn from it… yet we see nothing but a government tip line that will get info to German in a timely fashion…
Me…I would ask anyone with tips to go directly to Sam Cooper, Integrity BC, or Kathy Thomlinson.. all people who have demonstrated their clear dedication to seeing the truth exposed in BC corruption.
This…is not the Eby I have seen in the past. That Eby wouldn’t allow a pass and call for a government tip line. He knows better. The longer the NDP take to call a public inquiry, the more complicit they become in the face of all evidence revealed by excellent reporters. Period.
The only way forward on this file, is a full public inquiry with subpoena powers. Which I suspect has not been called because this current govt made so many promises that they can’t budget for an inquiry without defaulting on a prior promise elsewhere….
Which brings me to LNG and the governments coming climate action plan…. ( can you feel the impact of my eyeroll from where you are??) Good old ” Hip Dad Horgan” is using LNG as a justification for profits that will pay for social services in BC. Sounds familiar? Oh yes, Clark used the same line!
Justine Hunter has a great, recent column, for the most part unshared because in my opinion, it concisely spells out how foreign profits have become more important than BC residents…
” Today, fossil fuels supply two-thirds of the province’s energy needs, according to Clean Energy BC, an association that promotes renewable power. The provincial government has approved new fossil-fuel production – a massive liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat – but says the target can still be reached by converting most everything else to clean, renewable electricity.
But many British Columbians opt to heat their homes and businesses with fossil fuels, because electric heating typically costs 50 per cent more.
In early December, the province will release a climate plan to show how it intends to reach the 2030 target. B.C.’s carbon tax will rise, but so too will the cost of electricity. Efficiency and conservation have to be part of the solution.
In a media briefing, senior government officials who are not authorized to be quoted outlined some of the changes. Others, including Clean Energy BC, have also offered their vision.
This is the picture that is emerging:
Homeowners will replace their gas furnaces with electric-power heat pumps, which currently cost $4,000-$6,000. Commuters will trade gas-fuelled vehicles for zero-emission cars. Energy-efficient retrofits of older homes will be in demand, while new homes will need to have the lowest-possible carbon footprint. Consumers will ditch inefficient appliances and light bulbs. Homes will be connected to smart devices that choose the best time of day to run the dishwasher, and turn off lights the kids left on. Ideally, they will actually return energy to the grid with micro-power systems and battery storage. Industry and institutions will have to do the same.
The massive Site C hydroelectric dam, expected to be ready in 2024, will not come close to supplying the electricity for this low-carbon future. And capacity to provide more energy is not the only issue. Transmission and distribution systems will have to be upgraded to carry the increased load from the point of generation to communities.
Jae Mather, executive director of Clean Energy BC, calculates the province will require about 50 per cent more electricity production than it has now to meet demand in 2030. Site C will provide about 10 per cent of that. With the cost of renewable energy dropping, smaller projects, especially wind power, will likely do the rest. The additional infrastructure needed will drive up energy costs, and that should help consumers embrace conservation.
This my friends, is a huge issue for me specifically for two reasons. One, affordability. Currently BC Hydro was ordered to deduct contributions from every Hydro customers bill ( whether you can afford it or not) to create a crisis fund Hydro customers can apply to for help paying their bills.
( The irony of making those who can least afford it, contribute to this fund has not been lost on anyone)
When people have to choose to heat their homes in winter versus eating, there is a problem. And pushing average people to pay more specifically to allow this one LNG project to proceed and pollute ( with huge subsidies on electricity at rates less than we pay) is wrong. It’s wrong and it’s not how BC should be addressing any climate targets. Want to use the natural gas we already have here in BC as a transition fuel to get people off oil furnaces and wood heat? Offer incentives to upgrade to efficient gas furnaces. Offer incentives to convert from wood to gas. Or use biofuel wood pellet stoves which burn more efficiently and clean, as well as utilizing the scrap wood in logging cuts that is usually burned on site to get rid of it.
Oh wait, let me remind you that BC Hydro isn’t pursuing any alternative power forms because they are committed to Site C. So say goodbye to solar incentives, say goodbye to passivhaus incentives or any other alternative energy project that will reduce load on the main grid. They have made it harder for homeowners to get into solar because of new electric requirements. In Europe there are entire communities who, with solar panels, sustain themselves and reduce load on the grid. Here? Govt proposes to increase load on the grid to offset the pollution created in allowing these foreign corps to profit off our natural gas.
The technology for alternative energy sources is becoming more efficient and affordable every day…yet here in BC all those NDP MLA’s who were on board with this in past years, are silent in public, sticking to the party line, defending the indefensible.
It alarms me. The NDP is giving a very lucrative and free pass to foreign corporations to pollute at a tremendous profit due to all these expanded subsidies, but they expect you and I to make up for it. How is that right, or fair? We all need to do our part to address climate change…and that includes foreign corporations. Considering there has been no move to halt US thermal coal exports out of BC ports, the entire line being given by government is just that. A line, designed to keep the unknowing public at large happy and silent. ( Until their hydro bill goes up… and it will. Substantially. Get ready for this now. )
It alarms me that this government and its ardent supporters who actively opposed these moves under the Clark government right beside me, now remain silent, or even defend these decisions “Because the Libs were worse”. The subsidies Horgans govt has given to LNG Kitimat are more substantial than Clarks were. And more secretive. Were the Libs worse? Yes. Does that mean you should accept shite from Horgan? No.
But this is how it seems to work now. Because good old Dad Joke Horgan is doing it, it suddenly makes it all ok? I already have a dad. I don’t need another one whose Dad ‘lit’ schtick, isn’t actually acting in my childrens best interests. Is it Horgan running the show right now…. or Geoff ” Vision-I-helped-ruin- Vancouver” Meggs? Anyone?
The best thing about PR, is that if it passes, NO party will have as much unfettered influence in the legislature as both the Liberals and NDP have had. And that can only be a good thing for the people of BC right now. So please, if you haven’t yet, vote for PR. Because ” what we do now, echoes for all eternity…”
You, right now, can change all this…what are you waiting for?
Yes, new photos in…and no, they aren’t being taken with a drone ( someone asked) , but by air with a telephoto lens. Why? Because the news that the Old Fort slide was caused by bedrock failure really didn’t get much attention and it should have.
Why does this matter you ask? Because the ‘bedrock’ ( shale ‘bedrock’) BC hydro plans to attach Site C to, is extremely problematic and I wonder if it could fail as dramatically as the Old Fort slide area just downstream did.
” The ground beneath the Old Fort landslide had been moving for months before it finally let go in a massive collapse in September and forced more than 150 residents to evacuate their homes.
The bedrock failed in the area of a gravel pit that had been operating on the hillside above Old Fort, according to Smith. The slide was last estimated at more than eight million cubic metres, and has pushed its way down through a gully beneath the gravel pit and into a back channel of the Peace River.
Evidence so far suggests the ground had been moving for months before its collapse, Smith said.
“This piece of ground has been moving for quite a while before it let go,” he said.
“It’s a pretty big slide. It’s not just what has happened so far.”
Data from a laser light survey technique called LiDAR continues to be collected daily, and recent data hasn’t shown any significant movement of the landslide, Smith said. However, that could change, and winter weather will be a factor.
“The time of year when movement is going to be of the greatest concern is during the periods when we have excessive snowmelt or rain on snow, and the groundwater levels are high,” Smith said.
No doubt. The rain and snowmelt played havoc on the north slope of Site C as well, which is part of what led to the massive tension crack at one point, exactly like what has been seen in the Old Fort Slide.
BC Hydro knows the bedrock at Site C is unstable. Its documented in BCUC documents:
So. You can bet your money on the fact those in charge at Hydro are making damn sure everything is monitored right now regardless of how awesome they say everything is, which brings me back to the new photos I have below.
In the first photo you can really see just how close that camp is to the edge of the north slope, above and down from the diversion tunnels. From my source:
Couple shots from yesterday. Lot of vehicles and people looking over the North Bank. Moisture leaking out all over the whole thing. And noticeable right below the camp. Center of one photo shows a bad spot. And the shot of the blocked back channel shows the new road to the old fort.
Ah well, seems like a really stupid place to build a dam with all these unstable soils and even more unstable bedrock, but they are going to keep on building.
And it reminds me again of how eerily Site C continues to follow the path of the ill-fated Muskrat Falls project…which is now undergoing a public inquiry because of what a clusterfuck it is. No one listened to the naysayers ( they were bullied, harassed and called crazy) or even financial experts. A premier won an election campaigning to stop Muskrat…then said it was too far along to stop. And then the hydro CEO even admitted it was the wrong project…but they kept building for the same reason they keep building site c.
Now however, it turns out all those ‘crazy’ naysayers were right all along..they should have stopped Muskrat Falls when they had the chance.
But there is no comfort in being right…when the wrong is already done. Just like Site C.
Just sent in to me this morning, these new photos of the infamous north slope of Site C- the slope that has caused so much trouble since day 1.
I’ve documented those issues many times with photo’s since 2016-even after they tried a no flight rule, which was quickly removed – here:
I include those links because they contain photos that, when viewed in contrast against these new ones, show just how much this slope has been flattened in order to mitigate the ongoing slide issues they experienced…and still do. You can see where even despite having had little rain, iron rich water seepage still stains the concrete coating of the terraced hillside.
It is because so much of this slope was removed that the design of the dam was changed – traditional dams are situated between two slopes of a higher angle to act as anchoring ‘walls’, or the sides of the dam. Here, because the north slip has such a low angle, and because of other geotechnical concerns and unknowns detailed in BCUC documents, the dam design had to compensate for that low angle. I detailed all this in my last post here, with those bcuc docs: https://lailayuile.com/2018/10/12/part-iii-old-fort-slide-as-evacuation-alerts-orders-continuemore-questions-for-site-c-geotechnical-concerns
Here is a pic of the north slope and inlet portals ( diversion tunnel) labelled:
And here is a pic of the current design showing this north bank, on the right, securing that side of the dam, followed by a larger pic for context:
It doesn’t take an engineer to see why so many question the wisdom of Horgan’s decision to continue this dam. It will continue to experience geotechnical issues and with a clear,documented paper trail of contractor quality control and compliance issues, it will continue to escalate in cost.
As the wise ( currently working) engineers who help me say, “Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”