Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Designated Corruption Thread

The last comment by Hazen Colbert has been removed from the previous discussion topic because it really wasn't on-topic. I had asked who or what we should name things after in our District, and there were actually several interesting suggestions.  Accusations of bribery don't really fit under that umbrella.

Allegations of corruption on the part of our local politicians have plagued this blog for years, usually without any real documented evidence beyond "Developers gave money to their campaign" and "They voted to build a high-rise building that I didn't want."

If there is actual evidence of corruption -- a paper trail, bank records, plain brown envelopes, secret videotapes -- then yes, everyone needs to know about it.

To date, as far as I can tell, no-one has produced the smoking gun.

If you can back up your accusations, this might be one place to do it. If you would prefer, you can email me directly and I'll vet what you have before posting it.

Here are the ground rules before you start typing furiously.

  1. The lack of proper campaign finance laws in this province is not proof of corruption.
  2. I do not think that any of our local officials are lazy enough or shallow enough to be swayed by a couple thousand dollars in campaign donations.  And if they are, then your solution is obvious: dig into your own pocket and make a similar sized donation.
  3. If I give money or time to a politician's campaign, it's because I assume they'll further some cause that I support.  Usually people give money because of a politician's current or past positions, not because they think it will make them vote differently in the future.
  4. However, it's obvious that people who support a campaign in some fashion will have the politico's ear more than someone who doesn't.  That's also not "corruption," it's human nature.
  5. Usually when a local politician votes for something that you don't like it's not because they're "corrupt," it's just that they don't agree with you.
  6. Donations to campaigns are not kick-backs and do not usually directly benefit the candidate.  Yes there are ways to game the system, but on a municipal level we're talking small potatoes, and I doubt many people would bother.
  7. Similarly, developers' contributions to community amenities are not "bribery," even the absurd idea of British Properties paying for extra planning staff in West Van.  Just because it's crazy doesn't make it "corruption."

Two final points before opening this up.

Before you write anything alleging "corruption" or "bribery" I'll expect you to define pretty specifically what those terms mean to you.

Second, the opinions of someone like Hazen Colbert, who not only posts under his own name, but has actually run for office, carry a lot more weight than most Anons.

Disclaimer: If developers, Anti-developers, mountain bikers, oil companies, unions, Marxist-Leninists, or the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation want to finance me I will certainly run for office.


Anonymous said...

This thread is a good idea. There are one or two conspiracy and corruption posters that have tried to hijack every topic of discussion for a long time. I hope that they can fully vent here.

For my part just 2 comments.

1. the very large union campaign contributions accepted by some NVC pols aren't illegal or "corruption". However, as Council ratifies union collective agreements, in my opinion, they are a conflict of interest and those that accept this money are tainted. Many pols will not accept union donations for this reason and I applaud them for taking the high road.

2. "the opinions of someone like Hazen Colbert, who not only posts under his own name, but has actually run for office, carry a lot more weight than most Anons." As a poster who uses his own name, I presume that you also think that your opinion carries more weight than others too. With respect, that is your opinion.

I have seen numerous well thought out and clearly written Anon opinions on this blog over more than 10 years by both named posters and Anons. There has also been misinformation, foolish posts, obvious bias and even blatant prejudice by both. I equally consider the merit of all posts and all hold "the same weight" for me. I accept that I may not speak for all, and while you are free to think that your opinion and those of Colbert et al carry more weight - I do not, but that is my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Is conflict-of-interest corruption?

Anonymous said...

Political corruption definition: Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under color of law or involves trading in influence.

In the context of accepting big union campaign contributions. This practice may allow a candidate to access public office. It is not illegal at the moment as I do not know of a court that has ruled that accepting this money is considered to have an influence on the recipient when voting to support a juicy union wage increase. So it remains legal although why it is legal is beyond me but there it is.

That is why I view the act as "tainted" but, until the courts rule to outlaw the practice, I don't think that it meets the bar of corruption.

Anonymous said...

Well done Barry, although I suspect the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is not chomping at the bit to sponsor your entry into politics. I can check on your behalf.

Hazen may use the term frequently and generally without merit (IMHO), but I agree with him that 'corruption' goes beyond explicit personal gain, the proverbial brown envelope stuff. In a democracy, there is only one legitimate ultimate authority, the people, and when a politician does any action that they know to be in the interest of any other body, or unfairly to any particular subset of the people, then I consider them to have furthered corruption. I know this muddies the water to the point that the word is generally impractical, but you don't have to receive a brown envelope to be harming the community to the point that it must be considered corrupt.

Anonymous said...

Hazen, like any average conspiracy theorist, is using inductive reasoning to validate his arguments, but inductive reasoning has its limits.

They posit that because individual councillors may be living beyond their perceived means (Smoke), make decisions they don't agree with (Smoke), and they seem to personally like some of the repugnant developers (Smoke) then they must be on the take (Fire).

He doesn't allow for any other possible explanation that takes away from his narrative.

Anonymous said...

"Corruption" appears to be multi-layered and mean different things to different people. For this reason perhaps it would be helpful to accept a general definition:

Interesting that, here we have an entire thread dedicated to political corruption and we don't seem to have any of the usual posters with claims and evidence of same. What gives?

Hazen Colbert said...

Anon 10:33

Please point out where I wrote that ANYONE is on the take? I have never alleged bribes. I have stated that entirely legal payoffs have been made which indeed they have.

I did give examples of corruption, using the definition of corruption as "taking a thing or entity and using it entirely differently than authorized or intended in order to create a personal gain." Barry deleted my examples, both of which are very well documented.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth does the NSMBA get so much money from the DNV? Silver Harbour, a seniors centre gets $20 grand. The NSMBA gets over $100 grand. Do that math and the # of seniors compared to the # of mountain bikers.

This is corruption in the designation of our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Frankly I wouldn't give a mountain biking club 2 cents. However, Council has the right to appropriate grants and tax exemptions. Not agreeing with how much they give them doesn't constitute corruption.

Barry Rueger said...

Perhaps we should move away from words like "corruption" or "bribery," and frame things more as "influence." There are many ways that an individual or business can influence the business of Council without money changing hands, or offers being made.

And again, usually when you contribute to a campaign you're doing it because you already know how the candidate will vote on some issues - you're not usually trying to change their minds.

Perhaps the people who allege undue influence can spend a few dollars on a Freedom of Information request to see what correspondence has gone back and forth between Council and the NSMBA? If you're posting here you've got the skills to write one in fifteen or twenty minutes and email it to the District. The FOI staff are helpful - just try to keep it well-defined.

For that matter, how about someone write the Mayor directly and ask him about it? Post the response here?

With respect to developers, I guess I would be looking for some evidence that elected people, after voting for development, are being offers plush jobs or other major paybacks when they leave politics. I don't think that a couple thousand to a campaign is enough to sway most of the people we have on Council. The risk/return equation doesn't fit.

Are there past members of Council who have moved on to plush jobs with developers?

Anonymous said...

"And again, usually when you contribute to a campaign you're doing it because you already know how the candidate will vote on some issues - you're not usually trying to change their minds."


I recall the reliable CUPE union contributions to Ernie Crist's election campaigns. Ernie always voted to support that union. Except once. Council was voting on an issue important to CUPE and Ernie did not vote in favour. Subsequently Ernie had a big blow-up with the union that he freely discussed publicly. Ernie said that the union threatened to revoke his future funding based upon his lack of support. Stubborn as ever he said to go ahead and they did.

So, in a nutshell, once a candidate accepts their money the union certainly does expect that the recipient will change their mind on every issue and vote in the union's favour and failure to do so will (and has) result in revocation of funding.

An unsavory arrangement in my (low weight Anon) opinion.

Hazen Colbert said...


"Are there past members of Council who have moved on to plush jobs with developers?"

One does not have to look long for the answer. It is Alan Nixon. Less than six months after leaving office in early December 2014, and after claiming publicly he would was leaving to live in Mexico, Alan returned to the DNV Committee room as consultant to the proponent for the Best Western/Comfort Inn redevelopment application. Lisa Muri confirmed that Alan had emailed council numerous times prior to that June, 2015 meeting.

Alan actually sat with council around the committee room table!

The information is in the public domain.

I met with DNV CAO Dave Stuart on June 25, 2015 to discuss the matter.

Anonymous said...

Alan should know better. He is an honest hard working guy, but this is not right. I don't think he planned this, but his retirement didn't start out the way he hoped.

I have no problem with him working for the developer giving them strategy and even working directly with the public after leaving office for six months, but lobbying activities should not be permitted by the District for at least two years.

We need a law apparently.

Anonymous said...

One reason is is difficult to assess corruption among BC municipal elected officials is that they are not required to make financial disclosure that is material. Elected officials can maintain off shore bank accounts and control numbered companies with no disclosure required.

While there is no allegation of corruption or wrong doing of any sort, eyebrows were recently raised when it was uncovered that Northern Rockies (formerly Fort Nelson) Mayor Bill Strepper, through a numbered company, had acquired a $4 million condo in the City of Vancouver Trump building.

Streeper is well known for his support of LNG facilities and opposition to concerns raised by local First Nations. What is not known are his private holdings in the oil & gas and related industries. At one time Streeper did own a resource based business but that was many years ago.

Financial disclosure should be a hallmark of running for elected office. Councillor Lisa Muri once hinted, publicly, in a council meetings, about land holdings of Councillor Bassam and/or his family, holdings that could come up for subdivision. Bassam remained completely silent after Muri spoke. It seems given the speculative increases in subdivided land in the DNV, that Bassam should be disclosing such holdings. Again, nothing untoward or wrong in holding land for speculative reasons. But silence invites questions.

Barry Rueger said...

A reminder, you can go here to see the Financial Disclosures for all candidates in the 2014 municipal elections.

Hazen Colbert said...


Those documents are not Financial Disclosure. The use of the word Disclosure in the search page is not accurate. They are statements of election income and expenses filed solely to track significant political contributions.

True disclosure documents exist as part of the nomination papers filed with the municipality. I take no position on the value of those disclosure documents.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification. Not sure why it matters if you take a position on the value of disclosure documents.

Anonymous said...

The financial disclosures filed with Elections BC are pretty limited and don't address holdings based outside the Metro Van region. Unfortunately this is a Provincial matter as they set election rules.

I don't support broadening the rules at this time. I do support better enforcement of the existing rules, and better protection for people who shine a light on problems. I remember one contentious meeting at the DNV hall where a few councillors had received relatively small donations, but donations nonetheless, from the developer sitting in front of them asking for a massive increase in density, and the Mayor shut down a person who was simply pointing out that they had received donations from the developer, the Mayor was indignant that those donations were legal, disclosed and should not be brought up as it may unfairly prejudice the process. He slammed the door shut on someone who, I believe, was correct in shining a light on developer contributions and expectations. If the councillors don't like the inference, don't accept the donations.

Barry Rueger said...

What do we make of the fact that some Council candidates in the District spent only a couple of thousand dollars on their campaign (Muri, I believe), while others spent ten times that much? (Hansen)

Is being an incumbent really that big of an advantage?

Anonymous said...

I think it may well be that big of an advantage Barry.
Most voters don't spend a LOT of time watching council video records or inhabiting the council chamber so the time they do spend is probably over a number of years and over a number of elections. The new candidate on the block won't have the same name recognition. ( No way for me to prove this, it's just my best guess). Further, if for some reason you voted for someone, ( say Lisa Muri ), in one election and she did something you supported or didn't do anything you deeply disliked during her term, and your choice was between her and someone you knew nothing about, you might well be inclined to vote for her again over an unknown. The 'unknown' might them be forced to spend in order to make for him/herself into a 'partially known', usually by attempting to ride some hot issue ( TRANSPORTATION? ) to gain your vote by association with that issue.

I have to admit that if your numbers are correct, and Hansen spent 10 times Muri's couple of thousand, that you do have to wonder why a person would risk 10 x 2000 = $20,000 of his own money just to be able to sit on council. I know I'd have trouble choking that down if it were all my personal money and I ended up not winning.

I guess you might also call this the 'Kevin O'Leary effect'. Well known for may years, but not as a politician and possessing absolutely no political experience, he is getting lots of free press and interviews based solely on name recognition.
If Hansen disn't have that name recognition last election, then he probably needed to buy some.

Barry Rueger said...

Bassam 6483.27
Bond 6515.83
Hanson 28307.58
Hicks 20500.00
MacKay-Dunn 7734.66
Muri 1013.03

Walton 2877.01

Anonymous said...

Incumbency helps when the mood is generally positive, but occasionally there is a successful 'throw the bums out' campaign. Whistler is a good recent example, during the downturn in 2008 the hotelier revenue went way down affecting the restaurants too. The city, to help the businesses, transferred a ton of tax on to the residents. So in the next election they threw the bums out. In the DNV there are a few examples, but most are when councillors run for Mayor ie Maureen McKeon Holmes, Jim Cuthbert. The CNV saw Sam Shechter tossed in the 2008 election after his ban drive thrus campaign, and Bob Fearnley in 2011. West Van saw Carolanne Reynolds and Michael Evison (2014). So it does happen even though it hasn't happened in North Van District since Bill Denault in 2002.

Hazen Colbert said...

"Not sure why it matters if you take a position on the value of disclosure documents."

I am aware that a sitting DNV Councillor successfully petitioned the BC Supreme Court to stop legislated disclosure. The details are sealed. I know what they are.Those details require me to make it clear I do not take position on disclosure.

Hazen Colbert said...

Since I ran in the election despite finishing last I hope I can shed some light on some questions>

"If Hansen (sic) disn't have that name recognition last election, then he probably needed to buy some."

A candidate must report contributions and expenses even if not solicited. Jim did something remarkable for which he should be commended. The Provincial NDP contributed their phone bank on election day to get out the vote, something totally legal. The same phone bank was used in another local municipality BUT THE CANDIDATE DID NOT REPORT IT. Jim did. Well done.

"...the Mayor shut down a person who was simply pointing out that they had received donations from the developer, the Mayor was indignant that those donations were legal, disclosed and should not be brought up as it may unfairly prejudice the process/"

The Mayor through Clerk James Gordon shut down Mr. Alex Schwartz, a Lynn Valley resident. Mr. Schwartz was well within his rights at a public hearing to raise the issue of donations. in this case donations made by Bosa agent Mr. Mark Sager. Walton was absolutely wrong. The Chair of a public hearing can only stop input if the party is out of order. The Chair absolutely cannot under any circumstances direct the recording secretary, Gordon, to shut off a microphone. I was there and was shocked at what I saw. Mr. Schwartz was entirely in order. I know and respect Mr. Sager. Walton risked having the bylaw approving the Bosa project challenged in the Supreme Court because of what he did during the public hearing. I am not a lawyer but I am certain the Supreme Court would have struck the bylaw in its entirety and ordered a new public hearing.

If anyone cares to search I did make a submission to the Provincial Committee re election contributions reform, their work accepted by the Clark regime but sitting on the shelf with no action.

Anonymous said...

"Not sure why it matters if you take a position on the value of disclosure documents."

Thank you for your explanation at 7:25. I think you should re-read your original post as you made a statement of fact and no reference to "what you know" and had no obligation to advise of your position.

Barry Rueger said...

Moved from the "CNV Liquor" thread.

About a week before Christmas there is a developer who makes a delivery to select North Shore decision makers. ... I am not sure which thread I should have posted this item.

E-mail me hard evidence and we'll talk.

Barry Rueger said...

Moved from the "CNV Liquor" thread.

Barry the process is referred to as "delivering Christmas cheer." Developers do not do it directly. It is done by their lawyers' offices. That way all records are protected by client confidentiality.

Again, I'm going to draw a line and ask for something stronger than "everybody knows." Similarly, if you're claiming that charitable organizations are engaged in illegal actions, give us something verifiable as a basis for the claims.

Anonymous said...

" Similarly, if you're claiming that charitable organizations are engaged in illegal actions, give us something verifiable as a basis for the claims. "

How about Donald Trump says so?

Anonymous said...

Need proof of these allegations, otherwise you're coming across as a conspiracy theorist. And WTF do you need to bring Trump into this discussion for? There's enough of that douche on the regular news.

Barry Rueger said...

The folks at The Tyee have just published PDFs of the Public Disclosure Statement for all members of the BC Legislature. It's actually pretty dull reading, but here our local representatives:

YAMAMOTO, Hon. Naomi
Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness
North Vancouver-Lonsdale

North Vancouver-Seymour

STURDY, Jordan
West Vancouver-Sea to Sky

West Vancouver-Capilano

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that Ralph has a mortgage and it appears as though he is the recipient of a loan from a family member. Maybe the former Chief Economist of the Royal Bank of Canada makes more money on the investments and uses a mortgage to have access to more capital.

Maybe I am too focused on paying down my mortgage.