FOI reveals government planned casino long before request for proposal

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B.C. Liberals claim no discussion of casino prior to RFP

Last week Pat Bell, the Minister responsible for the B.C. Pavilion Corporation told the Legislature that “prior to the RFP there was no discussion of specifically what might go on that site, whether it be a casino or something of another nature. It was about a general theme, entertainment district, size of building, square footage allowed — that sort of discussion. So that's kind of pre–November '08 for that time frame."

According to Bell discussion about the casino did not take place until the B.C. Pavilion Corporation’s RFP process was concluded and Paragon was fairly selected.

“Once the request for expression of interest and then the RFP took place, Paragon became the likely proponent”, Bell told the Legislature. “The casino became a feature of it, and at that point in time, then, PavCo would at times have talked about the casino development.”

The documents tell a dramatically different story.

The casino floor plate issue was number 15 of 24 issues relating to PavCo’s development proposal. The casino floor plate was highlighted because it entailed changes to street configuration. A steering committee minute from July 18 2008 noted that “proposed 6m/20’ taking on Pacific Blvd. for future streetcar is sensitive because possible casino needs to maximize floorplate.“

The 16th issue identified by the city in the August 2008 summary of issues is identified as “casino use”. All details related to the “casino use” issue outlined in the summary were blacked out by City FOI staff.

PavCo told city about talks with Paragon before RFP

The City of Vancouver’s Assistant Director of Planning, Trish French, re-iterated PavCo’s pre-existing relationship with Paragon a month before PavCo issued its Request for Proposals. In an email sent March 24, 2009, French noted: “PavCo indicated to us last year that they were talking to the casino folks about locating on the stadium site – they were planning the base of their western building to accommodate the large floor plate … ”

In an apparent allusion to the unusual sequence of events, Ms. French pointedly noted, “At our recent meeting with PavCo where they talked about recruitment of a development partner, I deliberately didn’t ask whether casino was still a possibility.”

BC Pavilion Corporation Chair David Podmore, in a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade on February 10th of this year, repeated what the Pavilion Corporation has been saying in defense of the RFP process since questions were first raised following the revelation that Liberal donor, Paragon partner and former B.C. Lottery Corporation Chairman T. Richard Turner called the minister responsible for PavCo to lobby on behalf of the Casino’s interests in the fall of 2009.

In his Board of Trade speech Podmore claimed “PavCo went out for proposals. We received 14 inquiries from our Request for Expressions of Interest on the opportunity to develop the parcel west of the stadium, which Scott’s company is focused on. In the end, we received two detailed proposals that were evaluated, and the Paragon proposal was considered the best and most beneficial to B.C. Place and to PavCo.”

The city documents a different process. It’s a process that began in the early months of 2008. It included discussions between the B.C. Pavilion Corporation and the City of Vancouver about locating the casino with the stadium. It turned into a plan that included building the western floor plate specifically to accommodate the Casino. It was signed, sealed and delivered in the fall of 2008, months before the official RFP and proponent selection.

Staff committee hurried to complete process before new council

The process was delivered with urgency. As the city prepared to elect a new council in the fall of 2008, that urgency grew.

As the rezoning schedule took shape in late August 2008, Trish French reported to the Steering Committee: “For sure we don’t want to go to the Dec 16C Mtg with a new Council, which could occur if we don’t get thru the PH (Public Hearing) on Oct 16. So, that means we really really want to work the agenda so this B.C. Place Stadium item is completed on the 16th."

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