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BC lottery corporation ordered to release secret emails

The former chair of B.C. Lottery Corporation has lost a bid to keep secret email held by the Crown corporation, which may shed light on the evolution of a controversial plan to build a casino next to Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium.

Elizabeth Barker, an adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, ordered BCLC on Nov. 7 to release by Dec. 20 copies of email between ex-chair T. Richard Turner and ex-CEO Vic Poleschuk. Barker found BCLC had a legal right to the records, dismissing Turner's claim that BCLC did not have custody of email that he unsuccessfully claimed was personal.

The matter stems from a May 2010 Freedom of Information request by journalist Sean Holman, a Tyee contributor, for December 2005 to May 2007 correspondence between Turner and BCLC directors and executives. BCLC found 47 pages of emails but, after consulting Turner, released only one page to Holman.

Turner asked B.C. Supreme Court last year to overturn Holman's 2011 appeal and order a rehearing. He claimed disclosure of the email was either exempt from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or would harm his business interests and personal privacy.

Barker did not buy Turner's claims that the email contained "purely personal information."

"Several contain information that pertains to the functions of BCLC, the gaming industry and the CEO's professional role," Barker wrote. "The affidavit evidence also confirms that there is a work-related element to some of the emails."

Barker's decision said Poleschuk explained that Turner was a "valuable sounding board" for BCLC projects and that he would "bounce ideas off him," like BCLC's sponsorship of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and a proposed Olympic lottery.

Turner chaired BCLC from December 2001 to December 2005 and was later a VANOC director and ICBC chair. In October 2004, he invested in Paragon Gaming and eventually became a director of the Paragon division that bought Edgewater Casino out of bankruptcy in September 2006. In his submissions, Turner said he developed a friendship with Poleschuk, who was fired from BCLC in 2007 when Ombudsperson Kim Carter found lotteries were prone to fraud.

Paragon announced in March 2010 that it had a 70-year lease with B.C. Pavilion Corporation to build a casino/hotel complex next to B.C. Place Stadium. Holman revealed Turner's links to the company before Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger disclosed that Turner had lobbied him favour of a new retractable roof on B.C. Place.

TitanStar Properties chair Turner is a trustee with Healthlease Properties REIT and a director of Port Metro Vancouver.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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