NDP declines B.C. Place suite invite

MLAs invited to catered reception at lounge sponsored by casino

Provincial politicians have been invited to enjoy the reopening night of B.C. Place Stadium in style for free, but New Democrats say theyre paying their own way.

We talked about it as a caucus and we made the decision that while its certainly completely appropriate for the premier or appropriate ministers to be there to recognize the opening of the new facility, we didnt really think it was that appropriate for 85 MLAs to get an invitation for free tickets and things, said Opposition caucus chair Shane Simpson.

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Members of the Legislative Assembly were invited by B.C. Pavilion Corporation and the B.C. Lions to a catered reception at the Edgewater Lounge on the east end of level three. The lounge is sponsored by the Plaza of Nations Edgewater Casino. Las Vegas-based parent Paragon Gaming may still build a casino and hotel complex attached to B.C. Places west side. Last April, Vancouver city council rejected Paragons bid to double the number of gambling tables to 150 and triple slot machines to 1,500.

Other invited guests include Lower Mainland mayors, B.C. Place clients, sponsors and stakeholders, said B.C. Place spokesman Trevor Pancoust. The B.C. Lions supplied complimentary tickets as a thank you to 500 construction workers who helped in the revitalization. Former premier Bill Bennett will also be a guest on Friday night.

A request to interview Pat Bell, the minister responsible for B.C. Place, was not fulfilled.

We all get paid pretty well and if we want to see a football game we can pay for our own tickets, which is what Im doing, said Simpson, the MLA for Vancouver-Hastings. Im going, I know [NDP leader] Adrian [Dix] is going and a few others.

The stadium renovations, including a retractable roof, are costing taxpayers $563 million. The project was approved in 2008 by the B.C. Liberal cabinet under former premier Gordon Campbell.

It was a very expensive project, its a project that many of us thought was not the priority for the spending of 600-odd million dollars, Simpson said. But it is built now. Since the dollars have been spent you hope that it will work well and hope that it looks nice.

Meanwhile, Simpson said the NDP is taking a hands-off approach to the labour dispute between the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union-represented stadium workers and PavCo.

My hope would be that the government and the union can find some common ground and bargain a collective agreement and probably the best thing for politicians is to keep our nose out of it and let them bargain a collective agreement, he said.

A strike vote ends Friday at the BCGEU office in Burnaby. The stadiums reopening weekend will not be affected.


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