Government keeps quiet on Telus compensation over BC Place debacle

Mystery shrouds the cost to taxpayers for compensating Telus after its naming sponsorship of BC Place stadium was cancelled.

Mystery shrouds the cost to taxpayers for compensating Telus after its naming sponsorship of BC Place stadium was cancelled.

Business in Vancouver confirmed November 15 that Telus had quietly reached an agreement on a supply deal with the B.C. government in August. Neither party announced the agreement and Telus is not listed as a sponsor on the BC Place website.

Telus was originally going to rename the stadium Telus Park as part of a $40 million, 20-year partnership. That deal, which was scuttled in February, was heavy on the supply of telecommunications goods and services, including free, stadium-wide wifi. Telus even commissioned Telus Park signs that were going to be hung on the exterior of the 1983-opened, 2011-renovated stadium.

In a March 2 interview, Telus CEO Darren Entwistle said that Telus installed between $10 million and $15 million of equipment in anticipation of the naming rights deal.

Telus spokesman Shawn Hall confirmed the supply agreement, but would not disclose the financial terms. Neither will the B.C. government.

Deputy premier Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for the stadium, did not respond to an interview request. Neither did Pat Bell, the jobs, tourism and innovation minister who was minister responsible until September 5. Dana Hayden, the interim CEO of stadium operator BC Pavilion Corp. (PavCo), declined an interview request.

In a prepared statement sent via email, Hayden told BIV: "PavCo reached an equipment supply agreement with Telus in August this year. I am not able to disclose details of the agreement due to the commercially sensitive nature of the technology installed. However, we are confident that the infrastructure installed by Telus ensures B.C. Place is one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world."

Hayden's statement was the same as one sent almost five hours earlier by Coleman's communications office.

Bell said in March that the BC Place name was "iconic" and that the Telus deal "did not provide the best value for taxpayers." He claimed the lost revenue would be made up through advertising sales.

Documents obtained by BIV show that the delay and eventual demise of the Telus naming rights agreement coincided with ongoing complaints by competitors Bell, Rogers and Shaw about the June 2011 direct award of a $1 billion, 10-year government-wide telecommunications contract to Telus. The companies were bidding for more than two years on nine separate contracts before the government halted the process and combined the work into one contract.

Meanwhile, BIV confirmed that Entwistle met with Coleman and BC Liberal bagman Peter Brown on October 5. Brown is the founder of Canaccord Capital who suddenly quit the PavCo board on February 13 over the naming rights controversy.

"The minister meets regularly with stakeholders on a variety of topics," said a representative of Coleman, on condition of anonymity. "At this particular meeting, the parties discussed Telus operations in British Columbia."

Elections BC figures show Telus has made 188 donations totalling $378,777.35 to the BC Liberals since 2005.

BMackin@biv.com

@bobmackin

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