Vancouver TED Conference contract unveiled

As the big-ticket talkathon returns to town, details emerge from the original deal between PavCo and the TED organization.

The exclusive and expensive conference for innovators and celebrities is back at the Vancouver Convention Center, after two years of pandemic cancellations.

TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, returns April 10-14 with headliners Bill Gates, Al Gore and Elon Musk. Tickets start at $5,000, but are sold out. The five-year, $250,000 membership includes a concierge and meeting with speakers.

The trendy talkathon moved north in 2014 from Long Beach, California. It took until 2021 for BC Pavilion Corp. (PavCo), the Crown corporation that operates the site, releases the contract under BC’s Freedom of Information Act.

Then-COO Katherine McCartney signed the contract on January 23, 2013. It was originally titled “Confidential Conference.” TED booked March 11-22, 2014, with negotiated room rental fee for use of the entire West Building for $224,000 including tax. Jack Poole Plaza and the West Pacific Terrace were available at no additional rent. Food service, housekeeping, security, lighting, telecommunications were extra, but the contract included a tax relief clause that sweetened the deal.

“If at least 75% of delegates are reasonably expected to be non-residents of Canada, then 100% of taxes on eligible convention-related goods and services that are booked through the Convention Center will be fully refunded,” the statement reads. deal. “50% of taxes on eligible food and beverages related to the convention and booked through the convention center will also be refunded.”

The contract lists 11 pages showing the day-to-day use of each room, including CNN, Japanese translation, the children’s room, the “media cave”, the film crew’s studio, community food and drink and “quick meetings”.

In 2014, Tourism Vancouver estimated that bringing together 1,200 to 1,500 delegates would result in $2.2 million in direct visitor spending or an overall impact of $4.5 million. By comparison, in 2019, Port Vancouver said each cruise ship calling at the Canada Place terminal leaves an impact of $3.17 million.

McCartney declined to comment. Her North Vancouver agency, PDW Inc., produced TED until 2018, when she became a consultant. She said she would attend the 2022 conference, but did not comment. TED’s press office did not respond in time.

The organization behind TED was rocked by a #MeToo scandal in November 2017, when the Washington Post reported that two men had been “uninvited” after allegations that at least five people, including a speaker, had been harassed or groped at that year’s conference.

When the pandemic hit, New York-headquartered TED Conferences LLC received a $3,896,015 loan from the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program in April 2020 to keep 255 people employed. The ProPublica “Tracking PPP” database shows that the loan was canceled on June 25, 2021.

The organization’s motto is “ideas worth spreading,” but it did not want details of the Vancouver Convention Center contract to be shared.

After the initial freedom of information request in November 2013, PavCo refused access in January 2014, saying disclosure would harm PavCo’s finances and TED’s interests. An arbitrator from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner issued a disclosure order in December 2016 with a deadline of February 2017. Contracts negotiated between public bodies and private entities cannot be upheld, a said referee Celia Francis.

Neither PavCo nor TED “demonstrated a clear and direct link between the disclosure of the disputed information and the alleged harms,” ​​Francis wrote. “To the contrary, they have provided assertions, unsupported by evidence, which do not convince me that disclosure of the information in dispute could reasonably cause harm.”

In its submissions, PavCo called TED a “powerful economic engine” for Vancouver and “fundamental to the fulfillment of PavCo’s economic mandate.”

In an unusual move, PavCo’s in-house attorney Clark Ledingham also acted as TED’s attorney, instead of TED hiring its own attorney. In McCartney’s June 2016 affidavit, she swore that contract negotiations began in November 2012 and said TED would move elsewhere if the contract became public.

“Disclosure of the information requested in this investigation would have a detrimental impact on our business relationship with PavCo because TED would no longer be able to believe, through no fault of PavCo, that information we consider commercially sensitive will remain confidential,” McCartney said. . says the affidavit.

At the time of the survey, TED had no signed agreement after 2017, but had reserved tentative dates at VCC through 2026.

The disclosure decision triggered PavCo’s request for judicial review from the Supreme Court of British Columbia. He finally relented in May 2021, dropped the lawsuit and released the contract.

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