By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours
[NOTE: A shorter version of this story was published Thursday in 24 hours.]
Former B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins had a lunch meeting Wednesday with an ex-staff member of Premier Gordon Campbell’s office who resigned after being caught making a phony call to Campbell during a talk show .
Prem Vinning quit his job as the premier’s Asia-Pacific trade and economic development director in January 2005 after 24 hours’ reporter Sean Holman identified him as the caller to an M-Channel television who said his name was “Peter.”
After Vinning resigned Campbell said: "It's always good to say who you are. Clearly it was a mistake. He's done the right thing."
While neither Collins nor Vinning volunteered to 24 hours yesterday what their meeting was about when spotted in the Cactus Club at Broadway and Granville, Collins did admit he was “in the news” a lot as a result of allegations in the breach of trust trial of his former ministerial aide David Basi.
The defence alleges that Basi was paid $20,000 by the B.C. Liberal Party to organize and make fake calls to talk show programs and to set up phony protests to embarrass political opponents. Those allegations are unproven in court and Campbell has repeatedly refused to answer questions on the issue, saying it is inappropriate to comment.
Vinning only had his job for three days when called M-Channel asking Campbell about what he was doing to improve highways for truckers.
"That's a very, very good question," Campbell replied on air.
Vinning is a veteran B.C. and federal Liberal Party organizer. Collins recently quit his job as CEO of Harmony Airways to become a senior vice-president of Belkorp, a Vancouver investment firm owned by Stuart Belkin.