Tuesday June 5, 2007
Les, Oppal must go
By BILL TIELEMAN
Society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.
Premier Gordon Campbell has some unfinished business leftover from the end of the spring legislative session - firing Solicitor-General John Les and Attorney-General Wally Oppal.
Les presided over a national embarrassment - the B.C. Lotteries Corporation fiasco, where "lucky" retailers may have cheated customers out of millions.
Les assured the public in December there were no problems like those documented in Ontario, an assurance that Ombudsman Kim Carter proved in last week's report on BCLC was absolutely incorrect. BCLC's $442,000 a year CEO Vic Poleschuk was fired Friday but Les is also responsible.
Oppal refused to appeal the sentence reduction of Darnell Pratt, who killed gas station attendant Grant DePatie in a horrible 2005 dragging death. But Oppal ordered an appeal in another sentencing.
Both cabinet ministers have proven their incompetence and failed the public.
Les had every warning imaginable about trouble at BC Lotteries, a crown corporation with annual revenue of $2 billion and income to the government of nearly $1 billion.
After CBC TV's The Fifth Estate detailed how Ontario lottery winners were ripped off by unscrupulous retailers, Les ordered B.C.'s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch to investigate.
Not a problem, the Branch and Les said. They were dead wrong but then again Les and the B.C. Liberals had actually cut Branch funding for three years.
Why? Cheating lottery dealers don't cost the government a dime. The total prize payout doesn't change even if players get ripped off.
But increased enforcement, checking suspiciously lucky retailers and tighter regulations? Well, hey, that reduces government revenue!
And if dirty dealers got jailed the public might get nervous about placing their bets! What those suckers don't know won't hurt us, seems to have been the attitude.
Les must be turfed, as well as BCLC chair John McLernon, who also should have been protecting the public, not his staff.
Then there's Oppal, who in 2006 ordered a sentence appeal in a drunk driving case. "We just think the sentence in this particular case is contrary to the law. We must be accountable to the public," he said then.
But now he won't appeal Pratt's sentence reduction from nine years to seven, which means DePatie's killer is eligible for parole this year. Unacceptable.
When Children and Families Minister Gordon Hogg resigned in 2004 after an independent audit was ordered over the Doug Walls affair, Campbell praised Hogg for accepting ministerial responsibility.
"In this case we have a minister putting the integrity of public institutions ahead of his political ambitions. I am very proud of him for that." Campbell said.
Where's the integrity today?