Thursday, March 29, 2007

BC NDP poses 70 BC Rail & Basi-Virk questions in Legislature for Government to answer

And $1 billion BC Rail privatization deal and Basi-Virk case leave lots for BC Liberals to answer for

NDP MLA Leonard Krog (Nanaimo) yesterday filed 70 written questions in the BC Legislature for Attorney-General Wally Oppal to answer - and many of the questions go straight to the heart of the BC Legislature raid by police over three years ago.

The questions include a request for a full public inquiry into the deal following the conclusion of criminal proceedings against former BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk and government aide Aneal Basi.

For background on the case, check this blog for extensive prior coverage.

Don't expect many if any answers from the government though - it has steadfastly refused to disclose any information - hiding behind the old "matter is before the courts" excuse even when there is no connection to the case.

The next BC Supreme Court hearing date on the Basi-Virk case is April 2.

Here is the first part of the NDP news release issued today:

VICTORIA – In an effort to get the B.C. Liberal government to come clean on the problematic circumstances surrounding the sale of B.C. Rail, New Democrat MLA Leonard Krog is demanding that the Attorney General provide answers to a series of 70 questions.

“It has become increasingly clear that the Campbell Liberals will do whatever they can to avoid being held accountable for what might have happened during the sale of B.C. Rail“, said Krog, the New Democrat Critic for the Attorney General. “British Columbians deserve answers to these questions.” .......

“The Attorney General has refused to answer our questions about whether his government will commit to hold a public inquiry into the sell-off of B.C. Rail as soon as the criminal proceedings conclude so that B.C. taxpayers can finally get the answers they deserve,” continued Krog. “That is completely unacceptable.”

And here are the questions:

NOTICE OF QUESTIONS

Monday, April 16

Mr. Krog to ask the Hon. Attorney General the following questions pertaining to the BC Rail deal:

1. Will the government hold a public inquiry into the sell-off of BC Rail as soon as the criminal proceedings conclude so that B.C. taxpayers can finally get the answers they deserve?
2. When did the government first learn that the BC Rail deal was the target of an in-depth RCMP investigation?
3. When will the government release all documents -- including documents which may not be directly linked to the charges -- that relate to government policies or decisions regarding BC Rail?
4. Has the investigation into the sale of BC Rail uncovered evidence that other government policies or decisions may have been illegally or inappropriately affected? If yes, will the government release all such documents -- including documents which may not be directly related to the charges?
5. Did the BC Rail Steering Committee discuss the potential for the BC Rail deal to collapse if only one bidder remained in the bidding process?
6. Will the government release all minutes for meetings of the BC Rail Steering Committee?
7. Will the government release all documents produced for the BC Rail Steering Committee?
8. Did members of the Steering Committee or other members of the government caucus meet with or communicate with any of the proponents or their representatives during the process to sell BC Rail?
9. Did the Premier or any of his staff meet with or communicate with any of the proponents or their representatives during the process to sell BC Rail?
10. Can the government explain why then-Solicitor General Rich Coleman briefed the Premier before the search warrants were executed?
11. Can the government explain why then-Solicitor General Rich Coleman briefed the Premier's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown immediately after the warrants were executed and before alerting the public?
12. Why was Martyn Brown given the go-ahead to fire Dave Basi immediately, prior to any charges being laid?
13. How can the government defend the propriety of the Solicitor General's actions against the charge that in briefing the Premier and his top political staffer, this government put its political interests ahead of the public interest?
14. Why was provincial government staff allowed to organize for the federal Liberals in the Legislature using taxpayer resources?
15. What steps did the Premier take to ensure that the BC Liberal Party did not benefit from illegal activities by staff?
16. Will the government release the tapes and/or transcripts of phone conversations between the Premier and government ministers that were gathered during the criminal investigation into the sale of BC Rail?
17. Given the government's own forecasts for significant coal mining activity, why were projections based on coal export growth deliberately left out of revenue calculations for the BC Rail line?
18. Did the government consider cancelling the sale of the BC Rail freight division?
19. Will the government release any and all correspondence with the RCMP and BC Rail about rescinding the sale of the BC Rail freight division?
20. If the government considered cancelling the sale of the BC Rail freight division, was compensation considered for any proponents?
21. What discussions took place concerning the issue of whether CN Rail had paid too much or too little for the BC Rail freight division?
22. What was the estimated value of former BC Rail assets in 2003, before they were sold? What is the estimated value of those former BC Rails assets now?
23. Did CP Rail express concerns about the clear breach of fairness in the process to sell BC Rail prior to their letter of Nov. 21, 2003?
24. Did the government -- including any and all government ministers, the BC Rail steering committee, the government caucus and/or its advisors or technical specialists -- ever discuss the consequences of OmniTRAX dropping out of the bidding process prior to or following the withdrawal of CP Rail?
25. Did the government consider the potential consequences of a small number of proponents or a single proponent during the sale of BC Rail for its goal of "maximizing value to the province"?
26. Did the government consider the potential negative political ramifications of a small number of proponents or a single proponent during the sale of BC Rail?
27. What was discussed at the Dec. 12, 2003, meeting held at Vancouver restaurant Villa del Lupo between the Minister of Finance and senior executives from OmniTRAX, the second-place finisher in the bidding process for the government-owned BC Rail?
28. Will the government ensure that tapes and transcripts resulting from the surveillance of the Minister of Finance's meeting with OmniTRAX officials are made public?
29. Did the Minister of Finance meet with other proponents during the transaction process?
30. Was it the Minister of Finance who ordered confidential government information to be leaked to a lobby firm representing OmniTRAX?
31. If it was not the Minister of Finance who ordered confidential government information to be leaked to a lobby firm representing OmniTRAX, was the Premier's Office or any other government official responsible for this order?
32. Will the government release the "meeting minutes, presentations and other documents" referred to in the Charles River Associates report on the BC Rail bidding process?
33. Did Charles River Associates review meetings, conversations or communications outside the official process -- particularly those including ministers and ministerial aides -- in their analysis of the fairness of the BC Rail transaction process?
34. Will the government release all documents including emails, reports, interview transcripts relating to the two information leaks referenced in the Charles River Associates report?
35. Can the government provide concrete evidence for their claim that the information leaks referenced in the Charles River Associates report did not materially affect the sale of BC Rail?
36. Will the government provide the full list of files and issues in the purview of or involving David Basi, Aneal Basi and Bob Virk between June 2001 and December 2003?
37. Did the government order an internal investigation into every file that Mr. Basi touched while he worked as a top political aide to the Minister of Finance -- and if not, why not?
38. Did the government order an internal investigation into every file that Mr. Virk touched while he worked as a top political aide to the Minister of Transportation -- and if not, why not?
39. Will the government provide an explanation as to why Dave Basi was fired immediately -- prior to any charges -- while Bob Virk was only suspended?
40. Can the government provide assurances and evidence of the statement made by the then-Finance Minister in December 2003 that Dave Basi "was not involved in the budget process, never has been" and "was not involved in the drafting of legislation or policy development."
41. Will the government conduct a review of every decision made to remove land from the ALR while Mr. Basi worked in the Campbell administration?
42. Will the government provide a full enumeration of all government activities and files that involved Dave Basi and/or Bob Virk and the principals and staff of Pilothouse Public Affairs?
43. Is the government aware of any other potential or ongoing investigations that involve Basi, Virk, or Pilothouse and any other minister, ministry or public body -- and if so, what are they?
44. Will the government provide a full enumeration of the roles played in this investigation -- or any other related investigation -- by Mark Marissen, husband of then Deputy Premier Christy Clark, and Bruce Clark, the brother of the then-Deputy Premier?
45. What materials did the Special Prosecutor withhold from the defence that were the subject of the February 27, 2007 defence application?
46. Will the government provide a full enumeration of all government activities associated with Pilothouse Public Affairs?
47. Will the government provide a full enumeration of all government activities associated with K&E Public Affairs?
48. Why did the government allow Erik Bornman of Pilothouse Public Affairs to continue his lobbying activities after he had informed Bill Berardino that he had bribed Dave Basi?
49. Why did the government allow Brian Kieran of Pilothouse Public Affairs to continue his lobbying activities after he had informed the RCMP that he had tried to bribe Dave Basi?
50. Can the government assure British Columbians that lobbyists Erik Bornman and Brian Kieran no longer have access to senior government staff?
51. Why did the BC Liberal Party continue to accept money in 2004 from lobbyists named in the original warrants, long after the raids on the Legislature?
52. Why won't the BC Liberal government allow an all-party review of the Lobbyists Registration Act in order to have greater accountability over who is influencing government and how?
53. When did the Attorney General and Premier first become aware that the lead RCMP inspector was the brother-in-law of Kelly Reichart, Executive Director of the BC Liberal Party?
54. How did Kelly Reichert learn that Erik Bornman had been granted immunity in exchange for providing information about David Basi and Bob Virk?
55. When did the Attorney General and Premier first become aware that information related to the investigation was leaked to Kelly Reichart and was subsequently leaked by Mr. Reichart to principals in the investigation?
56. Does the Attorney General agree that the actions of Mr. Reichart risked compromising the investigation?
57. Why does Mr. Reichart continue to serve as the Executive Director of the BC Liberal Party?
58. Given that one of the government's objectives for the BC Rail transaction was "ensuring integrated North American access to preferred markets and carriers for interline rail shipments", why would the government attempt to sell the Roberts Bank Spur line separately, following the withdrawal of CP Rail?
59. Is it true that in November 2003, Dave Basi advised OmniTRAX that the then-Minister of Finance had authorized a consolation prize for OmniTRAX in exchange for that company staying in the bidding process?
60. Was this consolation prize the BC Rail spur line?
61. How much was the consolation prize valued at?
62. Was OmniTRAX offered any Delta ALR lands for expansion of the port as part of this consolation prize?
63. If it were not for the alleged criminal actions of high-ranking aides, would the government have proceeded with the sale of the BC Rail spur line?
64. Does $900,000 represent the total cost to taxpayers of cancelling the sale of the spur line, or did the final tab come in even higher than that? What was the final tab?
65. What was the estimated value of the spur line in 2004, when the sale was put on hold?
66. What was the estimated value of the spur line when the sale was totally cancelled in February 2006?
67. What is the estimated value of the spur line now?
68. Why won't the government exercise its rights under article 10.2 of the Revitalization Agreement to inspect all of CN's maintenance records for the former BC Rail line?
69. When will the government investigate the rash of tragic derailments since 2004 in order to shed light on this safety scandal?
70. Why has the government refused to provide evidence for its claim that the government discussed safety and maintenance with the proponents during the negotiations to sell BC Rail?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Federal Green Party polling in Vancouver Centre for Adrian Carr - we have their questions!

What do the federal Green Party and co-deputy leader Adriane Carr know about the riding of Vancouver Centre that the rest of us don't?



They will soon find out, thanks to ongoing polling being conducted right now for the Greens by Oraclepoll Research, as first reported yesterday by my 24 hours colleague Sean Holman on his must-read website Public Eye Online.



Co-deputy Green leader Adriane Carr, the former BC Green Party leader, is their candidate in the riding. Apparently the party is spending some of its federal funding on polling, and heavily targeting veteran federal Liberal MP Hedy Fry.



And now I can tell you exactly what the Green Party is asking voters in Van Centre - because I have all their questions! Just as I did when the federal Conservatives were polling Van Centre to see if Lorne Mayencourt would be a good candidate.

Once again, a diligent reader has kindly forwarded to me the results of a telephone interview that took place Monday night. Here's what the Greens want to know:



1. What do you think of the Green Party candidate Adriane Carr?

2. Has Liberal Hedy Fry been an effective MP?

3. What is the most important issue in the country?



4. What is the most important issue in the riding?

5. If a federal election were held today who would you vote for?



Liberal - Hedy Fry



Conservative - Lorne Mayencourt



NDP - Randall Garrison



Green - Adriane Carr



6. What party would you NOT consider voting for?



Oraclepoll Research has previously polled for the Green Party, asking Canadians in 2004 about including the Greens in the federal party leaders debates.

Oraclepoll 's website does not list the Green Party as a client but says it does polling for a variety of individual political candidates:

"Oraclepoll Research has conducted Riding polls for various candidates across Canada at the Federal and Provincial levels. Extensive polling has also been conducted at the municipal level. Because of issues related to confidentiality references will be dealt with as requested."

Oraclepoll Research is listed as a political contributor to the Ontario Liberal Party of Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2005, donating $315.

It also lists a variety of environmental groups and others among its clients:

environmental / associations / not for profit / labour

Environmental Defence
COPE (The Coalition Against Paving the Escarpment)
TEA (Toronto Environmental Alliance)
FON (Federation of Ontario Naturalists)
OCAA (Ontario Clean Air Alliance)
Earthroots
World Wildlife Fund
Sudbury Chamber of Commerce
AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario)
Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators
OPSEU
OMERS
Retail Wholesale Workers Union
RiverSides

But Oraclepoll Research isn't just a green machine - it does polling for corporate clients with a less than environmentally friendly background, such as:

Corporate Clients

Inco Ltd.
Domtar
Johnson & Johnson
Northwest Territories Power Corporation
General Motors
Sea Ray Boats

BC ripped-off by Quebec vote-buying Stephen Harper federal budget

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 27, 2007

B.C. shafted again

By BILL TIELEMAN

As a people we are on our way to becoming a nauseating bunch of blackmailers.

- Pierre Trudeau on Quebec politicians, 1950

If a television contest were held for the title of The Greatest Quebecois and the voters were all in la belle province, the winner would be incredibly obvious - Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper!

But that's because the contest would have been rigged - the voters were just bought off with billions of dollars, our tax dollars!

Amazingly, Harper's budget last week gave a desperate Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest $700 million so that Quebec taxpayers could have a huge tax cut. And Harper promised more to come - $4.1 billion more to be precise, by next year.

The money for that pre-election graft was pickpocketed by Harper directly from the rest of Canada's wallets.

What a rip-off! Some fixing the so-called "fiscal imbalance" that is - we pay extra taxes in British Columbia so a failing Quebec politician can buy votes.

And we pay extra taxes and get less federal services in B.C. so Harper can also buy votes in Quebec in the national election that is sure to come shortly.

Last night's Quebec election results will show if this sleazy trick worked for Charest - this column is written before the ballots are counted - but the guy responsible is not Charest, but Harper.

How bad is the federal budget for B.C.?

This bad: Both the provincial Liberals and the opposition New Democrats agree that we got hosed badly.

To add insult to injury, federal Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gets up in the House of Commons and talks about Canada stretching from the rocky shores of Newfoundland to the peaks of the Rockies.

Wake up you moron - B.C. starts at the Rockies, Canada doesn't stop there!

Even my right-wing 24 hours colleague Erin Airton had to admit that Harper brought in "a budget that provides a heavy dollop of sucking up to Quebec" but she then uses the incredibly lame excuse that it was the opposition's fault. Pathetic.

On top of insulting and robbing every British Columbian, this budget does nothing to fight homelessness by funding social housing and gives just $21 million for job training for aboriginal people.

Lastly, the federal budget makes very negative changes to the equalization formula which will hurt British Columbia. By now including property values at market value, the Conservatives have ensured that B.C. won't get equalization payments in future economic slumps because of our high real-estate costs.

Just when British Columbia was finally getting over the old and hated Brian Mulroney Conservative government, Stephen Harper gives us the same message that Mulroney used to send - mange merde, B.C.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mike Harcourt holds court, party card at Darlene Marzari dinner


Former BC Premier Mike Harcourt was in good form Thursday night at a dinner celebrating the political career of Darlene Marzari, the ex-cabinet minister and Vancouver city councilor.


Harcourt told a full house at Accents restaurant in Kitsilano about his long involvement in politics with Marzari, from working together to stop the Chinatown freeway in the 1970s to their time in cabinet in the NDP government of 1991.


But it was Harcourt's comments about some former premiers that brought roars from the crowd of mostly - but not all - longtime New Democrats.


"I'm one of the former NDP premiers who still holds a membership card," Harcourt quipped to howls of laughter. Take that Ujjal Dosanjh! Pow to you, Bob Rae!


Hosted by a very funny Joy MacPhail, other speakers included former MP Margaret Mitchell, veteran human and womens' rights activist Shelagh Day, Marzari's daughter Francesca and of course Marzari herself.


The audience included former Yukon Premier Tony Penikett, Vision Vancouver councilors George Chow and Tim Stevenson, former Non-Partisan Association Vancouver councilor Jonathan Baker, former Harcourt NDP cabinet minister Tom Perry, Alex MacDonald, the former Attorney-General in the Dave Barrett NDP government, Blair Redlin, former Deputy Minister of Transportation and VanCity Credit Union directorship candidate, Vancouver Quadra NDP candidate Becca Coad


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Anti-Scab vote shows which Liberals killed Bill C-257

A recorded vote in the House of Commons Wednesday lists which Liberal Members of Parliament voted to kill Bill C-257, the private members bill that would have banned the use of replacement workers in federal labour disputes.

The vote shows that led by leader Stephane Dion, recent leadership candidates Michael Ignatieff and Ken Dryden and former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, most Liberal MPs voted with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives to block passage of Bill C-257.

The New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois supported the bill, which was moved by BQ MP Richard Nadeau.

British Columbia Liberal MPs Blair Wilson and Keith Martin voted with Dion and Harper to kill the anti-replacement worker legislation.

Ujjal Dosanjh was not present for the vote.

Full credit to British Columbia Liberal MPs Stephen Owen, Don Bell, Sukh Dhaliwal, Raymond Chan and Hedy Fry for voting in favour of Bill C-257 despite Dion's speech to the Liberal Caucus opposing the legislation, a move that effectively killed it.



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stephane Dion Liberals stop anti-replacement worker legislation from passing

Stephane Dion and Liberal MPs vote against anti-replacement worker Bill C-257 despite earlier support, killing the legislation.

So much for the "progressive" or "centre left" federal Liberal Party under Dion.

Despite most Liberal MPs earlier supporting Bill C-257 - which would have blocked the use of scabs during strikes or lockouts - after Dion spoke out against it in a caucus meeting Wednesday the bill was doomed.

This afternoon it was defeated by a vote of 177 to 122 on third reading.

New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted in favour, while most Conservatives and a majority of Liberals voted against, according to Canadian Press. A vote breakdown by MP is not yet available.

“The bill does not clarify enough the situation of the essential workers,” Dion said. “If there is a strike in a port, an airport, bank, the effect on the Canadian economy would be very huge.”

But Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti denounced a "campaign of fear" by corporations against the legislation and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe blamed Dion for the loss.

“It's a shame, it's a shame,” Duceppe said. “We were going to win for the first time, but Dion was influenced by big business.”

Bill C-257 would only have affected federally regulated employers. BC and Quebec have had legislation banning replacement workers for many years and supporters of the federal bill pointed out that the dire predictions of disaster from national business organizations had failed to materialize in those two provinces.

Dion claims his party will introduce its own bill with provisions to exempt essential services from a ban on replacement workers.

BC Government, Christy Clark, NPA all push for segregated schools for special needs children

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 20, 2007


Segregation's return?

By BILL TIELEMAN

The highest result of education is tolerance.

- Helen Keller

Long ago in B.C. our children with special needs were put in segregated schools away from their neighbourhood friends and sometimes far away from their families.

While well-intentioned at the time, it was completely the wrong way to help special-needs kids. We learned the hard way that they should have been included with all the other children in our classrooms and given the extra help they needed there.

Both kids with special needs and those without benefit from inclusion, experts around the world have concluded.

But for some children, those with autism, mental illness or deafness, it was more than wrong - it was horrible.

We later heard terrible stories from the Woodlands School and the Jericho Hill School for the Deaf of students sexually assaulted, physically beaten and mentally abused.

And so the idea of segregation of children with special needs was thankfully put to rest.

Until this year, when the B.C. Liberal government suddenly re-opened this widely discredited approach and tried to make it sound new and progressive.

The Feb. 13 Throne Speech said the government would establish "provincial schools" and Education Minister Shirley Bond later talked about "model schools" for children with autism.

Then - surprise, surprise - Christy Clark, the former education minister, said in her Feb. 25 Province newspaper column that critics shouldn't attack the government idea and that: "Segregation didn't work as a general rule. But rules have exceptions..."

That would be the same Clark whose party in opposition promised to help autistic children but in government went to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn B.C. court rulings in favour of funding special programs for them.


Another surprise - four days later Clark pops up again to say that now she and businesswoman Wendy Cocchia want to start a separate school for special needs kids.

And - imagine that - Clark and Cocchia have already met with Education Minister Shirley Bond, who - surprise - is receptive to the idea!

And then a few days later - surprise once more - Ken Denike, the right-wing Non-Partisan Association chair of the Vancouver School Board, announces that hey, this is a good idea, we should try here!

The question that should be asked is: Why? Why is an orchestrated effort being made to once again start segregated schools?

One answer is money. The provincial government has never adequately funded school districts to provide the assistance special needs children require. Centralized, separate schools could be cheaper.

A wide range of groups, from the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities to the B.C. Association for Community Living to the B.C. Teachers Federation have all raised their concerns, as have many B.C. academics.

But will this government listen?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Premier Gordon Campbell - Missing In California after meeting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

While BC Premier Gordon Campbell has recently found religion when it comes to "green" issues and the environment, he has apparently gone missing in California after allegedly meeting with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger!

At least, the Premier is missing completely from any U.S. media coverage of his big trip to meet the former action movie star/bodybuilder to talk environment with Arnie.

And while Campbell's visit may be a big deal for British Columbia media, it is non-news in California.

A thorough search of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, including its Sacramento state capital political coverage, shows that as far as California is concerned Premier Campbell may as well be a fictional extra in one of the Governator's old movies!

There were some promising entries in the LA Times that might have referred to Campbell's visit. For example:

CAPITOL JOURNAL
In the political murk lurk a few really foggy ideas

Perhaps the Governator had asked Campbell why just weeks ago BC was planning to allow two coal-fired power plants to open? But no.

Or this item:

Liberal lawmakers may sway key vote on Iraq war

Could Campbell have convinced U.S. politicians to get out of Iraq? Unfortunately, no.

Or could Campbell and his sidekick, Environment Minister Barry Penner have got themselves in real trouble with inappropriate financial support for Arnie?

Schwarzenegger opens his Brentwood home to deep-pocket donors
By Robert Salladay
A mere $250,000 buys entry to two receptions and a dinner -- and, critics say, influence.

That might have been money well-spent by Campbell if it resulted in some good face time but also, no.

Finally, it looked like the story I had been seeking in the LA Times was at hand - this had to be the headline:

March 15, 2007
COLUMN ONE
Drifters sure get around

But again, disappointment, this item was about the old 60s musical group, not Campbell and Penner!

One last try - a full search on the LA Times. And here come the results:

PHOTOS No matches found on search for: gordon campbell
Try broadening your search criteria.

AUDIO / VIDEO No matches found on search for: gordon campbell
Try broadening your search criteria.

VENUES No matches found on search for: gordon campbell
Try broadening your search criteria.


EVENTS No matches found on search for: gordon campbell
Try broadening your search criteria.


How disappointing for the Premier - his cameo role with Arnie is on the cutting room floor!

BUT WAIT - at least there is a small reference on Schwarzenegger's own California government website:

03/15/2007 GAAS:207:07 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Meeting Today with British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the following statement today after meeting with British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell:

“I want to thank Premier Campbell for meeting with me today and discussing what we both have been doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the effects of climate change. California and British Columbia can learn a lot from each other’s experiences with renewable energy, building a hydrogen economy and developing a clean energy industry. I look forward to working with Premier Campbell on these and other issues when I visit him in Canada this spring.”

Thank goodness! There's still hope for a Hollywood ending for Premier Campbell!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who said: "I'm disappointed that the NPA chose to stick their heads in the poop"

Well, we can't always be serious and this is my nominee for political quote of the year so far:

"I'm disappointed that the NPA chose to stick their heads in the poop, and abdicate their role as leaders. They played partisan politics with poop, and the city is the poorer for it," our mystery commentator said.

"I will continue to raise the issue, and look forward to moving my discussions with businesses, scientists, and environmentalists forward to bring a solution for this problem," the commentator added.

Stumped?

Here's a hint: the issue was not NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan's crappy leadership, not NPA councilors constipated approach to significant city issues, not NPA school trustees exhibiting irritable bowel syndrome on education concerns.

Give up? It was none other than Vancouver COPE Park Board Commissioner Spencer Herbert.

This man has his shit together! Dog shit that is - and he want to recycle it.

Here's the COPE newsletter version:



"Herbert moved a motion at Monday night's Park Board meeting asking the board to consider some environmentally sustainable solutions for dog waste.

The City of Vancouver's over 60,000 dogs produce up to 4.4 million kilo's of dog waste a year. Much of this ends up in the city's land fill in plastic bags which won't biodegrade. Herbert wanted the Park Board to investigate possible solutions which include composting the waste, turning it into methane for use in heating, and creating electricity, and the possibility of having it go through the City's sewage system.

The motion brought much attention and had community members out to support it. The idea was featured on the front page of the Vancouver Sun, and had Herbert speaking about this unique idea on many radio shows.

Unfortunately the NPA Commissioners saw it another way, and voted against the motion defeating it in a tie vote (Commissioner's Herbert, Woodcock, and De Genova in favour).

"I'm dissapointed that the NPA chose to stick their heads in the poop, and abdicate their role as leaders."

"They played partisan politics with poop, and the city is the poorer for it. I will continue to raise the issue, and look forward to moving my discussions with businesses, scientists, and environmentalists forward to bring a solution for this problem," Herbert said.

Commissioner Herbert will also be working to draw attention to the Everett Crowley Park Committee's volunteer pilot project on dog waste composting, and see whether it can be adopted around the City."

Come on NPA - cut the crap!





Tuesday, March 13, 2007

BC Liberals removed farm worker protection, tragic accident directly related

Farm protection laws taken out to pasture

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 13, 2007

By BILL TIELEMAN

Partnership Agreement helps protect farm workers ... Effective tomorrow, farm workers are excluded from hours of work, overtime and statutory holiday pay.


The B.C. Liberal government should hang its head in shame for systematically attacking rules and regulations that protect farm workers.

Instead, and despite last week's horrific vehicle accident that killed three women farm workers, the Liberals deny the obvious - that their actions in support of farmers and farm labour contractors are directly related to this tragedy.

With the enthusiastic backing of the B.C. Agricultural Council, representing the farming industry, Premier Gordon Campbell's government has weakened previous protections for farm workers in almost every possible way.

One of the most misleading and outrageous actions was a Partnership Agreement signed between the government and the Council in May 2003 that resulted in what the Council called "Positive Changes in Employment Standards Act Regulations" in a memo to members.

Those "positive changes" include allowing child labour - letting 12 to 15-year-olds to work with only parental permission; removing farm workers from hours of work, overtime and statutory holiday pay provisions; and reducing by up to 75 per cent the bonds labour contractors are forced to post to ensure workers are paid.

Of course, it was a farm labour contractor with a history of violations whose overloaded van crashed last week, killing the three workers.

RHA Enterprises Ltd. had previously been found to have operated without a farm-labour contractor licence. They are currently licensed.

But the agreement between government and farmers states that: "The B.C. Agriculture Council and its member organizations agree that they will not support or condone the utilization of unlicensed farm labour contractors."

Rainbow Greenhouses in Chilliwack, where the farm workers were headed when the tragic accident occurred, is listed as one of "our growers" on the website of the United Flower Growers Co-operative Association, which signed the Partnership Agreement.

What's more, RHA Enterprises Ltd. has also been found to have failed to keep proper records and failed to register a vehicle in 2005. The company was fined $500 per violation.

B.C. farm-labour contractor vehicle accidents are all too common - and avoidable if basic safety rules were followed.

On July 13, 2003, farm worker Mohinder Kaur Sunar was killed when the van she was going to work in, carrying 19 people, had a tire blow out and crash on the Trans-Canada Highway.

A coroner's report said the government should review the Motor Vehicle Act, in particular to clarify the rules surrounding the use of seatbelts for passengers in vans and buses. WorkSafe BC said the same thing.

But it wasn't done. And once again, the provincial government's refusal to protect farm workers means more lives lost.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Basi-Virk Case - Disclosure, Delay and Documents

Basi-Virk Case Tests Citizens' Patience

Frustrates even trial judge with its delays, disclosure issues.

View full article and comments here http://thetyee.ca/Views/2007/03/12/Basi-Virk/

By Bill Tieleman

Published: March 12, 2007

TheTyee.ca

"Just so we're clear, the public interest in having this case heard outweighs just about everything else."


-- B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett

Over three years after the Dec. 28, 2003, police on raid the B.C. legislature and with the long-awaited breach of trust trial of former provincial government ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk still not underway, presiding Justice Elizabeth Bennett is understandably frustrated.

That's what led to Bennett's somewhat exasperated statement at the conclusion of another lengthy B.C. Supreme Court hearing March 7, where both defence lawyers and the special prosecutor explained why the case could not begin April 2 as planned but needs to be delayed by weeks more.

And much of the court session revolved around the thorny issues of disclosure -- of evidence and to the media. On Feb. 26, the defence had filed a lengthy application for disclosure and the hearing was to discuss related issues and the upcoming trial.

Justice Bennett began by expressing her unhappiness with the fact that while on business in Quebec last month she read a Globe and Mail newspaper report outlining a defence disclosure application before she had even seen it herself.

It briefly thrust blogger Robin Mathews, a retired Canadian studies professor who has intently followed the Basi-Virk investigation, into the spotlight after he sent a personal letter to Bennett complaining that he could not get access to the defence application through the court registry while the media obviously had the document the day it was filed.

But it was lawyers for the defence who raised the most vexing disclosure problems -- their claim that the RCMP and special prosecutor Bill Berardino continue to fail to adequately disclose evidence they have gathered so that the defence can prepare its case.

All in all, par for the course of one of the most delayed, difficult and yet ultimately extremely important cases on the court docket.

Media? What media?

Perhaps that's why there were more reporters present for The Tyee than for B.C.'s dominant newspaper chain, CanWest Global, publishers of the Vancouver Sun, Province, Victoria Times-Colonist and National Post combined. That would be me.

And just maybe that's why the day after the hearing, only five B.C. newspapers bothered to report on the latest developments: The Globe and Mail, 24 Hours -- my newspaper -- plus the Prince George Citizen, Nelson Daily News and The Daily News of Kamloops, the last three relying on Canadian Press reporter Camille Bains's filed coverage.

Or perhaps it's because a case that involves the B.C. government's controversial $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail, charges against government aides who were highly politically active in both the federal and BC Liberal parties, allegations of connections to drugs and organized crime, claims of RCMP conflict of interest and a bungled investigation and an increasingly clear defence argument that the accused were merely following provincial government orders isn't worth reporting on.

To be fair, the Sun's Vaughn Palmer weighed in with a full column on March 10, and CanWest Global's John Daly of BCTV attended the hearing but the media turnout and subsequent reporting was sparse.

Disclosure? What disclosure?

"There's an issue I need to raise with you."

Definitely not the first words either a defence lawyer or special prosecutor want to hear from the presiding judge.

But that's exactly what Justice Bennett said to a group of about 10 assembled lawyers representing the defendants, prosecution and the federal and provincial government, as well as about six media representatives and a few observers.

"I read a lengthy report in The Globe and Mail in Quebec about the application before I received it," Justice Bennett continued. "I have a letter from a member of the public asking why he can't have access to the document."

One of those observers sitting next to me was in fact the letter writer -- Robin Mathews -- and his intervention in the case was a welcome reminder that the public does indeed have a right to know what goes on in its courts, a right that Justice Bennett amplified on considerably.

"These proceedings have to be as open as possible," she said, noting that in the most high-profile case she has previously adjudicated, the trial of former premier Glen Clark and Dimitrios Pilarinos, the building contractor and Clark's neighbour who hoped to influence a casino application, Bennett had set up a simple system to ensure access to court documents.

"Media access also means general public access," Bennett continued. "There's a presumption in the law of public access."

When special prosecutor Berardino mildly objected: "The presumption is public access but there will be documents with third-party information that...," Bennett cut him off.

"Let me be clear -- I will deal with this on a document by document basis," she said curtly.

Papers? Show me your papers

And documents there will be aplenty.

Previously in court it has been stated that over 100,000 pages of evidence have been produced, and counting.

But apparently not all the pages that the defence has been counting on.

That much was obvious when an angry Kevin McCullough, counsel for Bob Virk, lit into the special prosecutor's tardy disclosure of evidence.

"There are disclosure issues in this case that must be resolved," McCullough said. "There are several investigations of Mr. Basi and where one stops and the other one starts is very difficult to tell. There are many investigations going on."

"We've got disclosure problems and they're big problems and they've got to be dealt with. Milady, I apologize for the frustration but when my friend says he needs 13 days..."

McCullough was referring to his "friend" -- in the courtroom parlance of bonhomie -- special prosecutor Berardino, who had just told Bennett that he needs 13 business days in order to file a response to the defence disclosure application.

That's a full 13 days after the defence supplies Berardino with background to its disclosure request, because Berardino told the court that: "There is no material in support of the application."

So, who's not disclosing?

Well, Basi's own lawyer, Michael Bolton, laid the blame at Berardino's doorstep.

"The material that gave rise to the disclosure application arises predominantly from the disclosure received from the Crown," he told Bennett. It's important because it will let the defence know and the court know the Crown's theory, for example."

"What is the nature of the benefit?" he asked, referring to the allegation that Basi and Virk were to receive a benefit in exchange for providing lobbyist Erik Bornmann with confidential government information about the B.C. Rail deal for his client OmniTRAX, one of the bidders.

Bolton claimed that the original Crown theory that Basi and Virk were getting jobs in Ottawa with the federal Liberal government under then prime minister Paul Martin "seems to have been discarded."

Bolton continued by stating that a Crown failure to disclose evidence was hampering the defence case.

"The problems with pursuing the goal is that we're still receiving disclosure," he said. Bolton claimed that the defence had received a "statement from one of the key Crown witnesses, Mr. Erik Bornmann, in 2005 -- we got it in 2007."

Bolton also said that two wiretap applications the defence had been seeking for two years had only been received on Jan. 10, 2007.

And McCullough ended his exasperated appeal by stating that: "We've received critical notes from senior police officers just now."

But Bennett wasn't overly sympathetic.

"Mr. McCullough, there's nothing I can do about that now. You've received them," she said.

And Berardino defended the Crown's position. "There's a fundamental difference of opinion on disclosure," he told Bennett.

Relations? We have provincial and federal relations

While the defence and Crown sparring provided most of the sparks, legal counsel for the province gave a little levity to the proceedings.

George Copley, appearing for the "Executive Council of British Columbia" -- in other words, for the provincial government, addressed the potentially thorny issue of "privilege" -- the legal right of both cabinet privilege and solicitor-client privilege when it comes to disclosure of evidence involving cabinet members.

"I don't know how much background you know," Copley quietly began.

"Assume I know very little," Bennett replied, to muffled laughter in the courtroom.

Copley outlined that a sensitive procedure had been developed under Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm to ensure evidentiary documents seized from the B.C. legislature where privilege was claimed were examined to see if they were deemed relevant to the case.

Copley's low-key presentation revealed little of great interest -- with one prominent exception.

"Borden, Ladner, Gervais were the solicitors for the B.C. Rail deal," Copley said. "We may have to involve them."

Dates? We got dates

That left it to Justice Bennett to determine a new schedule for the now-delayed trial.

Another hearing on progress on the pre-trial preparations will be held at 9:30 a.m. on April 2.

Then, after a series of responses from defence and Crown on the disclosure application, the defence will file its Charter of Rights application on April 13.

That application -- originally expected to be filed March 21 -- is expected to ask that Justice Bennett throw the entire case out of court over the validity of search warrant applications obtained by RCMP.

And then on April 16 Justice Bennett will hear the actual arguments on the defence disclosure application in what will take up to 15 days in court.

After that the case is expected to continue on into the summer months, with Bennett noting that she is scheduled to teach a course in the second week of July but will forego it if necessary if the trial requires it.

Expect a long, hot summer of evidence -- if the case goes ahead.


Related Tyee stories:
Will BC Rail Bomb Explode?
Leg Raid Hearing Intrigue
'Spiderman' in a Web of Intrigue

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours, the free weekday newspaper, also online at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/. Tieleman can be heard every Monday at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at http://www.cknw.com/. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog at: http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Just 5 newspapers in BC report on Basi-Virk trial update

Disappointing to discover that just 5 newspapers in British Columbia bothered to report on the latest developments in the trial of David Basi and Bob Virk, two former provincial government aides charged with breach of trust.

My own newspaper, 24 hours, ran my report from the BC Supreme Court hearing Wednesday, the Globe and Mail ran a report by Mark Hume, who was also there, and the Kamloops Daily News, the Nelson Daily News and the Prince George Citizen ran stories written by Canadian Press reporter Camille Bains.

This according to an InfoMart database search of newspapers conducted this afternoon.

That means neither the Vancouver Sun, the Province nor the Victoria Times-Colonist reported that the most important political criminal trial in British Columbia has been delayed again, or that serious questions were raised about the evidence and about the lack of public access to court documents.

I am also unaware of any radio reports based on reviewing BC radio websites but the story may have been broadcast without being posted on their sites.

One can only hope that this omission by so many prominent media will be corrected shortly.



More on Basi Virk trial delay

Trial delayed again

BASI-VIRK

By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS

The long-delayed trial of former provincial government aides David Basi and Bob Virk on breach of trust charges will take a little longer still to get underway.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett has reluctantly delayed the planned April 2 start date for the trial connected to a police raid on the B.C. Legislature on Dec. 28, 2003 due to disclosure of evidence and administrative issues.

Bennett yesterday set April 16 for the start of a three-week hearing on the defence's application for disclosure of Crown evidence.

But Justice Bennett questioned why she read about the defence application in the media before she herself had received it.

And Bennett warned that she would make the case as open as possible after receiving a complaint letter from a member of the public about being unable to access the defence document through the court registry.

"Just so we're clear, the public interest in having this case heard outweighs just about everything else," Justice Bennett told the courtroom full of lawyers at the end of yesterday's hearing.

Robin Mathews, a retired professor of Canadian studies who has been closely following the case, told 24 hours he was the complainant.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Basi Virk Trial - delayed again!

The long-awaited trial of BC Liberal government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi has been delayed once again.

BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett reluctantly decided Wednesday that the planned trial start date of April 2 will be pushed back to April 16 for a three-week hearing on the defence application for disclosure discussed in these pages and elsewhere.

That decision came after lengthy submissions by defence lawyers on the challenges facing them and their frustration with a lack of disclosure of evidence from the Crown.

How long will this case take once it gets underway? Well, the best indication came when Justice Bennett told the lawyers she is scheduled to teach a legal course in the second week of July but will forego it if required by the trial!

Defence lawyers and the special prosecutor will appear before Justice Bennett again at 9:30 a.m. on April 2 to discuss progress in trial preparation and motions.

The defence will file Charter of Rights applications - which could determine if a trial even takes place - on April 13.

A hearing on those applications is yet to be scheduled but will take place after the disclosure hearing.

And Justice Bennett raised another issue at the start of the hearing - that she read the details of the defence disclosure application in the Globe and Mail newspaper while she was in Quebec before she had ever seen the application itself as the presiding judge.

Bennett also pointed out that she had received a letter from a citizen concerned that he could not get access to the defence disclosure application at the BC Supreme Court registry.

Bennett said she would be conducting the trial in the most open manner possible.

Robin Mathews, a retired professor of Canadian Studies who has been following and reporting on the trial online, told me that he was the letter writer and was pleased that Justice Bennett had acknowledged the problem.

I have filed a story for 24 hours newspaper for Thursday's edition and may have more to report here and elsewhere in the days ahead.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Basi Virk Case - New Defence Disclosure Application Details BC Rail Connections

Will BC Rail Bomb Explode?

Basi-Virk lawyers allege deal was rigged by BC Libs.

View full article and comments here http://thetyee.ca/Views/2007/03/06/BCRail/

By Bill Tieleman

Published: March 6, 2007 TheTyee.ca

"They've been calling for this deal to be cancelled since before it started, so it doesn't surprise me much. [But] there has been nothing that's come to our attention or to the attention of investigators that would lead anybody to believe that there was any concern about the CN transaction at all."

-- B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins, March 13, 2004

The $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail will be the explosive core of the upcoming April 2 trial of former provincial B.C. Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk on fraud and breach of trust charges.


That's what lawyers for the defence are alleging in a lengthy application for disclosure filed Feb. 27 in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the B.C. Rail deal is the key to the entire case -- and to their exoneration.

The defence dropped bombshell allegations that Premier Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberal government had already delivered the deal to CN Rail before final bids were even considered and that Basi and Virk were only following Collins's orders to deliver a $70 to $100 million "consolation prize" to losing bidder OmniTRAX -- the B.C. Rail-owned Roberts Bank spur line.

But those are far from the only shocking allegations in the defence document.

And given that the defence has served notice it seeks a stay of proceedings against Basi, Virk and Basi "on the basis of an undermining of the accused's right to a fair trial," it may turn out that the claims made are never introduced as evidence because the trial never happens.

Alternatively, presiding Justice Elizabeth Bennett may grant some or all of the defence's long list of requests for disclosure of evidence against their clients, evidence that could prove very damaging to the provincial government and the federal and provincial Liberal parties.

Fair trial jeopardized?

The allegations in the 32-page application filed by the defence prior to the trial -- to which the Crown will file a reply on March 14 -- come more than three years after the Dec. 28, 2003 police raid on the B.C. legislature. The allegations, it should be reminded, have not been proven in court.

At the heart of the defence case is a serious contention -- that the police and Crown have so screwed up their prosecution of the accused that a fair trial is impossible.

The defence will file a Charter of Rights challenge to the case on March 21 and that application, plus other defence requests, could well have the effect of delaying the April 2 trial start date -- if they don't result in the complete cancellation of the trial itself.

If the trial goes forward, expect the $1 billion B.C. Rail privatization to be placed under more scrutiny than ever before, because it is central to everything about this case.

And notwithstanding former B.C. Liberal finance minister Gary Collins's claim in March 2004 that the there was no concern by investigators about the B.C. Rail sale to CN Rail, in fact the police were literally all over it.

Just how much concern there was can be seen in the defence application, which details a major police surveillance operation focused on Collins himself when he dined with senior executives of OmniTRAX at Vancouver's posh Villa del Lupo restaurant on Dec. 12, 2003.

CN Rail had just been announced as the successful bidder for B.C. Rail on Nov. 25, and according to the defence document, the RCMP learned through intercepted communications that Collins was meeting with OmniTRAX executives Pat Broe and Dwight Johnson.

'Extensive video surveillance'

"The surveillance included undercover operatives both inside and outside the restaurant, and extensive video surveillance and tracking of the parties," the defence states.

It claims that on Nov. 17, 2003, the RCMP had "learned through a series of intercepted communications that Mr. Basi advised OmniTRAX that Minister Collins had authorized a consolation prize for OmniTRAX in exchange for them staying in the bidding process."

The defence will argue that Basi and Virk were merely following ministerial orders from Collins, not acting in their own benefit by leaking confidential government information to a lobby firm representing OmniTRAX.

The defence applications spells this out clearly: "The defence takes the position that at no time did Mr. Basi or Mr. Virk act in a fraudulent, deceitful or criminal manner, but rather acted at all times under the direction of their superiors in the highly political circumstances of their offices."

'Fraught with political controversy'

The defence also spells out just what kind of importance the B.C. Rail privatization had to the B.C. Liberal government.

CP Rail had already dropped out of the bidding, saying privately to government that it believed CN Rail was the predetermined winner of the bidding. A letter to that effect stated that a "clear breach" of fairness had occurred when other bidders obtained confidential government information about B.C. Rail.

"It was clearly in the provincial government's political interest to have an auction with more than one bidder," the defence application states. It later continues that:

"The decision by the Liberal government to sell B.C. Rail was fraught with political controversy, largely because it was in direct contravention of a previous election promise not to sell B.C. Rail.

The Liberal government had recently suffered serious losses of political capital due to their decisions surrounding other major projects, including the Coquihalla Highway project."

"The B.C. Rail bidding process therefore had to be handled with the utmost political care, given this sensitive political climate," it concludes.

Who will testify?

"Sensitive" is a good word to describe much of the evidence slated to be heard in this trial.
For example, will former finance minister Gary Collins be called to testify against his own former ministerial assistant David Basi?

Entirely possible and totally impossible for the defence to actually know, because they also allege that: "From the outset of this case, defence counsel has repeatedly sought a list of witness the Crown intends to call at the trial of this matter." That list is among the requests the defence is asking Justice Bennett to order the Crown to provide.

The defence is also frustrated that it has limited information about "an interview with a member of the public who provided the RCMP with his opinion of two witnesses on the condition of anonymity."

"The special prosecutor and RCMP have refused to provide this statement, advising that its disclosure would breach the third party rights of this individual and the two witnesses," the defence states.

What is alleged

Again, a reminder is in order that these are only allegations not proven in court. Among the more stunning allegations made by the defence are these:

That the defence is seeking correspondence between the RCMP, its legal advisors, the government of B.C. and B.C. Rail about "whether the sale of the freight division ought to have been rescinded and whether any compensation should be provided to any proponent, including the successful proponent";

That the defence also seeks from the same parties "any suggestion that CN paid too much or too little for the freight division";

That Basi and Virk worked on Gary Collins's orders to keep U.S. firm OmniTRAX from dropping out of the bidding for B.C. Rail, by indicating it would be given the "consolation prize" of the B.C. Rail Roberts Bank spur line, worth an estimated $70 to $100 million, for staying in the overall B.C. Rail bid process won by CN to maintain its credibility;

That "the indictment before the court deals directly with the connection of the accused and certain witnesses to the federal Liberal party";

That the "RCMP have extensively investigated various political and quasi-political activities of Mr. Basi in relation to provincial politics" and that "Messrs. Basi and Virk were significant political operatives for the provincial Liberal party";

That B.C. Liberal party Executive Director Kelly Reichert's brother-in-law Kevin Debruyckere was the RCMP sergeant in charge of the investigation;

That in 2004 there had been a leak of information regarding key Crown witness Erik Bornmann, a provincial lobbyist, and that it "pertained to Mr. Reichert knowing that Mr. Bornmann had been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for the provision of information against Messrs. Basi and Virk";

That "Bornmann advised the RCMP that Mr. Reichert had advised Mr. Bornmann's partner, Mr. [Jamie] Elmhirst, of same."

That because Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino had not notified the provincial government that Bornmann had made statements "that he had bribed Mr. Basi," Bornmann continued in the lobby business and "received a benefit from this conduct of the special prosecutor";

That Bornmann's business partner at Pilothouse Public Affairs, former Province columnist Brian Kieran, also continued to lobby the provincial government on behalf of clients after making his statements to the RCMP in 2004 he "also made an allegation of a payment to Mr. Basi that would have been unlawful";

That because the special prosecutor's "failing to notify the provincial government of this conduct" it left "Mr. Kieran free to continue lobbying the provincial government." That resulted in "a substantial benefit to Mr. Kieran." The defence notes that Kieran announced his retirement in March 2006 when the "court ordered the release of search warrant information";

That the RCMP knew a public claim in April 2004 by Bornmann that he "had been given the 'all clear' by the special prosecutor" was false and that "the special prosecutor has advised defence counsel that Mr. Bornmann continues to this day to have the threat of criminal charges brought against him until after he testifies";

That the RCMP seized federal Liberal Party donor lists in a March 2005 visit to the Liberal Party of Canada B.C. offices -- a fact that caused senior federal Conservative John Reynolds to ask why the RCMP would want them;

That Erik Bornmann made allegations about Bruce Clark, brother of former B.C. Liberal deputy premier Christy Clark and brother-in-law of Mark Marissen, federal Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion's campaign manager. According to the defence, Bruce Clark is "another potential Crown witness" and "Mr. Clark bribed Mr. Basi." The defence says it has not received "the entirety of Mr. Bornmann's statements against Mr. Clark although they relate directly to this investigation. [Clark told The Globe and Mail newspaper that: "The police investigated the allegations. They found nothing because the allegations were completely false."]

In a nutshell, a bombshell

In a nutshell, the defence has alleged that there was an internal political decision by the B.C. Liberal government to "fix" a $1 billion dollar deal and pay off the losing firm with another deal worth up to $100 million. And it seeks internal RCMP and government information on whether the B.C. Rail deal should have been rescinded.

It also alleges that a key RCMP investigator was related by marriage to the top staff person of the B.C. Liberal Party and that confidential information about the immunity granted to the Crown's key witness was leaked to that staff person.

The defence also alleges the special prosecutor gave beneficial treatment to two provincial lobbyists who are to be Crown witnesses, so they could continue their lucrative business. And that one of those witnesses still faces potential criminal charges.

More shockers?

Believe it or not, this lengthy compendium does not even cover all of the allegations made in the defence disclosure application -- not even close. I have deliberately left out many of the allegations that have been previously reported in The Tyee and other media outlets for reason of space and complexity.

Suffice it to say that if the Basi, Virk, Basi trial does go ahead as planned, there will be more bombshells than on a bad day in Iraq.

And if the case is somehow derailed by defence motions, well, British Columbia will have been deprived of the most fascinating trial in decades, a trial that could well alter the course of provincial political history.


Related Tyee stories:
Leg Raid Hearing Intrigue
'Spiderman' in a Web of Intrigue
Premier Scrambles to 'Restore Trust'

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 hours, the free weekday newspaper, also online at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca. Tieleman can be heard every Monday at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at www.cknw.com. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog at: http://billtieleman.blogspot.com.

Stephane Dion - Environmental Dud!

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 6, 2007


All talk, no action

By BILL TIELEMAN

As Prime Minister, I will bring Canadians together to ensure that Canada's natural environment is conserved and protected from sea to sea to sea - for ourselves, for our children, for our future, for Canada, and for our responsibility to the planet.

- Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion

Stephane Dion talks a good game on protecting our environment, presenting himself as the greenest Liberal leader ever.

But a close look at his record shows that on green achievements, Dion should actually be red-faced with embarrassment.

While Dion scored an upset win in the December 2006 federal Liberal leadership contest by highlighting his green platform, the longtime Member of Parliament is an environmental dud.

In fact, Dion mentioned the words "environment" and "environmental" in the House of Commons just four times between first joining the Liberal government in January 1996 and becoming environment minister in July 2004 - once every 237 days.

But actions always speak louder - and again Dion has a clear record.

Dion voted with the Conservatives against mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods on Oct. 18, 2001. He joined the Conservatives again in voting against mandatory fuel efficiency for all cars on Feb. 22, 2005.

And as federal environment minister in July 2005, Dion set up a "Chemicals Sector Sustainability Table" to consult on pollution issues - with one of the co-chairs being the vice-president of Imperial Oil's Chemicals Division!

"This move shows that the federal government is determined to kowtow to industry at the expense of the public interest," said Dr. Rick Smith, Environmental Defence executive director at the time. "The creation of this new table is particularly obscene given that Canada ranks as one of the worst countries in the industrialized world for many kinds of pollution."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Dion's environmental action.

But then again, the federal Liberals themselves had to admit that during their 13 years in power - with Dion an MP for 10 of them and mostly in cabinet - as leadership rival Michael Ignatieff put it about the environment: "We didn't get it done."

Greenhouse gases alone went up 30 per cent under the Liberals.

The party's own 2006 Renewal Commission report confesses that the Liberal government failed to "translate our good environmental intentions into concrete action."

Like when Dion himself reduced offshore oil and gas drilling environmental assessment regulations.

"The science indicates that the environmental effects of offshore oil and gas exploratory drilling are, in general, minor, localized, short in duration and reversible. Under the legislated criteria, a screening type assessment would provide an appropriate level of assessment for such projects," Dion said on Nov. 17, 2005.

But then, that was before he wanted to protect Canada's environment "from sea to sea to sea."

Whatever you say, Stephane.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Kitsilano resident protests plans to axe 45 linden trees along West Broadway


More than 125 Kitsilano residents gathered on West Broadway Saturday to protest plans by Vancouver to cut down 45 mature linden trees in their neighbourhood.


Community activists, arborists and local business owners all spoke out strongly against the city plans, saying that the city refuses to consider alternate ways of dealing with tree roots pushing up the paved sidewalk between MacDonald and Alma.

West Kitsilano Residents Association representatives Mel Lehan and Alayne Keough urged the crowd gathered outside the Hollywood Theatre to contact City Hall to demand the linden trees be saved. Arborists and landscape architects say that at a maximum only 15 linden trees need to be replaced instead of the 45 scheduled for the chain saw starting in early April.

You can email Mayor Sam Sullivan and all City Councilors at once with your concerns.

Contact the West Kitsilano Residents Association at westkits@hotmail.com