Tuesday March 18, 2008
Does punishment fit the crime in B.C.?
BY BILL TIELEMAN
"Who said he's under a cloud?"
Only in British Columbia would a guilty man continue to advise a guilty government, with neither showing an ounce of shame.
Ken Dobell was Premier Gordon Campbell's senior deputy minister for years. Last week, Dobell pleaded guilty to breaking the Lobbyists Registration Act and repaid the $7,000 he received for lobbying while in violation.
That Act was introduced, debated and passed while Dobell himself held the most powerful government staff position.
Even worse, special prosecutor Terence Robertson said he considered whether Dobell had also violated Criminal Code Section 121 regarding "influence peddling" and concluded the evidence supported a "substantial likelihood of conviction."
Fortunately for Dobell, Robertson said prosecution would not be in the "public interest."
I agree. Ken Dobell is not a crook. He is an arrogant fool.
Dobell thinks himself above the rules. So does Campbell, who was outraged at suggestions he cut ties with Dobell, and Oppal, who could not see any "cloud" over the disgraced ex-deputy.
They just don't get it. And their arrogance has consequences.
Dobell is the first person to be prosecuted since the Lobbyists Registry Act was passed in 2001.
And Dobell, despite running the government that passed the Act, avoided serious penalty because he regarded himself not as a lobbyist but a "content consultant," and didn't register on time.
Any future prosecution of unregistered lobbyists - a big presumption given the utter lack of enforcement to date - will no doubt trigger the "Dobell Defence" wherein a lobbyist will also confess ignorance of the law.
Dobell's charges created a sudden spike of worried lobbyists registering, as 24 hours' Sean Holman detailed.
Dobell even said in an essay written to avoid prosecution for also failing to register as a federal lobbyist, that: "Over the course of my work in government and since leaving it, I now recognize that I have encountered a number of individuals doing work that would likely fall under the ambit of the legislation who may not be registered."
Meanwhile, let's not forget that Dobell has a history of thumbing his nose at government regulations intended to protect and inform the public.
Dobell told a 2003 freedom of information conference that he rarely takes meeting notes and deletes most e-mails to avoid their disclosure through FOIs, as required by law.
Meanwhile, Dobell will continue lobbying the provincial government on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems, continue working for both the province and the City of Vancouver and probably continue to draw a substantial city and provincial pension in addition to his $250-an-hour fees.
And in B.C., that's how we punish the guilty.