Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FOI appeal by 24 hours in Basi-Virk court shows government officer was monitoring case for political purposes

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday December 16, 2008

Campbell keeps close eye on Basi-Virk case

By BILL TIELEMAN

The premier's office documents - you see the degree of media monitoring going on.

- Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, Dec. 12, 2008

It's not just Santa Claus who watches to see who's naughty or nice - it's also Premier Gordon Campbell's political operative elves.

And most watched is the five-year-old B.C. Legislature Raid case, where former B.C. Liberal government aides David Basi and Bob Virk face corruption charges related to Campbell's $1-billion B.C. Rail privatization.

I recently won a Freedom Of Information request appeal that shows the government wrongly withheld notes of its Public Affairs Bureau officer monitoring the case to avoid embarrassment.

And in B.C. Supreme Court Friday, defence lawyers alleged that the premier's office documents they received from FOIs indicate Basi and Virk may not have leaked the confidential government information they face charges over.

Last year, I exclusively reported that PAB officer Stuart Chase took notes in court during hearings where the defence alleged that the premier's staff co-ordinated political dirty tricks, including organizing phony protest rallies and fake radio talk show callers.

When I received Chase's notes, substantial portions were removed and marked "out of scope." I appealed in December 2007 but got results 10 months later - and what I obtained explains the long delay and shows they were highly relevant:

"And, on one last side note, Bill Tielman [sic] approached me today, asking who I was. I mention this only in case my name appears in his work. I explained to him that my presence in court is merely about gathering information to send back to Victoria, so that by the time they read about it in his blog, what he is talking about comes as little surprise, Chase wrote, ending with a smiley face.

When I originally revealed Chase's presence in court, Attorney-General Wally Oppal wrongly claimed he was there to "assist the media ... that's all he's there for" - though Chase never spoke to reporters.

Another section obtained through appeal shows Chase reporting overheard comments on when the trial might start:

"I did hear a Crown counsel member talking about the length of applications and that we won't likely see the start of the actual trial for 14 weeks [her assumption, not fact] ..." Chase wrote, proving he was actually assisting the government.

Meanwhile, McCullough made powerful allegations Friday that Basi and Virk have been set up.

"There was leaking that was unattributable to Basi and Virk. Did Basi and Virk even leak documents to the lobbyists? That's a live issue," McCullough charged. "The FOI documents show other individuals were doing that."

What else those FOIs show is why Campbell's biggest Christmas present is that the trial won't start until after the May 2009 election.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

BT: You should FOI McCullough's FOI so that we can see what he asked for - and got.

DPL said...

Way back when, as FOI was about to start in BC , a family member, was the representative for a minitry. Colin Gableman told the group that when writing notes or documents that eventually they will become public so slagging people just won't work. Wasn't it Dobell who bragged that he never kept records of emails and destroyed incoming ones after reading them? He got a slap on the wrist from a independent officer . Nothing like a open accountable government.

You earlier mentioned that the Judge was to come up with somemstuff yesterday. and idea if that happened? Thanks as usual for you analyasis of events

North Van's Grumps said...

Throughout Question Period the AG of British Columbia maintains that he doesn't deal with Mr. Chase, but in his closing sentence well below, he goes so far as to say "He's doing an excellent job."

Bill Tieleman wrote: "When I originally revealed Chase's presence in court, Attorney-General Wally Oppal wrongly claimed he was there to "assist the media ... that's all he's there for" - though Chase never spoke to reporters."

How can the AG say that someone is doing an excellent job if he's never seen the man, never seen any of his article or report?

Or, reversally, what would it say about the AG on other matters where he has perhaps, muttered under his breath "he's doing an excellent job, the Premier is, on our economic recovery stimulus"


L. Krog: Well, hon. Speaker, coming from a government that refuses to denounce the practice of taxpayer-funded dirty political tricks, it's a little hard to believe that this type of activity is in the public interest, when the Attorney General won't answer any questions about the trial. The Attorney General has acknowledged today in this House that the taxpayers are paying for this individual to report back to his political masters with information that is not ever made public.

My question to the Attorney General is very simple. If the public is paying for this service, will the Attorney General commit to making all the reports of the public affairs bureau staffer public starting today?


Hon. W. Oppal: You know, this person has been there for a while. He sits in on all of the trials; he assists the media. This is nothing new. I congratulate the opposition for finally finding out that Mr. Chase has been in the courts — been there for a long time. He's doing an excellent job.

Bill Tieleman said...

NOTE TO DEEP THROAT - I am unable to publish your comment - please feel free to contact me by email or through another posting - that I will not publish - if you prefer.

Deep Throat said...

I thought you had it through your FOI request.

Anonymous said...

Had what? Don't tease us so!

Anonymous said...

The May election will go on, but that doesn't mean we have to let the false prophet, win!

Budd Campbell said...

Is Wally Oppal a stranger to the truth, or just a good Liberal? Just asking.

Anonymous said...

This case and Susan Heyes upcoming court case, scream for a Judicial Inquiry (or a Royal Commission if one believes the judicial system is corrupt). Both are fraught with political intrigue, both spell great political danger for the Liberals. Both may contain criminal actions.

Only in BC you say?

Pity!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill

You dont need to post this, You may know this already,Stuart Chase, (our Stuart?)noted on Thompson's River University Alumni

Where are you living these days?
Vancouver, BC!

Where are you working?

Summer job in between 3rd and 4th years of degree program - working for Vancouver Convention Center Expansion Project as a site rep

What are your future plans?

Become a rich and famous Public Relations guru
http://www.tru.ca/athletics/history/wherearethey.html#stuartchase

Menz

Anonymous said...

anon 6:39, what does susan heyes have to do with the basi-virk court case? do tell.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you mean that Stuart Chase!

"......Stuart Chase’s Specialties:
Speech writing, news release writing and other press kit material production, communications and event planning, issues management......Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project at Pace Group."


As a highly sought after BC Liberal PAB employee, he is eligible for the total cost of his education fees (student loan is wiped clean) are picked up by BC taxpayers, 100%, if he completes three years of work with the government.

Deep Throat said...

Bill:

If you dig deep enough you will find more interesting and important connections between the Basi/Virk affair and Pace Group personal.

Anonymous said...

Deep Throat, there's nothing untoward regarding the Pace Group.

Their own website says it all:

"The men and women who work here, as well as the many clients who take us into their confidence, speak volumes about the sort of company we've become over the past 15 years - the sort of company high profile businesses and organizations trust to provide the best communications advice and direction possible."

Two Pace Group projects:

BC Ferries, built in Germany, were used as floating billboards for 2010 Winter Olympics;

The ActNow BC Road to Health Community Tour is the latest ActNow BC initiative. Created and managed by the Pace Group .....

Curious George said...

Bill, who exactly are the members of the Pace group? Maybe Deep Throat is on to something.

Gazetteer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Tieleman said...

Gazetteer - I just want to be clear - I have no problem whatsoever with Stuart Chase - he was simply doing his job as assigned by the Gordon Campbell government.

It wasn't Chase who obfuscated, smirked or misled anyone - that job in this government was done by Attorney-General Wally Oppal, or by someone else who misled him. :)

Gazetteer said...

Point taken Bill--

As a result, I have removed the comment above and have reworded things to reflect what you had to say....

________

I found the following passage, as revealed by the unredacted portions document, disturbing:

"And, on one last side note, Bill Tielman [sic] approached me today, asking who I was. I mention this only in case my name appears in his work. I explained to him that my presence in court is merely about gathering information to send back to Victoria, so that by the time they read about it in his blog, what he is talking about comes as little surprise, Chase wrote, ending with a smiley face.


A smiley face?

A SMILEY FACE!!!???

Do these fine folks think this is all a joke?

First off, a political apppointee is sent to court to report back to his political masters because said goings on might impact the comings and goings of said masters.....

Now, while I think this is a ridiculous waste of a human resource whose time and effort was being paid for by the people of British Columbia, I guess I can sorta/kinda understand it.

However, I find it extremely disturbing that the political appointee would also tell Mr. Tieleman that he was there to give his political masters advance warning about subjects that Mr. Tieleman and, by implication, other members of the Press might write about.

Why do I find this disturbing?

Because, in my mind it indicates that the appointee felt that he was also there to facilitate the monitoring of the media by his masters.

And to compound all of this, a clear, concerted attempt was made to hide the truth about the nature of this monitoring (court, media or otherwise) from the public because it was considered 'out of scope'.

Out of the scope of what, exactly?

The scope of a mocking smiley face?

Or could it be that passages like the one cited above were actually deemed to be too much "IN THE SCOPE" of the Attorney General of this Province who had already told the legislature and the public that the political appointee was ONLY there to HELP THE PRESS (ie. not monitor the court and/or the press/media)?

Unbelievable.


RossK


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