Monday, July 28, 2008
Tuesday July 29, 2008
Gordo's changes just plain rotten
By BILL TIELEMAN
I firmly believe that ordinary British Columbians would not want their government to act in such a cruel manner, which is why this has been done so secretively.
- Disability activist Dawn Steele
Underhanded, deceitful, disgusting and downright rotten.
Those are the only ways to describe one of the most despicable moves by the B.C. Liberal government when it comes to mistreating people with disabilities.
And with their record, that's really saying something.
Without notice to anyone affected, without consulting the public or disability groups, Premier Gordon Campbell has made changes that will have profound negative affects on adults with serious developmental disabilities.
Campbell and Children and Family Development Minister Tom Christensen secretly signed a July 18 Order-In-Council making an IQ of 70 or less one of the criteria for receiving disability services.
It lets the government evade a 2007 B.C. Court of Appeal ruling that the province cannot deny services to a disabled person simply because their IQ is over 70.
Dawn Steele, whose teenage son has autism, is shocked.
"This is a disgraceful, inexcusable move. It is not the way a civilized society operates," Steele said in an interview. "It will exacerbate the homeless crisis and it will not save taxpayers any money."
But it's no surprise that the B.C. Liberals are attacking people with disabilities - they've done it for years.
Gordon Campbell promised before the 2001 provincial election that a B.C. Liberal government: "Will increase emphasis on early childhood intervention programs for families with special needs children."
But in 2002, it appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada a B.C. Court of Appeal decision that the government was constitutionally obligated to fund behavioural therapy for children with autism.
The government's special need to save money was more important than special needs kids.
Also in 2002, I revealed a secret government document showing the B.C. Liberals planned to cut off benefits to 9,000 people with disabilities by forcing more than 18,000 of them and their doctors to complete a 23-page reassessment - with the goal to eliminate 50 per cent from getting social assistance.
Several suicides were reported by desperate individuals who feared they would be homeless and abandoned. The government eventually dropped most of the plan.
In this latest case, the Campbell government has completely reversed its own previous position.
"The easy response to the ... court decision would have been to respond by simply legislating IQ," Christensen said last year. "We didn't think that was an appropriate response."
But now they do.
And, as a result, young adults with serious developmental disabilities and an IQ even a point above 70 will be cut off from government help, leaving them potentially helpless and on the street.
And that's just disgusting.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Basi-Virk defence gets BC Rail confidential government documents in deal; publication ban still possible
Lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, the three former BC Liberal government aides facing corruption charges, declined comment on the decision outside court Friday. Neither the defence nor special prosecutor had supported media arguments against a publication ban.
Bennett rejected requests by media lawyers for standing in the matter but said they could challenge any possible publication ban if any of the documents are entered as evidence in the trial.
Roger McConchie, lawyer for the Globe and Mail and CTV, told Canadian Press he was pleased despite Bennett's decision because it still leaves media free to challenge a publication ban.
"Common sense tells me these documents, or some of them, are going to be used in open court," he said. "We're not going to be hampered in any way in arguing against a publication ban."
The dispute on documents centered on about 90 B.C. Rail documents the government claimed are exempt from disclosure due to solicitor-client privilege and the defence wanted access to in order to see if they would be useful to defending the accused.
But nothing much will happen in the oft-delayed case that was triggered by the December 28, 2003 raid on the BC Legislature until the Supreme Court of Canada decides if it will hear an appeal by the special prosecutor to overturn two lower BC court decisions regarding potential testimony by and about a secret police informant.
The actual beginning of the trial could be delayed by a year or more if the appeal is heard.
Meanwhile, a BC Supreme Court update on disclosure of evidence and other issues is scheduled for September 17.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Are BC Liberals polling extensively in Vancouver-Fairview to find candidate, identify carbon tax problems?
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
Is the BC Liberal Party polling the Vancouver-Fairview provincial riding to find out who they could run to replace outgoing New Democratic Party MLA Gregor Robertson?
Vancouver’s Mustel Group is fielding a major poll asking whether government statements about the provincial carbon tax claiming it is revenue neutral are believable and which party leader would make the best premier.
But perhaps the most interesting section – given exclusively to 24 hours by a reader polled last week – asks if they recognize and would vote for a number of potential candidates for all parties.
Included in the list are Rick Peterson, an investment firm owner running for the B.C. Liberal nomination, Vancouver city councillor Kim Capri, who recently said she won’t run for the Liberals, federal Green party deputy leader Adriane Carr, Hospital Employees Union secretary-business manager Judy Darcy, who lost the 2005 NDP nomination to Robertson, and Cambie Street business activist Susan Heyes.
BC Liberal Party spokesman Chad Pederson couldn’t say if his party was responsible but added it doesn’t comment on polling. NDP spokesperson Holly Read and Green party leader Jane Sterk both said their parties are not polling.
Heyes said her Hazel & Co. clothing store in the riding has suffered huge losses due to Canada Line rapid transit project construction.
“The B.C. Liberals must be worried that compensation for Cambie Street merchants will be a big issue in the byelection,” she said.
Pollster Evi Mustel confirmed her firm is fielding the questions but is subcontracted to “an eastern company” and is not otherwise involved.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION NOT PUBLISHED IN 24 HOURS
Heyes said the only party should would consider running for is the NDP due to Robertson's strong stand in favour of compensation for merchants who have been devastated by the lengthy cut and cover construction for the Canada Line - which businesses had been told would be done by bored tunnel so as not to disrupt street traffic.
Other questions include:
Is B.C. on the right track;
Is B.C. better or worse off than the rest of Canada;
What is B.C.’s key issue;
Have you heard about the carbon tax and what do you think of it;
Do you believe promises it will be revenue neutral;
What do you think of Gregor Robertson’s performance;
Which party would you vote for and which is your second choice;
How likely are you to switch to your second choice;
Who did you vote for last election;
What is your impression of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, NDP leader Carole James and Green leader Jane Sterk;
Demographic information questions like age group, income level and gender.
Evi Mustel said her firm does not undertake polling for provincial political parties but will accept fielding - telephoning - work as a subcontractor for other pollsters. That means, she said, Mustel Group is not involved in designing the poll or analysing, merely fielding it and passing on the raw data.
Heyes was one of the founders of Do RAV Right, a group of Cambie Street business and home owners who fought to force TransLink and the provincial government to used a bored tunnel construction process as had been promised instead of the cheaper and more disruptive cut and cover tunnel system being used by InTransit BC, the private contractor, and construction firm SNC-Lavalin.
A lawsuit by Do RAV Right to block the use of cut and cover failed in BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal.
Many Cambie Street merchants have declared bankruptcy or simply shut down their businesses due to the loss of customers caused by the construction, while others - like Tomato restaurant - have moved to other parts of the city.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Supreme Court of Canada decision on solicitor-client privilege may impact Basi-Virk case on same issue
In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the federal privacy commissioner to gain access to documents where solicitor-client privilege was claimed.
In the BC Legislature Raid case the BC Liberal government has claimed solicitor-client privilege over about 90 documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail - documents which lawyers for three ex-government aides facing corruption charges want in order to defend their clients.
Last week an agreement was reached between BC government lawyer George Copley and lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi that would give the defence access to the documents without waiving solicitor-client privilege.
BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett is to make a ruling on Friday July 25 at 9 a.m. on an application by media lawyers to not impose a publication ban on possible reporting about the documents if they are brought forward in court as part of the defence.
In its decision, the Supreme Court of Canada said: "Solicitor‑client privilege is fundamental to the proper functioning of our legal system. The complex of rules and procedures is such that, realistically speaking, it cannot be navigated without a lawyer’s expert advice.":
"However, experience shows that people who have a legal problem will often not make a clean breast of the facts to a lawyer without an assurance of confidentiality 'as close to absolute as possible'. Without that assurance, access to justice and the quality of justice in this country would be severely compromised. It is in the public interest that the free flow of legal advice be encouraged," the court decision reads.
Copley in fact cited the case when appearing last week before Justice Bennett.
But the decision may also open the door for exceptions to solicitor-client privilege.
The Supreme Court of Canada also said: "The Commissioner has not made out a case that routine access to solicitor client confidences is necessary to achieve the ends sought by PIPEDA. There are other less intrusive remedies."
"Firstly, she may, at any point in her investigation, refer a question of solicitor‑client privilege to the Federal Court under s. 18.3(1) of the Federal Courts Act. Secondly, within the framework of PIPEDA itself, the Commissioner has the right to report an impasse over privilege in her s. 13 report and, with the agreement of the complainant, bring an application to the Federal Court for relief under s. 15."
"The court is empowered, if it thinks it necessary, to review the contested material and determine whether the solicitor‑client privilege has been properly claimed. This procedure permits verification while preserving the privilege as much as possible," the court said.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tuesday July 22, 2008
The smell of Gordo's demise
By BILL TIELEMAN
A government, for protecting business only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption and decay.
- Amos Bronson Alcott, 1799-1888
Snapshots taken of Premier Gordon Campbell's government imploding in just the last few days:
B.C.'s newly-appointed independent auditor-general, John Doyle, who arrived recently from Australia with impeccable credentials, issues a report which Forests Minister Pat Bell calls: "unprofessional ... lacking of integrity ... dead wrong ... neither neutral nor factual ... and totally inappropriate." Welcome to B.C., the best place on earth, you scum.
The reason for the unprecedented attack - Doyle reported that then-forests minister Rich Coleman removed valuable private forest lands from a provincial tree farm licence without fair public consultation or even adequate information.
Doyle said the BC Liberal government move made Western Forest Products 28,000 hectares of land on southern Vancouver Island suddenly worth $150 million.
Doyle also noted that Western Forest Products had given $60,470 to the BC Liberal Party between 2005 and 2007. He was too polite - but I'm not - to mention the more than $56,000 Western also gave the Liberals between 1996 and 2004.
Then there's the six senior BC Liberal government bureaucrats each raking in more than half a million dollars a year.
And amazingly Vic Poleschuk - fired as head of the BC Lottery Corporation after many Lotto dealers were found to be winning big prizes against all odds - takes home an estimated jackpot of $929,000 in pay and severance!
Speaking of scratch and win, ICBC managers - under the watchful eye of their now- departed CEO and ex-deputy finance minister Paul Taylor ran a sophisticated "chop-shop" where nearly 100 cars written off in accidents were repaired in an ICBC facility and sold to unsuspecting buyers with no warning of previous damage.
Other cars in better shape were fixed and sold to employees in rigged auctions. And government-owned ICBC won't even say if anyone was disciplined or fired for the fiasco!
Don't worry if we can afford all this - B.C. has a $2.9 billion surplus! That's $2.9 billion in health care, education and social assistance we apparently don't even need. No seniors in linen closets in our hospitals!
But Campbell has sympathy for those facing hard times. The premier privately told RCMP management he wanted to support the four officers who Tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski 24 seconds after confronting the distraught man, who died moments later at Vancouver Airport.
"Gordon Campbell's B.C. government, now seven years old and showing serious signs of rot," writes the usually supportive National Post newspaper, while the Campbell-backing Vancouver Sun denounces his "cabal approach to government."
When even your friends want to throw you out, it's time to consider whether your political expiry date is coming due sooner than expected.
That might explain the smell.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Special Prosecutor, defence lawyer reject NDP demand that Attorney-General Wally Oppal intervene in Basi-Virk case to drop Supreme Court appeal
Krog today called on Oppal to use his authority under the Crown Counsel Act to stop further delays in the case of three ex-BC Liberal aides facing corruption charges by directing Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino to drop his attempt to overturn rulings by the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal over the issue of a secret witness who is a police informant.
Berardino objects to a ruling by BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett, who decided earlier this year that defence lawyers could be present in the court for an explanation by the Crown as to why it wants a police informer to testify in secret. Even that explanation could lead to the defence identifying the informer, Berardino unsuccessfully argued, and not being able to call the secret witness might mean the entire trial could not proceed.
“Serious disclosure issues, the Campbell government’s privilege applications and its chronic unwillingness to cooperate with the B.C. Rail investigation have plagued this trial right from the beginning. And now, special prosecutor Bill Berardino’s latest move to appeal a B.C. Court of Appeal decision on a secret witness can further delay the trial by up to a year,” said Krog.
David Basi, former aide to then-Finance Minister Gary Collins and Bob Virk, former aide to then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid, both face breach of trust and fraud charges in which is it alleged they provided confidential government documents about the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail to lobbyist Erik Bornmann, who was acting for bidder OmniTRAX at the time. Aneal Basi, a communications officer and David's cousin, is accused of money laundering related to payments made in the case.
“The public interest in getting this trial off the ground far outweighs the other considerations. In light of this, attorney general Wally Oppal must use his legal authority and direct the special prosecutor to drop his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The general public would be much better served in getting the trial underway instead of spending months protecting the identity of a secret witness,” Krog said, citing Section 7 of the Crown Counsel Act.
But outside BC Supreme Court, where a hearing over a proposed publication ban and media objections has concluded, David Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton did not support Krog's call for Attorney-General Wally Oppal to order Berardino drop the appeal.
"It would be highly unusual for the Attorney-General to get involved at this stage," Bolton said. "Other than that I have no comment."
Berardino, in a telephone interview late today, also disagreed with Krog's position. And he said he has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to expedite his appeal in order not to delay the trial.
"Informer privilege is fundamental to the administration of justice and the investigation of crime," he said. "Informer privilege required legal obligations of the court, the Crown and the police and that is not to breach the law of informer privilege."
"Four judges have made four judgements on this issue - the trial judge [Justice Elizabeth Bennett], Justice [Catherine] Ryan [of the BC Court of Appeal, who dissented from the majority decision to reject Berardino's appeal], Chief Justice [Lance] Finch [who upheld Bennett's original ruling against Berardino] and Justice [Ian] Donald [who also upheld Bennett's decision with his own reasons]," Berardino said.
"I would be remiss in not seeking to clarify the lawy in regard to the oustanding judgements to ensure the court, the Crown and the police do not breach the law," he said.
"I'm asking the Supreme Court of Canada to expedite their process so that there will be no delay in the trial," Berardino concluded.
But told of the reaction to his request late Friday, Krog remained undeterred.
"Denying the application for defence counsel to be present is something that goes against the rights of the accused to a fair trial," Krog said by telephone from Nanaimo.
"Taking this to the Supreme Court of Canada will create a significant delay. This issue can be litigated at a later date to see if informer privilege outweighs the rights of the accused, the public interest or whatever," he said.
Krog cited Section 7 of the Crown Counsel Act in suggestion the Attorney-General intervene. That section states:
7(4) If, after a special prosecutor receives the mandate under subsection (2), the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General or ADAG gives a direction to a special prosecutor in respect of any matter within the mandate of the special prosecutor, that direction must be given in writing and be published in the Gazette.
Meanwhile, media lawyers Roger McConchie and Ludmila Herbst concluded arguments in front of Justice Elizabeth Bennett against a proposed order that would impose a publication ban on about 90 government documents related to the BC Rail deal which the defence is seeking to review and possible use in the trial. McConchie was representing the Globe and Mail newspaper and CTV, while Herbst represented the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers and Global TV.
Yesterday McConchie suggested the provincial cabinet was trying to impose a "secrecy package" to block public access to the documents.
The defence and government have reached an agreement on access to the documents, which meant both sides argued in court against the media lawyers' requests.
After hearing further arguments and replies from government lawyer George Copley and defence lawyers, Bennett reserved judgement until Friday July 25 at 9 a.m.
Outside court McConchie was encouraged that Bennett had not issued an immediate ruling, despite the fact that both the government and defence opposed his arguments.
"It's clear from the fact that she has reserved judgement until next Friday that this raises issues that are not simple," McConchie said. "They are complex issues of privilege which even to most lawyers are exotic."
McConchie, who has practised law for more than 30 years and has represented the media many times in seeking access to court documents and information, said he was not surprised the defence did not agree with his and Herbst's position.
"Defence lawyers want access to those documents, so I didn't expect their support," he said.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
BC Liberal cabinet accused of attempting "secrecy package" in wide-ranging publication ban on BC Rail documents in Basi-Virk case
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
A veteran media lawyer attacked the provincial cabinet for attempting to impose what he called a “secrecy package” publication ban in the case of three ex-B.C. Liberal government aides facing corruption charges connected with the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail.
“This is a case that cries out for transparency and the maximum degree of public scrutiny,” Roger McConchie, representing CTV and the Globe and Mail newspaper, told Justice Elizabeth Bennett.
“This application and this order is a secrecy package,” he said of attempts by government lawyer George Copley to keep B.C. Rail documents protected by solicitor-client privilege from being made public even though they will be made available for possible use by defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.
“What the provincial cabinet is asking this court to do is create a new category of solicitor-client privilege,” McConchie.
But Copley earlier argued that: “Solicitor-client privilege must be kept as close to absolute as possible.”
"We ask the court that solicitor-client privilege contiue to have full force and effect," Copley said, unless Bennett rules otherwise at a future date when the trial commences."Essentially the media are seeking to intervene on an issue between defence counsel and the Executive Council," Copley said, referring to official terminology for the provincial cabinet.
Defence lawyers for the accused reached an agreement with Copley that will allow them access to about 90 B.C. Rail documents the government claims are exempt from disclosure due to solicitor-client privilege.
Copley's motion would have the documents seen only by three defence lawyers without their contents being divulged to anyone else. Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton previously told the court that three of the documents are likely of crucial importance to defending his client.
In court Thursday Bolton, Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough and Aneal Basi's lawyer Joe Doyle all agree with Copley's proposed order.
The pre-trial hearing continues Friday with more media arguments against a publicity ban from McConchie and Ludmila Herbst, a lawyer representing the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers and Global television.
NOTE: A version of this story will be published in 24 hours newspaper on Friday July 18
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
New polling shows British Columbian hate BC Liberal carbon tax, don't believe government it's revenue neutral, strongly disagree with $100 gift
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours column
Tuesday July 15, 2008
No love for tax
By BILL TIELEMAN
I want to repeat: This tax will be 100 per cent revenue neutral."
- Former B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor on her carbon tax
British Columbians really hate the new carbon tax, they don't believe government claims it is "revenue neutral" and the $100 gift they received from Premier Gordon Campbell makes them even angrier, an exclusive poll for 24 hours shows.
An amazing 73 per cent of those polled say they simply do not believe the B.C. Liberal government when it says that the new 2.4 cents a litre tax on gas, diesel, heating and other fuel is revenue neutral.
And the research conducted for 24 hours by its pollster Strategic Communications also found that 71 per cent of those surveyed disagree with the government giving every British Columbians a one-time $100 "Climate Action Dividend" that will cost the province $440 million.
In fact, 56 per cent of respondents strongly disagreed with the dividend and 15 per cent somewhat disagreed, for a total of 71 per cent.
Only 9 per cent strongly agreed and another 15 per cent somewhat agreed with the $100 gift for a 24 per cent total, while 5 per cent either didn't know or had no opinion.
The results are a powerful rebuke to the government and a stunning reversal of fortune for Campbell since he announced the carbon tax in B.C.'s February budget to acclaim from environmental groups and eastern Canadian pundits.
The continuing and vehement opposition to the gas tax will also likely encourage the New Democratic Party to continue its campaign against the measure into the fall, when carbon taxes on oil and natural gas heating fuel will start being felt.
David Smith, Strategic Communications' senior research consultant, said the poll of 609 eligible voters should worry Campbell.
"Right now it seems they don't like anything about it," Smith said of British Columbians. "I'd be concerned if I was the provincial government."
Smith was somewhat surprised that the Climate Action Dividend was so deeply resented.
"Despite the fact that they're getting $100 back, they're not happy. People associate the $100 with the tax - they react strongly to anything connected to the tax," he said.
The poll was conducted from June 27 to July 7, while the tax came into effect on July 1, boosting gas prices to a record $1.52 a litre. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Smith also noted that the fact respondents reject the government's stated position that the carbon tax is revenue neutral should also trouble the B.C. Liberals.
"They don't believe the government," he said. "There's still time for it to change but it looks now like a hot-button issue."
Opposition to the gas tax can also be seen in the "Axe The BC Gas Tax" protest group I started on Facebook on June 10. As of yesterday the group had more than 9,400 members and continues to grow steadily despite the imposition of the tax.
The government seems to have completely ignored the fact that gas prices have gone up an astronomical 40 cents a litre since February's budget - or more than 16 times the amount of the carbon tax.
Given that the intent of the new gas tax is to reduce consumption through price increases, Campbell might have reasonably decided to drop or at least postpone the tax when the market forced prices to skyrocket.
But it appears the premier was more interested in reading the laudatory news releases of environmental groups and praise from columnists based in Ontario than figuring out what British Columbians thought about the tax.
Now the results are in and they aren't positive. The poll also shows that opposition to the Climate Action Dividend and disbelief about the government saying the carbon tax is revenue neutral are not concentrated in any one region or group of British Columbians.
While 73 per cent of all those polled across B.C. discounting revenue neutrality claims, the best the government could do was on Vancouver Island, where a still strong 63 per cent didn't believe it. But in northern B.C. a whopping 80 per cent believe the premier is telling whoppers about the tax.
And even 64 per cent of B.C.'s lowest income voters - those making less than $30,000 a year - said giving out the $100 Climate Action Dividend was wrong, with 51 per cent strongly disagreeing.
The polling results show more than anything else that imposing a new tax - no matter the reason, even with giving voters cash in the mail - is extremely dangerous for any political party.
If you doubt that, ask a former Canadian prime minister named Brian Mulroney about a little tax called the GST!
GAS TAX FACTS
- British Columbia's new carbon tax increased gasoline prices by 2.4 cents per litre on July 1 and will increase each year until it reaches an extra 7.25 cents per litre by 2012.
Statistics Norway reports that country's carbon tax - the highest in the world and five times higher than B.C.'s starting tax - has only reduced CO2 emissions by 2% since 1991.
- Federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion plans to propose a national carbon tax, which is supported by the Green Party and opposed by the Conservative and NDP.
- The tax applies to gasoline, diesel, heating oil, natural gas and propane.
- A one-time $100 "Climate Action Credit" cheque B.C. residents received from the government in June will cost $440 million.
- B.C. will raise an additional $1.8 billion over three years with the carbon tax.
- Most of the remaining extra revenue pays for tax cuts, with $415 million going to cut corporate taxes, $255 million to cut small-business taxes and tax cuts for individuals along with a low-income tax credit.
- Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan all rejected the idea of a carbon tax while Quebec has a 1 cent per litre tax that applies to petro companies directly.
1.The provincial government has sent every British Columbian a cheque for $100 as a one-time "Climate Action Dividend." The total cost of "Climate Action Dividend" is $440 million. This expenditure will be paid for by B.C.'s new carbon tax of 2.4 cents per litre of gasoline and other fuel. Do you agree or disagree with this expenditure? Is that strongly or somewhat?
2. The B.C. government is adding a new carbon tax of a 2.4 cent per litre on gasoline and other fuels to help reduce carbon emissions. The government says that the tax is "revenue neutral" because all of the additional revenue that the government will receive from the tax will be paid back to British Columbians through the $100 "Climate Action Dividend" and cuts to personal income tax. Do you believe the government when it says that the new carbon tax is revenue neutral?
73% DON'T BELIEVE
Monday, July 14, 2008
Basi-Virk - No trial likely for up to a year as Special Prosecutor appeals secret witness ruling to Supreme Court of Canada
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The trial of three ex-government aides facing corruption charges will be delayed up to a year after the Crown said Monday it will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada decisions by two B.C. courts regarding secret witness testimony.
Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett he will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn her ruling that defence lawyers could attend a hearing closed to the public and media where a police informant’s identity might be revealed.
The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld Bennett's ruling in a decision released last week.
Berardino’s appeal drew an angry response from New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog, who said the public needs to know why police raided the B.C. Legislature in December 2003 and later charged David Basi and Bob Virk with giving lobbyists secret government documents in the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail.
“I am extremely disappointed Mr. Berardino has chosen to delay further the most important case in front of the B.C. courts,” Krog said outside court. “The public interest in having this case heard far outweighs everything else.”
And it appears unlikely that Premier Gordon Campbell will be forced to testify in court. Government lawyer George Copley told Bennett that a deal between the defence and government will give lawyers for Basi, Virk and Aneal Basi access to documents where solicitor-client privilege is claimed, pre-empting a defence motion requesting Campbell testify.
An update hearing will be held September 17 and vetting of documents is scheduled for September 29.
Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton said in an interview outside court that Berardino's appeal to the Supreme Court will lead to an undetermined delay of at least a number of months.
"The Supreme Court of Canada will take until October at the earliest to decide on leave to appeal," Bolton said. "It could be up to several months for a Supreme Court of Canada case to be heard."
"The inevitable result will be some delay but the extent we don't know," he said. "We can do parts of the vetting but it's highly unlikely we can complete it without a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada."
Krog again called for a public inquiry to be held into the political corruption case regardless of the outcome.
"The public interest in favour of having this case heard far outweighs everything else," he said. "Everything that has happened in this case taxpayers have paid for - the prosecution, the defence, the courts."
"Whatever happens, there has to be a public inquiry," Krog said. "If ever there was a case when a public inquiry is needed, this is it."
NOTE - A shorter version of this story will be published in Tuesday's 24 hours newspaper.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Basi-Virk: BC Court of Appeal rules against Special Prosecutor on secret witness issue - future of case uncertain
The BC Court of Appeal has ruled against an application by the Special Prosecutor to overturn a BC Supreme Court decision regarding the appearance of a secret witness in the case of three government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion sale of BC Rail.
The ruling leaves the entire case in limbo, as Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino hinted before the Appeal Court decision that the Crown may not be able to proceed with the prosecution if the special witness could not give evidence.
In a split decision, two of three BC Court of Appeal justices have upheld a ruling by BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett that defence lawyers have the right to be present in court to hear information on why the Special Prosecutor wants a secret witness to testify against David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.
Berardino has previously said the Crown would not breach informant privilege, opening the possibility of dropping the case if the Appeal Court ruled in favour of the defence, as has now happened.
In an interview, Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough said that if Berardino appeals the BC Court of Appeal decision significant delay is inevitable.
"If the Special Prosecutor appeals this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada it's going to impact and delay this case," McCullough said. "We are hoping that doesn't happen."
"Our clients are anxious to get on - they've had their lives on hold for four and a half years and any further delay is something that neither counsel nor their clients are looking forward to. I hope it doesn't happen," he said.
Berardino has 10 days to file an appeal of the new ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. He has not yet responded to requests for an interview.
In the Court of Appeal ruling, the justices outline the circumstances:: "The issue on this appeal is whether Madam Justice Bennett erred in ordering that defence counsel may be present at an in camera hearing to determine whether informer privilege exists. The issue arose in pre-trial proceedings on an application for disclosure by the defence...."
"The Crown applied to call evidence to establish informer privilege in camera, excluding not only the public but the accused and their counsel as well...."
"On 7 December 2007 the presiding judge made this ruling:
 Therefore, again for the reasons given yesterday and today, the application pursuant to s. 37 of the Evidence Act is dismissed. The in camera hearing will occur with defence counsel present.
The defence counsel and court staff present are bound by the following Court order:
That he or she will not disclose anything heard in the in camera hearing to anyone, including his or her client, other members of his or her law firm, their family or any members of the public without further order of this Court. Failure to comply with this order will result in a contempt of court hearing.
Written undertakings in similar language are also required to be filed by counsel. "
Chief Justice Lance Finch and Justice Ian Donald upheld Bennett's ruling, while Justice Catherine Ryan.
Finch wrote in support of the original ruling that:
" On balance, I respectfully agree with the interpretation of defence counsel as to the nature and effect of the order pronounced on 7 December 2007. This order was made before the in camera hearing commenced. The judge made clear that she did not have information that would permit her to anticipate what might occur, nor to make an order authorizing, or prohibiting, disclosure.
 The judge cannot be taken to have precluded herself from conducting some part of the in camera hearing ex parte, if she considers that to be necessary. It is abundantly clear from everything the judge said in her reasons of 7 December 2007, and on her earlier rulings of 3 and 6 December 2007, that she fully understands the Court’s obligation to protect informer privilege. She has made a preliminary ruling that was within her discretion and that does not mandate disclosure of information that may tend to identify the informer. The terms of the order prohibiting disclosure of anything heard in camera, and the requirement for undertakings, appear to me to have been imposed from an abundance of caution.
 If I am wrong in my interpretation of the judge’s order, and it is properly to be considered an order for disclosure of confidential information, it was, on its terms, well within the discretion granted by s. 37. The Special Prosecutor said that an appeal lay against the judge’s order because it was made under s. 37(5). As mentioned earlier, that subsection gives the judge a discretion to balance the public interest in disclosure against the importance of the specified public interest. The judge was fully aware of the importance of informer privilege. She was also alive to the accused’s right to a fair trial.
 It appears to me to be inconsistent for the Special Prosecutor to assert on the one hand that the order was made under s. 37(5), for the purposes of supporting a right to appeal, and at the same time to deny the existence of any discretion in the judge to balance the competing interests.
 Finally, there are the provisions of s. 37.3 authorizing the judge to make any order necessary to protect the accused’s right to a fair trial.
 In my view, if the order of 7 December 2007 is an order for disclosure, it was within the judge’s discretion.
 In my respectful opinion, the trial judge has not made any order under s. 37(4.1), (5) or (6) from which an appeal may be taken. I consider that this appeal is premature, and that there is no right of appeal in respect of the order made on 7 December 2007.
 I would dismiss the appeal on the ground that this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain it."
More on this important new development as it becomes available.
NOTE: A shorter version of this story is in Friday's 24 hours newspaper.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Now the secret can be revealed!
I have learned from highly reliable, nay, impeccable sources that the appearance of both staff from the Special Prosecutor and defence lawyers in front of Justice Elizabeth Bennett in open court was neither secret nor auspicious.
The session dealt with administrative issues regarding court records of proceedings with the longstanding and often confusing case.
While the short appearance was in open court it was, I'm told, of no significance to the conduct of the case but was likely of great assistance to BCSC officials.
I have also been made aware that the defence Charter of Rights application which could see testimony in court by Premier Gordon Campbell, former Deputy Minister Ken Dobell and current Deputy Minister Jessica MacDonald, plus other top bureaucrats, was slightly amended on July 2nd.
That hearing will begin on July 14. No other court appearances are planned until then.
Morgentaler deserves it
By BILL TIELEMAN
My preference, to be frank, would be to see the Order of Canada be something that really unifies, that brings Canadians together.
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Dr. Henry Morgentaler deeply deserves the July 1 honour of receiving the Order of Canada.
And Prime Minister Stephen Harper is deeply wrong, both to criticize the appointment and to suggest that the Order of Canada be limited only to those who no one disagrees with.
Morgentaler risked his own life and that of his family for decades to do what he believes in - to give women the right to choice on the difficult and personal decision of abortion.
He spent 10 months in jail because of it, despite being acquitted by successive juries of ordinary Canadians, including Catholics whose faith opposes abortion. His clinic in Toronto was bombed by extremists.
And Morgentaler's belief in a woman's right to choice is a position the overwhelming majority of Canadians agree with and that Parliament finally supported.
Perhaps Harper prefers the Order of Canada simply being given to people like the famous athlete who represented our country at international sporting events, winning many gold medals.
His name is Ben Johnson and he cheated at the Olympic Games by taking steroids. Johnson was stripped of his gold medal - but still holds the Order of Canada medal he was awarded before that.
Or maybe Harper thinks a better quality of recipient of the Order would be a world-recognized author of books about Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon and a publisher.
His name is Conrad Black and he is currently sitting in a U.S. jail cell doing 78 months for fraud and obstruction of justice - but still has his Order of Canada.
And perhaps Harper thinks someone with a background of church service is a better choice than Morgentaler.
In fact, one B.C. religious recipient of the Order has already returned his medal to protest Morgentaler's award.
But the strong convictions of Father Lucien Larre also include criminal convictions for assault and administering a noxious substance when he worked with high-risk youth.
The reality is that the Order of Canada recognizes with very different achievements - backgrounds that not all of us would support.
Morgentaler is admired by millions of Canadians for his actions - and that's why he has been honoured.
UPDATE - Thank you so much 24 hours readers! The Facebook online protest group "Axe The BC Gas Tax" should have over 9,000 members by today! If you are still as angry as I am about Premier Gordon Campbell's carbon tax you can still join by going to http://www.facebook.com/ and typing in the group name with no periods after B and C. More later.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Bill Tieleman on CKNW Saturday 3:30 p.m; & guest on Alex Tsakumis' new show on 1410 AM on Sunday July 6 from 1 to 2 p.m. to discuss carbon tax protest
I will also be joining CKNW AM 980's Sean Leslie Show today - Saturday July 5 - after the 3:30 p.m. news to briefly discuss the Basi-Virk case.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Defence in Basi-Virk case asks for 24 hours' FOI material to support Charter application alleging political interference by Premier Campbell
By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS
Defence lawyers for two B.C. government aides facing corruption charges have asked for a copy of an exclusive 24 hours' Freedom Of Information request as part of their supporting documents in a Charter of Rights application alleging political interference in the case.
The FOI request successfully obtained 100 pages of reports and notes written by a Public Affairs Bureau officer who attended pre-trial court hearings in the B.C. Legislature raid case last year and reported to the B.C. government about media questions and NDP MLAs attending court sessions.
Lawyers for David Basi and Bob Virk, two of the aides who face breach of trust charges, contacted 24 hours for a copy of the notes of Stuart Chase, whose presence in the court was first reported here in May 2007. Because the information has been released publicly the request was granted.
If successful the Charter application could see Premier Gordon Campbell called to testify about defence allegations, as well as Campbell's former deputy minister Ken Dobell, current deputy minister Jessica McDonald and other senior bureaucrats.
In one report Chase quotes Virk's lawyer, Kevin McCullough, as alleging there might be "a privileged relationship that seems to exist between the RCMP and the B.C. Liberals."
The FOI request became the topic of an entire session of Question Period in the B.C. Legislature last year, with Attorney-General Wally Oppal wrongly insisting Chase's duties were to assist the media and public but refusing to release his reports, leading to the 24 hours' FOI.
The pre-trial hearings resume July 14 at BC Supreme Court.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
NEW DATE - Basi-Virk case discussion on CKNW AM 980 THURSDAY July 3 at 9:30 a.m. with Bill Tieleman, Mark Hume
NOTE: You can access the online version on CKNW's Audio Vault now.
Globe and Mail reporter Mark Hume, another of the regulars at BC Supreme Court, and I will bring listeners up to date on the case.
Tune in for the latest in political corruption charges related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail and the raid on the BC Legislature in December 2003.