Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Richard Nixon had Watergate, Gordon Campbell has Basi-Virk










Campbell's own Watergate Unravels

Alleged bribes and dirty tricks, and now erased emails. Sound familiar?

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

View full Tyee article and comments here

By Bill Tieleman

June 30, 2009

You must pursue this investigation of Watergate even if it leads to the president. I'm innocent. You've got to believe I'm innocent. If you don't, take my job.

-- Richard Nixon

Consider this: a B.C. premier who says he's fully cooperating with the investigation even as tens of thousands of emails spanning four years are erased or simply vanish before defence lawyers in a political corruption trial can obtain them.

It's as though Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary who erased 18 minutes of secret tapes, is still alive and working in Victoria.

Two years after the defence requests the emails in a legal application, a government lawyer admits they have disappeared without a trace.

A former senior deputy minister to the premier who admits publicly that when it comes to his own emails: "I delete the stuff all the time as fast as I can."

Government political staff members who allegedly direct dirty tricks -- like phony protests and paid callers to talk radio shows -- right out of the premier's office.

A senior government ministerial aide who is allegedly paid on the side by the B.C. Liberal Party to conduct dirty tricks.

A former top political aide to both federal and provincial Liberal Party governments who turns lobbyist and allegedly bribes ministerial assistants to obtain confidential information about a $1 billion privatization.

Can anyone spell Watergate?

Campbell: Law was kept

The parallels between the actions of the Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberal government and the Richard Nixon White House appear to be increasingly, disturbingly strong.

Last week Campbell broke from his usual pattern of not commenting on the corruption charges case against former ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk and former communications aide Aneal Basi to comment on the disclosure that emails from 2001 to 2005 between cabinet ministers, MLAs and staff regarding B.C. Rail had either been erased or just disappeared.

"The records that should be kept under the law have been kept," Campbell said, without explaining how the missing emails could disappear despite the Documents Disposal Act that requires they be kept for seven years and only destroyed if specific permission is granted by a special committee.

'May be no explanation': BC gov't lawyer

Consider that Basi and Virk were both charged with breach of trust in 2004 in connection with the November, 2003 sale of B.C. Rail and after the unprecedented December, 2003 police raid on the B.C. Legislature.

And yet the government emails were not secured, despite their obvious potential relevance to the defence, which argues that the two aides were following the orders of political superiors.

"There may be no explanation. No filing system is perfect," B.C. government lawyer George Copley said in the B.C. Supreme Court about the loss of records.
Aside from Basi and Virk, what if potential B.C. Rail buyers like Canadian Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe -- who dropped out of the bidding because they believed it was "unfair" -- had sued the government over the process?

Would those missing emails have been critical to their legal success and what would a judge say about them disappearing?

There is one possible explanation -- that the Basi-Virk case feels more and more like Watergate.

13 comments:

Gary L. said...

History ALWAYS repeats itself. It is never the alledged crime, but the Coverup that brings the guilty parties to Justice.
Stay tuned folks, you ain't seen nothing yet!
I can hardly wait to hear the Christy Clarke Show do an Investigative Reporting program on this matter.
Cheers

Skookum1 said...

I remember Rose Mary Woods trying to account for how she "accidentally" erased the critical part of the tape. Keeping her foot on the dictaphone pedal, twisting around to one side while cradling the phone in her jaw/neck, and pushing this button with one hand (on her phone's line-switch) and pushing that button with the other (on the recording device). I think she had a cigarette in her mouth and probably an eye patch on too...

I can just see Lara Dauphinee, having assembled all the mails that Gordo asked her to get together, about to go File-Save or Disk-backup and then her blackberry rings. Somehow she managed to not look at the File window and hit "OK" when it said "delete everything?"....or else her cat danced on the keyboard and hit ctrl-alt-delete in mid-save. I'm sure she and all her little moles in the Public Affairs Bureau had the best of intentions, but "accidents do happen".

I submit, however, that government emails, written on public time and publicly-owned computers, should be a matter of public record and not deletable by ANYONE. Except for the "donuts at 10?" or "meet you for nookie in the garage" kind. Not saving them is the equivalent of not keeping hansard, or more pointedly not keeping a set of books (instead of the usual two).

Skookum1 said...

The other big difference between the Nixon situation and the Campbell situation is that the US has impeachment, we have nothing of the kind. They also have a competitively investigative media. And also men who, while they might have done bad things on Tricky Dick's behalf, were honourable enough to tell the truth on the stand (or enough of it).

If there are any honourable people in Campbell's caucus, they shouldn't still be in that caucus by now....

Angela said...

Gordon Campbell=Richard Nixon? There isn't really a comparison. Outside of Watergate, Nixon was a decent if not very good President. Campbell has just been a corrupt bloodsucker all along. Can't understand why anybody votes for him, are we really that low on alternative choices?

Skookum1 said...

"Aside from Basi and Virk, what if potential B.C. Rail buyers like Canadian Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe -- who dropped out of the bidding because they believed it was "unfair" -- had sued the government over the process?

Would those missing emails have been critical to their legal success and what would a judge say about them disappearing?"

It's like moving the body - or rather hiding or destroying it - in a murder case, then admitting you did move it.

If this were a corporate litigation case, the punitive damages for this would be monstrous - and motive implied sufficient for a big hefty cash fine.

On some news show last night, talking about Canadian brokerage swindles, it was observed that white collar criminals rarely see jail time in Canada.

Maybe it's time to start, politicians first, those who deal illegally with them second. The threat of jail time if found defrauding and lying to the public might keep them honest. Might.

The question remains - who gave the order to delete all these emails, not just to save them? And what else was deleted than material to do with BC Rail?

Perhaps electoral victory may prove as "transitory" as these emails. I'm hoping that enough Liberal MLAs exist with a respect for public decorum and for the constitution to bolt across the floor when the House finally sits and brings the whole sorry house of cards down. I'm sure the big money behind the Liberals are already considering who to replace Gordo with once they can get the crowbar far enough underneath him. Many are no doubt digging in for the long haul, determined to keep the boodle they've all picked up during his reign. But like the high-risk mortgages, sooner or later the piper will come to call.

Watch for a split in caucus, and watch for stirrings from prospective leadership candidates.

Sooner or later, something or someone is going to break and there will be no saving the Pirate King.....

Norman Farrell said...

From Roger Ebert's Great Movies:

The biggest crime in "Chinatown" is against the city's own future, by men who see that to control the water is to control the wealth.

At one point Gittes asks millionaire Noah Cross why he needs to be richer: "How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can't already afford?"

Cross replies: "The future, Mr. Gitts, the future.
-----------------
Substitute land for water and Campbell for Cross. Interesting parallel for those of us deeply cynical about human nature.

Anonymous said...

au⋅thor⋅i⋅tar⋅i⋅an
(uh-thawr-i-tair-ee-uhn)
–adjective

1. favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom: authoritarian principles; authoritarian attitudes.
2. of or pertaining to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
3. exercising complete or almost complete control over the will of another or of others: an authoritarian parent.

fas·cism (fāsh'ĭz'əm)
-noun

1. often Fascism
1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.

SEE ANY SIMILARITIES HERE?

Anonymous said...

You lefties are wishful thinkers. The election is now over. You lost. Accept it. Deal with it. And move on.

Skookum1 said...

To Anonymous 8:29:

You Public Affairs Bureau trolls are so easy to spot; you sound like beer-parlour bozos - except that the talk in beer parlours is usually more intelligent.

If "lefty" means wanting the law and the constitution observed, and justice to be served, your implication is that "righties" want the contrary; that they want power by any means and don't care about the law or the good of the public, or of the province. That you believe an election won on overt lies and a cooperative media keeping a clamp on the facts about Railgate, and the real welfare rates, and the real size of the deficit, and the delusion that a government engaged in criminal dealings with megacorporations is somehow qualified to deal with the rising tide of street crime - which its own policies have helped create, and its own ethics have served as a role model for - that you believe an election built on falsity, deceit, evasion and policies rife with patronage, nepotism and pork barrel.....an election where actually fewer than 4000 votes could have yielded an NDP government rather than a Neo-Socred one.....you just sound like a gloating winner of a cheated game, where the referee was on the cheater's payroll. "Nyah, nyah, we won! - so let's shut down the courtroom and make our own rules from now on". If that's what the right wants, it's all the more reason for your so-called "left" to put them all behind bars.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:29, the issue here is not about who won or lost the election; everyone gets that, so I am not really sure why you bring that up. No, the issue here is about accountability and transparency with respect to our duly elected officials. So what is your gripe? Are you suggesting our elected officials are not accountable to the public? Are you suggesting that their actions should not open to public scrutiny?

Skookum1 said...

To Anonymous 8:29:

You Public Affairs Bureau trolls are so easy to spot; you sound like beer-parlour bozos - except that the talk in beer parlours is usually more intelligent.

If "lefty" means wanting the law and the constitution observed, and justice to be served, your implication is that "righties" want the contrary; that they want power by any means and don't care about the law or the good of the public, or of the province. That you believe an election won on overt lies and a cooperative media keeping a clamp on the facts about Railgate, and the real welfare rates, and the real size of the deficit, and the delusion that a government engaged in criminal dealings with megacorporations is somehow qualified to deal with the rising tide of street crime - which its own policies have helped create, and its own ethics have served as a role model for - that you believe an election built on falsity, deceit, evasion and policies rife with patronage, nepotism and pork barrel.....an election where actually fewer than 4000 votes could have yielded an NDP government rather than a Neo-Socred one.....you just sound like a gloating winner of a cheated game, where the referee was on the cheater's payroll. "Nyah, nyah, we won! - so let's shut down the courtroom and make our own rules from now on". If that's what the right wants, it's all the more reason for your so-called "left" to put them all behind bars.

Laws, many laws, were broken on Campbell's watch. Even if they weren't broken by him (which some may have been, as we are yet to find out), the way the constitution is supposed to work is that a first minister is expected to resign when mis-deeds or even just bloody stupid fumbles by his government or his party lead to questions tainting the office, and the dignity of parliament and the Crown. i.e. they happened in his administration, and HE is responsible for that. Or should be, even though he's pretending "who, me??" and "I can't comment". He's not supposed to comment - he's supposed to resign...

Harcourt resigned over something that didn't even have to do with him personally, and involved a pittance. Even Vander Zalm finally resigned, after a lot of stonewalling that his misdealings weren't illegal, for a deal worth only a few million dollars, and only his own private property.

We're talking two BILLION dollars here, and a major piece of publicly-owned infrastructure, not a dorky amusement park in Richmond or a sundeck in the Shuswap. We're also talking about willful destruction of records relating to a pending criminal trial, in clear violation of statutes.

Campbell should have stepped aside long, long ago. But this emails thing ALONE is sufficient reason, under the constitution that you brag the "lefties" lost, for him to resign, irrespective of any election result.

A major crime against the state happened on his watch; that it also seems to have been to protecting his own ass makes it all the worse It probably can't be proven that he ordered it personally (since such orders were either oral, or are in emails that have been disappeared) but in politics, optics are everything.

The smoking gun may not be in his hand, but it certainly was found in his office, even on his own desk, figuratively speaking.

The election campaign was a farce, and accordingly the public stayed away in droves. And given the litany of cynical deception and lies on economic figures and other matters that have come out since, and the revelation about the mass deletion of emails, I'm starting to give more credence to the idea in some quarters that the election was rigged, at least in certain ridings (e.g. in the northern ridings which the government was expected to lose).

So go back to your buddies in the basement of the legislature and pull out that old Social Credit commie-hating playbook, and start dumping on "lefties" again. It sells in some quarters. But it just sounds like loonies.....

Beth said...

well said skookum @731
Campbell should have resigned over this and yes it is worthy of tony soprano..I'm afraid darker days are ahead for the sell off of B.C.

Anonymous said...

The track of corruption, can be traced, right to the top of this country. There has to be an ulterior reason for Campbell's stupidity, only thing is Campbell is not stupid. So why would he shoot himself in the foot? He had to know the BC rail Scam would be found out. He would be very aware BC citizens would not trust him because of his lying about the deficit and the HST. I smell a rat.