Friday, July 31, 2009

BC Liberals cancel leaky condo loan program with no notice

What a sneaky, underhanded and rotten this BC Liberal government is!

What a rotten, unexpected and unfair decision came down on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend - intentionally to avoid negative media reports.

And what a negative and potentially disastrous impact this will have on the owners of rotten, leaky condos!

The BC Liberal government announce late Friday that it was unilaterally and without notice cancelling the Homeowner Protection Office's reconstruction loan program for leaky condo owners that has lent more than $670 million over the past 10 years to help them pay for essential repairs to their homes.

As a leaky condo owner myself - fortunately repaired, unfortunately at an outrageously expensive cost of more than $82,000 - I am appalled at this decision by Housing Minister Rich Coleman.

His self-serving explanation is an embarrassment for theBC Liberal government, which allowed applications to be filed just until the end of business on Friday - giving desperate homeowners just a couple of hours notice to attempt to apply for the interest-free loans.

NDP housing critic Shane Simpson was outraged.

"I think it's nothing short of a betrayal of leaky-condo owners by the premier, by the minister and the government," Simpson told the Vancouver Sun.

"The government made a commitment some 10 years ago to help people to deal with these leaky condos, and they're now turning their backs on who knows how many people who are still facing this problem," he said.

Simpson's criticism was echoed by longtime leaky condo activist James Balderson.

Balderson, spokesman for the Coalition of Leaky Condo Owners, said thousands of homeowners will be hurt, despite the fact that the program doesn't cost taxpayers anything.

"The loan program was brought in so that people would not have to lose their homes. People are going to lose their homes," Balderson said. "You have to have little or nothing in the way of assets and little or nothing in the way of cash," he said.

Once again, the BC Liberal government has literally deceived British Columbians before the election and then betrayed their words - there was no indication that they would axe this critical program - nor was their any sign that these loans were no longer urgently needed by homeowners.

How disgusting!


I received this news release from the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association regarding cancellation of the BC Homeowner Protection Office leaky condo loan program:


August 4, 2009

The Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association (VISOA) strongly objects to the Provincial Government’s decision to terminate the reconstruction loan program for owners of leaky condos.

“In making its announcement the Provincial Government has ignored findings in a December 2007 report of the Homeowner Protection Office. The report indicated that over one-half of known leaky condos or 41,000 condo units still required reconstruction”, said Tony Davis, VISOA President.

On July 31 the Provincial Government announced that the leaky condo reconstruction loan program will stop accepting new applications effective immediately and that the program will end in a few months.

The reconstruction loan program provides financial support to help with the cost of repairing homes damaged by water, which were built before July 1,1999. The reconstruction loans – they are loans and not grants – have assisted leaky condo owners who lack the means to finance their share of the costs of essential reconstruction.

“Our Association believes that this program has met an important need that continues to exist and the Government has known about the continuing need for a long time. The abrupt end of the loan program deals a huge blow to seniors and others without access to conventional loans.

"Many of them will lose their homes. Furthermore, uncertainty of repairs and the forced sale of condo units will create crises for many strata corporations”, said Mr. Davis. “We call on the Provincial Government to reinstate this essential program. We also call on CHOA, strata councils and strata owners across the province to join us in demanding continuation of the program”, he said.

VISOA is a non-profit organization that has provided information and education services to strata homeowners and strata councils on Vancouver Island since 1973. It is independent of both government and the real estate industry.

Tieleman eyewitness to garbage truck crash in downtown Vancouver

Some people say there's a lot of garbage on my blog but today it's literally true.

I've just been an eyewitness to the potentially deadly crash of a garbage truck in downtown Vancouver, at the intersection of Davie and Pacific Boulevard.

I was stopped in my car at the intersection heading west on Pacific when a BFI garbage truck turned left from Davie onto Pacific.

It began to tip over and then crashed on its right side, ending up right next to a bus stop and onto the sidewalk. I immediately called 911 to request ambulance and police to attend.

Fortunately there did not appear to be any pedestrians in the path of the truck, although I could not be sure from my vantage point.

Another witness I spoke to who was on the sidewalk said she did not see anyone there either but police were checking with flashlights underneath the truck when I left after giving them a statement.

The driver was removed from the vehicle by ambulance paramedics and taken to hospital. He was walking but indicated his shoulder was injured and was obviously shaken up.

From my perspective it did not appear that the truck was turning left at undue speed - I was quite surprised to see it tip off as it rounded the corner - but not being a truck driver, I cannot say that with authority.

All in a day's work for an active blogger!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Harmonize this! Why the BC Harmonized Sales Tax is the biggest consumer rip-off we've ever seen

Be very afraid of the HST

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours and The Tyee column

Tuesday July 28, 2009


More than 10,000 have joined my Facebook protest group NO BC HST!!!

"This is the single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.'s economy."

-- Premier Gordon Campbell

Be very afraid. The B.C. Liberals' planned Harmonized Sales Tax is the biggest rip-off of British Columbians imaginable.

Rather than "improve" B.C.'s economy, the HST will force ordinary British Columbians to pay an extra 7 per cent on a wide range of consumer goods and services -- from restaurant meals to haircuts to bicycles to new homes to airline tickets to funeral services and much more.

That additional tax will force many to cut their expenditures just at a time when the recession is already damaging the economy -- the last thing we should be doing.

It will particularly devastate certain sectors of the economy, especially restaurants, by forcing consumers to pay an extra 7 per cent on the food portion of all meals.

It will add an extra 7 per cent cost to a wide range of professional services, including accounting, architecture, household renovations, home care, massage therapy, dry cleaning, repair services for appliances and more.

A favour to big biz

So who benefits? Big business. That's why the B.C. Business Council, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and a host of other business groups are supporting the tax.

The HST will transfer $1.9 billion from individuals and give that money to big business.

Theoretically, businesses could reduce prices by 7 per cent because they can recover the PST they now pay. But if you think that will happen say hi to the Easter Bunny for me.

Who else benefits? The B.C. Liberal government, which will get $1.6 billion from the Stephen Harper Conservative federal government to "implement" the HST -- money it can spend however it likes.

And guess what? B.C. will still dramatically slash public services because the new tax revenue will only offset reduced taxes on big business.

Poorest will be hardest hit

The HST is a highly regressive tax. That is, it disproportionately impacts lower income earners because far more of their limited income will be spent paying the tax than higher income earners.

If we need a tax increase to pay for public services in the recession, the government should be using a temporary progressive income tax increase, not a permanent regressive one.

Improve B.C.'s economy? Give me a break! This is a pure tax grab and transfer.

Take restaurant meals -- currently consumers pay no Provincial Sales Tax on the food portion -- only on alcohol sales. 

After the HST comes in, you will pay an extra 7 per cent on the food.

And guess what happens?

Restaurant sales go down. Servers and staff see reduced sales, hours of work and tips.


The restaurant industry is blunt in its assessment of what happened and the unhappy results.

"This government made a promise less than three months ago to the people of British Columbia that there would be no new taxes," says Mark von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

"Harmonization will result in a permanent tax shift of hundreds of millions of dollars to our customers."

And take my own consulting business West Star Communications -- I currently am obliged to charge the 5 per cent GST on services.

With the HST it appears -- the government still hasn't given proper guidelines -- that I will have to charge an extra 7 per cent for a massive total of 12 per cent on services.

This is an increase in taxation of more than double with no, repeat, no change in anything I or my clients do! I'm sure my clients will not be happy to pay more taxes for the same work. 

That goes for other professional services. Every one of them has to charge an extra 7 per cent. And guess who will pay? Their customers.

The only benefits of the HST are for big businesses that can flow through the costs to their customers!

In May, BC Libs misled

The BC Liberals expressly rejected the idea of an HST during the last election -- misleading voters once again about their true intentions, just like with the sale of BC Rail, the size of the 2009 budget deficit and current health care cuts.

"A harmonized goods and services tax is not something that is contemplated in the B.C. Liberal election platform," was the governing party's identically worded reply to both the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders' Association and the Restaurant and Food Services Association.

And there has been zero, no, nada, nyet consultation with the public about even the idea of an HST -- just the surprise imposition of an unfair tax! 

But there's still time to stop this tax grab.

You can start by joining my new Facebook protest group, NO BC HST.

The B.C. Liberals shouldn't get away with imposing an unfair tax that they denied even considering -- and then ripping off consumers permanently!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wake up British Columbians! The HST is the biggest tax shift from business to individuals ever!

UPDATE - Over 400 people have already joined my Facebook protest group - NO BC HST - please sign up today and send Premier Gordon Campbell a strong message.

I need to be as alarmist as possible - the Harmonized Sales Tax is the biggest wealth transfer through taxation that we have ever seen, with big business shifting $1.9 billion in taxes paid through to individuals!

I've just posted a response to a few readers who complained about my earlier item on the HST - that taxes pay for public services and that the NDP is becoming an anti-tax party.

Of course taxes pay for public service - I support that.

But if you think the HST is an appropriate way to pay for public services you misunderstand completely what is happening with the HST!

And I hope to god that the NDP fight this outrageous tax all the way until Premier Gordon Campbell is forced to drop it.

I'll be writing on this Tuesday in 24 hours and the Tyee and of course here, but the short version is that this is the most enormous transfer of taxation from businesses to individuals we've yet seen!

It is also a highly regressive tax - that is, it disproportionately impacts lower income earners because far more of their limited income will be spent paying the tax.

A progressive tax increase would be far more desireable if a tax increase is needed to pay for public services. That way the burden falls more fairly on those with great income.

And yet Premier Gordon Campbell had the nerve to say: "This is the single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.'s economy."


Job creation? Give me a break! This is a pure tax grab and transfer.

Take restaurant meals - currently consumers pay no Provincial Sales Tax on the food portion - only on alcohol sales.

After the HST comes in, you will pay an extra 7% on the food - and guess what happens?

Restaurant sales go down. Servers and staff see reduced sales AND reduced tips.

Take my own consulting business West Star Communications - I currently am obliged to charge the 5% GST on services.

With the HST I will have to charge a massive 12% on services - an increase in taxation of more than 100% with no, repeat, no change in anything I or my clients do!

The same goes for architects, accountants and other professional services - every one of them has to charge an extra 7% - and guess who will pay?
The HST also applies to things as small as haircuts and as large as new homes.

The only benefits are for big businesses that can flow through the costs to their customers!

This doesn't even begin to cover my outrage with this Hansen Sales Tax, Horrible Sales Tax or whatever you call it.

The BC Liberals expressly rejected the idea of an HST during the last election - lying once again about their true intentions just like with the sale of BC Rail, the budget deficit and health care cuts.

And there has been zero, no, nada, nyet consultation with the public about even the idea of an HST - just a dictatorial imposition of an unfair tax!

I will be fighting this tax grab all the way - watch for a lot more here in the days, weeks and months ahead - and please join me!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

BC Liberals huge tax grab today will hurt consumers - "harmonization" of PST with GST will add costs to restaurant meals, heating fuels, haircuts, etc

Harmonizing Provincial Sales Tax with Goods and Service Tax will cost BC consumers lots

It's early days but there's no question that today's suprise announcement by Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen that BC will "harmonize" its PST and the GST into a blended 12% tax will cost you a lot of money.

That's because the new "HST" of 12% will apply to a lot of goods and services that previously were only subject to one of the two taxes.

Here's a short list of affected goods and services that are currently exempt from the 7% PST but will be subject to the full 12% HST when it is implemented in July 2010.

Businesses are able to recover the PST portion of the tax they currently pay - meaning in theory that the price could come down 7%.


• Food portion of restaurant meals
* Residential fuels (electricity, natural gas) and heating.
• Basic cable TV and residential phones.
• All food products (only basic groceries will remain exempt under new tax).
• Non-prescription medication.
• Vitamins and dietary supplements.
• Bicycles.
• School supplies (books will continue to be exempt).
• Magazines and newspapers.
• Work-related safety equipment.
• Safety helmets, life jackets, first-aid kits.
• Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
• Energy conservation equipment (e.g., insulation, solar power equipment).


• Personal services such as hair care.
• Dry cleaning.
• Repair services for household appliances.
• Household maintenance such as renovations and painting.
• Real estate fees.
• Membership fees for health clubs.
• Movie and theatre tickets.
• Funeral services.
• Professional services such as accounting and home care.
• Airline fares within Canada.

So why has the government suddenly introduced this new HST?

One big reason is that the federal government will give BC $1.6 billion to implement the change to the HST.

But the other big reason was given in the BC government's own news release - here is the list of groups supporting the "harmonization" of the GST and PST - see if you can guess what they all have in common:


B.C. Business Council

B.C. Progress Board

B.C. Chamber of Commerce

Canada West Foundation

Conference Board of Canada

Chartered Accountants of British Columbia

Retail Council of Canada

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Certified General Accountants – British Columbia

Certified General Accountants – Canada

Gee - no labour groups, no consumer organizations, no community groups - just business oriented organizations!

More on this in the days ahead.


Defence alleges BC Liberal insider Patrick Kinsella paid over $175,000 by BC Rail without any invoices; Kinsella lawyer wants records blocked

UPDATE 12 p.m. Friday

The Province's Keith Fraser reports that Justice Elizabeth Bennett has ruled this morning that about half of the BC Rail documents connected to Patrick Kinsella are relevant to the defence and ordered them released, in particularl emails describing meetings being set up between Kinsella and BC Rail shortly after the election.

“Given that B.C. Rail was put on the market in 2002, and the charges come from that event, these documents are likely relevant. Mr. Kinsella does not have a privacy interest on the documents,” Bennett stated in court.

UPDATED 6 p.m. with new info from afternoon court session

The defence in the Basi-Virk case today alleged that BC Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella was paid over $175,000 in consulting fees without submitting any invoices for his work.

And Kinsella's lawyer James Sullivan argued in BC Supreme Court that about 108 BC Rail records, documents and emails connected to Kinsella should not be disclosed to the defence, saying they are either private and harmful to Kinsella's business or not relevant to the case.

In court Kevin McCullough, representing former BC Liberal ministerial assistant Bob Virk, alleged Kinsella played a key role in the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail and that he had significant communications with successful bidder CN Rail when the deal got into trouble after the sale was announced.

McCullough blasted the lack of invoices from Kinsella and his company the Progressive Group to BC Rail for what he said amounted to more than $175,000 of the $297,000 the former BC Liberal Party co-chair in 2001 and 2005 charged the Crown corporation for "business advice."

"The fact that we only have invoices commencing in July 2004 for all the Progressive Group when we know in excess of $175,000 was paid from 2002 to 2004 alone is significant to what Mr. Kinsella was doing for B.C. Rail," McCullough told Bennett in arguing for disclosure of the documents.

But B.C. Rail lawyer Robert Deane said this afternoon that there was “an explanation and it’s not sinister.”

Deane said CN Rail had taken over B.C. Rail documents in July 2004, so they were not in B.C. Rail’s possession.

Deane said an affidavit filed in June of 2009 explained that when the transfer of B.C. Rail to CN was completed in about July 2004, recoreds were transferred to the control of CN.

Outside court Deane declined to answer questions about why B.C. Rail still retained some records related to Kinsella but not others or whether B.C. Rail knows if the invoices exist and are in CN's control.

Sullivan said outside court he has no information on the invoices.

But earlier in court McCullough launched a blistering attack on Kinsella and his role at B.C. Rail.

"What did he do for $175,000 between 2002 and July 2004? We know he was campaign chair for Mr. Campbell in 2001. We know that CN was communicating with him directly....A reasonable inference can be drawn that something's not right," McCullough alleged, telling Bennett that Kinsella was retained by B.C. Rail chair John McLernan, a provincial political appointee.

"If Mr. McLernan hired a backroom Liberal lobbyist guy, that's highly relevant," McCullough said. McCullough at one point repeated the term "McLernan-hired, Liberal backroom lobbyist" four times in a row.

In court Sullivan argued that the B.C. Rail records connected to Kinsella should not be disclosed to the defence.

"Mr. Kinsella asserts that documents from B.C. Rail cannot possibly be relevant and also asserts privacy rights. Many of these B.C. Rail documents fall outside the time period where they would be likely relevant," Sullivan said.

And Sullivan told Bennett that release of the documents could be harmful to Kinsella's business.

"Mr. Kinsella is not a government official or a public figure. He's a private citizen who relies upon his good reputation for his business," Sullivan said. "Mr. Kinsella, it must be stressed, is not a party to these proceedings."

Sullivan said that if Bennett rules any documents related to Kinsella should be released, he would want to review them and make submissions on redacting some of the content.

NEW: Tempers flare on all sides in testy battles between lawyers and between lawyers and Justice Elizabeth Bennett

The afternoon session saw some of the testiest arguments yet seen in
court in over three years, with McCullough at one point seeming close to being ejected by an obviously angry Justice Elizabeth Bennett.

And Bennett repeatedly ordered Sullivan to sit down and stop interjecting, at one point warning him his actions could potentially result in grounds for an appeal in the case by the defence.

An exasperated McCullough attempted to make additional arguments in response to statements by
Special Prosecutor Janet Winteringham in support of Sullivan's position on disclosure of the Kinsella documents and after Sullivan accused the defence of going on a "fishing expedition".

"I have issues to reply to," McCullough said to Bennett despite being told not to rise. "You raised the CN-Kinsella relationship. There is evidence....

"No there isn't," Bennett cut in.

McCullough continued despite Bennett's indication to sit down.

"Can you stop talking please?" an irritated Bennett told McCullough.

When McCullough still continued, Bennett cut him off: "We're going to take a break - 15 minutes!" and then walked quickly out of court.

Earlier in the afternoon Michael Bolton, representing former ministerial aide David Basi, had also alleged that Kinsella played a critical role in the sale of B.C. Rail and that his records are therefore essential to the defence.

"At a political level, he's the man the government couldn't do this deal without," Bolton said of Kinsella's role as a paid consultant at B.C. Rail. "It's a matter of having a key political fixer on the payroll."

And Bolton had little sympathy for Sullivan's arguments to protect Kinsella's privacy.

"Mr. Sullivan argues correctly that his client isn't a public figure - that's true - he's a backroom guy, he's a political figure. It's a power broker role," Bolton said of Kinsella. "There's no doubt Mr. Kinsella would like to remain in the backroom but these documents are critical to the defence."

Winteringham appeared to argue against the defence and for Sullivan's position on the Kinsella documents, saying that defence lawyers had not made a case for extending the time frame for documents or proving likely relevance.

"If the defence is advocating the court consider that 'the fix is in' or "something is not right" the defence must establish that this defence exists at lawy and is of relevance," Winteringham said.

"The defence must move beyond speeches from the floor about likely relevance," she added.

But it was Sullivan's reply to the defence position that raised the most hackles.

"There were documents that were completely irrelevant and yet the defence has come to court and not only argued that they were likely relevant but that they were highly relevant," Sullivan said.

Referring to documents that connected Kinsella to political advice to B.C. Rail regarding the Waste Management Amendment Act of 2002, Sullivan said that despite it having no connection to the case, the defence argued it was relevant.

"The Waste Management Act has absolutely nothing to do with B.C. Rail except that it is a property owner," affected by the amendments, Sullivan said. "Frankly, that's absurd."

After terming the defence arguments a "fishing expedition" Sullivan said that Kinsella's privacy interest is "significant" and his connection to the accused was "remote".

Eventually Bennett allowed McCullough to reply but Sullivan repeatedly tried to object.

"Mr. Sullivan - criminal case - the accused's liberty is at stake - I'm going to let him speak," Bennett said.

When Sullivan later rose again, Bennett warned him strongly: "It doesn't help me if you object. Not letting the defence argue for disclosure is a clear grounds for appeal."

McCullough returned to Kinsella's alleged connection to CN.

McCullough said the Crown's own disclosure of a document seized from Pilothouse Public Affairs in which lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran - who alleged bribed Basi and Virk but are now key Crown witnesses - is where Kinsella link to CN came out.

"This document talks of Mr. Kinsella being CN's political advisor. The Crown relies on these two witnesses - they say Mr. Kinsella was CN's political advisor," McCullough alleged. "According to Mr. Bornmann and Mr. Kieran, Mr. Kinsella is CN's chief political advisor."

The defence has previously alleged that Kinsella may have also been working for CN as well as B.C. Rail but today Bennett said that: "There is no evidence that Mr. Kinsella worked for CN Rail."

McCullough also discounted Deane's explanation of the lack of invoices from Kinsella being in B.C. Rail's possession.

"Whether or not those documents existed and whether they were shipped to CN is another matter," he argued.

McCullough also said B.C. Rail-Kinsella documents related to the Waste Management Amendment Act were indeed relevant.

"The Waste Management Act was going to affect the cost to the buyer - that's why Kinsella was getting it from B.C. Rail," McCullough argued. This Act is going to impact the operating costs - it's obvious."

Bennett said she will rule at 8:30 a.m. Friday on which documents will be examined for likely relevance.

The pre-trial hearing will then be adjourned until August 17, when she is expected to rule on whether she will stay on as the trial judge despite her promotion to the Appeal Court of BC or not.

The court will also hear from BC government lawyer George Copley whether backup email tapes of cabinet ministers and staff that were sent to EDS Advance Solutions for destruction in early May still exist or not.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Last Basi-Virk hearing Thursday July 23 on Patrick Kinsella documents - until August 17 resumption

Basi-Virk case watchers should know that tomorrow - Thursday July 23 - will be the last BC Supreme Court hearing date until August 17.

Thursday's session starting at 10 a.m. is expected to feature arguments over disclosure of BC Rail documents connected to Patrick Kinsella, the BC Liberal election campaign co-chair for 2001 and 2005 who was paid $297,000 by BC Rail for "business advice".

Kinsella's lawyer James Sullivan will appear for the publicity-shy BC Liberal insider.

Then that's it until August 17, when BC government lawyer George Copley returns to court to tell Justice Elizabeth Bennett what happened to the email backup tapes sent to EDS Advanced Solutions for destruction in early May - were they erased or do they still exist?

And Bennett herself will rule on whether she stays or goes as trial judge. The defence has argued she must stay, while Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino asked that she be replaced immediately.

Meanwhile, I will be in court Thursday and watch this space for all the details!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shades of Watergate in Basi-Virk case - erased tapes and All The President's Men?

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours and The Tyee column

Tuesday July 21, 2009

Railgate Looks Even More Like Watergate

Who destroyed email evidence in the BC Legislature Raid case? And why?

By Bill Tieleman

"What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up."

-- President Richard Nixon on Watergate, August 29, 1972

If you cannot figure anything else out about the complicated Basi-Virk corruption case, understand just this -- during the May provincial election someone in the B.C. government ordered potentially critical email evidence destroyed.

We don't know -- yet -- who gave the order. We don't know -- yet -- why. We don't know -- yet -- whether the order was executed.

But we do know that it happened just before the May 12 election and that the RCMP is now investigating whether deleting backup tapes of the emails of Premier Gordon Campbell, cabinet ministers and staff might constitute obstruction of justice.

And we do know it happened despite Campbell saying on June 23: "The records that should be kept under the law have been kept."

On Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled some emails were "likely relevant" evidence, allowing the defence to ask for a court order to determine if the tapes still exist and to obtain them.

Last week, a senior government manager's affidavit filed in court revealed that backup tapes of emails about the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 still existed in May 2009 -- despite earlier government claims they had been erased -- but were then ordered sent to government contractor

'Potential obstruction of justice': NDP's Krog

We don't know -- yet -- exactly what is contained in the affidavit of Rosemarie Hayes, the government's director of Messaging and Collaboration Services, Workplace Technology Services who confirmed the order to destroy the emails was given.

But defence lawyers for David Basi and Bob Virk -- the two former ministerial aides charged with breach of trust and fraud, made clear that if evidence that might exonerate their clients was destroyed by the government there will be hell to pay.

It was New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog's letter to Robert Gillen, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Attorney General's Criminal Justice Branch, asking him to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate "potential obstruction of justice" that has now been referred to the RCMP.

Watergate parallels

"This is a remarkable turn of events and the comparisons to Watergate are warranted," says Krog.

No kidding.

From the eerie similarity of Rosemarie Hayes first name to that of Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary who erased 18 minutes of secret White House tape recordings, to the fact that the provincial government's lawyer has now filed affidavits from Campbell's senior political staff, the whole situation has an All The President's Men feeling about it.

In the original Watergate investigation, it was revealed in July 1973 that Nixon had secretly installed a taping system to automatically record all conversations in the White House. Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox immediately demanded the tapes be turned over to him.

After Cox rejected a Nixon compromise on the tapes, the president ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused and resigned, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus, leaving Solicitor General Robert Bork to carry out Nixon's orders in what was termed the "Saturday Night Massacre."

Those actions spurred Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Nixon and after it was revealed that there was a "smoking gun" tape indicating Nixon had participated in obstruction of justice in the Watergate investigation, he resigned the presidency on August 8, 1974.

Here in B.C. we don't have taped conversations but we do have private emails between many of the key players in the B.C. Rail privatization.

Last week saw affidavits filed in B.C. Supreme Court from Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff Lara Dauphinee, Deputy Chief of Staff for Issue Management Jay Schlosar, Tobie Myers, ministerial assistant to Housing Minister Rich Coleman and a host of other political and other government employees. None of the affidavits have yet been made public.

It may or may not turn out to be All The Premier's Men and Women, but the big question is how will this movie end?


Monday, July 20, 2009

Emails of Premier Gordon Campbell, most cabinet and political staff ruled "likely relevant" in Basi-Virk case, ordered them produced

BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett has ruled that the emails of Premier Gordon Campbell, most cabinet ministers and political staff are "likely relevant" to the defence in the Basi-Virk case and ordered they be disclosed to the defence.

The precedent-setting ruling will see for the first time the emails of a sitting premier turned over to defence lawyers for three former BC government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion sale of BC Rail in 2003.

But it remains unclear whether those emails still exists, since it was learned last week that backup tapes still existed in early May 2009 but a government order was issued to destroy them and the tapes were sent to an outside contractor for disposal. EDS Advanced Solutions was sent the tapes but it is not known yet if the order to destroy them was completed.

Defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, said outside court Bennett's decision was extremely important.

"This may be the most critical ruling in this case," Bolton said. "It's virtually unprecedented."

And Bolton raised the possibility that the defence will use the possible elimination of evidence as grounds to have the case dismissed.

"Potentially the destruction of evidence by recklessness or neglect could be a very significant factor in this case and could lead to a motion for dismissal of charges, but that's down the road," Bolton said. "There's no question that this case has been a challenge with disclosure."

NDP MLA Leonard Krog said outside court the ruling is very important.

"Justice has won in BC today - even the premier must be accountable," Krog said. "But Justice Bennett has had to order the government to do what Premier Campbell promised to do months ago."

Bennett ruled that not only Campbell's emails related to BC Rail and Pilothouse Public Affairs - the lobbyist firm of Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran, who are alleged to have provided bribes to Basi and co-accused Bob Virk - but those of several cabinet ministers and political staff are "likely relevant", which allows the defence to apply for a court order that they be produced.

Among those whose emails were ruled likely relevant are: former Deputy Premier Christy Clark; former Finance Minister Gary Collins; former Transportation Minister Judith Reid; former Energy Minister Richard Neufeld; current Housing Minister Rich Coleman; current Transportation Minister Shirley Bond; current Campbell Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff Lara Dauphinee and issues Management staffer Jay Schlosar.

Campbell’s current Deputy Minister Jessica McDonald and former Deputy Minister Ken Dobell will also have their emails produced, along with those of former Deputy Finance Ministers Paul Taylor and Chris Trumpy.

Other current and former BC Liberal government politicians and staff whose emails were ordered disclosed include:

Brenda Eaton, a former deputy minister; Mike Morton, Campbell's former press secretary; Tom Syer, Campbell's former policy coordination and issues management deputy chief of staff; David Cunningham, Campbell's former Deputy Communications Director; current Deputy Solicitor General David Morhart; Yvette Wells - former Director of the Crown Agencies Secretariat; Assistant Deputy Minister Kevin Begg in the Solicitor General's ministry;

A few cabinet ministers and staff emails were ruled not "likely relevant" and therefore do not have to be produced.

Those include current Health Minister Kevin Falcon, who took over as Transportation Minister after Reid; former Attorney General Geoff Plant; current Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel; former Transportation Deputy Minister Dan Doyle; former Christy Clark ministerial assistant Kim Haakstad; Neil Sweeney, Campbell's former Deputy Chief of Staff, Issues Management, and Stuart Chase, the former Public Affairs Bureau officer who was monitoring the Basi-Virk case in BC Supreme Court and reporting back to Victoria - a story I first broke in 24 hours.

Bennett made mention of Chase specifically, saying that "much was made of Mr. Chase's conduct at court. But just because actions may be called political does not make them relevant."

Bennett is now hearing defence arguments that she should stay on as trial judge despite her promotion to the BC Court of Appeal earlier this year.

Joe Doyle, representing defendant Aneal Basi, argued that Bennett should rule that she will remain to hear the case.

"The accused have had you as trial judge for nearly four years ....they are facing serious charges and deserve to have you continue as the trial judge," Doyle told Bennett.

"There will be delay if this trial is assigned to a new judge - there's no question about it," Doyle said. "There's simply no replacement for having sat on the case for three and a half years."

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino has previously argued in court that Bennett should be replaced immediately because of her promotion and a new trial judge assigned.



Friday, July 17, 2009

BC Assistant Deputy Attorney General refers NDP request for Special Prosecutor on missing BC Rail emails to RCMP

Robert Gillen, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Criminal Justice Branch, has referred an NDP request for appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the disappearance and possible destruction of cabinet emails related to BC Rail to the RCMP.

NDP MLA Leonard Krog, who yesterday sent Gillen letter asking him to consider appointing a Special Prosecutor, said today he has received a reply indicating the matter has been referred to Chief Superintendent Dick Bent of the RCMP.

In a letter to Krog dated July 16, 2009 - the same day the request from Krog was received - Gillen says allegations of possible obstruction of justice in the destruction of government emails have been sent to Bent.

"Consideration to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor would only take place if the police determine that an investigation should take place and request the assistance of a prosecutor for the purposes of seeking legal advice during the investigation or alternatively, the police at the end of the investigation forward a Report to Crown Counsel in which a charging decision is requested," Gillen wrote, with a copy to Bent.

Krog says he appreciates the letter.

"I'm pleased to have that quick a response from the Assistant Deputy Attorney General. I have a lot of respect for Robert Gillen," he said in an interview Friday afternoon.

"Once the RCMP start an investigation - if they proceed - they'll want to quickly turn to a Special Prosecutor," Krog said.

In British Columbia, Special Prosecutors are regularly assigned to investigation of criminal matters where political figures or issues arise in order to preserve the independence of the case.

Krog said the events of the past week, when it was learned that back up tapes of emails from cabinet ministers regarding the $1 billion sale of BC Rail in 2003 allegedly may have been ordered destroyed in early May despite the ongoing criminal case, have been astonishing.

"This is a remarkable turn of events and the comparisons to Watergate are warranted," he said.

"It now behooves the government to tell us who gave the order to destroy the backup tapes, when and why," Krog said.

On Monday at 9 a.m., BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett will rule on a defence application to have the email backup tapes designated as "likely relevant", a decision that would then allow them to demand production of the tapes.

To date it is unclear whether EDS Advanced Solutions - the contractor who was sent the tapes for deletion - actually destroyed them or not.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NDP wants Special Prosecutor to investigate possible destruction of email evidence, obstruction of justice in BC Legislature Raid case

UPDATED - Friday 2 p.m.


NDP requests Special Prosecutor after missing BC Rail emails ordered destroyed during May election - and asks who was responsible

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist

The New Democratic Party has today requested the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate a possible obstruction of justice after government emails related to the B.C. Rail corruption trial were potentially ordered destroyed during the May provincial election.

And defence lawyers representing three former B.C. Liberal government aides facing corruption charges are asking B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett to issue a ruling that the missing emails are likely relevant evidence following submission of 15 affidavits from senior staff in Premier Gordon Campbell’s office and others about the emails.

The affidavits, which have not been made public, include statements from Campbell’s Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff Lara Dauphinee, Deputy Chief of Staff for Issue Management Jay Schlosar, Tobie Myers, ministerial assistant to Housing Minister Rich Coleman, Natalie Poole-Moffat, ministerial assistant to Energy and Mines Minister Blair Lekstrom, Fraser Randall, ministerial assistant to Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon, Sandy Wharf, Director, Corporate Priorities and Performance Management in Campbell's office and Connie Richter, Executive Coordinator to Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel, Glen Isaac, Acting Director, Corporate Records Management Branch of the Ministry of Citizens' Services, Lisa Dominato, ministerial assistant to Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, Carolyn M. Bell, a Freedom of Information contractor working for the Attorney General's Ministry's Legal Services Branch, [NOTE: earlier information incorrectly identifed someone with the same name in the Ministry of Health Services - I regret the inadvertent error] Gladys Michael, a former government employee responsible for Freedom Of Information requests in the Ministry of Human Resources who may have been working as a contractor and Linda Brandy, a former government employee responsible for Freedom Of Information requests in the Premier's Office, Ministry of Finance anod other ministries who also may have been working as a contractor.

[NOTE - The information regarding affidavits filed is based on names read into the court record, which have not been made public, and searches of the BC government directory and other sources. The individuals listed may have given affidavits because they may have been or were in different positions at the time of the BC Rail deal.]

“I want a court order!” demanded defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, representing former ministerial aide Bob Virk. “The more I learn from these affidavits, the more I don’t know what happened.”

McCullough said one affidavit filed by Rosemarie Hayes, the government’s director of Messaging and Collaboration Services, Workplace Technology Services, clearly shows that backup tapes of emails related to the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 still existed in May 2009 but were then sent to EDS Advanced Solutions – a government contractor – for disposal.

“They [the government] don’t know what EDS has done with them - destroyed them or not. They [the government] sent a letter saying ‘don’t,’” McCullough said.
Bennett said she will issue a ruling Monday morning at 9 a.m. on whether the emails are “likely relevant,” at which point the defence can then request they be produced.

NDP MLA Leonard Krog said outside court that he has asked Robert Gillen, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Branch, to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate “potential obstruction of justice” in the disappearance of the emails.

“What happened today in court is extremely disturbing,” Krog said in an interview. “Allowing the tapes to be destroyed is astonishing.”

“This government is arrogant enough to think it can get away with covering up,” Krog added.

Defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing former ministerial aide David Basi, said outside court that the decision to send the email backup tapes for destruction was: “An executive decision of government – who decided, we don’t know.”

“We’re very concerned as to what happened. It could affect the outcome of this case,” he said, noting that the defence has sought the emails for over two years.

McCullough told Bennett that the new affidavit dated July 14 from Hayes contradicts her previously court-filed version of what happened to the email backups.

“Ms. Hayes’ affidavit is completely, diametrically the opposite of what her first affidavit said,” McCullough said. “The scary thing is – I still can’t believe it – the records still existed and they shoved them off to a contractor – all of them – in May 2009.”

McCullough said they may need to cross examine some of those who filed affidavits to determine what happened.

The new information also
contradicts earlier statements in court from provincial government lawyer George Copley, who said emails from 2001 to 2005 could not be retrieved because backup tapes were only kept for 13 months.

Some of the details of the Rosemarie Hayes affidavit were leaked to Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason, who published them today.

Mason says that Hayes, in her affidavit, states that: " the beginning of May of this year, her department requested that backup tapes of government e-mails created prior to May of 2004 be expunged from the system. The e-mails are the subject of a legal proceeding and as such should not have been deleted, according to the government's own guidelines."

Those guidelines are rather clear. The Information Management and Information Technology Management procedures manual states:

"Disclosure Requirements for Legal Proceedings

1.Ministries must list all relevant records in their custody or control under the Attorney General's discovery of documents.

2.Government records destruction schedules must be suspended during court orders for Demand of Discovery.

3.Records disposition must be suspended during legally mandated reviews (e.g., litigation, document discovery, and commissions of inquiry.)"

In court, Kevin McCullough made clear that he has no doubt Justice Bennett will rule that the emails easily meet the grounds for being "likely relevant."

"When I read some of the Dauphinee emails and the Schlosar emails, they go so much farther than the likely relevant test," McCullough said.

McCullough was also scathing about how Rosemarie Hayes new information contradicts earlier information from the government.

"The Hayes' affidavit - the first 24 paragraphs are spent correcting her June affidavit," McCullough said. "The net of it is the backup tapes did exist for sure through May 2009 for everybody. Then the government sent all of the backup tapes to EDS Advanced Solutions."

Basi was a ministerial assistant to then-Finance Minister Gary Collins in 2003 and Virk an MA to then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid when the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail took place.

Both men face breach of trust and fraud charges for allegedly passing confidential government information about the sale to Erik Bornmann, a lobbyist representing OmniTRAX - one of the bidders - in exchange for money and other benefits. Bornmann is the key crown witness in the trial and does not face any charges.

A third government aide, former communications officer Aneal Basi - a cousin to David Basi - faces money laundering charges in connection to the payments.

The defence's central argument against the charges is that the two ministerial aides were simply following directions from higher-ups to ensure that OmniTRAX didn't drop out of the bidding, as it was the last competitor to eventual winner CN Rail.

CP Rail and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway both dropped out, claiming the bidding process was "unfair" and that information about BC Rail had been leaked to CN.

Versions of this story will be published online at 24 hours website and in Friday's 24 hours newspaper.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NDP demands BC Liberal government release full BC Rail sale deal on 5th anniversary, with line abandonment possible starting today

The BC NDP is demanding that the BC Liberal government release the full text of the deal that saw BC Rail sold to CN Rail for $1 billion in the province's largest-ever privatization.

And it says that as of today, CN can begin abandoning rail lines that it guaranteed would continue running for five years after the deal.

July 14 marks the 5th anniversary of the BC Rail deal being implemented, following the announcement of its privatization sale to CN on November 25, 2003.

"This whole deal is tainted with scandal, tainted by a corruption trial," NDP MLA Leonard Krog told a news conference in Vancouver Tuesday morning.

Krog says that after five years, CN is now allowed to abandon rail lines previously run by BC Rail and guaranteed to continuing operating for a five-year term.

"I want to know what communities are impacted. I want to know CN's plans," Krog said. "If rail lines are abandoned the consequences could be devastating. Those communities deserve to know if they're on the hit list."

The full BC Rail deal agreement has never been released but in a highly-censored version first obtained in August 2004 in response to an NDP Freedom Of Information request, the text not severed shows that CN can stop service to portions of the rail line five years after the agreement was ratified on July 14, 2004.

Krog said Premier Gordon Campbell should release deal and let the public know what might happen with the former BC Rail lines but is more concerned with "ducking responsibility for the BC Rail corruption trial of former BC government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.

“If Gordon Campbell really cared about transparency, he would release the full B.C. Rail contract. Instead, his government continues to stonewall and refuses to answer even the most basic questions about the impact of this scandal for British Columbians,” said Krog.

When I asked if the NDP will request that CN release the full details if the BC Liberal government doesn't, Krog responded: "Excellent suggestion."

"But it's the premier's obligation to disclose this, not CN's - they're the purchaser," Krog added.

And in response to another question I posed - whether the NDP would consider suggestions by BC Rail deal bloggers that the party pursue a legal injunction to block the deal - Krog said it would be extremely difficult and expensive.

"You would have to have legal standing for an injunction. There would be a separate hearing, you would have to hire legal counsel," he said.

"The opposition is not in a position from a legal or financial aspect to bring about a private action," Krog concluded.

I agree.

Having had direct experience with one of my clients who attempted to win a legal injunction against the BC government and a crown corporation over a previous privatization, I know that the costs are enormous - $200,000 in that case - legal fees plus government costs awarded against my client - and the odds decidedly poor at best.

Spending limited time and resources in a legal battle that is almost sure to be lost and lost at great cost is not a good strategy.


In his own words - Premier Gordon Campbell on the need for truth in budgeting - from 1996

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours and The Tyee column

Tuesday July 14, 2009

'The Premier Has Misled the Voters'

Gordon Campbell shares his views on the need for truth in budgeting.

By: Bill Tieleman, 14 July 2009

View full article and comments at The Tyee:

Today, unfortunately, we do not have a government that will tell the truth about the finances of this province.

- Gordon Campbell, July 10, 1996

Today's column has been written for the most part by Premier Gordon Campbell, with his direct quotes from debates in the B.C. legislature.

Campbell's comments were aimed at the budget introduced by the New Democrat government of then premier Glen Clark before the 1996 election, when a small projected surplus in the $20.6 billion budget turned into a $235 million deficit -- but their relevance 13 years later is stunning.

On April 23, 2009 -- just weeks before the May 12 provincial election -- Campbell said: "I can tell you this: the deficit for 2009-2010 will be $495 million maximum."

But on Thursday, Finance Minister Colin Hansen finally admitted what everyone else in B.C. figured out months before: "Given what I know today, I am not optimistic at all that a $495-million number is anywhere near possible."

Back in February, Central 1 Credit Union's report on the budget clearly said that: "A deficit of $1 to $1.5 billion... in 2009-10 is the more likely outcome due to revenue shortfalls." The deteriorating world-wide economy's impact on B.C. was obvious but the premier continued the fiction that the deficit was fixed.

Campbell's sense of outrage

Here then, some choice quotes about truth in budgeting from Gordon Campbell:

July 2, 1996: "The fact is that this government, in less than a month, has broken dozens of promises. It misled the public before the election, it misled them during the election, and it has misled them since the election."

July 8, 1996: "The government has made it clear that truth in budgeting comes a distant second to its political agenda. Political deception has consistently taken precedence over the truth."

"The people of British Columbia expect accountability and truthfulness in the budget process. We have seen from this government consistently a misleading agenda in terms of budgets."

August 13, 1996: "This premier and this government and every single member on that side of the House misled the people of British Columbia before the election. They misled the people of British Columbia during the election, and they've misled the people of British Columbia every single day."

"People in British Columbia expected the truth from this government. They expected them to lay out the facts and recognize that we can have a good political debate based on the facts."

"This government has done everything they can to hide the facts, to cover up the facts; and when the facts were not comfortable, they would distort the facts to try to mislead the people of British Columbia, and that is wrong."

July 3, 1996: "The premier has betrayed the people of British Columbia, he has misled the voters of British Columbia, and I want to know from the premier today whether or not he is willing to resign."

"The only thing that is consistent about this premier is that he says one thing before an election and the exact opposite after an election."

"I think it's a shame when the legislature of British Columbia becomes known as the 'wriggle room.'"

July 4, 1996: "Like so many other things with this premier, he says one thing one day and does the opposite the next day."

"Honourable Speaker, I can tell you this: I would rather be on this side of the House having told the people of British Columbia the truth than on that side of the House having misled the people."

July 10, 1996: "I think and I hope that before we vote, every single member in this House will think of three important words and look at their conscience and ask themselves if they can support this budget in good conscience."

"I'd like to remind us of these three words. The first one is 'integrity.' The second one is 'honesty.' The third is one that I believe has been eroded time and time again in our political institutions over the last number of years -- certainly not just by this government but by many governments in the past as well as by this government -- and that is 'trust,' public trust."

"The best public service any of us can provide is to act with integrity and show the public of British Columbia that we put their interests ahead of political interests and that we understand that there is no such thing as government money; there is only taxpayers' money."

"Half a billion dollars -- I mean, people don't have any concept of how much money half a billion dollars is. Half a billion dollars will provide for all of the needs we have in schools across the province."

"Half a billion dollars will provide for the needs of students and patients across British Columbia. But this government misses their debt management plan by half a billion dollars in just one year."

"With this government, with this budget, there has been nothing done to re-establish the trust that British Columbians should have in their public institutions."

"The fact of the matter is that people in British Columbia today say: 'When can we trust anyone?'"

Again, all the words of Gordon Campbell.

One thing has now been made perfectly clear with his pre-election budget. British Columbians can't trust this hypocritical premier or his BC Liberal government.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Well surprise, surprise, surprise! BC's deficit will be way more than the $495 million Gordon Campbell promised in the election!

Well what do you know - I'm a better judge of BC's failing economy and ballooning deficit than either BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell or Finance Minister Colin Hansen!

Not that it's much to brag about - practically the entire province could say the same!

But it's Campbell and Hansen that have to answer for their inexplicable and repeated statements during the election and afterward that BC would only have a $495 million deficit.

Were they just stupid or were they lying? You be the judge.

Hansen now says that the first time he learned that the $495 million was unachievable was June 24.

My 24 hours/Tyee column from June 2 - three weeks before - is below, with loads of evidence that there was simply no way for BC to make the deficit projection - and that there had been no way for months before that.

Here's what Hansen told the Canadian Press yesterday however:

"Hansen said he was confident up until the middle of June the province could still meet its $495 million deficit target, but that changed on June 24 when Ottawa provided updated income and corporate tax numbers.

He said Ottawa reported that British Columbia can expect personal income tax revenues that are "significantly lower. But the biggest impact, and the one that sort of took my breath away, was what was happening on the corporate income tax revenues."

The public accounts documents revealed a sharp revenue decline of $1.5 billion, amounting to an $863 million drop in personal income tax, $212 million in corporate tax and $114 million in social services tax.

"I can no longer say that I'm that optimistic," Hansen said. There are still some big challenges. We still see lots of volatility. We will have no shortages in challenges in locking down (budget) numbers."

So there you have it - the Finance Minister and the Premier of our province were gobsmacked just late last month, while the rest of us have known for months that we were in deep financial trouble.

Or is that BC Liberal fudge?

Here's my column from June 2 - you can find the links by going to the original posting on my blog or at The Tyee version.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours & The Tyee Column

Tuesday June 2, 2009

B.C. financial fudge capital of the world

View Tyee article and comments here

By Bill Tieleman

Published: June 2, 2009

I can tell you this: the deficit for 2009-2010 will be $495 million maximum.

-- Premier Gordon Campbell, April 23, 2009

The BC Liberals have a new plan to stimulate the provincial economy -- make British Columbia the "Financial Fudge Budget" capital of the world.

Finance ministers from around the globe will travel to Victoria to learn at the feet of the masters -- Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen -- about how to craft the slipperiest, most expensive fudge ever seen.

That's the only conclusion one can draw from the most astonishing, outrageous and massive fudging of the B.C. budget in provincial history -- and all done during an election campaign.

So while Campbell said that if re-elected, the 2009-10 budget tabled in February with a $495 million projected deficit will be "pretty much the budget that’s reintroduced", not even the premier's closest corporate allies believe him.
Trust issues

Jock Finlayson, the B.C. Business Council executive vice-president, says he would not be surprised by a $2 billion deficit -- and Finlayson sits on the province's own council of economic forecasters.

Bank of Montreal Deputy Chief Economist Douglas Porter agrees with Finlayson, saying he could "easily foresee a deficit of that magnitude."

And last year's so-called balanced budget for 2008-09 could also have a deficit, says Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central 1 Credit union.

Pastrick has said consistently from February on that B.C.'s deficit would be much larger than projected and most recently predicted it would be about $1.5 billion.

Bitter fudge

What all this BC Liberal fudge means for ordinary and particularly lower income British Columbians is not a sweet treat but a bitter pill to swallow as the government begins dramatically slashing public services.

For even if Campbell decides to temporarily run a much bigger deficit than he promised to deliver, it will still require massive spending cuts and/or a significant tax increase to keep the red ink from staining the BC Liberals permanently pink.

And given that Campbell introduced a 25 per cent tax reduction when he came to power in 2001 and has steadfastly maintained that such reckless cuts stimulate the economy, don't expect him to hike taxes on business or high income earners.

When previously in a jam, facing an impending shortfall in 2002, Campbell stuck to his tax cutting rhetoric even as he was forced to claw back hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from ordinary British Columbians.

How? By increasing their B.C. Medical Services Premiums by 50 per cent, eliminating several medical services and imposing a host of onerous user fees that are still in place today.

The BC Liberals have already promised to cut $2 billion in spending over three financial years through "administrative and other savings" and "efficiencies" -- want to bet that number goes way up along with the deficit?

Downsizing battles loom

There's another big factor -- almost all public sector union contracts expire shortly after the February 2010 Olympic Games – and with B.C.'s economic disaster status at that point, expect a nasty round of bargaining as the government tries to downsize employees faster than a bobsled on pure ice.

That's one reason Campbell and Hansen hope to delay tabling a new budget in the Legislature for as long as possible -- to give themselves more "wriggle room" and more time to blame the world-wide economic crisis instead of their own inability and unwillingness to acknowledge the situation long before the election.

But will we see business groups up in arms like they were when the 1996 NDP government brought in a $355 million deficit when it had projected a balanced budget in that year's election?

Will the National Citizens Coalition again finance court challenges against government fraud?

Not a chance -- but these hypocrites should be embarrassed when their own business-funded BC Liberals' fudge make the NDP's past mistakes look like penny candy.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

BC Liberal gas tax still hated - 65% oppose recent hike in price

Taxed and loathing

Carbon tax increase strongly opposed, 24 hours poll shows

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

View full Tyee article and comments

By Bill Tieleman

Even Genghis Khan learned to be peaceful. . . . when he saw how much more rewarding it was to tax peasants than to kill them.

- Professor Monica Prasad

British Columbians strongly oppose the 50% increase in the B.C. Liberals’ carbon tax imposed July 1, new polling conducted exclusively for 24 hours newpaper shows.

Polling by Strategic Communications shows that 65% of those surveyed disagree with the 1.17 cent per litre carbon tax increase on gas and 1.35 cents on heating fuel.

And a full 47% “strongly oppose” the carbon tax increase, while only 30% of those polled support the gas tax hike and just 11% “strongly support” it. Another 5% don’t oppose or support it.

The new carbon tax rate is 3.51 cents per litre on gas and 4.04 cents per litre on heating fuel. It continues rising annually until it hits 7 cents per litre on gas and 8 cents on heating fuel in 2012.

Strategic Communications President Bob Penner says that despite the recent re-election of Premier Gordon Campbell, who introduced North America’s only carbon tax, it is still strongly opposed.

“It’s obvious nobody likes paying a tax increase, but it’s pretty clear from this poll, and previous ones that we and others have done, that regardless of the substance of the issue, the Liberals have so far completely failed to sell this carbon tax,” Penner says.

The poll of 1,000 British Columbians conducted online from June 22 to 29 shows an interesting urban-rural split, with 48% of Vancouver residents supporting the tax and 41% opposed – the only place where the tax increase is slightly favoured.

Online poll, small regional samples

In the rest of Metro Vancouver the gas tax increase is opposed by 65%, with 45% strongly opposed; on Vancouver Island 66% opposed; in the interior 72% opposed; and in the north 84% were against it, with 72% strongly opposed. One caution - regional breakdowns are based on much smaller samples.

Every age group of British Columbians surveyed opposed the gas tax hike, from 50% of younger people opposed and 35% supportive to 50 to 64 year olds being 71% against it and 25% in favour. And interestingly, women are more opposed than men – by 66% to 63%.

Strongest tax support from the wealthiest

Also worth noting is that the strongest support for the carbon tax comes from the wealthiest British Columbians. Those with an income over $100,000 support the carbon tax increase by a margin of 44% to the 51% who are opposed.

For lower income earners it’s another story. 61% of those making less than $30,000 oppose the gas tax jump versus 29% who agree, while those with income between $30,000 and $70,000 oppose it by a margin of 65% to 33%.

The strongest opposition comes from those with incomes between $70,000 and $100,000, with 72% against and just 25% in favour.

'Axe the Tax' vindicated

The polling clearly shows that some environmentalists and others who argue imposing the carbon tax was a political winner for the B.C. Liberals and opposing it a mistake for the B.C. New Democrats are wrong.

The Strategic Communications poll also indicates that a much smaller poll of 250 British Columbians in mid-June by Environics Research that claimed “public support rises for B.C. carbon tax” is likely incorrect in its conclusions.

That poll – released at a conference titled “Decoding Carbon Pricing” that was hosted by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and Sustainable Prosperity – had 48% in favour of the gas tax and 47% against.

Environics Research also released a poll in July 2008 that showed only 40% support for the carbon tax and 56% opposition just after it was first implemented.
As argued here, the B.C. Liberals won in spite of the tax, not because of it.

If like me you oppose this unfair and ineffective tax, join my online Facebook protest group with over 9,000 members - Axe The BC Gas Tax.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Victoria Times-Colonist demands Premier Campbell launch independent public investigation into missing BC Rail - Basi-Virk emails

Today the Victoria Times-Colonist demanded Premier Gordon Campbell launch an independent public investigation into the disappearance of years worth of emails between cabinet ministers regarding the sale of BC Rail - emails sought by the defence in the Basi-Virk case.

The Times-Colonist says it has the potential to become the largest political scandal of the decade.

This is a most welcome development - one can only hope more organizations and individuals make the same demand - which originated with the NDP opposition.

Here's part of the
Times-Colonist editorial, with a link to the whole item.

* * * * *

Missing e-mail inquiry needed


Victoria Times Colonist

July 3, 2009

New Democrat Leonard Krog is right. Premier Gordon Campbell should order an independent, public investigation into the apparent loss of four years of e-mails regarding the sale of B.C. Rail.

The destruction of the provincial cabinet and executive staff e-mails from 2001 through 2005 was revealed last month in the B.C. Supreme Court, where three former government employees are being tried in a corruption case. The charges against them were laid in the wake of police raids on the legislature in December 2003.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett has ruled that the e-mails of 15 MLAs and former MLAs dealing with government and the Pilothouse lobbying firm and sent in 2003 or 2004, are likely relevant to the case. This week, she granted a defence application to get the records.

There is still a problem with the e-mails of the premier and cabinet ministers. Court has been told that the government's backup tapes are only kept for 13 months and those e-mails are gone.

Given the importance of cabinet discussions -- especially on matters such as the B.C. Rail deal -- that statement would indicate the government's information management system needs a complete overhaul.

Less important government documents are still available, after all. Why were the B.C. Rail ones destroyed? And why were at least some of them destroyed after the legislature raids, when there was no doubt the matter would be going before the courts? Did no one think these e-mails might matter?

.....This has the potential to become the largest political scandal of the decade. Even if those e-mails have all been destroyed, the government should still take steps to stop further losses.