Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Justice Bennett rules more than 80 BC Rail documents "relevant" to defence in BC Legislature Raid case
Bennett's ruling means the defence can now attempt to win disclosure of the documents in the corruption charges trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.
The pre-trial hearing appeared as if a bingo game was being called but only the defence and crown had bingo cards, leaving media and public observers mystified as to what was being decided.
Very little detail was given as Bennett listed a series of exhibits and line items, only occasionally making any mention whatsoever as to the content of the evidence in question. But defence lawyers, prosecutors and lawyers for the government and BC Rail were all following along with descriptions of the documents only they possessed.
Bennett gave no clue as to how relevant a particular document might be nor what was contained within it, with a few exceptions.
One exception was that some of the documents are related to the so-called PATH process - the code name for the sale of BC Rail in 2003.
Other mentions by Bennett were to "a private citizen complaint" to police, a "revitalization" of the BC Rail Roberts Bank Port Subdivision, a "draft lease" and a "transcribed voice mail" that were all ruled relevant.
David Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton said the documents will demonstrate that a "political agenda" existed prior to the sale of BC Rail and will shed light on the lead up to the privatization and the aftermath.
Tuesday March 24, 2009
B.C. Rail deal comes back to haunt Libs
By Bill Tieleman
There’s a sinister way of looking at this – that the government was playing politics with this deal the whole time.
– Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough on the B.C. Rail sale
Let’s make one thing clear – the B.C. Legislature raid case, the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail in 2003, the corruption charges against three former B.C. Liberal government aides – those are now secondary.
A far more important issue is at stake – the integrity of the premier of British Columbia,Gordon Campbell.
For those who have either failed to cover or follow the charges against David Basi, Bob Virk or Aneal Basi, saying it’s too complicated, too long ago, too trivial or just so what – none of that matters anymore.
Campbell must answer questions about his personal role and his government’s actions in selling B.C. Rail to CN Rail for $1 billion in a purportedly open bidding process.
The premier’s closest political advisor, Patrick Kinsella – co-chair of both the 2001 and 2005 B.C. Liberal Party election campaigns – is alleged in a court of law to have been working for both B.C. Rail and CN at the same time.
Those allegations by defence lawyers, repeated in the B.C. Legislature by New Democratic Party MLAs, must be answered.
We already know that Kinsella was paid $297,000 by B.C.Rail in $6,000-a-month instalments from 2001 to 2005. And Kinsella, as a private consultant, can work for both parties in a transaction – there’s nothing illegal in that.
But Campbell, the premier of the province, has an obligation to tell taxpayers if these allegations are true or false – before the May 12 election.
Campbell has an even greater obligation to respond to defence allegations in court – based on information from lobbyists for another bidder who are now key crown witnesses – that the premier personally met with Kinsella and David McLean, the chair of CN Rail, before the deal was announced.
True or false? If true, why did the meeting take place?
Was the B.C. Rail deal discussed?
Did Campbell know that Kinsellawas working for B.C. Rail or what he was doing for them?
Was Kinsella there on behalf of B.C. Rail or CN or both?
Did Campbell know who Kinsella was representing when he called the premier’s chief of staff Martyn Brown on May 19, 2004 to try and save the billion dollar deal with CN from collapsing?
Was it B.C. Rail or CN or both? Not only is Campbell’s excuse that he can’t comment on a matter “before the courts” convenient – it’s fundamentally wrong.
Campbell has commented before when it suited his purposes.
This time it’s more important – it’s not the Basi-Virk case that is in jeopardy– it’s Gordon Campbell’s personal integrity.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Basi-Virk Bombshells: Defence alleges Kinsella, CN + Gordon Campbell met on BC; Kinsella worked for CN & BC Rail at same time; govt suppressed FOIs
Defence lawyers in the B.C. Legislature raid case made a bombshell allegation Thursday that Premier Gordon Campbell met with BC Liberal 2001 election campaign co-chair Patrick Kinsella and David McLean, CN Rail's Chair, to discuss the $1 billion B. C. Rail deal before CN was announced the winning bidder.
Reading from a briefing note seized by police search warrant from Pilothouse Public Affairs, lobbyists for CN rival OmniTRAX, lawyer Kevin McCullough talked about problems CN might face with tax implications of the deal.
“This was disclosed face to face with the premier, David McLean and CN’s B.C. political advisor Patrick Kinsella,” McCullough quoted the document.
"The premier never wavered, even from the last election, from his intent to sell B.C. Rail," McCullough read. "Conscious of his tenuous political situation post-Maui [where he was jailed for drunk driving in early January 2003] he assured northern communities the province would retain track ownership."
But, McCullough said, this promise meant CN could not take full advantage of tax credits.
McCullough, reading from other emails and documents disclosed to the defence in the case of three former government aides facing corruption charges, also alleged that Kinsella was working for both CN Rail and B.C. Rail in the period prior to and during the sale of B.C. Rail to CN. Kinsella was paid $297,000 by BC Rail during that time.
McCullough said the B.C. Rail deal almost collapsed months after it was signed November 25, 2003 - leading to a May 19, 2004 intervention by Kinsella to Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown at McLean’s request.
“On the 19th of May  Kinsella is the point man for CN, he calls Martyn Brown to say they have to do anything they can,” McCullough said.
And McCullogh, representing former ministerial aide Bob Virk, alleged in court that senior government Deputy Minister Chris Trumpy and then-B.C. Rail Vice-President Kevin Mahoney worked together to "stifle" a Freedom Of Information request to access the transaction documents in the B.C. Rail deal.
The B.C. Liberal government is exercising "sub judice" - that the matter is before the courts - to avoid questions when it is convenient but ignores it for its own purposes other times, McCullough also told Justice Elizabeth Bennett.
Special prosecutor Janet Winteringham objected to McCullough’s argument on sub judice but Bennett cut her off, saying: “I’m not sure your role and function here – you’re the special prosecutor."
"There's a reason special prosecutors are appointed," Bennett concluded, no doubt referring to their role as being outside politics in prosecuting cases involving political figures.
B.C. Liberal House Leader Mike De Jong refused in the Legislature this afternoon to answer opposition questions about the revelations.
"The honourable member chooses to make allegations that derive directly from information and material that are squarely before proceedings at the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It is, therefore, inappropriate to answer," De Jong said in response to a question from NDP MLA Mike Farnworth.
The opposition used its entire question period to pepper the government with the allegations raised in court but neither Premier Gordon Campbell nor Attorney General Wally Oppal were present for them, leaving De Jong to take them all.
Outside the court NDP MLA Leonard Krog was scathing about the information disclosed.
"This deal was going off the rails and that the so-called 'consolation prize' becomes much clearer," Krog said, referring to the defence theory that OmniTRAX, the only bidder left in the sale other than CN, was offered a consolation prize of BC Rail's $70 million Roberts Bank Port Subdivision.
That privatization was cancelled in March 2004 when police informed the government the process was tainted.
Krog also said in relation to the main BC Rail deal that: "The premier's right hand, political advisor and old friend Patrick Kinsella is there working both sides of the streets."
Outside court defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing former ministerial aide David Basi, said Kinsella was a critical link in the privatization of BC Rail.
"What we have indicates that Mr. Kinsella was a very pivotal person in the BC Rail deal," Bolton said. "Material today indicates he was doing work for CN and BC Rail."
McCullough also read emails obtained in disclosure of evidence between BC Rail executives and top government officials.
One email dated July 7, 2004 concerned a column written by Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about possible problems with the BC Rail sale to CN running into problems.
The email was from BC Rail VP Kevin Mahoney to Deputy Minister Chris Trumpy, who was a government appointee to the BC Rail deal Evaluation Committee.
"Mr. Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun had written an article that contained what appeared to be confidential information - that he wouldn't otherwise know," McCullough said, going on to read the email into the record.
"Subject: Palmer. Mahoney: Where does Palmer get his stuff?"
Trumpy replied 36 minutes later, McCullough said.
"Trumpy: What is your phone number now?"
"Mahoney: The old one whill get you here but the new number is 678-4748."
McCullough suggested that response was designed to make sure the conversation about Palmer's source of information was not in emails that could be later accessed.
"The defence says 2 + 2 = 4," McCullough said. "The article is about whether the BC Rail deal is in trouble."
"One of the issues in this case important to the defence is that one of the allegations is that the accuse were leaking things," McCullough said. "Leaking is how the government controls its political agenda. This isn't an individual rogue act - it's systemic, it's part of the plan."
NOTE - A shorter version of this story will run in Friday's 24 hours newspaper.
It is expected that the controversial email mentioned at the last court session - with BC Rail executives asking why former BC Liberal campaign co-chair and insider Patrick Kinsella was hired for $297,000 - will be a major topic in today's session - watch this blog for a full report.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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BC Liberals Lead, Voter Turnout Will Decide the BC Election
[VANCOUVER – Mar. 25, 2008] - The governing BC Liberals are ahead eight weeks before voters go to the polls in British Columbia, but the two main provincial party leaders are having a tough time connecting with voters, a new Angus Reid Strategies survey has found.
In the online survey of a representative provincial sample, the BC Liberals are first with 43 per cent (+4 points since November), followed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 37 per cent (-7), the Green Party with 13 per cent (+2), and the BC Conservative Party with four per cent. Three per cent of decided voters would support other parties or independent candidates in their constituency.
However, BC Liberal voters are less motivated to vote on May 12. Amongst people “absolutely certain to vote”, the governing party is only two points ahead of the NDP (41% to 39%), with the Greens in third place (13%), followed by the BC Conservatives (4%). The BC election may well be determined by the turnout levels of supporters for each party.
The issue landscape has changed dramatically in the past year. The most important issues facing BC are the economy (36%) and Crime/Public Safety (19%), while Health Care is a distant third (8%). In Metro Vancouver, one-in-four respondents (25%) cite crime and public safety as the most important issues facing British Columbia.
Time for a Change
Overall, 51 per cent of respondents across the province say it is “time for a change of government in British Columbia” while only 34 per cent feel that the current government should be returned to office. When Gordon Campbell’s name was added to the question, only 30 per cent of respondents thought “Gordon Campbell should be re-elected” while a majority (54%) said it was time for a different premier.
Just a third of respondents in BC (34%) approve of the way Premier and BC Liberal leader Gordon Campbell is handling his duties, with a majority (51%) disapproving of his actions. BC NDP leader Carole James also has a paltry approval rating (29%), while three-in-five respondents (63%) cannot form an opinion on BC Green Party leader Jane Sterk. However, Sterk was seen as the leader best suited to deal with the environment (32%).
As was the case in the November 2008 survey, Campbell posted a high negative momentum score (-30), with 36 per cent of respondents saying their opinion of the Premier has worsened over the past two months, and only six per cent reporting an improvement. Still, the -30 score for Campbell is better than the -36 score he had late last year.
The momentum score for James stands at -5 (14% say their opinion of the BC NDP leader is better than two months ago, 19% say it is worse). Four months ago, when the NDP was ahead of the BC Liberals, James posted a rating of +5. James is seen as the most capable leader on Health Care (40%) and Education (39%), but neither of these issues are the top concerns of British Columbians at the moment.
While Campbell is certainly unpopular, James is failing to connect with voters on the issues that matter. When it comes to choosing who would be the best premier, Campbell (36%) holds an 11-point lead over James (25%). On the most important issue, the economy, Campbell is regarded as the best leader by 43 per cent of respondents, while only 19 per cent prefer James.
When respondents were asked which leader is best suited to deal with crime, Campbell (31%) is ahead of James (21%) by 10 points. However, 45 per cent of people thought that no leader is currently well prepared to tackle crime or were unsure, showing that the provincial party leaders have not connected on this important issue. This situation is even more pronounced in Metro Vancouver, which has been hit with a wave of gang violence in the last few months.
Regional and Demographic Breakdowns
The regional breakdowns show the BC Liberals with a 16-point advantage over the NDP in Metro Vancouver, while the NDP remains dominant in Vancouver Island, with a 20-point lead over the BC Liberals. The governing party is also ahead in the Fraser Valley/Southern Interior (45% to 31%), while the official opposition is first in Northern BC (49% to 36%).
The highest level of support for the Greens is in Vancouver Island (16%), while seven per cent of voters in the Fraser Valley/Southern Interior are ready to cast a ballot for the BC Conservatives.
As was the case last year, the poll shows an evident gender gap for the BC Liberals, with almost half of male voters (49%) voicing support for the governing party, compared to only 37 per cent of female voters. Conversely, 33 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women would vote for the NDP.
In November 2008, the NDP had a 12-point advantage over the BC Liberals among middle-aged voters (aged 35-54). The lead has completely vanished, and the two main parties are now in a statistical tie (40% for BC Libs, 38% for the NDP). The BC Liberals also have an 11-point lead among those aged 18-34 (47% to 36%), and a six-point advantage with people over 55 (42% to 36%).
University graduates back the BC Liberals over the NDP by a three-to-one margin (63% to 21%), whereas the NDP has its best showing among respondents with a high school education or less (48%).
Qualities and Characteristics
Respondents were provided with a list of seven qualities and characteristics and asked whether each of them applied to the two main provincial party leaders. Campbell holds the upper hand in having a vision for British Columbia (53% to 42%), being a strong and decisive leader (45% to 23%), and understanding complex issues (43% to 29%).
James is more likely to be regarded as a politician who understands the problems of BC residents (45% to 31%), who is honest and trustworthy (41% to 19%), and who generally agrees with voters on issues they care about (34% to 28%).
The two party leaders continue to post dismal ratings on the issue of trust: fewer than three-in-ten respondents say either Campbell (27%) or James (23%) inspires confidence.
State of the Province
BC residents are clearly divided in their assessment of the province, with 32 per cent saying things are on the right track, and 35 per cent believing they are on the wrong track. The proportions suggest that two camps have been established as the electoral campaign is set to begin.
It is clear that neither of the two people running to become BC's Premier is connecting with the electorate in a meaningful way. Gordon Campbell remains a divisive figure, with a disapproval rating that defies logic for a person who is seeking a third straight majority mandate, and a momentum score that would normally spell danger for an incumbent administration.
The Premier is not particularly liked, and his presence is one of the main factors that drive the sentiment for a change of government in Victoria.
However, Carole James continues to have problems getting her message across. She trails the sitting Premier on the two topics that are regarded as the most important issues facing the province at this time—the economy and public safety—and her approval numbers suggest a problem with the base.
While 72 per cent of respondents who would vote for the BC Liberals approve of the way Campbell is performing, only 64 per cent of those who would back the NDP are satisfied with the way James is doing her job. A similar scenario ensues in the preferred premier question, where 84 per cent of BC Liberal voters pick Campbell, and only 64 per cent of NDP voters select James. A third of NDP voters are not yet sold on James as the person who should head the provincial government.
When looking at the views of respondents who voted in the May 2005 provincial election, the two main parties preserve high retention rates (88% for the BC Liberals, 82% for the NDP). However, support for the BC Liberals appears softer and contingent on voter turnout. A comfortable six-point lead becomes a statistical tie when the views of absolutely certain voters are assessed. This finding suggests that the ruling party must work to get the vote out on May 12, or risk a close outcome.
Another interesting finding of this survey is the emergence of crime and public safety as a key issue for BC residents. While Campbell leads James in being better suited for this topic, almost half of respondents (45%) are not ready to endorse any of the three main leaders on this particular topic.
The first leader to really connect on crime, particularly in urban ridings, could change the dynamic of the election.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Tuesday March 24, 2009
Gov't abandons Cambie merchants
By BILL TIELEMAN
For the plaintiff and other similar small businesses along the route, the construction of the Canada Line has been an unmitigated, unnatural disaster.
- Lawyer Cameron Ward for Cambie Street merchant Susan Heyes
Every small business owner in B.C. owes former Cambie Street merchant Susan Heyes an enormous debt of gratitude.
That's because Heyes, a clothing store owner and single mom, has, by herself, taken on the entire provincial government, TransLink and others in B.C. Supreme Court for the devastation they caused her in constructing the Canada Line rapid transit project.
But it's the B.C. Liberal government that owes Heyes and other merchants an enormous debt - as compensation for the outrageous damages they suffered from business lost over years of disruption.
You will hear how "important" small business is to Premier Gordon Campbell during the upcoming provincial election. But you won't hear a word about providing dozens of business owners with one nickel of compensation for their documented huge losses.
The government's pathetic line was made clear when former B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor testified last week that she was "quite disappointed" at the lack of influence the province had on TransLink to compensate merchants impacted by the project.
"It was a TransLink project," she said. "There's no question the province didn't have any control over the project."
Quite disappointed, eh?
TransLink receives massive funding from the province and in 2007 the province took complete control of TransLink.
What Taylor wouldn't say is that if she and Campbell had picked up the phone just once to say "compensate" to TransLink - or done it themselves - Heyes and other merchants wouldn't have been left facing financial destruction.
Taylor's self-serving words of sympathy ring hollow - she did nothing to help Heyes and other desperate Cambie business owners when they needed it.
Another evasive performance, delivered with her customary aging ingenue smile.
Then there's Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, who cowardly refused to testify in the case, using the lame excuse of "parliamentary privilege" even though the B.C. Legislature was not in session last week.
Taylor also sent a government lawyer to court, trying to weasel out of testifying but B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield was having none of it and compelled her to show up.
I got to admire Susan Heyes and other merchants when the Canada Line project began - they hired me to help get their message out that they supported rapid transit but only if it was done as a boredtunnel underground, as promised.
Instead they were betrayed, a highly disruptive but cheaper "cut and cover" construction method was used and the results were disastrous.
Now we can only hope the court does what the government won't - compensate these innocent victims.
In the May 2005 election the BC Liberals won re-election with 46% of the vote and 46 seats, while the NDP rebounded to 33 seats with 42% and the Greens were shut out with 9%.
Ipsos Canada reports that the BC Liberals are up 2% from the firm's last poll in November 2008, the NDP remains unchanged and the Greens down 1%.
Premier Gordon Campbell and NDP leader Carole James have similar approval/disapproval ratings, with Campbell approved by 50% of respondents and getting the thumbs down by 47%, while James has 52% approval and 38% disapproval.
Ipsos Canada's Kyle Braid says the BC Liberals have the largest voter universe of the three parties, with 48% or respondents very or somewhat likely to vote for them on May 12, while the NDP are at 39%.
The Green Party has the smallest universe, with just 27% very or somewhat likely to vote Green.
Of respondents indicating a party preference, the BC Liberals hold the firmest support, with 69% saying they will "very likely" cast their ballot for the party. The NDP have 59% "very likely" backing while the Greens have again the softest committed support at 46%.
What does it all mean?
From my experience the race will tighten up considerably as election day nears and issues are defined.
I find it hard to believe the Green Party can come close to holding 15% through to May 12. This is not a knock on the Greens but a realistic assessment of the party's challenges.
Green Party leader Jane Sterk has been far less visible in the media than her predecessor Adriane Carr and the party lacks serious funding. That means it can't advertise in any comparable way with the two major parties and can't afford the voter identification, polling and GOTV - Get Out The Vote - efforts the BC Liberals and NDP can.
With the exception of the 2001 election, the NDP has always pulled at least 40% of the vote and sometimes more than that - including 42% in 2005.
Often forgotten also is the fact that even facing Bill Vander Zalm and Social Credit in the 1986 election marked by a shaky start from NDP leader Bob Skelly, the NDP took 42% after an aggressive end to the campaign.
Ironically perhaps, the NDP has won three elections with roughly 40% of the vote - in 1975, 1991 and 1996. Those victories came because the NDP vote is more "efficient" than the BC Liberal or Social Credit vote and also because the "anti-NDP" vote was split.
But without question the BC Liberals are now enjoying a significant lead, forcing the NDP to attack vigorously if it is to have a chance to win.
The factors that will decide the election:
1) All parties' campaigns and advertising;
2) The Green Party's strength or weakness as voters realize it cannot win a single seat;
3) The BC Conservative Party and leader Wilf Hanni - how many candidates will they field and where? Hanni has said "20 to 30" previously. If he runs them in swing ridings, particularly where voters are angry at Campbell over the carbon tax, the proposed aboriginal "recognition" legislation, BC Liberal emphasis on the environment over the economy and heavy spending in urban areas over rural, it could have a significant effect on the election results;
4) Unpredictable factors - will independent candidate Vicki Huntington, a popular 5-time former Delta councilor who almost beat BC Liberal Val Roddick in 2005, beat Attorney General Wally Oppal, who has parachuted into the riding from Vancouver Fraserview? Will Comox be susceptible to an NDP win with the unfortunate passing of BC Liberal cabinet minister Stan Hagen? Will trouble beset favoured candidates in any number of ridings?
Regardless of your political persuasion, the 2009 election is not a foregone conclusion by any stretch. Hang on for a wild ride!
UPDATE March 24 12:20 p.m.
On the heels of the Ipsos Canada poll out last night comes word just now that Angus Reid Strategies will release its own BC polling numbers on Wednesday. A news release from ARS follows.
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Angus Reid to Release Poll of Voters
WHAT: Angus Reid Strategies, the most accurate pollster in the 2008 Canadian federal election, will release the results of its latest survey of voters. The comprehensive poll looks at voting intention in the province, approval rating for political leaders, preferred premier, sentiment for political change, and most important issue facing .
WHO: Angus Reid, CEO, Angus Reid Strategies.
Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs, Angus Reid Strategies
Hamish Marshall, Research Director, Public Affairs, Angus Reid Strategies
WHEN: Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2009. 10:00 am.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Mable is a bus driver with Coast Mountain Bus Company and an activist with the Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, as well as being active in the Vancouver Filipino community. Jinny is the former president of the BC Teachers Federation.
I had endorsed Mable for the nomination and congratulate her on what is clearly an upset win.
Jinny has made great contributions to the BC labour movement and to the cause of teachers - it is unfortunate that two excellent candidates faced off in this contest.
Vancouver-Kensington's nomination became vacant when NDP MLA David Chudnosky - another former BCTF president - decided not to run for re-election after his first term.
Mable will face BC Liberal candidate and Chinatown advocate Syrus Lee in the May 12 election.
UPDATE March 24
There has been considerable controversy and reporting on Mable Elmore's comments in a five-year old interview about "Zionists", which have been termed "anti-Semitic". NDP leader Carole James demanded she apologize, which Mable did.
The Georgia Straight's editor Charlie Smith has a very different view about the media coverage - which he calls embarrassing and disgusting - and wrong.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
What did BC Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella do for BC Rail for $297,000 - let's play 20 questions
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 17, 2009
More questions than answers
By BILL TIELEMAN
What we don't know is why would B.C. Rail have a lobbyist and pay him $297,000.
- Kevin McCullough, Bob Virk's defence lawyer in B.C. Legislature Raid case, in court March 12
Let's play 20 questions - can we figure out why B.C. Rail - a Crown corporation owned by the provincial government - paid well-connected B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella $6,000 per month for 49 months for a total of $297,000?
1 How did Kinsella - co-chair of the B.C. Liberal Party's 2001 and 2005 election campaigns - help B.C. Rail for $297,000?
2 Kinsella's firm, the Progressive Group, issued a statement Thursday that: "Mr. Kinsella was engaged by BC Rail to assist in understanding and interpreting the Core Review Process as to its potential impact on the Corporation. BC Rail sought counsel on what implications, if any, might affect the Crown Corporation's operations and their strategic plan going forward."
Can we see the reports or memos that B.C. Rail bought for $297,000?
3 B.C. Rail said Thursday it hired Kinsella to: "Provide strategic advice to our new President, Board of Directors, and Chair . . . specific to the Core Review process government was undertaking during that period, and general business communication advice."
What advice was needed after B.C. Rail was sold to CN Rail in November 2003?
4 Why did B.C. Rail need Kinsella's help when it had highly paid executives and a government-appointed board of directors?
5 In court, lawyer Kevin McCullough said a 2004 e-mail to then B.C. Rail Vice-President Kevin Mahoney from another executive asked: "Why are we paying this guy?" and the answer was that Kinsella was a "backroom Liberal."
Why did a B.C. Rail executive not know about Kinsella's role providing "advice" to B.C. Rail for about three years?
6 What was Kinsella's hourly rate, and those of any associates working for B.C. Rail?
7 Did B.C. Rail put Kinsella's work out for a public tender and if not, why not?
8 Did Kinsella or his firms at any time conduct work for any of the other railway companies who bid for or supported bids for B.C. Rail - in other words, for CN Rail, CP Rail, OmniTRAX or Burlington Northern Santa Fe?
9 Did Kinsella or his firms act on behalf of B.C. Rail in dealing with any of those rail companies?
10 Why do Premier Gordon Campbell, Attorney General Wally Oppal and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon state they can't say anything about Kinsella's B.C. Rail role because it is "before the courts" when B.C. Rail and Kinsella released statements and Kinsella is not under any investigation related to the David Basi and Bob Virk trial, the two government aides facing corruption charges.
Oops - out of space - and 10 questions left!
Monday, March 16, 2009
BC Conservative Party blasts BC Liberals not consulting business, public on Recognition and Reconciliation Act affecting First Nations land claims
UPDATE NOTE: The Act was never formally introduced in the Legislature and therefore was not withdrawn. See the BC government's official release below this original item.
Conservative Party leader Wilf Hanni says in a news release that the Act - which is strongly supported by First Nations leaders - should have never been introduced with full public consultation because of the impact it will have on land claim settlements.
Hanni, who received over 4% of the vote in last year's Vancouver Fairview by-election and whose party also received a similar percentage in the Vancouver Burrard by-election - has said the BC Conservatives will run candidates in 20 to 30 ridings in the May provincial election.
Here is the BC Conservative Party news release in full. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the BC government obviously take a very different view - which can be seen in their own news releases linked here as well.
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March 16, 2009
BC CONSERVATIVE PARTY CRITIQUES GIVEAWAY OF PROVINCE
The Gordon Campbell Liberals latest legislative stunt has business leaders and ordinary citizens alike scratching their heads, wondering why he wants to hand over title to the entire Province to a small percentage of the people.
In a complete turnabout from his previously stated positions Campbell has introduced the so-called "recognition Act" unilaterally enshrining in law aboriginal rights and title (which the Supreme Court has already said must be taken to mean land title).
Since BC's natives claim all of British Columbia, much of it several times over by competing bands, this would appear to give away the entire province to one minority group without any consultation or debate on the wisdom or practicality of such a move.
Wilf Hanni, leader of the BC Conservative party said today that "this move is really bad for British Columbia because it virtually ensures that all economic growth will cease. In the subsequent uncertainty businesses will not be able to acquire rights to extract natural resources or even obtain
from government the right to operate in British Columbia without potential court challenge."
Hanni added that not even existing title to private property, including your own home, is safe under this act.
"Virtually the entire population of British Columbia could become tenants instead of homeowners, without even receiving compensation for the loss of their property," said Hanni.
"Such an ill-considered move just before an election is mere vote-fishing, and is not based on sober consideration of the possible consequences. Campbell does not know what will become of crown lands, or even of the titles home owners thought they had to their own properties. Will all land titles become null and void under this scheme?"
"What authority will the Province or a municipal government still have to collect taxes, to issue business licenses, grant building permits, build roads, or engage in any activities that affect a single square centimetre of land?"
He went on to point out that granting such sweeping special privileges based on ethnicity is morally wrong.
"BC Conservatives believe in the founding principle of the equality of all citizens. We recognize that Aboriginal British Columbians have not always received equal treatment but that does not entitle them to now receive special treatment that relegates the rest of the population to secondclass
"Why didn't Campbell consult business, get a legal opinion, hold public hearings, even hint this was coming to his own MLA's? Doesn't he think British Columbia deserves representative government? Is this kind of unilateral decision making on one man's whim what we are to continue to expect if the Campbelites are re-elected?
"Premier Campbell has now bowed to pressure and agreed to delay this ill considered legislation until after the election, but he still intends to introduce it at that time. He must be defeated so he cannot carry out that threat" said Hanni.
Why not elect a government that does care about consultation, that won't act unilaterally, that will protect the rights of all British Columbians equally? Why not vote for change you can trust?
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March 14, 2009
Office of the Premier
First Nations Leadership Council
STATEMENT ON RECOGNITION AND RECONCILIATION ACT
VICTORIA – Premier Gordon Campbell, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Michael de Jong and the First Nations Leadership Council: Regional Chief Shawn Atleo of the BC Assembly of First Nations; Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs; and Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit made the following statement today regarding the status of the Recognition and Reconciliation Act:
“Over the past several weeks many important issues, concerns and questions have been raised about the Discussion Paper for Implementing the New Relationship and the concept of a new Recognition and Reconciliation Act.
“This is the time for us to make this important and historic transition in our government to government relationship and we need to take the time to make sure we get this right.
“As the parties to the discussion paper, together we need to take the time for consultation and further discussions before tabling this bill.”
The Premier and Minister de Jong will continue to engage with the business community on this important initiative.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Confidential BC cabinet document show partisan approach to $19 million pre-election government advertising campaign, links to party
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 10, 2009
By BILL TIELEMAN
I can tell you this: We are going to end government feel-good advertising. People don't want to see us use their money for that.
- Gordon Campbell, November 2000
And another newly released document outlines government communications plans to "maximize convention attendance and membership renewals" for the B.C. Liberal Party.
Details of the taxpayer-funded "Best Place On Earth" ad campaign were attached to a document titled "Advertising - Key Messages" that directly references the "NDP" three times and complains about the media not communicating government messages.
"It may come as a surprise, but we cannot always rely on the press to communicate factual information," it says.
Another document titled "Communications Structure" and marked "Confidential Advice to Cabinet" includes a chart showing a circle with arrows between the words: "Government - Caucus - Media - Public - Party".
The undated briefing document is ostensibly about the "New Relationship" government initiative with First Nations that began in 2005.
But it also includes a line reading: "Party to develop summer program aimed at using ministers, political staff to maximize convention attendance and membership renewals" and a page titled "Defining the Opposition" with explicit attacks on the NDP.
The 2004-05 advertising - which went $7.5 million over budget - included a $3.1-million "Best Place to Work" ad buy and "creative and production services" costs of $737,811 paid to TBWA agency to develop television and other ads.
A "Best Place On Earth" tourism campaign included an ad buy of $3.4 million, "creative and production services" costs of $939,149 paid to Cossette Communications and $47,931 to Cheadle Photography.
NDP MLA Leonard Krog - who obtained the documents through a B.C. Supreme Court order - said the blatantly partisan approach is an "arrogant" expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
"These documents show the government spent millions and millions of dollars on spin doctoring in an effort to mislead the public with their own money," Krog said in an interview. "They speak to hiding partisan B.C. Liberal advertising in a government budget, to get the Liberal Party message out at taxpayer expense."
The full documents are online at:
Saturday, March 07, 2009
With barely more than two months left before the May 12 British Columbia provincial election, party officials and observers are eagerly awaiting the latest instalment in what is known as the "coin of the realm" in politics - polling results.
They won't have long to wait.
Ipsos-Canada will have a new province-wide horserace poll released on March 18 or 19, Vice-President Kyle Braid told me this week, with the firm in the field from March 9 to 16.
POLLING UPDATE - Ipsos-Canada's BC election poll will now be release on Monday March 23 I understand.
The Mustel Group will be in the field with a BC poll in April, firm owner Evi Mustel told me by email.
And Angus Reid Strategies will be doing one, two or even more polls before the May 12 vote that shows us the real results, says ARS Senior Vice-President Mike Rodenburgh.
There are some real gaps not only between the governing BC Liberal Party and the opposition New Democratic Party but also between the results the various pollster have found in their research.
In November 2008 Ipsos Canada put the BC Liberals at 44%, the NDP at 35% and the Green Party at 16% in a poll released November 18.
But in its own survey released November 15 2008 , Angus Reid Strategies, which uses online instead of telephone polling, had the New Democrats ahead of the BC Liberals by a score of 44% to 39% while the Greens trailed at 11%.
To make it all crystal clear, the Mustel Group's November 25, 2008 poll put the BC Liberals narrowly ahead of the NDP by a 44% to 42% - well within the margin of error of 4.4% - with the Greens at 12%.
Are any of them right? Are all of them wrong? Who knows? They could all be absolutely correct depending on methodology, timing and a whole range of complicating factors.
Since then, only Mustel has been in the field in BC and the results were a dramatic change from November. In a poll released February 13, 2009 Mustel said the gap had significantly widened to 16% in favour of the BC Liberal, who at 52% were far ahead of the NDP at 36% and the Greens at 12%.
A rumour previously reported to this blog by a reliable source before the February Mustel poll was released said that BC Liberal internal polling showed them in trouble.
But regardless of discrepancies, all eyes will be on the new polling and all knowledgable political observers understand that BC elections tighten up considerably in the 28-day campaign.
Stay posted here for continuing coverage.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Alayne was born on Boxing Day, 1946 in Sydney, NS. She lived a full life, in Sydney, in Antigonish while at St FX, in Halifax, and since 1973, in Vancouver with her husband of 33 years, David Hopgood. She passed away on Monday, March 2nd, of complications due to lung cancer, at home with David.
She is survived by her husband and their three children, Amber, Elizabeth and Stephen as well as her son Denis Fricker and grandaughter Taylor; in addition, her siblings, Fran (Al), Jack, Ron, and Jerry Pat (Kathy).
Alayne will be remembered for many things. She raised three beautiful children. Her love and passion for them urged her to become involved in their school and her community. She became very involved, eventually serving as the Chair of the Vancouver School Consultative Committee. She was instrumental in stopping the spread of big box houses in Kitsilano and recently worked to help preserve the trees along West Broadway.
She was active in politics as President of the Kits Point Grey NDP, was on the NDP provincial executive and sat on their provincial council. Up until her death she was Co-chair of the West Kits Residents Association.
In her work life she followed the path of advocating for the poor and disadvantaged working at Tenants’ Rights Action Committee (TRAC), the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association (DERA) and BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). She stopped working shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2008. She fought this scourge valiantly, never complaining, until Monday.
Many may remember Alayne walking her white boxer, Kyra, a gift from Amber when she moved to Toronto. In addition to her work in the community, Alayne was an accomplished cook, as evidenced by the smiling faces when they tasted her food, both in her home, and when she managed to fit in a few catering jobs in her spare time. She has attended every Vancouver Folk Festival since its inception, arriving very early to hold a place for the “runner”, and has one child that has been there for every one of her 29 years.
A summer vacation in NS, especially on the beach at Ingonish, has been a highlight most years and Alayne has many dear friends in that beautiful province. Alayne’s ashes will be spread on both coasts.
Visitation/viewing will be on Monday, March 9th from 12:30 – 2:00 in the Fireside Rm. at the Unitarian Church located at 949 W 49th Ave. at Oak St, Vancouver, B.C. There will be a service starting at 2:00, with a reception to follow.
A fund in Alayne’s name has been set up with the Vancity Community Foundation.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Everyone knows that the media are in dire straits in the current economic recession, as advertising revenue drops dramatically. But as more and more bad news comes in, good newspaper journalists are being shown the way out, as are radio and TV reporters.
I know that with Sean's great journalistic skills and experience - and his award-winning track record - he will be an asset to another employer, hopefully in BC journalism.
But that doesn't make it any easier to take the loss of such a valued investigative journalist and friend.
Lastly - Public Eye Online continues - so don't despair.
UPDATE - I want to also say that the unfortunate layoff of several other valued colleagues at 24 hours - editors, reporters, administrative staff - is journalism's loss and personally devastating to all of them. I wish them success in finding new work.
Here's the info about a few special events - go see the film - support a Vancouver movie writer/director!
Here's the scoop:
* * * * *
Mark Leiren-Young’s enviro film
The Green Chain
Opens in Vancouver Friday March 6 - Fifth Avenue Cinema
Director Q&A at ALL Opening weekend screenings.
Cast and Crew Q&A at Friday 7:10pm screening.
Green Panel Talk back at Saturday 1:30pm screening.
The Green Chain Writer/Director/Producer: Mark Leiren-Young
Greenpeace: Eduardo Sousa
Big Room.ca: Jacob Malthouse
David Suzuki Foundation: Michelle Connolly
BC Green Party candidate for Vancouver Fairview: Vanessa Violini
Western Canada Wilderness Q&A with Ken Wu at Sunday 1:30pm screening.
Vancouver, BC - Kinosmith, Middle Child Films, Perpetual Motion Productions and Donna Wong-Juliani are pleased to announce that the Canadian distribution rights for The Green Chain have been acquired by Kinosmith. This award-winning film by Mark Leiren-Young is set for theatrical release in Vancouver on March 6 with other Canadian cities to follow.
The battle between loggers and environmentalists is defining, dividing and destroying communities in Canada and around the world. The Green Chain is a powerful, funny and thought-provoking film about the conflicts between people on both sides of the battle who love trees -- and are willing to risk anything to protect their personal visions of the forest.
The Green Chain examines a community and a way of life through a series of riveting interlinking monologues inspired by the true tales and personalities that define today’s forests.
Donations to the STANLEY PARK FUND will be made from each ticket sold for THE GREEN CHAIN. For more info:
The film’s cast is comprised of some of Canada’s most heralded actors including Gemini Award winner Babz Chula, Leo Award winner for her role in The Green Chain Jillian Fargey (Mount Pleasant), Tricia Helfer and Tahmoh Penikett from TV’s Battlestar Galactica, Genie and Gemini award winner August Schellenberg (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; The New World), Genie and Gemini award winner Brendan Fletcher (RV, 88 Minutes) and Scott McNeil (Sleeping With Strangers).
The Green Chain writer/director Mark Leiren-Young is one of Canada’s most prolific and versatile writers. He has written for virtually every medium, in almost every genre.
He is an EarthVision award winner for his eco-comedy Greenpieces, and writes a column for Vancouver’s alternative on-line newspaper The Tyee. Most recently, Leiren-Young published his book Never Shoot A Stampede Queen, a biting memoir that re-visits his early years as a journalist – specifically his event-filled odyssey in Williams Lake, British Columbia.
Armed robberies, bomb-strapped defendants, and pilot-less plane crashes are just a few of the anecdotes that Mark muses on – all in a place that the city-bred writer came to admire.
Just like the rest of Mark’s work, it’s filled with affection, enthusiasm, and humour.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
View full article and comments here http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/03/03/BCRail/
By Bill Tieleman
Published: March 3, 2009
Two major rail companies who dropped out of bidding on the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail angrily accused the BC Liberals of leaking vital secrets to the winning competitor and conducting an "unfair" process.
The allegations are contained in newly-released confidential government documents dating back to the time of the negotiations in 2003.
Canadian Pacific Railroad stated in a letter to Ken Dobell, Premier Gordon Campbell's senior deputy minister, that the "actual value of the bids" in the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail in 2003 were known by winning bidder Canadian National and others before the B.C. government made its decision.
And Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway dropped out of its role supporting the bid of OmniTRAX, writing in a letter that it was "extremely dismayed with the handling of the B.C. Rail Transaction.... because of the lack of fairness in which the process has been conducted." That letter was sent to CIBC World Markets managing director Alan Wallace, whose firm handled the B.C. Rail sale for the province.
CPR also dropped out of the bidding before CN was announced as the winner, calling the process "unfair" because it believed the B.C. government had leaked confidential B.C. Rail information to CN, giving that company a clear advantage in preparing its bid.
CN given advantage: CPR
The Nov. 17, 2003, letter from CPR vice-president of strategy and law Marcella Szel to Dobell says that its "market intelligence" showed "that CN was speaking directly to B.C. Rail shippers about their bid, with what we must consider the approval of the [B.C. Rail] Evaluation Committee, since the confidentiality agreement clearly stated no such discussions were to be held without consent."
"This feedback included the marketplace being aware of the actual value of the bids," Szel wrote to Dobell, just eight days before the B.C. government announced the sale of B.C. Rail to CN.
The letters are part of 8,000 pages of documents ordered released by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett last week in response to a court application filed on behalf of New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog.
Bennett also ordered that the documents be made available to media and the public for review but not photocopying at the court's Criminal Registry, where I obtained the information, taking notes in longhand for the Tyee and 24 hours newspaper.
[Applications to make photocopies must be decided by Bennett in court, which does not sit until March 9, including serving notice to lawyers for the B.C. government, B.C. Rail, the Special Prosecutor and the defence -- about 10 in total.]
The information was obtained through Freedom Of Information requests by defence counsel acting for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, three former government aides facing corruption charges related to the sale of B.C. Rail.
CPR sent the letter to Dobell three days after a Vancouver Sun story Nov. 14, 2003, speculated CN would be announced as the winning bidder -- a story that CPR says the government leaked.
"...Late on Thursday November 13, when we received an email from the CIBC advising us that they had 'commenced detailed discussions with one of the proponents.' It is now hard to believe that CPR would have been provided such clarification had the government parties in the process not been aware of the planned story in the Vancouver Sun and CIBC had not also been made aware of CPR's knowledge of CN's activities," Szel wrote Dobell.
'Irreparable impacts': Burlington Northern
For its part, BNSF was also furious with both the government and CIBC World Markets.
"We have been advised that the chosen proponent was provided, as early as the first half of October, with information from B.C. Rail including confidential inter-rail division information involving BNSF customers and business flows," reads a Nov. 24, 2003, letter from Peter Rickershauser, Burlington Northern Santa Fe vice president network development, to Allan Wallace, managing director of CIBC World Markets, and copied to senior bureaucrats, including deputy minister of Provincial Revenue Chris Trumpy and B.C. Rail chair John McLernan.
"Disclosure of such information to a competitor of BSNF places BSNF at a distinct competitive disadvantage, with irreparable negative financial impacts to our company and customers," Rickershauser complained.
In an earlier letter to Wallace dated Nov. 18, 2003, Rickershauser blasted CIBC World Markets with both barrels:
"I and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway are extremely dismayed with the handling of the B.C. Rail Transaction, especially in recent weeks as managed by CIBC World Markets. Our dismay arises because of the lack of fairness in which the process has been conducted so far, the apparent favoritism of certain bidders, and the lack of timely information provided to all participants involved in the process," Rickershauser wrote.
"Reports and rumours of CN talking directly with B.C. Rail shippers and communities have been circulating for several weeks in shipper, government and media circles.... In fact, reports from shippers indicate that CN has been discussing what it will or will not do when it is awarded the B.C. Rail concession." Rickershauser concluded.
'Process fundamentally flawed': BNSF
BNSF vented its spleen again in a Nov. 19, 2003 letter to OmniTRAX president Dwight Johnson telling him that it was withdrawing its support for the OmniTRAX bid for B.C. Rail.
"It is with much regret that I inform you that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company has decided to terminate the support we have provided to OmniTRAX Inc. in its efforts to obtain the B.C. Rail concession," Rickershauser wrote.
"As you know, BNSF has continually been frustrated by the lack of information, processes, and independence and candor of CIBC, as well as confirmed reports from CIBC advising that one of the other proponents has been selected to receive additional information as well as present information on their bid to shippers and others. Based upon these facts, BNSF cannot afford to spend any more time on this futile venture," he wrote, adding that the decision was "not a negative reflection" in any way on OmniTRAX.
"...Recently, however, the facts surrounding the bidding process which have came to light have illustrated that the process is fundamentally flawed because of the lack of credibility and ethics surrounding it," Rickershauser said. "The last straw was recent reports that have illustrated the blatant favoritism shown to one of the bidders (recently announced as a chosen 'proponent'). All of this leaves BNSF with no other option than to withdraw from the process."
Although it was known at the time of the bid announcement that both CPR and OmniTRAX had concerns about the process, the allegation by CPR that CN and others knew the "actual value of the bids" has never before been made public, nor have the letters from BNSF denouncing the government and CIBC World Markets.
The Vancouver Sun obtained some letters from CPR to Premier Gordon Campbell's office through FOI requests in March 2004, forcing the government to admit for the first time that confidential information was leaked to CN.
But Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said at the time it was "an accident" that had no impact on the fairness of the process.
It's clear from the additional letters now made public that neither CPR nor BNSF believe the leaking was anything but deliberate.
The newly-released documents examined so far also show that CIBC World Markets response to the complaint letters primarily consisted of reminding the former bidders to honour their confidentiality agreements.
Dobell assailed for press report
CPR's Marcella Szel pulls no punches in her Nov. 17, 2003 letter to Ken Dobell, which is presented here in full.
"The story appearing in Friday's Vancouver Sun speculating on the outcome of the BCR sale was no surprise to CPR. Our market intelligence in the weeks prior to the story was that CN was speaking directly to BCR shippers about their bid, with what we must consider the approval of the [B.C. Rail] Evaluation Committee, since the confidentiality agreement clearly stated no such discussions were to be held without consent."
"This feedback included the marketplace being aware of the actual value of the bids. During the time we believe CN was talking to BCR customers, CPR was asked by the designated CIBC process representative if we would extend our bid to accommodate more study of all bids. We agreed to do so."
"There was no indication that one of the bidders would receive preferred access to BCR's shippers or other information on the railway's operation until late on Thursday, November 13, when we received an email from the CIBC advising us that they had 'commenced detailed discussions with one of the proponents.'"
"It is now hard to believe that CPR would have been provided with such clarification had the government parties in the process not been aware of the planned story in the Vancouver Sun and CIBC had not also been made aware of CPR's knowledge of CN's activities."
"This clear breach of general process fairness and a violation of the intent of the specific process established and communicated by the Evaluation Committee."
'CPR at risk of losing existing business'
Szel went on to say that the consequences for CPR are: 1) lack of fairness; 2) that the marketplace was aware of CN's presence and "judged CPR to be naïve and out of the process loop when we stated we were unable to discuss the process or comment on the information that they were conveying due to our obligation to adhere to confidentiality agreements in place; 3) "CPR is at risk of losing existing business or being disadvantaged in attracting new business."
Despite the bitterness of the letter, Szel still offers to "discuss with you how the British Columbia government can re-establish this kind of confidence with the CPR."
It appears unlikely that was easily accomplished, if at all.
Monday, March 02, 2009
CN, others knew "actual value of bids" for BC Rail before $1 billion privatization, CP Rail alleges in confidential government documents
By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS March 3, 2009
Canadian Pacific Railway alleged that the "actual value of the bids" in the $1-billion privatization of B.C. Rail in 2003 were known by winning bidder Canadian National and others before a decision was made by the B.C. government, according to newly released confidential government documents.
The explosive allegation was made in a letter to Ken Dobell, Premier Gordon Campbell's then-Deputy Minister, on Nov. 17, 2003 - just eight days before the sale of B.C. Rail to CN was announced.
The letter is part of 8,000 pages of documents ordered released by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett last week in response to an NDP court application.
The information was obtained through Freedom Of Information requests by defence counsel acting for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, three former government aides facing corruption charges related to the sale of B.C. Rail.
CPR dropped out of the bidding, calling the process "unfair" because it believed the B.C. government leaked confidential B.C. Rail information to CN, giving that company a clear advantage in preparing its bid.
The letter from Marcella Szel, CPR vice-president strategy and law, says that its "market intelligence" showed "that CN was speaking directly to B.C. Rail shippers about their bid, with what we must consider the approval of the [B.C. Rail] Evaluation Committee, since the confidentiality agreement clearly stated no such discussions were to be held without consent."
"This feedback included the marketplace being aware of the actual value of the bids," Szel told Dobell.
The letter was sent three days after a Vancouver Sun story Nov. 14, 2003 speculated CN would be announced as the winning bidder - a story that CPR says the government leaked.
The documents show that both CP Rail and Burlington Northern Santa Fe - which was supporting the bid of OmniTRAX - sent letters to the B.C. government in November 2003 bitterly denouncing the leak of confidential B.C. Rail information to Canadian National, the eventual winning bidder.
Arrogant BC Liberal government lets Basi-Virk lobbyists do anything - including contacting Deputy Attorney General despite BC Legislature Raid
Tuesday March 3, 2009
Libs' arrogance on full display
By BILL TIELEMAN
When spiderwebs unite, they can halt even a lion.
- African proverb
Will the B.C. Liberal government get caught by more and more spiderwebs uniting?
The release last week of 8,000 pages of confidential government documents related to the 2003 B.C. Legislature raid and the B.C. Rail corruption trial of three former B.C. Liberal aides certainly makes that far more likely.
That's because these documents show a government that arrogantly presumes there is no difference between its interests and those of the B.C. Liberal Party, no separation between public policy and political goals.
It's stunning that lobbyists Jamie Elmhirst and partner Brian Kieran had no hesitation in contacting B.C.'s Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel - even addressing him as "Dear Allan" in an April 2005 e-mail - despite the fact that their Pilothouse Public Affairs office had been searched by the police for evidence in the B.C. Rail case.
Their former Pilothouse partner - Erik "Spiderman" Bornmann - had already long turned key Crown witness against David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - the three ex-aides facing serious corruption charges.
At some point Kieran also became a Crown witness. And I broke the story that Elmhirst had been subpoenaed in 2006 to testify in the trial months before he stepped down as the federal Liberal Party of Canada's B.C. branch president.
Bornmann and Kieran are alleged in police documents to have paid David Basi and Virk money in exchange for confidential B.C. Rail documents while the two lobbyists were working for OmniTRAX, one of the bidders for the Crown corporation.
Kieran has said that released police information might "lead to assumptions" that wouldn't be made if the full facts were available. And none of them have been charged. Fair enough.
But why was it "business as usual" for Kieran and Elmhirst, who continued their business under the name K&E Public Affairs after the B.C. Legislature raid?
And were Bornmann and Kieran, as Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough alleged in court in April 2007, allowed by the RCMP and the Crown to continue their lucrative lobbying business even after disclosing that they had "made serious bribes" to the two aides to obtain government information on the B.C. Rail deal? The B.C. Lobbyist Registry shows Kieran having contracts through December 2006.
Let's be clear - Allan Seckel is not at fault here - certainly there's no record he even responded to their improper e-mail.
No, the fault is with a government and party that have cultivated an arrogant environment where lobbyists can do no wrong so long as they support the B.C. Liberals, where lobbying regulations are worthless, where even the premier's deputy minister Ken Dobell becomes an unregistered lobbyist.
Spiderwebs, lots more spiderwebs - perhaps 8,000 of them.
I am very sad to report that my good friend Alayne Keough passed away from lung cancer this afternoon.
Many readers of this blog will know Alayne, or know of her. She was a fierce advocate for Vancouver's poor, a spirited New Democrat, a great cook and proud mother.
Alayne bravely faced a devastating cancer with both determination and realism.
Shirley and I just had a wonderful dinner with her and her husband David on Saturday night - we are shocked by her sudden loss despite knowing the cancer was taking her from us all.
I will post details of a memorial service when it is arranged.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
BC Legislature Raid lobbyists whose offices searched in 2003 sent personal "Dear Allan" email to Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel in April 2005
24 Hours Exclusive
By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS
B.C.'s Deputy Attorney General was directly contacted by his first name in a 2005 e-mail from two lobbyists whose offices were searched by police in the B.C. Rail corruption investigation during the police raid on the B.C. Legislature in 2003, confidential government documents reveal.
Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel received an e-mail - addressed "Dear Allan" - on April 30, 2005 from Jamie Elmhirst, a lobbyist who was partners with key Crown witnesses Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran.
Police searched Pilothouse Public Affairs offices in December 2003 before corruption charges were laid against government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi in 2004.
New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog, whose B.C. Supreme Court application made 8,000 pages of government documents public, calls the e-mail "very concerning."
Shawn Robins, Attorney General's ministry spokesperson, said Seckel "might know Jamie Elmhirst and he might have met Brian Kieran" but that there was no relationship with them.
"Other than to say that they're entitled to reach out to deputy ministers, it's just a pro forma business contact," said Robins. "They probably had a list of deputy ministers and sent it to them."
Kieran and Bornmann are alleged in court documents to have provided money to David Basi and Virk, two ex-ministerial assistants charged with allegedly leaking confidential government information on the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail to Pilothouse, which was retained by losing bidder OmniTRAX.
Neither Bornmann, Kieran, Elmhirst nor OmniTRAX face any charges.
Elmhirst wrote Seckel to tell him that he and Kieran were "proud to announce a re-branding our public affairs partnership" and ask Seckel to "update your contact records." The next five pages of documents are blanked.
Justice Elizabeth Bennett ordered Wednesday that the NDP, media and public have access to confidential documents obtained by defence counsel through Freedom Of Information requests.
24 hours was the only media outlet to access them Friday, the first day they were available, at the court.