By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
A defence lawyer in the B.C. Rail political corruption trial alleged that Premier Gordon Campbell himself asked one of the accused to leak confidential documents to the media and violate his confidentiality agreement.
But the allegation was vigorously denied by the witness giving evidence - Campbell’s Chief of Staff Martyn Brown – as the long-delayed trial resumed with all 12 members of the jury agreeing to continue until the extended March 2011 completion date.
Kevin McCullough, representing former government ministerial aide Bob Virk, alleged that Campbell wanted his client to leak a report from B.C. Rail shippers that could have affected the $1 billion sale of the former Crown corporation in 2003.
“You’re aware the premier instructed Mr. Virk to leak the report – and that Mr. Virk told him he wouldn’t?” McCullough asked Brown.
“That sounds as ludicrous as your previous statement….never in my wildest imagination would the premier do that, but I can’t speak for him,” Brown replied.
Brown had earlier denied McCullough’s allegation that Brown also discussed leaking the report with Virk.
“No, I would never do that,” Brown replied. “I had no knowledge of the shippers’ report.”
Brown said he did not recall alleged telephone conversations with former B.C. deputy minister Chris Trumpy about the shippers’ report, or with former Canfor CEO David Emerson about telling other shippers not to complain to the premier.
“No,” Brown replied. “This is seven years ago.”
Virk and co-accused David Basi face breach of trust and fraud charges for allegedly providing confidential government information about B.C. Rail to lobbyists representing a bidder in exchange for money and benefits. Aneal Basi faces money laundering charges.
The testy exchanges between McCullough and Brown forced B.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anne MacKenzie to excuse the jury several times to hear legal arguments that cannot be reported due to a publication ban.
At one point MacKenzie told the jury: “The evidence is only the answers by witnesses, not the questions or speeches by counsel.”
UPDATE 5:20 p.m.
A fascinating cabinet issues briefing document entered as evidence by the defence was also made available to the media today, the second exhibit of the trial.
Attached to a May 9, 2004 email from premier's office Deputy Chief of Staff for Issue Management Jay Schlosar to Tom Syer, former policy coordination and issues management deputy chief of staff, the 28 page document details proposed answers to media questions about the BC Rail deal and much, much more.
The first question: "How is a 990-year lease not a sale?"
The document goes on to discuss how to answer questions about the firing of David Basi and why Bob Virk was only suspended at that time; the role of Martyn Brown in personnel decisions, why the government won't suspend the BC Rail deal when it's "clearly under investigation", and much more.
The document also gives answer for questions about the strike by Hospital Employees' Union members, the Doug Walls affair that led to cabinet minister Gordie Hogg resigning, Richmond-Airport-Vancouver rapid transit line issues, health ministry concerns and other issues current at the time.