By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
There was a shocking disclosure in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday – but only to Premier Gordon Campbell's top political advisor – when he learned that MLA Blair Lekstrom had quit the B.C. Liberal cabinet and caucus last Friday over the government’s handling of the Harmonized Sales Tax.
Campbell’s Chief of Staff Martyn Brown was visibly disturbed by the information – which he said he was not aware of because as a witness for the past two weeks he has not read any newspapers, watched television reports or spoken to anyone in the premier’s office.
“That comes as a complete revelation to me,” a clearly stunned Brown said. “And a disappointment.”
The dramatic moment came when defence lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi – one of three former B.C. Liberal aides facing corruption charges related to the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 – asked Brown about Lekstrom.
“Blair Lekstrom is a B.C. Liberal MLA and cabinet minister,” Brown replied.
But defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, representing Bob Virk, said loudly from his desk: “He was. He resigned from cabinet and caucus.”
Brown is still unaware that the HST is the reason for Lekstrom’s resignation, as it was not raised in court.
In earlier testimony Brown admitted that B.C. taxpayers may be “on the hook” for up to $550 million in the B.C. Rail deal if the buyer – CN Rail – is not allowed to use tax losses incurred by B.C. Rail prior to its sale.
And Brown said he and then-Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon were both “very surprised” to learn in 2004 that B.C. Liberal Party election campaign co-chair Patrick Kinsella had been hired by B.C. Rail in 2001 for more than $6,000 a month.
Brown said Falcon told him he was surprised and was “planning to terminate the contract.”