Sunday, February 28, 2010
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours column
February 16, 2010
Vancouver – a city divided by the Olympics, not united
By Bill Tieleman
Vancouver is lovely. There is no other word for it.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author, 1859-1930
Vancouver: a terrible hole.
- Brendan Behan, author, 1923-1964
Vancouver is a city divided – by the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
And with media hyped to the max about the Games, it’s a reality not readily apparent.
It’s not about all the protestors – it’s about the rest of us.
And the truth is, the Olympics may bring together a country – even the world – while splitting apart a city.
This is unfortunate, unsettling and altogether expected for Vancouver.
The city is constantly split – East Side versus West Side, working class versus upper class, B.C. Liberals versus New Democrats – so it’s just one more dichotomy.
And sport is no different than class or politics – not when it comes to the Olympics.
Ironically, and mostly lost in Games’ coverage, is the fact that former B.C. Premier Glen Clark actually initiated the 2010 Olympics back in 1998 when the NDP were in power and had defeated current Premier Gordon Campbell in 1996.
In other words, the two major political parties both supported the Olympics, as they do today.
But when it comes to Vancouverites and British Columbians, there is no unity.
An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll just last month found that across the entire country, B.C. was the most negative about the Olympic Games with only 50% believing they would have a positive impact on the province.
That compares with 70% of Canadians overall feeling the games would be good for Vancouver, B.C. and the country.
You can see the split easily by talking to people here. One acquaintance of mine related that she voted against the Olympics in the city referendum but is now enthusiastic, encouraged by the display of Canadian flags and excitement.
But when she took a taxi last week, the driver – who had voted in favour of the Olympics – was completely negative and wished Vancouver had never got the games!
Then there is the fear factor.
A large number of Vancouverites are fleeing the city in advance of the Olympics.
A Mustel Group poll estimated that about 12% or up to 250,000 people from the Metro Vancouver area will leave town for all or part of the Olympics.
I’m in that last category, deciding to vacation in Mexico rather than celebrate winter sports I neither follow nor participate in.
I still support the Olympics and want the city to shine, because I think they will improve our economy and put Vancouver more impressively on the world map.
But one thing is clear – we Vancouverites love our city, period.
And no one’s love for this city should ever be measured by their support for the Olympic Games – no one.
Hopefully we can all agree on that.
NOTE - This column from February 16 was printed in 24 hours newspaper but not posted on my blog at the time due to my absence.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Nope to Oppal - no way former BC Liberal Attorney General can be appointed Chief Provincial Court Judge
UPDATE - Wally Oppal is out of luck - the new Chief Judge appointed today is Thomas James Crabtree, who is currently a judge based in Chilliwack.
Attorney General Mike de Jong is to be congratulated on making a wise choice.
While I was on vacation a most astonishing and wrongheaded suggestion was made - that former BC Liberal Attorney General Wally Oppal might become the next Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia!
Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer outlined the situation on February 17 and to date no decision has been made but amazingly Oppal is still one of the possible candidates for the job.
Wally Oppal had a distinguished career as a BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal justice.
But when he opted to get into electoral politics, winning in 2005 to become BC Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview and the Attorney General, his judicial career was over, period.
That the BC Liberals are apparently seriously considering appointing one of their own former cabinet ministers to a position that should be well outside of any partisan politics shows how far they have fallen - and how poor their own judgment is.
Oppal is a talented and affable fellow - I personally like him - but he does not belong back on the bench and especially in such an important and sensitive position after his political career crashed in Delta South in 2009.
Oppal should be a valuable asset to dozens of law firms - or even somewhere in government - but definitely not as Chief Judge.
The multiple reasons should be obvious to any observer - but since the BC Liberals don't seem to get it, here's one big one.
Wally Oppal earned the nickname of "Stonewally" for his obfuscating answers - or more precisely non-answers - to questions in the BC Legislature regarding the upcoming trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - the BC Legislature Raid corruption case connected to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003.
Even issues not remotely connected to the case were dodged by Oppal, who at that point was the cabinet minister most responsible for legal issues in the province.
To appoint Oppal just as that case is finally coming to trial would be outrageous beyond belief.
What signal would the BC Liberals be sending to the courts, to both judges and lawyers if a highly politicized former cabinet minister went back to the bench just as that political scandal trial began?
But forget Basi-Virk - what signal would it send even if the BC Rail case had concluded before Oppal was appointed? That former politicians are welcome to apply for top judicial jobs less than a year after losing an election?
That political considerations are foremost in provincial decisions in making key judicial appointments? That patronage is more important than propriety?
Wally Oppal should not be in consideration for the position of Chief Judge - and that should be made clear immediately.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Tieleman is back in country - and ready to rumble on the BC Budget on Tuesday, the HST and the Basi-Virk trial!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Comments to this blog will only be infrequently posted - sorry for any inconvenience.
May 3 marks start of Basi-Virk - BC Legislature Raid case trial at last! Trial by jury will finish by June 30
BC Rail corruption case to start May 3, end by June 30, BC Supreme Court justice decides
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The trial of three former provincial government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 will begin May 3 and end by June 30, a B.C. Supreme Court justice decided Wednesday.
Justice Anne MacKenzie also agreed to a request by defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi to have the case heard by judge and jury, with jury selection on April 28.
David Basi’s lawyer Michael Bolton said outside court that his clients want the change from trial by judge only because: “The high degree of public interest in this case requires a trial by jury.”
New Democrat MLA Leonard Krog says the trial is “long overdue” coming over six years after police raided the B.C. Legislature to obtain evidence.
“British Columbians want to know what happened in the sale of B.C. Rail,” Krog said.
David Basi and Bob Virk appeared in court for the first time in years of pre-trial hearings, while Aneal Basi participated by video link from Montreal, where he works.
The three former BC Liberal government aides all verbally consented in court to the withdrawal of five different pre-trial applications and issues, the result of an agreement between their lawyers and Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino.
But despite the agreement, defence and Crown sparred in court.
Berardino told MacKenzie the Crown felt that the defence applications were "unproven and without merit" in presenting the agreement.
That brought a rebuttal from Kevin McCullough, representing Virk.
"We'r not pursuing any further applications - there's a difference betwen the Crown's position and the defence - we don't agree that these applications are not meritorious," McCullough said, adding that some defence applications have been adjudicated in court and found to have considerable merit.
In fact, several defence applications for disclosure of evidence brought forward under previous case Justice Elizabeth Bennett were significant wins for the defence that produced tens of thousands of page of new documents.
In addition to jury selection on April 28, MacKenzie agreed all should return to court on Monday March 29 at 10 a.m. to set - if necessary - any pre-trial hearings brought by third parties regarding possible disclosure of evidence in open court.
McCullough suggested it was a good idea, as the defence has received over 5,000 emails in January and another 2,000 in the past week.
Berardino made clear that the email disclosure will not affect the time frame for the trial.
Outside court Bolton gave another reason for going to trial by jury.
"It's often said that innocent people preferred to be tried by a jury," Bolton said, looking at some handwritten notes as he spoke to reporters. "We feel this case is appropriate to be tried by a jury."
"There are no technical defences - these men are innocent," Bolton said.
Bolton also said the defence still has emails to come from BC Liberal MLAs and that the disclosure McCullough referred to was from the Executive Branch of the provincial government.
A version of this story will be published in 24 hours newspaper Thursday February 10.
Aneal Basi, the third co-accused facing different charges, may appear by video link from Montreal, where he is working, or may be in court personally.
Watch this blog for full details after the hearing.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I'm not even talking about the content - which was ominous and bad - but about the cliched, hackneyed and downright awful speechwriting!
I felt embarrassed for Lieutenant-Governor
For example, this winner: "A new decade is upon us that demands we leave the past behind and embrace new solutions for this new century. In this age of relentless change and global transformation, standing still is not an option."
Wow! I didn't know "standing still is not an option"! I thought that was a real possibility.
Or another scintillating passage: "These priorities will help advance this government's five great goals. They demand collaborative partnerships, smart action and firm commitment."
Yahoo - firm commitment!
And it just got better and better: "The tasks ahead are daunting, but future generations deserve all the effort and wisdom we can muster in meeting this challenge."
Daunting tasks! Future generations! Meeting this challenge!
It was a dark and stormy night! Whoops, that just slipped in - but the others are all there - and paid for by your tax dollars.
And then, mercifully: "His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber."
I'd retire after having to read that pap! Steven Point deserves a province's thanks for not puking on the red carpet.
But the coup de grace was yet to come: "Mr. Speaker: Hon. members, in order to prevent mistakes, I've obtained a copy of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor's speech."
Way, way too late for that - the mistake is now in the history books.
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
February 9, 2010
A Political Guide for Olympics Visitors
Welcome to Vancouver, where politics is always good sport!
By Bill Tieleman,
"If you don't try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody's back yard."
- Jesse Owens, Olympic gold medalist
2010 Winter Olympic Games visitors: It's great you came to Vancouver in mid-February, or as we like to call it, "early summer!"
It's literally not possible to give you a warmer welcome to our back yard!
Not that it's a good thing, but your margarita has more ice than our Cypress Mountain snowboarding course!
So please return the leftover slush to your bartender -- it will be sent by helicopter up the hill.
To enjoy yourselves fully, you should know more about our politics.
First, you may have seen recent international news about a Canadian premier being forced to stay in the United States during our Olympics.
Please don't mix up our premiers! Rest assured that it's Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams from eastern Canada, who's having heart surgery in America, not our British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell.
Premier Campbell also visited the U.S. and was forced to stay there too, but that was for drunk driving in Hawaii a while back. He's fine now.
Oh, and especially for Americans, pronounce it preem-yurr -- not prem-yeer -- it's not a bloody movie opening!
Our zippy leader
Actually, you may have seen pictures of Premier Campbell this weekend being strung up -- something most British Columbians have been waiting years for.
The premier tried out a new 2010 "zip-line" that flies right over B.C. Supreme Court -- something Campbell has managed to do since the police raided the B.C. Legislature in 2003 -- but his ride may soon end when three former government aides finally face corruption charges -- after the Olympics!
Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, is also visiting. Harper will make a rare address to the Legislature Thursday in Victoria -- that's almost as unusual as him speaking in his own parliament in Ottawa, since he suspended it months ago.
The nice way to protest
No, we're not one of those tinpot dictatorships! We're allowed to freely protest "proroguing" on Facebook and anything else we want at the Olympics in specially designated "free speech" zones, if only we knew where they are!
And don't forget to visit some local politics sites. I highly recommend checking out the lovely Bloedel Conservatory, where rare birds and tropical plants are found.
If you're really lucky you can spot one of Vancouver's most highly endangered creatures of all -- the NPA!
The Non-Partisanus-Associatis once actually long ruled our entire city from its roost at 12th and Cambie but now, sadly, their numbers have dwindled dramatically and they must be preserved in the protective hothouse Bloedel environment, or Conserve-A-Tory.
The NPA used to soar proudly over our city but is now flightless, as it evolved to have just a stunted right wing! Indeed, only 50 of these once-plentiful birds were spotted at their last gathering.
You can occasionally see an NPA -- like a Suzanne Anton or Ian Robertson -- at City Council or Park Board, wildly flapping but getting nowhere. Warning: it may disturb children.
Have fun in Vancouver -- where politics is always good sport!
Monday, February 08, 2010
Long-awaited BC Rail corruption case will start in late April or sooner for 8 to 10 weeks; likely to be heard by jury
Trial by jury could begin earlier in April at judge's request
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
The trial of three men facing corruption charges in the B.C. Legislature raid case will begin in late April or sooner for eight to 10 weeks, a B.C. Supreme Court justice heard Monday.
And David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi – the three former B.C. Liberal government aides facing charges connected to the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 – want a jury trial, defence lawyers say.
Justice Anne MacKenzie said she wants the trial completed by summer, prompting Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino to suggest starting earlier in April might be possible.
Outside court Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, said: “The accused want a jury trial.”
Bolton also said the defence will not likely a change of venue to Victoria.
In court Berardino told MacKenzie that the defence and Crown had made further progress to attempt to eliminate all pre-trial motions.
Berardino said the exception was for a small number of pre-trial third party applications by those with an interest in the case.
Lawyer Ed Montague, representing 13 BC Liberal MLAs subject to a court disclosure order, appeared on their behalf Monday.
Montague said he has reviews summary descriptions of possible evidence before it is disclosed to the defence to determine if his clients wish to object.
"The general category is draft and pending legislation and communications between MLAs," Montague told MacKenzie.
Berardino said afterwards that there may still be one to three days of pre-trial hearings needed on third party applications regarding disclosure.
BC Rail lawyer Robert Deane told MacKenzie that his client has reviewed its database and the only possible outstanding evidence deals with documents where third parties may object to its disclosure but which have been made available to the defence.
"If the defence wants to use these documents in open court notice has to be given to two proponents who have claimed confidentiality," Deane said without naming the third parties.
Defence lawyers have alleged in court that Patrick Kinsella, former BC Liberal Party election co-chair in 2001 and 2005, was working for both BC Rail and CN Rail - the winning bidder in 2003 - at the same time.
Kinsella was paid $297,000 by BC Rail for "business advice" between 2001 and 2005.
The court will reconvene on Wednesday February 10 at 10 a.m. to set the trial date, with the accused required to be in court.
Aneal Basi's lawyer Joe Doyle requested that he be allowed to appear by video link from Montreal, where he is currently employed. MacKenzie agreed if that can be done - otherwise he must appear in person.
Outside court Bolton refused to speculate on why the defendants are requesting a jury trial nor would he suggest how many witnesses, if any, the defence would call, saying that would be made clear after the Crown has presented its case first.
Bolton called Berardino's suggestion the trial will take eight to 10 weeks to complete a "reasonable estimate" but would not say how long the defence would need to present its arguments.
Earlier in court provincial government lawyer George Copley requested and received two orders from MacKenzie regarding email backup tapes and privilege claims - both the Crown and defence consented.
A version of this story will be printed in Tuesday's 24 hours newspaper
Saturday, February 06, 2010
<- David Basi
At that hearing the Special Prosecutor and defence counsel for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - the accused former BC Liberal government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003 - will report on progress in moving towards a trial.
The date for that trial may be set on Monday or may be put over to another scheduled hearing on Wednesday February 10 at 10 a.m.
Watch this blog for a full report Monday as soon as possible.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
I am very pleased to tell you that Fight HST's citizens petition has been approved by Elections BC, it was announced today. The Initiative signing period of 90 days will run from April 6 to July 5, 2010.
I am working with former BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm and a wide range of other people from every political persuasion - or none - to try to stop the unfair 7% Harmonized Sales Tax from being imposed by the BC Liberal government.
Below is today's news release from Fight HST - a photo from the news conference is above with myself, Chris Delaney and Sal Vetro pictured - please sign up in your riding!
* * * * *
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, February 4, 2010
BC CITIZENS’ INITIATIVE APPLICATION BY FORMER PREMIER BILL VANDER ZALM TO KILL THE HST APPROVED BY ELECTIONS BC FOR APRIL
Vancouver, BC – A British Columbia citizens’ Initiative petition to kill the BC Liberal government’s proposed 12% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on virtually all goods and services in BC, has been approved by Elections BC, former Premier, Fight HST leader and petition applicant Bill Vander Zalm announced Thursday.
Fight HST, the group started by Vander Zalm, said the Elections BC approved citizens’ Initiative can begin signature collection on April 6, 2010.
If implemented on July 1, 2010, the HST announced last year by Premier Gordon Campbell would add an additional 7% tax on everything from restaurant meals, haircuts, bicycles, and gym memberships to golf fees, airline tickets, funeral services, new homes over $525,000 to professional fees like accounting and much, more.
Vander Zalm is currently travelling on business in California but issued a statement.
“The citizen's Initiative petition is our first move and it is the people's opportunity to tell the governments that we are still a democracy and not totally an elected dictatorship,” Vander Zalm said. “The Initiative is also the people's opportunity to kill the HST.”
Fight HST spokesman Bill Tieleman said that: “The citizens’ Initiative petition is a legally-binding petition, which if successful will require the government to either conduct a province-wide referendum on the HST or to present an Act to repeal the HST in the legislature.”
Tieleman explained that the Fight HST group must collect the signatures of 10% of registered voters in all 85 BC electoral districts in 90 days to be successful.
“We will have to collect all those signatures between April 6 and July 5. We have over 1,500 volunteers from across the province who have already agreed to canvass for signatures, and we expect that number to increase dramatically as we approach the start date and people see that the HST can indeed be stopped,” he said.
Chris Delaney, Lead Organizer for Fight HST, said that the proposed legislation for the citizens’ Initiative would nullify the HST agreement between the federal government and the province, thereby extinguishing the HST in BC.
“We would return to the Provincial Sales Tax as it was applied before the surprise HST announcement,” said Delaney. “Our legislation would be effective retroactively from June 30, 2010, the day before the proposed implementation of the HST. This means the government will have to refund all extra HST revenues they collect over and above what they would have received under the PST, to British Columbia taxpayers. It’s their money after all,” said Delaney.
Delaney said Fight HST is calling on Premier Campbell to tell British Columbians whether he will abide by the voters wishes and repeal the HST if the petition is successful.
“British Columbians deserve to know if their Premier, the same man who has repeatedly expressed support for grass roots democracy and effective Citizen Initiative legislation, will abide by it when it is applied to his government.”
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
HST Fighting Facebook Group Vanishes
Who, or what, made the 130,000-member 'No BC HST' group blink off for days?
By Bill Tieleman
Please note that is not technically possible to hack a Facebook group."
Who killed British Columbia's biggest Facebook group with over 130,000 members -- NO BC HST -- for three days?
And how was it miraculously brought back to online life, with no explanation from Facebook or notice?
So far, I have no idea, even though I created and administer the protest group against B.C.'s planned seven per cent Harmonized Sales Tax and reported its complete disappearance to Facebook authorities.
It's a disturbing mystery without many clues.
But answers are needed, not just because this group temporarily vanished but because any Facebook group from any political perspective could disappear without a trace too.
In fact, another group I created that has over 8,000 members -- Axe The BC Gas Tax -- has also gone missing and not reappeared by press time. UPDATE - the Facebook group Axe The BC Gas Tax is now back online Tuesday morning!
And so has an Edmonton group of 30,000 members that also vanished on Friday, formed to support a seriously ill baby. UPDATE - that site has now also reappeared.
'We may never find out': expert
One expert is not surprised, nor does he have any comforting advice on how to avoid Facebook group problems.
Dale Jackaman, president of Amuleta Computer Security, says the disappearance of NO BC HST has only three possible explanations.
"The common link is you, so the question is whether Facebook had a technical issue with your account, or a security issue, or was one of your computers hacked," Jackaman said in an interview late Sunday.
Since this incident I've been scanning all my computers, changing passwords and trying to figure out what went on, without any answers.
But given that two of the five Facebook groups I administer -- the two that are the largest and most damaging to the B.C. Liberals -- were made to disappear, it's hard not to think that it was a politically-motivated attack, not a strange coincidence.
Meanwhile, Jackaman wasn't very encouraging about discovering what happened, based on past experience with Facebook.
"We may never find out. You can try contacting Facebook for security and personal account issues but it's very difficult to do," Jackaman said.
I intend to try, despite the lack of response from Facebook to date -- and to previous media inquiries I made to the Palo Alto, California-based corporation.
BC's biggest Facebook group
But this story is not about me, it's about you.
I've been honoured by the amazing response to NO BC HST since I created it in July 2009, shortly after Premier Gordon Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen made the surprise announcement that B.C. would add an extra 7 per cent tax that will apply to a wide range of goods and services that previously only had a five per cent GST.
It's clear that the phenomenal growth of NO BC HST is solely due to the fact that so many people on Facebook told their friends, family and co-workers to sign up. It had a viral response last summer, with over 1,000 people a day joining.
At over 130,000 members, NO BC HST is actually bigger than the Vancouver Canucks official fan page on Facebook, with just under 121,000 supporters, and much larger than other political pages -- like Campbell's with 2,500 or Hansen's with 300.
What happened on Friday is that someone, somewhere -- either by accident or by malicious intent -- took away the legitimate voice of over 130,000 British Columbians who publicly stated their opposition to the HST, people who included their names and photos in democratically protesting this unfair tax.
This is our online community and we have a right to know it is a safe place that cannot be stolen from us -- not by any technical failures and definitely not by political hackers.
And now you can once again join NO BC HST.