Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Basi-Virk trial takes another 2 weeks off due to illness, scheduling - back October 12!

It's not like we've been waiting long for this trial - just since December 28, 2003 - when the unprecedented police raid of the BC Legislature took place!

But we'll once again have to wait another 2 weeks - Justice Anne MacKenzie told the jury today that due to the illness of two jurors and accused David Basi and now scheduling issues, the trial will be adjourned until October 12.

I was unable to attend today's non-session of court - honestly, what's the point? - but my colleague Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun did and filed a report on the latest unfortunate developments.

The cross-examination of ex-BC Rail Board director Brian Kenning has not been completed, so presumably he will be on the witness stand whent he trial resumes.

The only possible good news - with any luck this break will give me enough time to get rid of the Harmonized Sales Tax by then!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

BC NDP leader Carole James looks for support from business bullies who beat up her party. Again.

Carole James faces media outside BC Supreme Court, August 2010 - Bill Tieleman photo

Why Carole James Is Too Nice to Business

BC's NDP leader looks in the wrong place for support, blurring her party's real appeal.

Bill Tieleman's
24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday September 28, 2010

Bill Tieleman

"Don't Risk Your Paycheque and Job on the NDP."

- Coalition of B.C. Businesses 2009 pre-election campaign slogan

Carole James wants to make friends with the bullies who keep beating up her New Democratic Party. Again.

On Friday night, B.C. NDP leader James tried once more to extend the hand of friendship to a B.C. business community that has repeatedly replied by giving her the finger, holding a $295 per plate fundraiser titled: "An Evening with Carole James for Business in B.C."

There's no reason to expect a different response this time, even with Premier Gordon Campbell having sunk the BC Liberal Party to new depths of unpopularity with his Harmonized Sales Tax torpedo.

That's because business understands something James and her advisors keep missing -- they aren't looking to help a social democratic, labour-friendly political party whose policies they despise become the government.

Business knows the BC Liberal Party is their party -- they fund it, they run it and they will not leave it for the NDP, ever.

If absolutely necessary, business will throw Campbell over the side for a new leader -- but they won't change sides.

Words that can't be taken back

Oh sure, some smart corporate leaders pay lip service to James -- after all, with the NDP somewhere between
42 per cent and 48 per cent in the current polling compared to the BC Liberals at between 25 per cent and 33 per cent, it's quite possible they could form government in 2013.

But not if business has anything to say about it.

The Coalition of B.C. Businesses made that clear before the May 12, 2009 provincial election, launching a vicious attack on James and the NDP.

"Jobs are at risk on May 12. Higher taxes and higher payroll costs featured in the NDP platform will put at least 110,000 British Columbians out of work and put at risk the viability of B.C.'s small and medium-sized businesses," read the Coalition's breathless May 5 news release.

"In short, the NDP platform will hold B.C. back by working against recovery. A BC Liberal platform will help small businesses keep people employed, and get a jump-start on recovery," the Coalition

Not a lot of subtlety in that message -- business loves B.C. Liberals!

The Coalition members listed in the release was a who's who of business organizations -- from the BC Chamber of Commerce to the BC Hotel Association to Retail BC -- claiming to represent more than 50,000 B.C. businesses.

And Premier Gordon Campbell was helpfully cued up for their attack.

"I think people do have to ask themselves why is it that no major employer in British Columbia has supported the NDP," Campbell
told the media that same day.

Friend of employers, or the employed?

Why indeed?

Perhaps because major employers recognize their own best interests don't include a minimum wage increase, labour laws to even the playing field for workers and unions, corporate tax increases, publicly-owned services and more social programs?

You know, the sort of things the NDP is expected to do.

Yes, some progressive small and even larger businesses don't "hate" the NDP and might even agree with some party policies.

But they are a distinct minority that will not speak out.

The overwhelming corporate view is to support the BC Liberals -- that's why business gave that party $8.6 million of its $11.9 million raised in 2009, or 72 per cent of all donations.

Business donations alone to the BC Liberals add up to more than total NDP donations from all sources -- $6.7 million -- while business contributions to the NDP were just $268,000.

James doesn't seem to acknowledge that. Her speech last Friday did deal with questions about her leadership and also her courtship of B.C. business.

James's speech

James said in her prepared
speech notes:

"And so even though I have been criticized for reaching out to, and meeting with, B.C.'s business community...

"'Come on Carole, they'll never vote for you. They campaigned against you! That's not the way politics is done in B.C.'

"I will continue to welcome business to my table, not to earn their vote, but because it's the right thing to do.

"The future we all want for our province is not possible without a strong and dynamic private sector.

"Risk must be rewarded. Innovation encouraged.

"The wealth created by business and entrepreneurs helps pay for the services that make for a just and fair society.

"We can't have one without the other.

"That's why I will work with B.C. business to promote trade and open markets.

"It's why I'll support small business by maintaining a competitive tax environment."

But the results of James's relentless pursuit of business approval, despite their past disdainful response, may be a major reason why she and the NDP face significant challenges ahead.

How much traction for James and NDP?

Despite the BC Liberals' disastrous drop of 21 per cent in voter support since the election -- from 46 per cent to just 25 per cent today -- the NDP has only
gained six per cent since 2009 if it is indeed at 48 per cent, or nothing if at 42 per cent.

This in the midst of a complete collapse of government support due to the wildly unpopular HST, a budget deficit that was six times larger than Campbell swore pre-election and the B.C. legislature raid trial.

The Green Party, which has been invisible and actually supports the HST, sits at 12 per cent or 13 per cent, and the once-dead BC Conservatives have risen to between eight per cent and 11 per cent.

And while Campbell is Canada's most unpopular premier, with an approval rating of just 12 per cent according to
Angus Reid Public Opinion, James's own approval rating is only 30 per cent -- lagging behind her party's support.

The NDP is also rumored to currently have just 11,000 active members and faces a cash crunch.

The last publicly reported membership
tally by the party was 13,500 in July, 2010.

Seven years earlier, in the Nov. 2003 leadership campaign, the party reported that it had "well over 13,000" members.

Either way, the party is not growing, and its membership stands at a fraction of the numbers enjoyed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Signs the party is wilting

The James-led NDP ditched directly affiliated union memberships -- claiming at the time it would prove labour does not run the NDP.

No sign of acknowledging that from business to date, but it did cost the NDP hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues.

Add that to the fact that in the 2009 election 40,000 fewer voters cast a ballot for the NDP than in 2005 and it is obvious there is a problem.

While James and NDP president Moe Sihota focus on trying to
gain business acceptance and media commentator approval, the party is wilting.

What James has failed to deliver is a clear understanding that in British Columbia politics, lines are drawn and sides are chosen -- like it or not.

B.C. business knows which side it's on, and it ain't the NDP's.

Nothing wrong with that. The BC Liberals are unabashedly giving business what it wants in a way the NDP could never do.

That's why even in the midst of the BC Liberals' worst crisis, business groups are propping up Campbell and launching shameless campaigns to support the hated HST.

But now is when the NDP should be rallying the troops, filling its war chest, exciting a growing membership with new plans to invigorate the province and preparing to put an end to the BC Liberal favoritism shown to its corporate friends by an otherwise mean-spirited government.

Instead the NDP again tries to win over its most intransigent enemies, and the results will be entirely predictable.

Isn't it time for a different strategy?


Wrong, wrong wrong! Former BC Liberal Attorney General Wally Oppal a big mistake to head Pickton Inquiry

Former BC Liberal Wally Oppal during 2009 election campaign in Delta, where he lost

It's almost unbelievable.

The BC Liberal government has just appointed the man who was the province's Attorney General during much of the investigation and prosecution of mass murderer Willy Pickton to head a public inquiry into how the police handled the investigation and prosecution of Willy Pickton!

If there was any need for more evidence that the BC Liberals have collectively lost their mind, this proves it.

Oppal is a former judge and well known as a nice guy.

But he is in a massive conflict of interest that anyone could see in a moment.

So why did current Attorney General Mike de Jong hire Oppal?

The reaction from those with great interest in the case - aboriginal groups, women's groups and relatives of those murdered by Pickton - has been highly negative already.

“I cannot begin to tell you how upset I am,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told the Globe and Mail today. The UBCIC, which has called for such an inquiry for years, was not even consulted on the choice of Oppal.

Lori-Ann Ellis lost her sister-in-law Cara Ellis on the Pickton farm without murder charges being completed.

"I am sure not very happy with the choice for the head of this public inquiry," she told the Vancouver Sun in an email. "How are we going to get the truth if the person heading this was a part of the problem?"

Exactly - how indeed?

I've always known Oppal to be an honourable man - the best way to maintain his good reputation in the fact of growing opposition to his appointment is to decline it.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Basi-Virk: Trial postponed again - this time David Basi too sick to attend court

Did I mention the BC Legislature Raid trial curse?

Last week two different jurors illnesses/accidents caused delays in the Basi-Virk political corruption trial.

Today, Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun reports that David Basi himself is sick and unable to attend, so court has been cancelled.

Ex-BC Rail Director Brian Kenning was scheduled to conclude his testimony today - that will happen Tuesday, with any luck.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

BC NDP leader Carole James speaks to business Friday night at $295 per plate fundraiser - outlines party's approach

BC NDP leader Carole James laid out her vision for the future under a New Democratic Party government and her philosophical approach at a $295 per plate fundraising dinner on Friday night.

Public Eye Online reported
prior to the Hotel Vancouver event that it was titled: "A Night in the City: An Evening with Carole James for Business in BC" although on another part of the NDP website it was called: "Night in the City: An Evening with Carole James and the BC NDP Team."

The latter title appears the correct one based on James' speech to the event, a check-against-delivery version is reproduced below.

James argues that under her leadership, labour and business will come together

"And so even though I have been criticized for reaching out to, and meeting with, B.C.'s business community....

"Come on Carole, they'll never vote for you. They campaigned against you! That's not the way politics is done in B.C."

I will continue to welcome business to my table, not to earn their vote, but because it's the right thing to do."

I've previously argued
strongly that the business community - for the most part - has its own party called the BC Liberals which if finances handsomely and has no interest in being anything but openly, endlessly hostile to the NDP. That was obvious in the 2009 provincial election.

James clearly disagrees.

What's your view?

I'll have more to say about this in my column in 24 hours and The Tyee online on Tuesday but your comments are welcome.

Two caveats: read the speech first and be polite in your remarks.

* * * * *

Carole James, Leader of the BC NDP

Leader's Levee Address - September 24, 2010

Check against delivery

Thank you for being here with us tonight.

I want to thank all of you for your contributions to our province.

Looking around the room, you'll see leaders from all sectors of our economy, all regions of our province.

You'll also see our fantastic team of New Democrat MLAs.

A great caucus -- a diverse and dedicated group. I'd like to ask all of them to stand and be recognized for their hard work.

Tonight, I want to talk about doing business differently in B.C.
About the approach we need to take if we're going to build the future we all want.

An approach to leadership that represents a fundamental shift in the way we take on challenges.

An approach built on the idea that what unites British Columbians is much stronger than what divides us.

To many of you, uniting British Columbia might seem like an impossible task, given our province's history and the state of politics in B.C. today.

But I believe not only is it possible, it's absolutely essential if we're going to address the challenges we face.

Those challenges are great. We are a province in transition.

The global recession fundamentally changed our economic reality. And our province was among the hardest hit.

We've experienced heavy job losses, particularly in our resource and manufacturing sectors.

We saw a huge drop in our exports.

And trends in consumer spending and consumer confidence are persistent concerns.

While we're starting to see some positive signs, the global recovery is still uncertain and tentative.

The troubles of our neighbours south of us continue to impact our resource and tourism markets in particular.

The decisions we make now, will have a significant effect on how British Columbians experience that recovery.There are also significant social challenges, like poverty and homelessness, the growing income gap and disparities between rural and urban British Columbia.

And over all this looms climate change, an environmental crisis that has already impacted our province and our economy.

The challenges we face are serious. They're complex.

But these are challenges we can meet. There are answers. There are solutions.

But they aren't going to be addressed by the old ways of doing business.

And they aren't getting the attention and the focus they deserve, because we have a government focused on its own chaos.

There is no better example of that than the HST.

Announcing a major tax policy with no warning, no consultation, and no questions asked... is a lesson in how not to do things in today's B.C.

The HST has created serious economic uncertainty, just when we need it the least.

Whatever your views on the tax, I think we can all agree the referendum should be held as soon as possible.

That's why I wrote to the Premier this week, to tell him New Democrats are ready to come back to the Legislature, make the changes, and hold the referendum this fall.

It's the right move for our democracy. The right move for our economy.

While the people of B.C. are seriously questioning the government's direction, they're also rightly questioning what kind of change New Democrats propose.

The government's broken trust does not automatically translate into trust for New Democrats.

We have to work for it. We have to earn it.

In a province that's changing fast, we have to show we too have changed with the times.

That we understand the new challenges facing British Columbians.

That we have a vision for the future.

And that we have the right approach.

My vision for British Columbia is based on four key priorities:

A strong, dynamic economy that supports traditional industries while diversifying our base.

Investments in human capital to give British Columbians the opportunities and the skills they need.

A fundamental commitment to sustainability and environmental health -- a commitment that must be reflected in our choices and our actions.

And a strong democracy, with open government and fair access to information.

Achieving this vision in today's B.C. will require fresh thinking.

It will take a different kind of leadership than is usual in B.C. politics.

Leadership that respects and values the contribution of every British Columbian, and moves beyond traditional divides.

Leadership that unites British Columbians in common purpose, while respecting their differences.

Leadership that reflects our shared values and our commitment to a better world.

Now, I've been told that I am not the flashiest or most charismatic politician in the world.

Really? Not flashy? That's a bit of a shock.

I always saw myself as a cross between John Wayne and Lady Gaga.

You know: A tough-talking cowboy...with a flair for the outrageous!

And some people say I'm not up to the challenge.

You've heard the comments, I'm sure.

"She's nice, but she's just not tough enough for this game."

I have to tell you that anyone who knows the B.C. NDP knows being leader for seven years is a feat of strength in itself!

But in all seriousness, I firmly believe my approach and my style of leadership is the right one for our province and our time.

I have always believed that people, not personalities, should be at the centre of our politics.

And I have never believed that the politics of division is a politics that works or delivers results.

Now, that doesn't mean we will always agree on every issue.

This is British Columbia after all, where our need for debate and disagreement is legendary.

But it does mean that under my leadership, everyone will be respected. Everyone will be listened to.

And from that, comes better, lasting change.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

New Democrats are hosting a dialogue called Our Province, Our Future.

To kick off that dialogue I held a Leader's Summit -- a diverse group of more than 200 British Columbians from all walks of life, all regions, all sectors of our economy.

At that Summit, we put aside our differences and talked about our common aims.

We talked about the need for a long-term economic strategy, about the role education plays in our economy and our society, about sustainability and the role of good government.

It was a great conversation, one that's continuing in our regions and in key economic sectors.

Our Province, Our Future shows that you can bring diverse views together in common purpose in the province of B.C.

Despite our reputation. Despite our politics.

And that by working together, we can find the innovative solutions we need to succeed.

In April, I held a roundtable with Chinese tourism and business leaders to talk about the Approved Destination Status agreement between Canada and China.

An incredible opportunity that could bring millions of new tourists to B.C.

But it won't just happen overnight. It takes work.

And it was clear from the discussion that B.C. hasn't yet done that work. We're not prepared for this opportunity.

In fact, the government cut funding for tourism and eliminated independent Tourism BC.

At this roundtable, it became very clear - the ideas were there, the solutions achievable.

What's missing right now is leadership.

We need a different approach to turn this incredible tourism opportunity into a reality for B.C.

A few months ago, I spoke at a conference on green jobs in Washington, DC.

Business, labour, environmental and government leaders assembled to address the most fundamental challenge of our time.

This is precisely the kind of approach we need in British Columbia today.

I left that conference convinced of the potential I saw for B.C.

We have the people, the skills, and the determination to lead the green revolution.

But if we're going to do it, it will take a different approach.

It will take hard work, and it will take courage to set aside the old traditions and forge new ones.

But it is possible.

And it's incumbent upon all of us - each and every one in this room - to make it happen.

And so even though I have been criticized for reaching out to, and meeting with, B.C.'s business community....

"Come on Carole, they'll never vote for you. They campaigned against you! That's not the way politics is done in B.C."

I will continue to welcome business to my table, not to earn their vote, but because it's the right thing to do.

The future we all want for our province is not possible without a strong and dynamic private sector.

Risk must be rewarded. Innovation encouraged.

The wealth created by business and entrepreneurs helps pay for the services that make for a just and fair society.

We can't have one without the other.

That's why I will work with B.C. business to promote trade and open markets.

It's why I'll support small business by maintaining a competitive tax environment.

It's why I support economic diversification and key investments in science, high-tech, arts and culture and green sectors.

It's why I support a made-in-B.C. product strategy.

It's why I've tabled a forward-looking forestry plan.

It's why I'll partner with business and labour to expand trades training.

And it's why I will address First Nations land and resource interests, to end the conflict and uncertainty and increase employment, investment and economic growth.

That's the kind of leadership British Columbians can expect from me.

The old approach -- that says British Columbians have to choose between a strong business climate on the one hand, or strong social programs and a healthy environment on the other -- must be set aside.

British Columbians can count on me to work every day to break out of that mould.

But let me be clear: I do not believe that it's government's job to just get out of the way and let markets do all the work.

Governments also have a fundamental responsibility to fairness.

To ensuring that a strong economy and growing businesses are built from a strong society and sustainable environmental practices.

That's why I have fought my whole life -- and will always fight -- for social justice.

Because I believe that it is both a moral and economic responsibility.

The benefits of a strong economy don't just trickle down to British Columbians.

They're created when all British Columbians have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and contribute to the prosperity of our province.

That's why I will work to reduce child poverty in the province of British Columbia.

It's why I support raising B.C.'s minimum wage.

It's why I will work with communities to provide safe and secure housing.

It's why I've committed to make B.C. a place where workers are treated fairly and with respect.

And it's why I am so passionate about education.

Smart investments in education will pay huge economic dividends and build the strong, fair, just society we all strive for.

Last week, I visited Templeton Secondary School and toured their chef training program.

Where students can complete their high school graduation and earn college credits at the same time.

I met a future chef who told me about his plans for opening his own restaurant.

He described the concept, the layout and the challenges of being a small business owner.

This future entrepreneur needs a strong education system to provide him the skills and a strong economy to use those skills.

I want B.C. to be known as the place that got it right.

That saw the opportunity to be a world leader in economic innovation, social justice and environmental stewardship.

Saw to it that every British Columbian had the opportunity to make the most of themselves and to give back to their community.

Saw to it that the green jobs of today and the future are thriving right here in our province.

I want B.C. to be the place that had the courage to chart a new course.

But the road to that future is not found, but made.

It will take putting the old divides aside.

It will take focus and determination.

It will take an ability to work across sectors.

To bring business and labour, first nations and industry, local governments and environmentalists to the same table, to tackle the difficult questions head-on.

This is tough work -- tough conversations.

It would be easy to continue on with the same old approach.

Business in one room -- labour in another.

Industry on one side -- First Nations and environmentalists on the other.

That's the easy path. But I've never taken the easy path.

And if we're going to be a leader economically, socially and environmentally, it's time to step up, focus on what's good for BC and work to get it done.

Let me conclude.

We live in an amazing province. And I am so proud to be a British Columbian.

I'm reminded of that each summer as my husband and I head off on our annual camping trip.

Yes, I travel for a living about three-quarters of the time, but that doesn't keep me from the draw of exploring this amazing place we all live in.

We have all the strengths we need to lead:

A strong private sector and thriving entrepreneurial culture.

Dynamic people with the energy and ingenuity to create and innovate.

Abundant natural resources -- resources that built this province.

Quality public services that support B.C.'s people and communities.

And a spectacular environment that's the envy of the world.What we need is leadership to bring those strengths together.

Leadership that knows the best ideas come from the bottom up, not the top down.

That respects our natural environment and the people who live here.

That knows a strong economy, a just society and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand.

Tonight, I invite you to imagine the B.C. we can be.

And I invite you to join me -- to join New Democrats -- in making that vision a reality.

Thank you very much.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Basi-Virk - yet more delays with just 2nd witness testifying

Is the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid cursed or what?

On Monday a juror
fell and broke her hand, delaying the court hearing till 2 p.m..

On Tuesday a
juror became ill, forcing cancellation of Wednesday's testimony.

And the trial is still on only the second of an estimated 40 witnesses - some of them who are expected to testify for weeks, like former BC Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins.

Ouch! At this rate it may go well beyond the planned end date of April 2011.

I have been unable to attend the trial the last few days - apparently not missing too much - but my colleague Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun has reports on ex-BC Rail Director Brian Kenning's ongoing testimony in the two links above.

Allegations made by defence lawyers include that there was a "failure strategy" to ensure BC Rail was privatized and top executives received significant bonuses, that BC Liberal insiders had lucrative PR contracts with BC Rail and that the BC government may still be on the hook for $600 million in the BC Rail sale.

And of course our old friend BC Mary at the Legislature Raids blog always has the latest reports from the courtroom from media and citizen journalists as well as her own viewpoints.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rest In Peace - Sindi Hawkins, former BC MLA & cabinet minster, has died from leukemia

Sindi Hawkins, the former BC Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission, cabinet minister and deputy speaker, has died after a long battle with leukemia.

Politics is a tough business but Sindi was able to transcend partisan divides after she was first diagnosed six years ago. She offered her support to others stricken with cancer, including NDP leader Carole James.

I only met Sindi a few times but she struck me as an energetic and vibrant personality. I admired greatly her willingness to go totally public with her fight against leukemia and encourage people to join a bone marrow registry that might help future patients with cancer.

Sindi Hawkins was just 52 years old.


Campbell's Gamble - Playing HST Hold 'Em poker with the Premier holding all the cards - and making the rules

Has Gordon Campbell dealt himself a winning hand?

Campbell Gambles BC's Economy on HST Politics

Vote pushed back a year; who in their right minds will buy a condo now?

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday September 21, 2010

By Bill Tieleman

"If you're playing a poker game and you look around the table and can't tell who the sucker is, it's you."

- Actor Paul Newman

Premier Gordon Campbell thinks B.C. voters are suckers.

And when it comes to the Harmonized Sales Tax, Campbell wants to deal you in for a poker game

where the premier gets to:

- pick which rules apply;
- play the game when he thinks he can win;
- spend your money to get him better cards; and
- decide himself who won the game and how to divide the pot.

Oh yes, the stakes you are playing for: $2 billion a year, forever.

Welcome to Campbell's Gamble -- or HST Hold ‘Em -- where the premier always deals his hand from the bottom of the deck.

If you play, expect Campbell's pair of deuces to easily beat your royal flush, because the only rules are his own.

The poker game is actually a province-wide vote on the HST.

Campbell was forced into that when Fight HST, the group I helped start, did what was previously thought impossible -- win a citizens' initiative petition signed by over 10 per cent of registered voters in all 85 B.C. ridings in just 90 days.

The government had only two choices -- introduce the HST Extinguishment Act proposed by Fight HST leader and former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm -- into the B.C. legislature or hold an initiative vote on Sept. 24 of 2011.

That ballot requires more than 50 per cent of all registered voters -- not just those who turn out -- to vote to kill the HST, plus two-thirds of all ridings voting more than 50 per cent -- and if passed, the act only goes to the legislature for introduction, not passage.

But with his party polling at just 23 per cent -- half its winning 2009 election percentage -- and his personal approval rating of 12 per cent the worst in Canada, Campbell had to do something drastic or face open B.C. Liberal revolt.

Campbell's solution -- dealer's choice.

Hold the vote Sept. 24, 2011 but say he will respect a simple majority vote of those who turn out as "binding."

But the problems with Campbell's Gamble are enormous.

Crazy gamble with economy?

First, how does the premier get to override the law? Campbell is neither following the existing
Recall and Initiative Act nor B.C.'s Referendum Act, which allows binding votes.

And why hold a vote in a year, except to buy the beleaguered Campbell political time?

Why make consumers pay a tax they hate and want eliminated immediately for another year?

Who in their right mind would buy a newly built home and pay seven per cent more tax on every dollar over the $525,000 exemption when the HST could be gone in a year? On an $825,000 condo the seven per cent extra tax on the remaining $300,000 is a cool $21,000 more -- worth waiting for the lower price.

And who would do a $100,000 home renovation and pay an extra $7,000 HST when the tax could disappear in a year?

Why force businesses to deal with great uncertainty about the future of the HST, making long term investments and plans impossible?

Bob Rennie, the real estate marketing mogul, says Campbell's
"insane referendum" on the HST will hurt sales.

"We need certainty," he said. "Gordon Campbell, for everything amazing that he has done for my province, is the worst salesperson on the planet. Seriously."
Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association CEO Peter Simpson agrees.

"I'm hearing from builders that this is the slap on the other side of the face," Simpson
told the Tri-City News. "Waiting a year I don't think was the appropriate course of action."

And Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central 1 Credit Union, also condemns the delay.

"When you have this kind of uncertainty regarding tax policy, it's typically quite negative for economic activity," Pastrick
told CTV News.

What electoral financing laws will be used?

Will the government spend millions, plus millions more from HST-supporting big businesses to try and buy votes?

What is the campaign period for those laws? From now till Sept. 24, 2011?
Why would voters trust the government and Elections BC -- currently run by an acting chief electoral officer appointed by the B.C. Liberals instead of a CEO picked with all party agreement -- to draw up a fair question?

When will we see that question? Soon or just before the vote?

If British Columbians did vote to kill the HST, when would it happen? In 60 days? Or after the five year agreement ends in 2015?

How can Finance Minister Colin Hansen rule out any HST refunds when the citizens initiative that passed with 557,000 signatures had proposed legislation giving refunds?

Nobody but a sucker would play in this poker game.

And there's one more reason why to stay away from the table -- look at who thinks it's a great idea.

The very same big business
coalition that went to the B.C. Supreme Court to try and throw the entire HST initiative out because it would create instability is now saying Campbell's Gamble a year from now will ensure stability.

"The provincial government's decision to send the HST to a referendum is a step towards the certainty the business community has been seeking," Phil Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association,
wrote in the Vancouver Sun.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Mining Association of B.C. and others involved in the lawsuit have similar good things to say about the initiative they tried to kill.

And with major B.C. Liberal Party donors like the ICBA in the premier's cheering section, smart poker players will see that this game is fixed


Monday, September 20, 2010

Is a fall federal election about to start? Conservative Deborah Meredith buys billboard ads in Vancouver Quadra

Vancouver Quadra Conservative candidate Deborah Meredith's billboard at Burrard Street and 4th Avenue - September 18, 2010

Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper about to call a fall election?

Vancouver Quadra Conservative candidate Deborah Meredith certainly thinks so.

How else to explain her purchase of a pricey full colour billboard ad at prime location Burrard Street and 4th Avenue in Vancouver?

The billboard - up since at least Friday September 17 - also clearly indicates the Conservatives' election strategy, or at least Meredith's understanding of it.

"Strong Economy" boasts an eye-attracting reverse white type on red background corner headline, while the second headline claims "For Representation in Strong Government".

The ad is also bilingual - English and Chinese, for the benefit of many voters in the diverse riding with a mainland China or Hong Kong background.

"We do not know when a federal election will be called, but with minority government it may be soon and we must be ready," Meredith says on her website. How true!

Meredith seems to be taking a radically different approach than in the March 17, 2008 by-election, when she narrowly lost to Liberal Joyce Murray by 151 votes.

In that vote Meredith shunned media interviews and all-candidates debates, apparently running a stealth campaign - which failed.

The October 14, 2008 federal general election proved an even worse battle, with Murray - a former much-criticized BC Liberal provincial cabinet minister - winning Quadra by 5,000 votes over Meredith.

This time Meredith seems determined to send voters a message - if you want a voice in the Conservatives government - and you think they will win - you had best vote for her to at least have a seat at the table.

Will it work? Not if current polls continue showing the Conservatives and Liberals in close to a dead heat nationally.

But it's got to be better than pretending you're the Invisible Woman in an election!


Fight HST launches "MLA Survivor Recall" campaign with 18 target ridings - demand fair, binding referendum to stop Recall

Fight HST Lead Organizer Chris Delaney speaks to media today, with Bill Vander Zalm at left.

Fight HST today demanded Premier Gordon Campbell hold a fair and binding referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax this year or face Recall campaigns.

Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm issued a news release - below - outlining the "MLA Survivor Recall" campaign to sign up Recall petition canvassers in 18 target ridings starting September 27 unless the BC Liberal government holds a binding referendum under clear legislation - not by misusing the Initiative legislation and forcing voters to wait until September of 2011 for a vote with the government determining the question and rules.

Full news release is below:

* * * * *


Vander Zalm: Premier can stop Recalls by agreeing to referendum conditions

Vancouver - Fight HST Leader Bill Vander Zalm says Premier Gordon Campbell’s refusal to conduct the upcoming referendum to repeal the HST using “binding legislation” before the end of this year, will result in Recall campaigns against a selected number of BC Liberal MLAs starting as early as November 15, 2010.

Launching what he calls the “MLA Survivor Recall - Vote them off the Island” campaign, Vander Zalm says 18 ridings have committed to compete to see which MLAs will be recalled first.

Taking a page from the popular TV series, Fight HST Lead Organizer Chris Delaney says Fight HST will hold a weekly contest to see which ridings can sign up the most canvassers between September 27 and November 15th, the first day Recalls can begin.

Delaney explained, “Each week, the riding with the least canvassers signed up will move to the back of the line. At the end of the contest, the top three ridings with the most canvassers will win the right to conduct the first

“Recalls” under the Fight HST banner. A new Recall will then launch every month after the first three, in the order of how many canvassers they signed up.”

Delaney says it is a great way of inspiring a friendly competition, while at the same time using democratic means to determine who will be Recalled,

“We had so much interest from so many constituencies, we decided this would be the fairest way to determine who gets to go first.”

“It will also help gauge interest in each riding and build an army of volunteers to ensure success”

Vander Zalm says Premier Campbell can call off the Recall plan by meeting the following conditions for the upcoming referendum:

1. It must be a simple majority.

2. It must be binding on government.

3. It must be held under the legally binding Referendum Act (or such other legislative means to give effect to the results and regulate campaign spending by all parties).

4. It must be held this year.

5. The question must be drafted by Elections BC and approved by both the government and Fight HST.

Vander Zalm says any other approach is fraught with peril and does not enjoy either the consent of the legislature, or the approval of the public. He says the approach the premier is currently taking of “trust me” is not good enough.

“No one, not even a premier, can overrule legislation without the approval of the elected MLAs. Saying he will personally abide by the results of the referendum is not sufficient, since the legislature could decide to vote otherwise once the referendum is completed.

The simple solution is to conduct the vote under the Referendum Act,” said Vander Zalm.

Vander Zalm says that British Columbians of all walks of life from businesses to consumers, citizens, labour groups, seniors and working families, all want a settlement to the HST issue now. “The damage to the economy and to consumers from waiting will be too great for the province to bear.”

“We are hopeful the premier will agree to these very reasonable terms for the referendum. Otherwise, we will proceed with phase one of our plan, Recall canvasser recruitment,” said Vander Zalm.

Delaney says 18 constituencies have signed up so far for the “MLA Survivor Recall – Vote them off the Island” recruitment drive as follows (in no particular order) with local organizers listed after:

Donna Barnett / Cariboo Chilcotin - Eric Freeston
Ida Chong / Oak Bay Gordon Head - Colin Nielsen
Terry Lake / Kamloops North Thompson - Chad Moats
John Slater / Boundary Similkameen – Donald Rudzcki/James Demetrick
Marc Dalton / Maple Ridge Mission - Corisa Nicole
Colin Hansen / Vancouver Quilchena – Leliani Riddle
Bill Bennett / Kootenay East – Doug Cosier
John Les / Chilliwack - Benjamin Besler
Bill Barisoff / Penticton – Ron Barillaro
Steve Thompson / Kelowna-Mission – Justin Neufeld
John Rustad / Nechako Lakes – Mike Summers
Ron Cantelon / Parksville Qualicum – Terry Hand
Eric Foster / Vernon Monashee – Roderick Baziw
Don McRae / Comox Valley – Kathryn Askew
Norm Letnick / Kelowna-Lake Country – Justin Neufeld
Jane Thornthwaite / North Vancouver – Seymour – Eddie Petrossian /Gary Hee
Joan McIntyre / West Vancouver Sea to Sky – Kelly Marie Carson
Ben Stewart / Kelowna Westside – Chris Bullard


Sunday, September 19, 2010

BC Supreme Court rules against Fight HST application that HST unconstitutional

Bill Tieleman & Bill Vander Zalm leave BC Supreme Court in August

It is with considerable regret that I report the BC Supreme Court has ruled against the
Fight HST legal application - masterfully crafted by veteran lawyer Joe Arvay and his staff - to have the Harmonized Sales Tax declared unconstitutional.

The challenge was always a difficult one but Joe, Bruce Elwood and Alison Latimer put together a stunningly comprehensive attack on the HST based on the argument that every other province with an HST except BC has passed explicit legislation authorizing it.

Arvay and his team also successfully argued against the big business coalition legal application that would have disqualified the Fight HST Initiative.

In the Fight HST action, Arvay strongly argued that BC simply signed a deal in the backroom with the federal Conservative government and then only repealed the Provincial Sales Tax in the BC Legislature - in order to avoid BC Liberal MLAs literally voting in favour of the HST.

Had the Fight HST challenge led by former Premier Bill Vander Zalm been successful the court could have ruled the HST illegal - an enormous win.

It was well worth the effort - and that may not be the end of it.
Arvay has suggested some grounds for an appeal to the BC Court of Appeal and Fight HST will consider that over the 30 day time limit for filing.

Fight HST also is raising funds to pay for the legal challenge and
donations are gratefully accepted at Fight HST.
Here is the full news release issued by Fight HST on the case:

FIGHT HST News Release


Friday, September 17, 2010

Ottawa can vote to tax BC without Legislature approval

Delta – Fight HST Leader, Bill Vander Zalm, says the Supreme Court dismissed his court petition challenging the constitutionality of the HST today.

Vander Zalm says Chief Justice Bauman’s decision effectively means that the imposition of the HST in BC can be done by “Order-in-Council”, rather than through the legislature as the constitution originally intended. He says it amounts to taxation without representation.

“When the court says that a single person with the stroke of a pen can legislate a tax in BC, the system is completely broken,” said Vander Zalm.

“The fight against the HST has exposed that the government doesn’t listen to the people. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court has exposed that the system not only permits this, it actually encourages it. People did not fight and die in two world wars to have taxes imposed by one man.”

Vander Zalm says that although the court ruled the HST is a federal tax, it acknowledged in its previous ruling that the province can rescind its participation.

“The only good news is we still have the means to undo this giant mess, since the first court ruling affirmed British Columbia’s right to kill the tax. We don’t have a say, but we still have a veto,” said Vander Zalm.

Vander Zalm says Fight HST will consult legal counsel to consider an appeal of the ruling.

Vander Zalm pointed out that the HST applies a new levy of 7% on a wide range of goods and services previously exempted from provincial sales taxes. He says legally that might not constitute a new tax, but in reality it is clearly a new tax imposed by the federal government at the request of BC’s Finance Minister.

“It is an unbelievable situation when Ottawa can use its votes in Ontario together with votes from the Bloc in Quebec to impose a tax in BC without the BC legislature’s approval. Quebecer’s are now deciding taxes in BC! Can you imagine if the reverse had happened? Quebec would separate tomorrow!”

Vander Zalm says after his group gets rid of the HST, he will commit himself to changing the entire system.

“After we defeat the HST, we must continue to fight to restore our democracy. It will be a short lived victory indeed if the same system that brought us this awful tax is left in place to simply carry on with ‘business-as-usual’.”

“We need a complete overhaul, and I promise to do whatever I can to bring that about,” concluded Vander Zalm.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Basi-Virk - perks, pucks and politics at BC Rail, trial hears

I am unable to attend the Basi-Virk trial today and Thursday but my colleagues in the media are doing a fine job reporting on today's testimony.

The Globe's Rod Mickleburgh reports that former BC Rail board of directors member Brian Kenning told BC Supreme Court about perks and the politics of selling BC Rail, including golf club memberships.

The Sun's Neal Hall says BC Rail bought over $100,000 worth of Vancouver Canucks hockey tickets - after the railway had been sold to CN Rail.

That information coming with Kenning being vigorously cross examined by Kevin McCullough - representing accused former BC Liberal aide Bob Virk.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BC Rail director roasted by defence over $550,000 fees, corporate donations to BC Liberals in Basi-Virk trial

- photo by Sean Lamb


BC Rail director gets testy in testimony over his $550,000 fees, political donations

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist

A B.C. Rail director during its $1 billion sale got testy giving testimony about his own $550,000 in fees from two Crown corporations and political donations his companies made to the B.C. Liberal Party, under tough cross-examination in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday.

Brian Kenning bristled repeatedly under questioning from defence lawyer Kevin McCullough in the Basi-Virk political corruption trial.

McCullough, representing former B.C. government ministerial aide Bob Virk, had Kenning confirm he was paid $550,000 in directors fees on the B.C. Rail and B.C. Ferries boards since the B.C. Liberals were elected in 2001, an average of $62,000 a year.

“I would point out one little thing. I make more sitting on the MacDonald-Dettwiler board alone,” Kenning replied, referring to his role at the giant information company.

Retorted McCullough: “Just a pittance?”

Kenning: “No, it’s not a pittance.”

McCullough: “Do you know the average wage in B.C.?”

Kenning: “No.”

In fact, MacDonald-Dettwiler corporate reports show Kenning was paid $98,519 for sitting on its board last year - $68,500 in fees and $30,019 in "share-based awards". He owns $294,536 worth of MacDonald-Dettwiler common shares and deferred share units.

The average annual salary in B.C. last year was $41,600.

McCullough also pointed out that Kenning was involved in firms that gave the B.C. Liberal Party hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“And that is absolutely irrelevant,” Kenning responded.

McCullough questioned Kenning closely on his personal connections to a number of key figures in the political and corporate world, including CN Rail chair David McLean, B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella, former B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins, B.C. Rail chair John McLernan, Alan Wallace of CIBC World Markets - which handled the sale of B.C. Rail, and former B.C. Rail CEO Bob Phillips.

Former B.C. Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk are charged with breach of trust and fraud for allegedly providing lobbyists for a bidder with internal government information about B.C. Rail. Former government staffer Aneal Basi faces money laundering charges related to those allegations.

A version of this story will be published in 24 hours newspaper Wednesday September 15


Federal NDP will pay high political price if their rural MPs vote to kill long gun registry next week

Bill Tieleman with Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol at New Orleans gun shop

New Democrats Playing with Loaded Gun

Federal NDP will pay dearly if long-gun registry is killed in Parliament with their rural MPs' votes

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bill Tieleman

"This private members' bill will end the requirement to register non-restricted hunting rifles and shotguns.... I was completely satisfied that this is what was needed, and I seconded the bill."

NDP MP Bruce Hyer on the long gun registry

You need to know a few things before reading this column:

1. I like to shoot handguns, particularly the Colt .45 and
Glock 19, and have shot long guns many times, too.

2. I strongly believe -- along with police chiefs and officers' associations -- that the long gun registry saves lives and prevents the violent use of firearms.

3. I generally support federal New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton.

4. If enough federal NDP MPs vote to kill the long gun registry in Parliament next week, the party will pay a huge political price in the next election -- and it will richly deserve that fate.

The NDP has desperately tried to have it both ways. Layton and most of his caucus strongly oppose Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill, C-391, to eliminate the registry and destroy 8 million existing records of gun ownership.

But Layton is also allowing a so-called "free vote" on the gun registry so his rural MPs can vote in favour of ending it, because their constituents are applying pressure, aided by
a Conservative ad campaign.

And almost unknown is the fact that an NDP MP -- Bruce Hyer of Thunder Bay-Superior North -- actually seconded Hoeppner's bill to kill the registry.

How does that happen in the NDP caucus? Clearly the Conservatives were thrilled to have an NDP MP onside to divide the party. And it worked.

In fact, in the initial vote in November to kill the registry, 12 NDP MPs voted in favour, helping provide the narrow 27 vote margin needed to bring the bill back for a final vote on Sept. 22.

Three of those NDP MPs -- Claude Gravelle, Charlie Angus and Glen Thibeault -- have since decided to reverse their votes and now support keeping the registry but the other nine NDP MPs who still back C-391 would be enough to pass it.

The NDP created its own problems, to be sure, by playing with a politically loaded gun without the safety on.

But the Conservatives deserve special criticism -- not only are they encouraging a harmful rural-urban divide over the gun registry but they have refused to make the legislation a government bill -- because they know the opposition would then vote against it based on party rather than MPs' individual positions.

The Conservative government was also obviously behind suddenly
sending the senior RCMP officer in charge of the registry, Chief Superintendent Marty Cheliak, off to language school just as the debate got underway again, despite denials from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and RCMP Commissioner William Elliot that they were involved.

Cheliak was scheduled to release a major report at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police annual general meeting and be presented with an award for his work on the registry before he was yanked.

The RCMP says it is "not likely" Cheliak will return to his position, as it is "
designated bilingual" -- how convenient.

Like Cheliak, the chiefs of police oppose killing the registry, as does the Canadian Police Association, representing 41,000 rank and file officers.

And no wonder -- over the last decade, 16 police officers in Canada have been killed by a firearm while on duty -- 14 of those deaths were by a long gun.

Both police groups believe it protects both their members and the public, noting that the database is accessed by officers about 10,000 times a day to check for firearms ownership.

That helped convince NDP MP Alex Atamanenko to support keeping the registry in the first vote despite being targeted by the Conservatives in a nasty ad campaign in his riding. [NOTE: Atamanenko also had the guts to take his position on keeping the long gun registry before the last election - and he obviously didn't lose his seat - BT]

Atamanenko stood up to the bully tactics and resisted pressure in his rural riding -- something Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen should note.

Cullen is the only NDP MP in B.C. who still says he will vote to kill the registry, claiming it is a waste of money -- even though the current budget is less than $10 million a year and registration fees have been waived.

Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has "whipped" his caucus, telling all MPs they must vote against C-391.

Good for Ignatieff, even if it is politically advantageous and easier for him to do than Layton. He has propped up the Conservative minority government several times and been roasted for it by Layton and his MPs. That uncomfortable shoe is on the other foot this time.

"Right now they're lined up with Stephen Harper against the police," Ignatieff said of the NDP.

Layton's position: "My goal is to fix the registry so that it can work for everybody, and that's what our caucus is working very hard to accomplish."

And his strategists are trying to convince supporters that unless NDP MPs are allowed to vote to kill the long gun registry, the Conservatives will win a majority government in the next election.

"To whip our vote and to hand over our rural caucus to Stephen Harper gives him a majority that he so desperately wants," says NDP national director Brad Lavigne.

"We're doing the right thing and we're playing our strategy a hell of a lot smarter than the over-simplistic version that Mr. Ignatieff would have us do. If we hand over our rural caucus and he (Harper) gets his majority, then on day one he scraps the gun registry," Lavigne told the Toronto Star.

"So you get a two for one, you lose the registry and you get Stephen Harper for four years unbridled," he concludes.

Nice try but the NDP is widely missing the target.

What's far more likely to happen is New Democrat voters, especially women and those in urban ridings, decide the party lacks principles and backbone when faced with a tough issue and stay home on election day or worse for the NDP -- vote Liberal.

Here in B.C. that could put the seats of NDP MPs like
Don Davies, Bill Siksay, and Fin Donnelly at risk if their vote drops -- to the benefit of either Conservative or Liberal opponents.

[In a highly ironic side note, the federal NDP inadvertently just sent out a direct mail fundraising letter with a target logo on the envelope titled "Taking Aim" and copy inside saying: "It's time to take aim at Stephen Harper." Talk about bad timing.]

None of this is to deny that the long gun registry is indeed difficult for the NDP. There is no easy solution and whichever way the party turns presents big challenges.

But if you are going to risk losing seats, isn't it better to do so by taking a strong stand in favour of a position the overwhelming majority of NDP supporters believe in rather than by pandering to a Conservative Party initiative?

For a party that proudly boasts today of defending civil liberties during the FLQ crisis in 1970 despite it being highly politically unpopular at the time, seeing rural NDP MPs cast the deciding votes to kill the long-gun registry would be a sad statement.

If you believe the long-gun registry should not be eliminated, tell the NDP today that your vote and donations to his party are at risk. Email Layton at: and Cullen at:


Monday, September 13, 2010

HST uproar - what is the true story on Premier Gordon Campbell's pronouncement today?

On Monday afternoon a BC Liberal-dominated committee of the BC Legislature dealing with the successful Fight HST citizens Initiative voted to send the Harmonized Sales Tax issue to a non-binding, province wide vote a year from now - on September 24, 2011.

Later today Premier Gordon Campbell said in several media interviews that the government would recognize a "majority vote" against the HST as the final word.

"If people decide they want to get rid of the HST next September, then I guess we'll get rid of the HST next September," he told the Vancouver Sun on Monday

But Campbell has not clearly stated that the vote would legally be binding - and in fact it would violate the Recall and Initiative Act if it were not amended by the BC Legislature.

Much remains unclear about the premier's statements but one thing is very clear - delaying any vote on the HST until a year from now is unacceptable to Fight HST.

Imagine anyone thinking of buying a newly built house, condo or apartment - or homeowners considering a new roof or major renovations:

Who in their right mind would proceed if they thought a year from now they could save the extra 7% HST on a $50,000 or $100,000 expenditure - let alone the tax on a new home worth $800,000 or more?

The BC Liberals need to introduce legislation to allow a binding referendum on the HST with a simple majority of those who vote to decide.

That's the only way to fairly decide the HST issue and return stability for businesses affected by the HST.

More on this soon.


Here are excerpts from this morning's Fight HST News Release, which answers some of the poster questions below:


Vander Zalm: Premier’s call for binding referendum requiring a simple majority vote requires legislative action.
Victoria – Fight HST Leader and former BC premier, Bill Vander Zalm, says Premier Campbell’s call for a binding referendum requiring a simple majority of votes cast to kill the HST will require new legislation or amendments to the Initiative and Recall Act.

Vander Zalm says the premier’s announcement came immediately after both the Liberal and NDP members of the Standing Committee voted unanimously to submit the “HST Extinguishment Act” to a non-binding Initiative Vote requiring an undemocratic threshold of 50% of all registered voters to pass.

“The statement by the premier shows he is starting to understand he can no longer dictate his will on the HST to British Columbians, and we welcome that if he is truly sincere,” said Vander Zalm.

But Vander Zalm says a number of issues were raised by the premier’s comments. “First, as much as we welcome this change of heart, it is not his decision to make. He must reconvene the legislature and amend the Initiative Act to allow for a truly democratic referendum that is binding and requires a simple majority vote, since the current legislation does not allow for that.”

Vander Zalm pointed out that Elections BC confirmed at the hearings today that Cabinet has the final say over the question to be asked. “If that’s true, the only way to ensure a fair and accurate question is asked that reflects the intention of petition is to allow both Elections BC and the proponent, Bill Vander Zalm, to participate in drafting and approving that question together with the government.”

As well, Vander Zalm says that the government should not use taxpayer funds to advertise its position on the HST while acting as an official “Opponent” of the referendum. “There is no way the people can compete with the government using their own money to oppose them. We say there should be a level playing field, and that both sides should make their case through public meetings and through the media.”

Vander Zalm says that with BC still in recession and the government running massive deficits that there is no point in government spending huge sums of money trying to skew public opinion. “If Premier Campbell truly wants a democratic process as he says, he will respect the financial limits of the people to fight back against his government.”

Vander Zalm says the referendum must be conducted before the end of 2010. He says it would be highly irresponsible to wait another year to vote on an issue as pressing as the HST. “The damage to the economy from waiting until September 2011 will be incalculable. It will slow spending down even more than has already happened. In the case of new home construction, investment real estate, and home renovations, it will kill those industries completely, since everyone will immediately halt major spending in anticipation of the HST being extinguished.”

“Even major municipal capital projects will be put on hold as towns and cities wait to realize huge savings from ending the HST.”

“Consumers will continue to be hurt as well, and need relief sooner rather than later from this regressive tax,” added Vander Zalm.

BASI-VIRK: BC Rail Director says $1 billion privatization could be "contaminated" if government info was leaked

David Basi & lawyer Michael Bolton outside BC Supreme Court

Leaks in $1 billion BC Rail sale could “contaminate” the process, BC Supreme Court told in political corruption trial

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist

A B.C. Rail director explained the damaging results that would have occurred if confidential government documents on the $1 billion privatization of the Crown corporation were leaked to a bidder, as the Basi-Virk trial resumed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Brian Kenning was just the prosecution’s second witness in the long delayed political corruption trial, which was sparked by an unprecedented police raid on the B.C. Legislature on December 28, 2003 – just a month after the sale of B.C. Rail to CN Rail.

The trial comes at an awkward time for Premier Gordon Campbell, following a new Angus Reid poll showing he is the most unpopular provincial leader in Canada with an approval rating of just 12%.

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino questioned Kenning on what would have happened if a confidential government document on the sale was obtained by a bidder.

“It contaminates the process. It potentially destroys the integrity of the process, B.C. Rail evaluation committee member Kenning replied. “It absolutely shouldn’t be in the hands of any of the bidders.”

Former B.C. Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk are charged with breach of trust and fraud for allegedly providing lobbyists for a bidder with internal government information about B.C. Rail. Former government staffer Aneal Basi faces money laundering charges related to those allegations.

NDP MLA Leonard Krog summed up the political situation Campbell succinctly outside court.

“The last thing the premier needs to hear right now is a train whistle,” Krog said.

Earlier Kenning claimed that B.C. Rail had to be sold because it was losing money and could not pay its debts.

Kenning said a review by the B.C. Rail board of directors after the 2001 election won by the B.C. Liberals - whose campaign promised the Crown corporation would not be sold - determined that it should be sold "as quickly as possible."

Former Social Credit government staffer and political observer Will McMartin has previously called claims that B.C. Rail was "bankrupt" or "debt laden" a lie that has been repeatedly made by the B.C. Liberal government.

"The fact is that BC Rail was a profitable company before the BC Liberals took power. The Crown corporation recorded 23 consecutive years of operating profits and 18 years with net income during the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, over that period the rail company sent $137.7 million in dividends to the provincial treasury," McMartin wrote in The Tyee online publication on March 29, 2010.

McMartin followed that article with another dissecting the testimony of Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown that B.C. Rail was in financial trouble earlier in the trial.

Kenning also told the court that in the first round of bidding CP Rail was the top bidder, offering $950 million, while CN Rail was offering between $700 million to $800 million and OmniTrax $710 million.

In the second round CP dropped its bid by $200 million while CN raised it's bid by the same amount. CN ultimately won with a $1 billion bid.

The trial continues Tuesday with cross-examination of Kenning by defence lawyers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Basi-Virk trial resumes Monday after long summer break

The Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid political corruption trial resumes Monday at 10 a.m. in BC Supreme Court after a lengthy summer break.

The plan is to continue the trial through till December, break at Christmas holidays and then resume till conclusion in April.

Allan Wallace of CIBC World Markets - which handled much of the BC Liberal government's $1 billion privatization of BC Rail to CN Rail in 2003 - was scheduled to testify before the break and will presumably be the second witness on September 13, though the witness schedule may have been revised.

The raid took place December 28, 2003.

Former BC Liberal government staffers David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi face charges they were involved in passing confidential government information about the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003 to lobbyists for one of the bidders.

Watch this space for more information on Monday.


For those in the know, wondering my opinion.....

Captain Queeg: Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic... that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I'd have produced that key if they hadn't of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

BC government HST secrets censored in FOI documents fuel anger further

Come Clean, Premier Campbell

One page of 140 released - and censored - under FOI request

HST questions for BC Liberals after censored documents released draw unbelievable answers.

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/TheTyee column

Tuesday September 7, 2010

By Bill Tieleman

"Secrecy and a free, democratic government don't mix."

- Harry Truman, U.S. president 1945-53

The B.C. Liberal government has got a secret.

Actually, many secrets -- all of them about who knew what and when regarding the sudden imposition of the Harmonized Sales Tax on July 23, 2009 -- just two months after a provincial election when the B.C. Liberals strongly denied the HST was being considered.

As of last week -- thanks only to Freedom of Information requests filed by the Victoria press gallery that took over a year to obtain -- we now do know that B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen received a lengthy
briefing note on the HST on March 12, 2009 that said the HST could lead to five years of higher unemployment and lower economic growth.

Yet Hansen and Premier Gordon Campbell
said in July 2009 that the HST was "The single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.'s economy."

And we know that three senior staff in the Public Affairs Bureau -- the government's highly politicized communications branch -- were copied on a
March 25 email between four finance ministry staff about the possibility that B.C. would get questions about the HST after it was reported that Ontario would implement its own HST.

"We have prepared a note for the minister on this," the email that was sent to PAB officers Rena Kendall-Craden, Gordon Keast and Sherri Patterson states.

But there's far more we don't yet know -- thanks to the government censoring key parts of the FOI dozens of times.

Truth blanked out

One censored email dated March 18, 2009 -- before the Ontario HST announcement -- was sent by Glen Armstrong, the then-acting assistant deputy minister of finance, to Doug Foster, finance's director of strategic initiatives.

"Doug, we have a BN [briefing note] with the Minister on harmonization." Then a section is blanked out, followed by: "I'd like an update from you on what you know so we can send up some supplementary information. It's an important piece."

Other subsequent emails between Armstrong and Foster are completely blanked out by the government as allegedly privileged information.

Then, after the Ontario HST announcement, comes a March 27, 2009 email from Armstrong to finance ministry tax policy advisor Paul Flanagan:

"We will have to update the BN for the Minister based on the MOU [Ontario-federal memorandum of understanding]. We should think about any questions/clarifications we have for the feds re: new rules so we can provide an update next week."

Once again a section that appears eight lines or longer is blanked out.

Then on April 6, 2009 Armstrong sends another email on the subject of "harmonization" to three finance staff -- but an opening section of up to 10 lines is censored, followed by: "Can you pull something together for discussion after my holiday?"

Other emails released by FOI show correspondence back and forth with federal finance officials in Ottawa about HST details before the election.

Censors' sorry excuses

Government staff censoring the documents cited three sections of the
FOI Act for not releasing full details.

Those sections which allow withholding information are:

"Section 13: Policy advice or recommendations

"Section 16: Disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations or negotiations

"Section 17: Disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body"

Given that the HST has already been imposed, there's no reason to censor the documents -- and Campbell and Hansen could release the information immediately, if they wanted to.

It's obvious they won't -- unless forced to by public pressure -- because it will only make them even less convincing in their already tattered HST tale.

Hansen on the record

And the now-released HST emails sent prior to the election show that Hansen clearly misled the B.C. legislature and public when he answered
questions from NDP opposition finance critic Bruce Ralston in finance ministry estimates debate on Nov. 23, 2009.

Ralston asks: "There was no discussion either by the minister or his officials of the implementation of an HST. Is that the minister's position then?"

Hansen: "That is correct."

Ralston even goes further, giving Hansen another chance to clarify.

Ralston: "I understand that the minister has made his position very clear -- no discussion with any of his officials, no public comment, no decision taken between January and May. Was there any discussion at any point with the premier about Ontario and its implementation of the HST, the investment climate and the reasons why British Columbia might want to reconsider its position?"

Hansen: "No."

Ralston: "And by discussion, I mean personal contact, face-to-face, or any exchange of memos at the deputy minister level or through the email network or anything. There's simply no discussion at any level between the minister of finance, his officials and the premier and his office and his officials about the HST between January, when it was first raised publicly in Ontario, and the end of May. Is that the minister's position?"

Hansen: "That is correct."

No, it was not.

Several finance ministry officials -- possibly some sitting beside Hansen to provide answers -- and several PAB staff all knew that wasn't true.

And the only way voters ever found out was through much-delayed FOI requests -- at no point did Hansen come forward after that debate to correct the public record.

End the cover-up

Hansen continues to
insist he wasn't aware of any HST discussion prior to the election -- that he doesn't recall reading the HST briefing note staff prepared for him.


What's more, when the Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and the NDP filed separate FOI requests to obtain any finance ministry discussions about the HST prior to the election they were both
told there were "no responsive records" to release.

Again, now we know otherwise and both FIPA and the NDP have filed complaints with the Freedom of Information Commissioner.

When it comes to covering up the true story of how the HST was imposed, the B.C. Liberal government is now left wearing a fig leaf in a hurricane.