Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Erik Bornmann's "good character" hearing to become Ontario lawyer held over to April 26 - Basi-Virk Crown witness faces opposition

The "good character" hearing on Basi-Virk key Crown witness Erik Bornmann's attempt to become a lawyer in Ontario has been held over until April 26, the Law Society of Upper Canada confirmed today.

Bornmann, who police say provided ex-BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk with money and benefits in exchange for confidential government information about the sale of BC Rail in 2003, is required to pass what a Society spokesperson called a "licensing hearing" before he can be admitted to the bar as a lawyer.

Bornmann completed his law degree at the University of BC and previously applied to both the Ontario and New York state law societies for admission as a lawyer but was unsuccessful to date.

A two-day hearing that began in Toronto yesterday was not long enough to complete the process, the spokesperson said in an interview Tuesday.

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Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff were dumb to topple Stephen Harper and risk likely Conservative majority government

Michael Ignatieff - 24%

Jack Layton - 16%
And the winner is - Stephen Harper - 43%
Liberals, NDP in danger of being crushed, giving Tories their best chance for majority

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 29, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War, ancient Chinese military strategist

It is apparently a myth that lemmings commit mass suicide by jumping of cliffs, according to wildlife biologists who have studied the rodents.

They might then next want to turn their research to federal Liberal and New Democrat Members of Parliament -- because the evidence of their political death wish is now well documented.

Friday's opposition vote to defeat the Conservative government for "contempt of Parliament" was an exercise in self-delusion, testosterone and faulty logic that will surely result in Stephen Harper returning after the May 2 election as prime minister -- and likely with a majority.

Harper and his party couldn't be happier -- campaigning just after introducing a budget with goodies for many, enjoying 43 per cent support against a Liberal Party at just 24 per cent and the NDP at 16 per cent, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll and facing beleaguered Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in his first national campaign.

As bad as the Liberal numbers are, Ignatieff's leadership ratings are even worse.

Ipsos Reid found that 49 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe Harper would make the best prime minister, followed by an impressive 34 per cent for NDP leader Jack Layton and an abysmal 17 per cent who want Ignatieff.

Harper also leads in the categories of someone you can trust, who will get things done, who has what it takes to lead Canada, who's running for the right reasons, who has a vision you can support and who can manage in tough economic times.

Layton comes in second place in each of these categories, while Ignatieff is a distant third in all.

Step away from the edge!

But Ignatieff does clearly lead in one leadership attribute: which leader has a hidden agenda. Ignatieff bested Harper by 46 per cent to 39 per cent on that question, with Layton at 10 per cent.

All that should be enough to convince any non-lemming Liberal strategist or MP to step away from the election cliff as quickly as possible.

And while the NDP might have more reason to gamble in the eternal hope of displacing the Liberals as official opposition, the poll should also be a dire warning. In a Liberal collapse, the NDP could lose to Conservatives in three-way riding races.

But there are many more reasons for both parties to have avoided this election.

First, other polls give similar cause for pause. An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll put the Conservatives at 39 per cent, the Liberals at 25 per cent and the NDP at 19 per cent.

And a new Forum Research poll taken since Saturday's election call gives the Conservatives 41 per cent, Liberals 24 per cent and NDP 19 per cent -- suggesting a seat count in which the Tories win 19 new seats for a majority with 162 seats, the Liberals lose 17 to 61, the Bloc rises by seven to 51 and the NDP drops two to 24.

When asked whether the economy or ethics were more important in this election, 62 per cent said the economy, 38 per cent ethics.

The Angus Reid survey found the Conservatives with a 15 per cent lead in seat-rich Ontario, the place where they can find a majority at Liberal expense.

Amazingly, Bloc Quebecois separatist leader Gilles Duceppe actually has a lower disapproval rating at 55 per cent than Ignatieff's 57 per cent. Harper's disapproval is 48 per cent while Layton's is 33 per cent, according to Angus Reid.

Secondly, the Conservatives only need to add 12 seats in this election to have a bare majority of 155 in the 308 seat Parliament -- and a four-year term without needing the opposition's support for anything.

That's a result polls show most Canadians do not want -- but could well get because of the low regard the Liberals are held in.

What the Tories offered

Then there's what the Liberals, NDP and Bloc killed from the budget Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced last week -- a $300 million increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for the poorest of Canadian seniors.

The NDP wanted $700 million but surely this lesser amount -- $600 a year for single seniors and $840 a year for couples -- would have at least helped out tens of thousands of impoverished elders.

It also would have forgiven $40,000 in student loans for new family doctors and $20,000 in loans for new nurses who work in remote communities and tax credits of $300 a year for caregivers who help infirm relatives.

And there was also $400 million for an eco-energy retrofit program to spur more energy-efficient home renovations.

All of this is small beer compared to the massive costs of new F-35 fighter jets alone, estimated at up to $30 billion, but for voters still reeling from a recession the Conservatives' offerings may be appealing.

End of political funding as we know it

However, perhaps the most devastating reason to avoid this election is the one least understood by voters and least reported by media.

The Conservatives have pledged to end public subsidies of political parties if they win this election. That would mean disaster for most of the other parties, whose own fundraising efforts pale by comparison to the Tory money machine.

And ironically, it was former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien who is responsible for it, having introduced much-needed election financing reforms in his last term that dramatically restricted corporate and union donations.

That forced parties to increase fundraising by individual contributions but the Conservatives did so with gusto, the others not so well.

All parties receive substantial public funding intended to support democracy, but it also means they are in varying degrees highly dependent on money that will disappear with a Conservative majority, making the Tories even more motivated to win and gain an advantage in the election after this one.

In 2010, the five parties received a total of $27.4 million in annual subsidies based on the number of votes each obtained in the 2008 election multiplied by an inflation indexed amount that is now $2.04 per vote.

That gave the Conservatives $10.4 million, the Liberals $7.3 million, the NDP $5 million, the Bloc Quebecois $2.8 million and the Greens $1.9 million.

Now see how much each party raised on their own from direct donations from individuals in 2009, the last full year available -- Conservatives $17.8 million, Liberals $10.1 million, NDP $4 million, Bloc $834,000 and Greens $1.2 million.

Ending public subsidies would roughly cut overall party funding by 42 per cent for the Liberals, 56 per cent for the NDP, the Greens by 61 per cent and a whopping 77 per cent for the Bloc.*

The Conservatives would lose 37 per cent of total funding -- the least of any party -- and leave them with a significant advantage over their adversaries. No-brainer for the Tories.

And they can claim to be saving the public money for better purposes -- like buying F-35 fighter jets and building jails!

Playing into Tory hands?

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc argued somewhat persuasively that the Conservatives were in contempt of Parliament over their disdain for democracy, openness and accountability.

So why did the opposition parties foolishly believe that the best way to restore those values is to give Stephen Harper an excellent chance to win a four-year majority?

Now voters who deeply fear a Stephen Harper government with untrammelled power have to feverishly hope the Conservatives do what they will be desperately avoiding -- make a huge campaign mistake.

Nothing less can stop their drive to majority power.

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Anniversary note - This column marks my sixth anniversary with 24 Hours Vancouver. Thanks to all my readers of that paper and my longer online column version at The Tyee and of course on this blog!


Photo credits - Harper - Wikicommons; Layton - Medmoiselle T; Ignatieff - Craig Windrim

Monday, March 28, 2011

Erik Bornmann -Basi-Virk Crown witness who paid for confidential govt info - wants to pass "good character" test to be Ontario lawyer

Erik Bornmann
Erik Bornmann - the Crown's key witness in the political corruption trial of David Basi and Bob Virk - and the man who paid them money and benefits in exchange for confidential government information on the $1 billion sale of BC Rail - wants to pass a "good character" test and become and Ontario lawyer.

At a 2-day hearing that starts today Bornmann will attempt to convince the Law Society of Upper Canada that his involvement in paying Basi and Virk to get confidential government documents while he was a lobbyist for one of the BC Rail bidders in 2003 should not prevent him from becoming a lawyer.

I first broke news in 24 hours newspaper of Bornmann's attempts to become a lawyer in other Ontario and later New York several years ago but those efforts were thwarted by what was then the upcoming fraud and breach of trust trial of Basi and Virk.  That trial ended in a surprise guilty plea bargain in October 2010 and now Bornmann's hearing in Toronto can go ahead.

I will attempt to update readers by long distance, as I cannot attend the hearing in Toronto.

My Basi-Virk case colleague Neal Hall of the Vancouver Sun has a full report on the situation today.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Nanaimo council by-election Saturday March 26 - get out to vote for Darcy Olsen

Nanaimo holds a critical by-election for a vacant seat on city council - residents there should exercise the democratic right to vote that many citizens of Arab nations are rebelling and dying to obtain.

And I suggest they vote for Darcy Olsen for councilor - a business owner with labour support in Nanaimo - nice to see.

Voting is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday - at these locations.

Good luck Darcy!

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NDP, Liberals crazy to hand Stephen Harper Conservatives a majority government by forcing election

Ipsos-Reid poll shows Conservatives at 43%, Liberal at 24% and NDP at 16% - have Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff lost their minds?    

UPDATED - 11:20 p.m. Friday - Here is the full article that was deleted due to Blogger problems earlier today.

lt already is the election that no one wants - and it will likely end up with the results that everyone but Conservatives fears - a solid Stephen Harper majority government granted four years of untrammelled power.

That's what an Ipsos-Reid poll predicted - with the Conservatives leading easily with 43% national support against the Liberals at 24%, the NDP at 16% and the Greens at 6%.  The Bloc Quebecois has 41% of support in Quebec.

So what on earth were federal New Democrats and Liberals thinking when they voted out the minority Conservative government?

Clearly the atmosphere in Parliament - a strange mixture of testosterone, self-delusion and anger - encouraged opposition parties to mount a Charge of the Light Brigade into the Conservative cannons.

And while I agree that the government's behaviour on a variety of issues is reprehensible, the only thing worse would be to give the Conservatives a majority government free hand to do as they please for four years.

Yet that's exactly what the NDP and Liberals voted to do.

Let's be clear - the Conservatives have never under Stephen Harper's leadership- repeat never - started an election campaign with as large a lead as the polls show they have in this election.

Yes - they may blow it.  The Harper government has repeatedly gotten close to majority support numbers only to screw it up time and again.

But that's at the very least wishful thinking.

And look at the state of the English-Canada opposition parties:  Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is hopelessly mired in mediocrity -  19% behind the Tories to start an election.  And Ignatieff has consistently failed to connect with voters.

NDP leader Jack Layton is far more popular with Canadians - a high approval rating that Ignatieff can only envy - but the party itself is at 16% - hardly threatening to become government and with vague hopes at best of replacing the Liberals as offical opposition.

The Green Party?  Forgettable.  Elizabeth May's third try for a seat in Parliament in her third riding in her third region of Canada will fail again.  Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and cabinet minister Gary Lunn survived a serious Liberal challenge in 2008 when former Green and very environmentally concerned candidate Briony Penn couldn't beat Lunn even with the NDP candidate dropping out in another election controversy.

This time the Greens will face all three other parties running full campaigns - and their unblemished three decades of federal failure will continue.

Then there's Quebec, where Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe has overwhelming support and whose party will take the vast majority of seats.  The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP can only hope to hold the few seats they now have - especially NDP deputy leader Tom Mulcair in the former Liberal stronghold of Outremont.

And so it begins - an election with the potential not for the Tory tales of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition but a Conservative majority. 

Those who are outraged with Harper and thrilled with an election on the opposition claims of contempt of Parliament, abuse of democracy and other crimes should steel themselves for bitter reality - this election is for the Conservatives to lose - and every indication is that they have been preparing for years to win it with an outright majority.

As Winston Churchill aptly said: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

Some strategy for the Liberals and NDP.  Some results for the Conservatives.

Photo credits - Layton - Montrealais photo; Ignatieff - Paul Teee photo; Harper - Remy Steinegger photo

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bill Tieleman on Shaw Cable Voice of BC Thursday 8 p.m. with host Vaughn Palmer & Robin Adair

Bill Tieleman
I am pleased to appear tonight - Thursday March 24 - at 8 p.m. on Shaw Cable's Voice Of BC show with host Vaughn Palmer - the Vancouver Sun's political columnist and fellow guest Robin Adair, a BC Liberal candidate in the 2009 election.

Do tune in!  And if you miss the show, VOBC is now available online on VIMEO.

Thanks to CBC News Network's Connect with Mark Kelley for having me on Wednesday at 5 p.m. BC time to talk about the likely federal election call.



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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Liquor, Guns, Grits and Christy Clark - change you won't believe!

Premier Christy Clark

Clark's Principal Secretary Dimitri Pantazopoulos & old boss
 - Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Former federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion
Weapons industry, private liquor industry lobbyists and Bob Rae federal Liberals - look who Premier Christy Clark hired as her office staff and brace for lots of controversy

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 22, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Dear Mark and Christy, I thank you very much for having hosted me in your beautiful home. It was a beginning of a long journey in which we will accomplish a lot for Canada together."

- Stephane Dion, former federal Liberal leader, 2006

New Premier Christy Clark says she is all about bringing "change" to the BC Liberal government of ex-premier Gordon Campbell.

But when she says change, what does she mean? Particularly given that the key staffers in charge of bringing that change include...

- A former weapons industry lobbyist connected to two controversial Ontario mayors and Stephen Harper's Conservatives;

- An ex-private liquor stores lobbyist;

- And a long-time federal Liberal Party activist with ties to MP Bob Rae's leadership campaign.

The Grit connection should be no surprise. Indeed, there is a sense Clark is painting the town of Victoria red -- federal Liberal red that is.

The "Christy" in the letter from former Liberal leader Stephane Dion quoted above is, of course, B.C.'s new premier -- a long-time federal Liberal whose estranged husband Mark Marissen was the mastermind behind Dion's surprise federal Liberal leadership victory in 2006, as well as the losing 2008 federal election campaign co-chair.

Marissen was also prominent as Paul Martin's top B.C. lieutenant in the bitter takeover of the federal Liberal Party that pushed Prime Minister Jean Chretien out of office.

The former Grit campaigners

Clark's roots in the national Liberal Party go back beyond 1993, when she worked in Ottawa for federal Transportation Minister Doug Young.

And those roots show in the premier's office today. Her Chief of Staff Mike McDonald is a veteran federal Liberal organizer who worked on MP Bob Rae's leadership campaign in 2006.

Clark's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad served as Liberal Party of Canada-BC executive director and 2006 federal election campaign director.

As of Aug. 2010, Haakstad was scheduled to be Election Readiness Co-Chair in the next federal election and is still currently listed as LPC-BC party secretary.

Their links to Railgate case

Both McDonald and Haakstad have connections with the still simmering B.C. Legislature raid case.

Clark has rejected calls for a public inquiry into events surrounding the political corruption trial of former BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk, which suddenly ended with surprise guilty pleas in Oct. 2010 and defence lawyers for the pair receiving $6 million in legal fees.

In B.C. Supreme Court pre-trial hearings in 2007, defence lawyers alleged that Basi reported to McDonald -- then BC Liberal caucus communications director -- about political dirty tricks such as paying phoney callers to support government MLAs on talk radio shows.

The allegations were never proven nor tested in court and Campbell always declined to comment on them, even though Basi never faced charges in connection with the actions.

Haakstad has different connections to the Basi-Virk case.

In 2005-2006 as Liberal Party of Canada-BC executive director, she reported to then-LPC-BC president Jamie Elmhirst, co-owner of the lobbying firm Pilothouse Public Affairs that was searched by RCMP in Dec. 2003 in conjunction with its search of the B.C. Legislature.

Elmhirst's business partners Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran both turned Crown witnesses and were to testify against Basi and Virk.

Bornmann and Kieran provided money and benefits to Basi and Virk in exchange for obtaining confidential government information before the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail. Pilothouse was retained by losing bidder OmniTRAX.

Elmhirst was subpoenaed to testify but never charged with any crime, nor was OmniTRAX.

Haakstad also served as a provincial liquor industry lobbyist as executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., representing the interests of private liquor stores.

Haakstad had previously worked for Clark as her ministerial assistant when Clark was deputy premier, education minister and children and family development minister.

The weapons lobbyist

The exception to the rule of federal Liberal links is Clark's new principal secretary Dimitri Pantazopoulos, the former pollster for the federal Conservatives and their predecessors, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party, who ran a voter identification phone room in Vancouver for Clark's campaign.

But Pantazopoulos comes with some considerable controversy.

Until Oct. 2010, Pantazopoulos was a registered federal lobbyist for the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries [CADSI] -- the umbrella organization for makers of guns, bombs, armoured vehicles, fighter aircraft and other military equipment.

In a lobbying activity report filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, Pantazopoulos states his job was to:

"Convince the federal government to develop and implement a defence industrial policy for Canada and an implementing strategy.

"Modernizing Canada's defence procurement process including improved Industrial Regional Benefits and measures that would promote greater participation by Canadian industry in meeting the needs of the Canadian Forces.

"To improve the Industrial and Regional Benefits program so that Canada leverages defence procurements to maximum economic, trade and industrial value in key capability areas of economic and national security priority," Pantazopoulos wrote.

On its own website, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries says it "is the voice for the Canadian defence and security industries. The Association exists to strengthen the relationship and dialogue between government and our industries and to maximize the contribution the members can make to national defence and security."

"As the primary advocate for the defence and security industries, CADSI represents the interests of industry to governments, politicians, the media, special interest groups, opinion leaders and the public."

The pollster also drew unwanted attention when 24 Hours newspaper exclusively reported last month that a telephone interviewer working on the Clark campaign for Pantazopoulos' Ottawa-based Praxicus Public Strategies said he was terminated after complaining about the $9 an hour he was being paid -- less than the $10.25 an hour Ontario minimum wage.

Rich MacMillan said a supervisor told phoners that workplace changes were coming because "Dimitri our boss needs to feed his family" -- referring to Pantazopoulos, who hired MacMillan by email in December.

"Yeah, is Dimitri trying to feed them on $9 an hour?" MacMillan asked the supervisor in response.

But in an email, Pantazopoulos strongly rejected MacMillan's claims.

"Nobody has been terminated from this office for reasons related to disputes related to salary levels," Pantazopoulos wrote, adding that, "All decisions related to staffing are at the SOLE discretion of Praxicus and not the Christy Clark campaign."

Pantazopoulos was also the pollster for new right-wing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who defeated ex-Ontario Liberal deputy premier George Smitherman in the Oct. 2010 election and is now moving to privatize garbage collection and other city services.

And Pantazopoulos also polled for defeated right-wing Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien in the same election.  O'Brien was acquitted of influence-peddling charges in a high-profile case in 2009.

The message managers

This all may make communications more challenging than expected for two former media members now working as Clark's press secretary, ex-CTV television reporter Chris Olsen and assistant press secretary Rebecca Scott, an ex-CKNW Bill Good Show talk radio producer.

Ex-lobbyists for guns and liquor, legal issues and federal Liberal connections galore -- and they all work out of the premier's office.

Clark told BC Liberals that "change begins tonight" when she won the leadership contest Feb. 26.

The shape of that change is becoming clearer.


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Friday, March 18, 2011

Gordon Campbell speaks to right-wing Fraser Institute - introduced by ex-Ontario Conservative Premier Mike Harris - June 15

Gordon Campbell applauds Fraser Institute too!
Well that didn't take long to organize!

Former Premier Gordon Campbell will preach to the converted at the right-wing Fraser Institute think tank on Wednesday June 15 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.

And who's introducing the ex-BC Liberal premier?  Controversial former Ontario Conservative Premier Mike Harris.

Why Campbell?  Because of his - and I'm not kidding on the language here - "efforts to right BC's economic ship" earned him top ranking in the Fraser Institute's study of Canadian premiers!

Never mind that GDP economic growth under Campbell's terms was actually a full point less than under the "dismal decade" of the previous NDP administrations - 3% growth under the NDP, 2% under the BC Liberals.

Never mind the HST or the carbon tax or huge increases in the Medical Services Premiums - those are taxes paid by the little people - Campbell cut corporate taxes and personal income taxes for the wealthy!  And at the Fraser Institute, that's what it takes to be honoured.

Here's the full notice:

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Gordon Campbell and the Return of Prosperity to British Columbia

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

In 2001, Gordon Campbell was elected premier of B.C., coming to power following years of interventionist, economic policies enacted by successive NDP governments. Premier Campbell immediately set about reducing personal and business income taxes, decreasing the size of government, and reducing red tape and regulations.

The result was nothing short of remarkable as the province experienced a dramatic reversal of economic fortunes. B.C. went from having the lowest per person GDP growth among the provinces between 1990 and 2000 to being one of the fastest-growing economies before the world-wide recession in 2008.


Campbell’s efforts to right BC’s economic ship earned him the top ranking in the Fraser Institute 2010 study, Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada’s Premiers, a comparison of the economic policies of 10 Canadian premiers.

Join us for a discussion with former premier Gordon Campbell and hear how he restored B.C. to economic prosperity and what other governments can learn from his efforts to reduce taxes and eliminate debt.

Cost:

Individual Ticket: $139.00 + HST
Table of 10: $1390.00 + HST
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gordon Campbell's Revenge? How Campbell came to Colin Hansen's rescue - and put Christy Clark at risk

Partners in thwarting Christy Clark in Vancouver-Point Grey?
Gordon Campbell's Revenge to rescue Colin Hansen - may cost Christy Clark dearly in Vancouver-Point Grey

Former Premier Gordon Campbell resigned as Member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Point Grey on March 15.

As of this evening, new Premier Christy Clark, who lacks a seat in the BC Legislature, has not announced she is running to replace Campbell as his old riding's MLA.

Why?

The answer is clear - Campbell quit without consulation with Clark on the timing to jam her into running in Vancouver-Point Grey so that his good friend and loyal soldier Colin Hansen would be rescued from intense Clark pressure to give up his much safer seat in Vancouver-Quilchena.

Call it Campbell's Revenge, for he has never forgiven Clark for quitting his cabinet back in 2004 or her ongoing criticism of his government.

Now it's time for sweet revenge!

And Campbell can undo at least a small part of the damage he inflicted on Hansen when he made the former finance minister the fall guy for the Harmonized Sales Tax. 

That fiasco ensured that Hansen could never succeed Campbell as premier  - so he owes him bigtime.

A full examination of the situation makes it clear that Campbell's actions have become Clark's first significant challenge, because he is attempting to force her hand on Vancouver-Point Grey.

As exclusively reported on this blog, the BC Liberals hired Innovative Research Group to poll extensively in Vancouver-Point Grey - significant because Clark's own Chief of Staff Mike McDonald was with Innovative until Monday's swearing in.

Significant again because Innovative's owner is Greg Lyle, who managed the BC Liberals 1996 campaign for Campbell.

That polling listing possible BC NDP candidates who might face Clark, including Vancouver Board of Education chair Patti Bacchus of Vision Vancouver and myself - and to be clear again I'm not running.

Hansen himself has been extremely outspoken about not giving up his seat for Clark - even Tweeting that he would not step down when early rumours flew long before the cabinet swearing-in that showed he was out.

Since then Hansen has been a dutiful and positive Clark backbencher - saying all the right things - except that he won't be offering her his riding.

Anyone with a political background can now see the obvious:

a) The BC Liberal polling in Vancouver-Point Grey that took place earlier in March has clearly been completed;

b) Gordon Campbell resigned as MLA after those polling results were received;

c) Christy Clark has not announced her intention of running in Vancouver-Point Grey despite it being "vacant" for two days and despite saying getting a seat in the Legislature is her priority and despite saying she wants to be in the Legislature before the June 24 HST referendum takes place;

d) Colin Hansen has repeatedly stated he will continue as Vancouver-Quilchena MLA;

e) Clark has a potentially large problem - and even if another MLA in a safer riding offers up her or his seat to Clark, it will look like she chickened out of Vancouver-Point Grey

f) Or .....Clark is planning on sending BC to a full provincial election before the 6-month deadline under the BC Constitution Act on calling a Vancouver-Point Grey by-election expires.

That last point means we could have a provincial election call by September 15 - and that strikes me as entirely possible.

For those who say the BC Liberals have already regained party unity - think again!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Defence ordered by BC Supreme Court to return all Basi-Virk disclosed evidence to police for destruction


David Basi & lawyer Michael Bolton outside BC Supreme Court

Defence lawyers ordered by BC Supreme Court to return Basi-Virk evidence for destruction

By BILL TIELEMAN

More than one million pages of Crown evidence disclosed to defence lawyers for convicted former B.C. government ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk has been ordered returned to police for destruction.

Basi and Virk had been attempting to retain the evidence related to their disclosing confidential government documents before the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 to lobbyists for a losing bidder.

UPDATE - JUDGEMENT NOW RELEASED SEE LINK - But Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie ruled in a decision released Tuesday that documents disclosed – including RCMP files, B.C. Liberal MLA emails and cabinet meeting information – must be returned by defence lawyers to police or the Special Prosecutor for destruction.

Basi’s lawyer Michael Bolton said in an interview with 24 hours Tuesday afternoon that the public will likely never now see the evidence in a political corruption case that exploded with an unprecedented raid on the B.C. Legislature on December 28, 2003.

“I think it forecloses any public disclosure of these documents, short of an application to the judge,” Bolton said.

When asked if he and his client will turn over the documents, Bolton answered: “Absolutely – everyone must comply with the order.”

But Bolton said if a public inquiry were to be called by the government, the material would be made available to a Commissioner.

“If there were a public inquiry that would be a different ball game,” he said. Bolton added that no one, including media outlets, was restricted for applying to obtain the evidence disclosed to the defence.

B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark has to date rejected all calls for such an inquiry.

In an exclusive interview with 24 hours in November, 2010 Superintendent Kevin deBruyckere said allegations by a Basi supporter that the RCMP wanted to get back information disclosed in order to make it disappear were false.


“It’s nonsense. It’s just ridiculous,” de Bruyckere said at the time. “The Crown discloses material and at the end of the trial recovers that material.”


“There’s lots of material given through disclosure to these guys that they have no right to have,” he said.


In the November interview deBruyckere said that if a public inquiry was called the government and police documents will still be available.


“The disclosure material stays on our file for the legislated retention period, which in this case is at least 10 to 12 years, before any consideration is given to destruction of records,” he said.


Bolton said Tuesday that he can “only go by what police have said previously” about retaining the evidence for an inquiry.


Basi and Virk made surprise guilty please in October, 2010 to breach of trust and fraud for giving lobbyists confidential government documents on the sale in exchange for money and other benefits.  They received sentences of two years less a day house arrest and the Crown declined to demand the repayment of $6 million in legal fees paid to their lawyer over the multi-year pre-trial hearings and trial, which was cancelled after hearing from only two witnesses.

Thousands of pages of police interviews, intercepted phone calls and other evidence detail Basi and Virk’s efforts but RCMP investigators say no elected officials were involved.

However, some of the documents raise significant questions about whether there was a cabinet leak to lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran, who both became Crown witnesses and were never charged by police.  The defence theory alleged that a cabinet minister may have provided information separate from documents Basi and Virk admitted passing on to lobbyists.

A version of this story was prepared for 24 hours Vancouver newspaper online.
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Christy Clark BC Liberal cabinet tests federal Conservative loyalty - will BC Conservative Party benefit?

Christy Clark after leadership win surrounded by many now ex-cabinet ministers, including Kevin Krueger & Murray Coell on right.
Will Christy Clark's cabinet cast-offs leave for another party? BC Conservatives are hoping

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee columnTuesday March 15, 2011 

By Bill Tieleman

"There were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of ministers: one sort that folds up instantly, the other sort goes round and round in circles."

- "Bernard Woolley" in Yes Minister TV series

Premier Christy Clark put her own face on the 11-year-old BC Liberal government -- and her foot on the throats of many veteran cabinet ministers.

Clark and her new cabinet were sworn in Monday afternoon -- and the new premier was likely sworn at privately by enough ex-ministers to populate a sizeable government committee.

And then there are all those who didn't get from the backbench into her downsized 18-member cabinet.

The big question now is whether angry BC Liberal MLAs who are left out decide to leave caucus and join the BC Conservative Party or some other political entity, retire or just grumble.

Heading the list: ex-finance minister Colin Hansen -- paying for helping former premier Gordon Campbell impose the HST -- or for his last-minute endorsement of losing leadership candidate Kevin Falcon, now finance minister and deputy premier.

Clark would dearly love Hansen to resign and let her take over his Vancouver-Quilchena seat -- one of the BC Liberals' safest.

Others who take a huge pay cut for being exiled from cabinet and could cause trouble include Moira Stilwell, who ran for leader before dropping out to support not Clark but George Abbott.

Big mistake -- big price.

And it can't be easy for Margaret MacDiarmid, Murray Coell, Iain Black, Kevin Krueger, Ben Stewart, John Yap and Randy Hawes to go from ministers to minions with no likelihood of returning to cabinet ranks so long as Clark remains leader.

Some of the departed become "parliamentary secretaries" for a little extra scratch but they won't be at the big table making key decisions or running ministries.

It can't make them any happier to see Blair Lekstrom, who quit not just cabinet but caucus over his riding's opposition to the Harmonized Sales Tax, now rewarded by becoming transportation minister.

Hidden tensions

While Clark and her supporters will put the perpetual happy face smile on her new government, seething tensions remain barely hidden.

In addition to the resentment of those left out, the dominant internal BC Liberal Party debate is whether Clark and her staff choices have shifted the so-called "free enterprise" coalition too far in favour of federal Liberals and against federal Conservatives.

Prominent federal Conservative John Reynolds warned before the leadership vote that Clark would split the coalition. The Falcon supporter and long-time Conservative MP says now he'll give Clark a chance -- but don't count on it lasting long.

Respected Conservative MP John Cummins is retiring to either run for BC Conservative Party leader or otherwise assist the party in the next election -- not good news for Clark. She fears a right-of-centre split vote that could let the New Democrats under their own new leader win the next election.

But many B.C. voters will not accept a federal Liberal premier, staffed by former federal Liberal candidates and supporters, implementing a federal Liberal-style agenda -- including a carbon tax and HST.

With prominent long-time federal Liberal Party activists like her own chief of staff Mike McDonald and deputy chief of staff operations Kim Haakstad, among others, the federal Conservative side of the coalition is going to be nervous to downright hostile towards Clark's team.

"Our government recognizes that it is time for a change," Clark said Monday.

What shape that change takes is up to voters, not Clark, however -- and change is never predictable in B.C. politics.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

"I see dead cabinet people" - Christy Clark cabinet will leave some BC Liberal veterans in political coffin this afternoon

BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen - pushed out of cabinet this afternoon? 
Expect a lot of unhappy faces in the BC Liberal caucus this afternoon when Premier Christy Clark is sworn in with her new cabinet.

You don't need sixth sense to see dead cabinet people - but will they turn into zombies and attack their former government?

Cabinet ministers like Colin Hansen, Moira Stilwell, Kevin Krueger,  Iain Black, Shirley Bond, Murray Coell, Margaret MacDiarmid, Ida Chong, Randy Hawes, Steve Thomson, Naomi Yamamoto, Ben Stewart and John Yap are at best playing lifeboat with very few, if any, seats left.

Will any of them openly complain?  Rebel?  Retire? Join the BC Conservative Party?

[NOTE: to regular BC Liberal readers - time to rush off and post comments here or on Twitter about my role "promoting" the BC Conservatives!]

In early cabinet horserace predictions I suggested Blair Lekstrom and Terry Lake could be in the CCC - that seems even more likely now.

But the real question is whether the swearing-in show starting at 1 p.m. in Victoria is capped by fireworks in the evening, with big egos blowing up spectacularly as their cabinet flames go out.

UPDATE #1 - Moira Stilwell looking grave.  Public Eye Online's Sean Holman reports that cabinet rigor mortis starting to set in for the former BC Liberal leadership candidate who dropped out to support George Abbott, not Christy.  The Globe's Gary Mason saying same on Twitter - and now online at his paper, while the Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer on Twitter saying it's Clark's second major error - first being no inquiry into Basi-Virk $6 million defence payment.

UPDATE #2 - CABINET SWEARING IN - Hansen, Stilwell, Kevin Krueger, Murray Coell, Margaret MacDiarmid, John Yap, Randy Hawes all join the ranks of the BC Liberal backbench.  Seriously - it is tough to be demoted, especially in public like this.

Full cabinet appointments, with parliamentary secretaries and committees plus responsibilities at: http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2011PREM0018-000255.htm#

Here's the rundown for cabinet:

The new cabinet appointed and sworn into office by the Lieutenant-Governor in a ceremony today is:


· Premier – Hon. Christy Clark
· Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance – Hon. Kevin Falcon
· Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation – Hon. Mary Polak
· Minister of Advanced Education – Hon. Naomi Yamamoto
· Minister of Agriculture – Hon. Don McRae
· Attorney General – Hon. Barry Penner
· Minister of Children and Family Development – Hon. Mary McNeil
· Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development – Hon. Ida Chong
· Minister of Education – Hon. George Abbott
· Minister of Energy and Mines (minister responsible for Housing) – Hon. Rich Coleman
· Minister of Environment – Hon. Terry Lake
· Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations – Hon. Steve Thomson
· Minister of Health – Hon. Michael de Jong
· Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation – Hon. Pat Bell
· Minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government – Hon. Stephanie Cadieux
· Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General – Hon. Shirley Bond
· Minister of Social Development (minister responsible for multiculturalism) – Hon. Harry Bloy
· Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure – Hon. Blair Lekstrom

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

BC Conservative Party front bench takes shape with Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl & John Cummins all bailing out of federal Conservatives in next election!


John Cummins

Stockwell Day

Chuck Strahl
The BC Conservative Party got a huge potential boost today with Prime Minister Stephen Harper announcing that cabinet ministers Stockwell Day and Chuck Strahl and MP John Cummins were all leaving federal politics and will not seek re-election.

The BC Conservatives are seeking a new leader and any one of those three would give it instant credibility - and appeal to those who don't want to salute Premier-Designate Christy Clark and her increasingly federally Liberalized BC Liberal Party.

Having any of the three running in the next provincial election would also be a significant achievement - and scare the devil out of the BC Liberals, who of course fear any even slight split in their federal Conservative/federal Liberal coalition that could help the BC NDP win, as similar right-wing splits did in 1972, 1991 and 1996.

But the timing may be coincidental and not the jolt in the arm the provincial Tories hope for - federal election fever has a way of sorting out those running again from those who aren't.

Nonetheless, it can't be making Clark and her top advisors too comfortable - and if the BC Conservatives were lucky enough to get all three senior federal cousins to join up, it would be a stunning development in BC politics.

They would be teaming up with old MP colleagues from the Reform Party and Canadian Alliance however, including BC Conservative supporters Randy White, Darryl Stinson, Jim Hart, Andy Burton and Reed Elley.

There's also former BC Premier Rita Johnston and former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford on board at the BC Conservatives as advisors.

Here is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statement today:

"STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER


Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement regarding Chuck Strahl, Stockwell Day and John Cummins not seeking re-election:

“I would like to thank Ministers Chuck Strahl and Stockwell Day, as well as Member of Parliament, John Cummins for their extraordinary dedication to public service throughout the years. I look forward to working with them in the best interest of Canada until the end of their mandate.

"They have served Canadians and their constituents with distinction.

“Stockwell has an outstanding record of achievement throughout his time in Parliament. Since his debut in public service in 1986, as a Member in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Stockwell’s leadership has inspired all of us.
From his role as Leader of the Official Opposition in 2000, to his success in several ministerial positions, Stockwell is respected and admired by all of his colleagues, his constituents and Canadians across the country.

“Since first elected to Parliament in 1993, Chuck has tackled each of his roles with passion and enthusiasm, and with tremendous achievement. Throughout his various ministerial positions, Chuck has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Canadians.

“John has been a dedicated member of Parliament since 1993. Throughout this time, he has made an important contribution to Parliament, to our party and, in the last five years, our Government. He has earned enormous respect for his work on behalf of his constituents and all Canadians.

“I am both honoured and grateful to have worked with Stockwell, Chuck and John.

“Laureen joins me in expressing our gratitude, and wishing them and their families the very best in their future endeavours.”
 
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Innovative Research Group - Greg Lyle's firm - polling for BC Liberals in Vancouver-Point Grey by-election test

Firm that employs Christy Clark's new Chief of Staff Mike McDonald and owned by Greg Lyle - Gordon Campbell's former Campaign Manager - is testing the waters for Premier-Designate to run in by-election

EXCLUSIVE

By Bill Tieleman

Innovative Research Group - the public opinion firm owned by former Gordon Campbell election campaign manager Greg Lyle - is polling for the BC Liberal Party in Vancouver-Point Grey to see if Christy Clark could win a by-election there.

Greg Lyle

One of the people polled last week contacted me and provided a telephone number associated with Innovative - or more precisely with Selective Field Services, a separate telephone fielding firm also owned by Lyle.

In a telephone interview tonight from Toronto, Lyle declined to confirm or deny the identity of his client but said McDonald is a principal of Innovative and will continue working for the firm owned by Lyle and his wife until McDonald takes up his new job with Clark on Monday.  McDonald has worked with Innovative since 2005.

My source confirmed information that the Vancouver Sun's Janet Steffenhagen first reported on her blog - that polling was taking place in Vancouver-Point Grey and called me because I was listed as a possible NDP candidate there, along with Vision Vancouver's Patti Bacchus - Chair of the Vancouve Board of Education.

According to my source, the poll tested both my and Bacchus' recognition before asking first if the respondent would vote for either of us without identifying any party affiliation, then again asking but with each of us described if we were "the NDP candidate" against BC Liberal leader Christy Clark.

My source believed a third potential NDP candidate name was also tested but could not remember it.

The poll also asks respondents how they feel about the Harmonized Sales Tax, whether Christy Clark's leadership would increase the likelihood of voting BC Liberal, whether the government was headed in the right or wrong direction and if the government should be defeated.

Perhaps the most interesting question though was this one that Steffenhagen reported:  "Did it matter if Christy Clark sent her son to a Catholic School?"  

Her son Hamish - whose father is Clark's ex-husband Mark Marissen, a longtime federal Liberal Party strategist who also worked on Clark's successful leadership campaign - was prominently featured as a hockey goalie in media opportunities after her win but I do not believe his schooling has been discussed publicly.  

Bacchus has all but ruled out a run, while former Vancouver-Point Grey candidate in 2005 and 2009 - community activist Mel Lehan - has said he would consider a by-election nomination.

As has previously been reported elsewhere, I will not be a candidate for the NDP in the riding, though as I told the Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith, it would be fun to ask Clark all the questions about the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case that she has avoided or dodged throughout the BC Liberal leadership race. 

Lyle was Campbell's campaign manager in the losing 1996 provincial election against the NDP's Glen Clark.  Lyle also was chief of staff to former Manitoba Conservative Premier Gary Filmon.

McDonald has previously been BC Liberal Caucus Communications Director and a federal Liberal Party of Canada activist.  His estranged wife Jessica McDonald was Deputy Minister to Campbell from 2005 to 2009.

Lyle said in an interview that another poll conducted by Innovative Research first reported by Public Eye's Sean Holman was conducted for the firm's syndicated subscribers, not Clark or the BC Liberal Party. That poll nonetheless asks a lot of questions that the BC Liberals would want answered, like:

"Which of the following statements regarding the policies and programs of the BC Liberal party comes closest to your own view? Please select one response only.


* Their policies and programs are working well and need no change OR


* Their policies and programs are working OK but need minor changes OR


* Their policies and programs are not working well and need major changes OR


* Their policies and programs are fundamentally wrong and should be reversed.


* Don't know."








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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Federal Liberal Party to Christy Clark's rescue! Premier-Designate applies LP-osuction to BC government

Paul Martin approves Christy Clark's federal Liberalization of Victoria!  - Photo by Remy Steinegger

Former federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion in the old days - like when he used to visit Christy & Mark's house - meaduva photo
Well that didn't take long!

Premier-Designate Christy Clark has begun the process of Federal Liberalizing her new government at all levels.

Notwithstanding the use of arch-Conservative Gwyn Morgan on her Transition Team to premier for at least optics, Clark is already stacking the deck with federal Liberal operatives.

Her campaign featured a host of Paul Martin-ite and Stephane Dion-ite operatives, including  FD Element's Don Millar, federal Liberal Party spokesman Brad Zubyk, an ex-Harcourt NDP government aide, and of course Campaign Manager and now Chief of Staff Mike McDonald, who backed ex-NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership race.

And of course hidden in the backroom was her brother Bruce Clark - a longtime federal Liberal bagman and LPC BC executive member best known for the December 2003 police search of his home to find confidential BC government documents on BC Rail given to him by convicted fraudsters David Basi and Bob Virk.  That would be the BC Legislature Raid case of course.

But now the more serious work begins - transforming government into a more palatable federal Liberal look - call it LP-osuction - removing the undesirable BC Liberal & federal Conservative love handles and replacing them with more attractive Grits.

First step - make the Premier's Deputy Minister non-Seckelular - by whacking Allan Seckel, who clearly did not want to go willingly - and replacing him with Kevin Falcon's ex-DM John Dyble.  [Dyble and Seckel are, of course, public servants and not partisan, but the deck must be cleared.]

However, another public servant with a decidedly past partisan Liberal bent is involved.

Now we learn exclusively from Public Eye's Sean Holman that John Bethel, a former federal Liberal candidate and ex-Alberta LPC VP who backed the Paul Martin takeover from Jean Chretien that Clark's ex-husband and recent leadership campaign strategist Mark Marissen was engineering in BC, is also on the Transition Team.

Bethel is BC's health services assistant deputy minister and backed Liberal MP Scott Brison's failed 2006 leadership bid against Dion.

Today also we discover that Ron Norman has been fired by Clark as head of the Public Affairs Bureau - and rumours abound that federal Liberal Michele Cardario - now at Canuck Place Children's Hospice but formerly Deputy Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Paul Martin - will take over that job.  Cadario also was involved in BC for the LPC in 2006 doing contract work.

Could a Paul Martin Liberal be in charge of the vaunted PAB propaganda machine?  And I wonder if federal Conservatives are starting to get the message!

UPDATE - Michele Cardario will NOT be taking over PAB, the Suns TV/24 hour's Jehnifer Benoit reports.  Will Cardario show up somewhere else?

UPDATE 2 - The Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer says rumours have a third senior Gordon Campbell bureaucrat - Deputy Minister of Finance Graham Whitmarsh - headed for the plank.

Whitmarsh could take the fall for the bad news - for Clark - that the alleged $1 billion "wiggle room" Finance Minister Colin Hansen claimed the new premier would have last month in the budget has actually disappeared, as The Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter reports.

Ron Norman's firing is being met with widespread disbelief amongst Victoria press gallery members, with both Palmer calling it a "bad decision" and Global TV's Keith Baldrey calling it a "big mistake" on Twitter Thursday.

Was Norman held responsible for the most disastrous public relations campaign in BC history?  That would be for the hated Harmonized Sales Tax - but the only person who was really to blame was Premier Gordon Campbell.

Monday's cabinet appointment day is shaping up to look more like regime change than a shuffle!

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