Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fire Solicitor-General John Les over BC Lottery fiasco, Attorney-General Wally Oppal for not appealing DePatie killer sentence reduction

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday June 5, 2007

Les, Oppal must go


Society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.

- U.S. President John Adams, 1735-1826

Premier Gordon Campbell has some unfinished business leftover from the end of the spring legislative session - firing Solicitor-General John Les and Attorney-General Wally Oppal.

Les presided over a national embarrassment - the B.C. Lotteries Corporation fiasco, where "lucky" retailers may have cheated customers out of millions.

Les assured the public in December there were no problems like those documented in Ontario, an assurance that Ombudsman Kim Carter proved in last week's report on BCLC was absolutely incorrect. BCLC's $442,000 a year CEO Vic Poleschuk was fired Friday but Les is also responsible.

Oppal refused to appeal the sentence reduction of Darnell Pratt, who killed gas station attendant Grant DePatie in a horrible 2005 dragging death. But Oppal ordered an appeal in another sentencing.

Both cabinet ministers have proven their incompetence and failed the public.

Les had every warning imaginable about trouble at BC Lotteries, a crown corporation with annual revenue of $2 billion and income to the government of nearly $1 billion.

After CBC TV's The Fifth Estate detailed how Ontario lottery winners were ripped off by unscrupulous retailers, Les ordered B.C.'s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch to investigate.

Not a problem, the Branch and Les said. They were dead wrong but then again Les and the B.C. Liberals had actually cut Branch funding for three years.

Why? Cheating lottery dealers don't cost the government a dime. The total prize payout doesn't change even if players get ripped off.

But increased enforcement, checking suspiciously lucky retailers and tighter regulations? Well, hey, that reduces government revenue!

And if dirty dealers got jailed the public might get nervous about placing their bets! What those suckers don't know won't hurt us, seems to have been the attitude.

Les must be turfed, as well as BCLC chair John McLernon, who also should have been protecting the public, not his staff.

Then there's Oppal, who in 2006 ordered a sentence appeal in a drunk driving case. "We just think the sentence in this particular case is contrary to the law. We must be accountable to the public," he said then.

But now he won't appeal Pratt's sentence reduction from nine years to seven, which means DePatie's killer is eligible for parole this year. Unacceptable.

When Children and Families Minister Gordon Hogg resigned in 2004 after an independent audit was ordered over the Doug Walls affair, Campbell praised Hogg for accepting ministerial responsibility.

"In this case we have a minister putting the integrity of public institutions ahead of his political ambitions. I am very proud of him for that." Campbell said.

Where's the integrity today?


Anonymous said...

Integrity is not a word in the vocabulary of Gordon Campbell or his government. If it were, he would have resigned after his DUI. Power at all costs, lie to the voters to stay in power, set up friends with cushy jobs, cut funding, sounds almost like the federal Liberals. Oh right - they do work hand in hand don't they.

Budd Campbell said...

I am not a lawyer so I don't know all the legal principles involved in the Pratt case. I do know that even the original nine year sentence was shockingly low, a brazen example of Canadian ineffectualism, for the kind of unexampled, barbaric cruelty that Pratt committed, even after taking into account his youth and upbringing.

Perhaps the lawyers in the Attorney General's Dept believed there was no possibility of a successful appeal based on the nature of the ruling and abandoned it as hopeless, not because they didn't want to appeal this unanimous ruling, but because they had reason to believe it would be a waste of time and money, that the Supreme Court would not even hear the matter. If that's so, we should be told this in a full and detailed statement by the Attorney General.

I think it's worth remembering that of the three BC Appeal Court judges who reduced Pratt's sentence, two were appointed during the Chretien era, but one was appointed by the Harper government.

Anonymous said...

Campbell did set the standard with his refusal to resign afer his DUI. Look at the mayor of PortCo. Unbelievable this guy will not step down. Anything goes nowadays. No integrity required.

As for firing Oppal, wont happen. IMO, Wally has been one of the best puppets Campbell has ever had.

Budd Campbell said...

The lawyers in the Attorney General's Ministry are now saying they did not appeal because the Supreme Court of Canada will not hear appeals of sentence alterations by provincial Appeals courts.

NDP Critic Mike Farnworth is, in effect, saying that the Attorney General should have over-ruled his officials and appealed anyway. But if the Supreme Court would simply say, "We won't hear this", what's the point of raising hopes and spending perhaps several thousand dollars on a cause that isn't going anywhere.

I repeat, I am not a lawyer and don't know the territory, so I am relying on what was said by an Att-Gen Ministry official as quoted in a news story.