Thursday, July 17, 2008

BC Liberal cabinet accused of attempting "secrecy package" in wide-ranging publication ban on BC Rail documents in Basi-Virk case

Media lawyer attacks province for attempting to impose “secrecy package” on BC Legislature raid case

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist

A veteran media lawyer attacked the provincial cabinet for attempting to impose what he called a “secrecy package” publication ban in the case of three ex-B.C. Liberal government aides facing corruption charges connected with the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail.

“This is a case that cries out for transparency and the maximum degree of public scrutiny,” Roger McConchie, representing CTV and the Globe and Mail newspaper, told Justice Elizabeth Bennett.

“This application and this order is a secrecy package,” he said of attempts by government lawyer George Copley to keep B.C. Rail documents protected by solicitor-client privilege from being made public even though they will be made available for possible use by defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.

“What the provincial cabinet is asking this court to do is create a new category of solicitor-client privilege,” McConchie.

But Copley earlier argued that: “Solicitor-client privilege must be kept as close to absolute as possible.”

"We ask the court that solicitor-client privilege contiue to have full force and effect," Copley said, unless Bennett rules otherwise at a future date when the trial commences.

"Essentially the media are seeking to intervene on an issue between defence counsel and the Executive Council," Copley said, referring to official terminology for the provincial cabinet.

Defence lawyers for the accused reached an agreement with Copley that will allow them access to about 90 B.C. Rail documents the government claims are exempt from disclosure due to solicitor-client privilege.

Copley's motion would have the documents seen only by three defence lawyers without their contents being divulged to anyone else. Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton previously told the court that three of the documents are likely of crucial importance to defending his client.

In court Thursday Bolton, Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough and Aneal Basi's lawyer Joe Doyle all agree with Copley's proposed order.

The pre-trial hearing continues Friday with more media arguments against a publicity ban from McConchie and Ludmila Herbst, a lawyer representing the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers and Global television.

NOTE: A version of this story will be published in 24 hours newspaper on Friday July 18


Anonymous said...

If the deal is so great for taxpayers, why not be transparent?

Anonymous said...

Just like Bush and Harper, Campbell and his cabinet feel they are above the law and can bluff and ignore and go unchecked, What has our govermnment and democracy come to? Time for us to stand up and be counted!

Anonymous said...

When the mainsteam media gets going they have some clout, money to argue for openess. You might remember Godo talked about oppeness then did exactly opposite. My God, next thing that will be secret is the laundry bills.
Remember when the non lobbyist Doebell bragged about shredding emails, Openess in the Campbell government doen't exist

Anonymous said...

The "mainstream media" ($$$) in BC might as well be running the communications directorate for the premier's office.

These universe class butt-kissers prove that very little free-media exists in BC.

But what can you expect from boys & girls who go fishing and boozing with Premier Norman Bates.


Anonymous said...

I am so disappointed in Gordon Campbell and afraid the NDP will win the next election on a protest vote.
That's how NDP Dave Barret got elected in 1972. No one expected him to win, not even the NDP. Everyone was mad at old Bill Bennet. Not long after signs went up on front lawns everywhere "God forgive me. I voted NDP" We were sorry. And you know what? I don't remember what we were mad about.

Are Liberals like lemmings? Do they have a political death wish?

First the carbon tax and now this. Ohhh Gordon, please wake up and listen to PM Harper for your and our sake. Don't 'screw' us!

Budd Campbell said...

There's an article today in the National Post, of all places, saying that scandals including Basi-Virk have people in BC wondering if the BC Liberals have been in power too long.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:45. Dave Barrett won the election by beating WAC Bennet. WAC's son came on the scene later and brought in a restraint program that hurt many people.70,000 people marching around Vancouver should have told him something. Bill ended up being charged with Inside Trading. Make your choices carefully. Right now the Premier is famous for breaking legal contracts, writing legislation that got turned over by the Supreme Court of Canada, closed hospitals, court houses, raised medical plan premiums, lowered access to assorted medical servises. Almost forgot, produced the largest defecit in BC history,after lying that the precious government had not balanced their last two budgets. Now it apeears to have done some possibly illegal thinga around selling BC Rail, athough they claim it's just a 900 year rental. Te police raid on the Legislature is unique in Canada and possibly the Commonwealth. Has been chasitized repeatedly by the ILO as well. He did many other things but if you can'r understand why people are mad at this government, so be it.

Anonymous said...

Our famously Open Government doesn't care if defence lawyers see "secret" documents as long as they don't get out to the public. Add that to the spurious demand that a "secret" witness testify in the Basi-Virk trial without even defence lawyers present--causing a year or two delay as this unprecedented request goes to the Supreme Court of Canada. Anything to keep this from the puhlic until after the next election.