Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bill Tieleman debates STV with Bruce Hallsor - Sunday at 4 p.m. on Voice of BC on Shaw Cable


As president of No STV I debate Bruce Hallsor - co-chair of British Columbians for BC STV on Voice of BC with host Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun on Shaw Cable on Sunday May 3 at 4 p.m. on Channel 4 in Metro Vancouver.

The show also aired in Metro Vancouver on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Check local listings in other areas - but do tune in!


BASI-VIRK - Patrick Kinsella's lawyer, defence fight in court over BC Rail allegations

Sparks fly in court between lawyers for Patrick Kinsella, Basi-Virk defence over BC Rail sale allegations

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours

A version of this story will be published in 24 hours on Friday May 1, 2009

Sparks flew Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court between a lawyer for B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella and defence lawyers for two ex-B.C. Liberal government aides facing corruption charges over Kinsella’s alleged role in the 2003 sale of B.C. Rail.

Kinsella’s lawyer James Sullivan attacked Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Bob Virk, over allegations about the 2001 and 2005 B.C. Liberal campaign co-chair’s role in the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail.

“Mr. McCullough tends to let his imagination run wild and make spurious and unfounded allegations,” Sullivan told Justice Elizabeth Bennett, referring to defence claims in court that Kinsella may have been working for CN Rail as well as B.C. Rail, which paid him $297,000 for “business advice”.

McCullough shot back: “What he has said is wrong and offensive.”

Sullivan has demanded an apology to Kinsella from the New Democratic Party for repeating the allegations, saying his client never met or spoke to Premier Gordon Campbell or his staff about the B.C. Rail sale. NDP leader Carole James refuses to retract the statements.

Bennett also rejected defence allegations that Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel had “interfered” in the prosecution.

“There’s not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Seckel has acted improperly,” Bennett said in an oral ruling.

Michael Bolton, lawyer for David Basi, said Kinsella will likely be a witness in the trial.

And McCullough raised concerns about who has seen transcripts of the pre-trial hearings obtained by Sullivan through a transcript company, saying potential witnesses are not supposed to see them.

“It’s a very serious issue. These transcripts were out when they ought not to have been,” McCullough said.

UPDATE May 5, 2009

I would like to clarify some points made in this earlier story.
It should be made clear that the error in providing transcripts to Patrick Kinsella's legal counsel, James Sullivan, was made by the transcribing company.

Justice Bennett had previously issued a Court Direction that transcripts of pre-trial hearings were not to be released without her permission.

Sullivan was unaware of the Court Direction and was not informed by the transcribing company when the order was placed. After learning of the Court Direction on April 27, Sullivan wrote to Justice Bennett requesting her views on how to deal with the situation.

At the court session April 30 Justice Bennett agreed with Sullivan's submission that there was no way he could have known about the Court Direction and agreed he could keep the transcripts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reject Single Transferable Vote in May 12 BC referendum

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday April 28, 2009

Just say 'no'


STV would not provide universally fair proportional representation for all BC voters. It would lead to more adversarial politics and it also could have unknown consequences in the parts of BC, particularly our cities, with large ethnic minorities.

- Colleen McCrory, late B.C. Green Party Chair, 2004

The Single Transferable Vote electoral system is the most radical issue in the May 12 provincial election but doesn’t come from either the B.C. Liberals or the New Democrats.

And although the B.C. Green Party adamantly opposed it until the 2005 referendum – remember then-leader Adriane Carr’s tears when the Citizens Assembly recommended STV? – the Greens then flip-flopped and supported it.

I fought STV in the 2005 referendum and this time I am president of No STV, the official opponent group which has received provincial government funding, working with B.C. Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and others to stop STV.

So you could therefore dismiss what I have to say – but consider the powerful arguments for rejecting STV.

STV would create enormous ridings of up to seven MLAs and 350,000 people that would take away local accountability and responsibility of MLAs to voters.

British Columbia’s 85 single member ridings would be reduced to just 20 under STV, meaning instead of having your own MLA in your riding, you would have up to seven MLAs in a much bigger area.

Kamloops, for example, would be part of a giant electoral area stretching from Quesnel to the U.S. border and would have five MLAs for that region – yet none would be responsible to any particular part of the riding!

And STV’s complicated “fractionalizing” or chopping up your vote using a mathematical “transfer value” formula means you will never know where your vote really went.

Even the Citizens Assembly explanation of the “weighted inclusive Gregory method” of calculating votes is mind-numbing:

“There are three variations of the Gregory method which differ as to the definition of ‘relevant votes’ for calculating the transfer value. Gregory’s original suggestion was that only the ballots that last contributed to the creation of the surplus votes should be counted (the Gregory last parcel method). “

“Some Australian elections use a second method, the Inclusive Gregory method, where relevant votes are defined as all the votes that contributed to a candidate’s surplus.”

“The BC-STV system recommended by the Citizen’s Assembly uses the Weighted Inclusive Gregory method under which all votes are counted and assigned to other candidates still in the count according to the voters’ preferences, but the ballots are given separate transfer values depending on their origin (that is, whether they are first preferences, or transfers from one or more other candidates).”

Glad we figured that part out!

And STV will actually increase, not decrease, the power of political parties.

Candidates in large STV ridings have to reach far more voters – Vancouver West would have six MLAs, Vancouver East five – so they will be even more dependent on the party to get their names and message out.

Party nominations would be more like wrestling matches than an exercise in democracy, with thousands of members trying to do deals with each other to get nominated. And that would continue in the election, as can be seen in Irish elections under STV.

Any smaller third parties or independents would have a horrendous challenge trying to reach up to 350,000 voters compared to the average single member riding size of 50,000.

Imagine just the cost of sending out one simply leaflet to 350,000 voters in the Capital Region riding around Victoria – an area stretching all the way from Port Renfrew through downtown Victoria, Saanich and Esquimalt up to the bottom of the Cowichan Valley.

STV proponents will claim candidates can “target” far less than the maximum number of voters to get elected – but how? Failing to ask all voters in the giant riding for their support would be a guarantee of not winning their confidence.

And that’s one reason why in Malta under STV no third party has been elected since the 1960s and no independent since the 1950s.

It remains a two-party, polarized state with no room for other parties, while B.C. has seen many small parties elect members over the same period of time – including Reform B.C., Social Credit, the Progressive Democratic Alliance and the Conservative Party.

And in Ireland, the only other country using STV as its national electoral system, politics are far nastier and more party-dominated than here.

Compared to B.C. or Canada, Ireland’s members of parliament – called TDs – are far more controlled by their party than here.

Professor Lee Komito of University College Dublin has written of Ireland that:

“Party discipline takes precedence over all other matters, and a strong party whip limits the range of individual politicians' actions. Individual TDs are ‘lobby fodder’; they are there to vote for or against the government on particular issues, as their party, rather than their own opinion, dictates.”

“Free votes are rare, and have taken place only on a few occasions in the entire history of the Dail. [Ireland’s parliament] When questions are raised in the Dail about particular government decisions, the actual merits of the case are irrelevant. Any individual case is merely another opportunity for opposition politicians to embarrass the government. Decisions are thus routinely supported by government politicians and routinely attacked by opposition politicians,” Komito has written.

But his realistic assessment of Irish politics bears little resemblance to the claims of STV proponents in B.C. that all is sweetness and light in the Emerald Island under the lucky charms of the Single Transferable Vote.

All of which is to underline the need for every voter to be well informed before making their choice in this referendum, for the results will bind the province for far longer than the election of any one political party.

That’s because the Citizens Assembly strong recommended that if adopted, the Single Transferable Vote be kept in place for a minimum of three elections. If STV passes and is first used in 2013 it would remain our electoral system until at least 2025.

That’s a very long time to put up with a serious mistake.

It would also ensure that other electoral systems such as Mixed Member Proportional – which has both single member ridings and a more proportional representation system than STV and which is used far more than STV around the world – would not be an option for B.C.

On May 12, vote to keep our current First Past The Post system – and if you want change, work for something far better than STV.

For much more information, see

A shorter version of this column was printed in 24 hours newspaper on Tuesday April 28, 2009.


Meet BC's First Political Attention Deficit Disorder Premier - Gordon Campbell

Meet Gordon 'Five Great Goals' Campbell.
View full article and comments here

By Bill Tieleman

Published: April 28, 2009

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
- Andrew Carnegie

British Columbia has seen many firsts in its exciting political history and another first has recently been achieved by Premier Gordon Campbell.

Doug Jung became the first Chinese-Canadian member of Parliament when he was elected in B.C. in 1957 as a Conservative.

B.C. was embarrassed by having the first cabinet minister in the Commonwealth to be convicted of bribery when ex-forests minister Robert Sommers was found guilty in 1958.

Dave Barrett became not only the first New Democratic Party premier in 1972 but the first of Jewish origin as well.

Rita Johnston of Social Credit was B.C.'s first woman premier and Kim Campbell was a B.C. member of Parliament when she was appointed Canada's first woman prime minister.

The NDP's Moe Sihota became the province's first Indo-Canadian cabinet minister in 1991 and Ujjal Dosanjh its first Indo-Canadian premier in 2000.

And then there's the B.C. Liberals' Gordon Campbell -- our first premier with political attention deficit disorder.

The facts are very clear -- just check back and watch Campbell get excited about and then lose interest in almost every big idea he has had.

Five late goals

Remember Campbell's 2005 throne speech? He launched "Five Great Goals for a Golden Decade."

In case you have an equally short attention span as the premier, here they are:

- Make B.C. the best-educated, most literate place in North America.
- Make B.C. a model for healthy living and physical fitness.
- Build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, special needs, children at risk and seniors.
- Lead the world in sustainable environmental management.
- Lead Canada in job creation.

Now, as you might guess, some of these goals are no longer, well, golden, and they won't likely be met this decade or any other one.

Take number five -- last month British Columbia certainly led Canada -- but in losing 23,000 jobs, not creating them.

And yesterday, Statistics Canada reported that B.C.'s economy actually shrank in 2008 -- for the first time since the recession of 1982. The province's gross domestic product dropped by 0.3 per cent while Canada's overall GDP grew by 0.5 per cent.

Or look at number three -- unfortunately B.C. once again leads the country -- in having the worst child poverty rate of any province.

Reading incomprehension

But at least we're consistent, because under Campbell's government B.C. has the worst rate for five years in a row, according to advocacy group First Call, from 2003 through 2008.

And don't forget number one -- making B.C. the most literate place in North America. I guess that means restoring the hundreds of teacher-librarian positions the B.C. Liberals cut in their first term -- but I don't recall seeing that news release.

There's lots more, of course. Campbell held the most divisive referendum ever attacking aboriginal treaty rights shortly after being elected -- now he is planning a Recognition Act that will give First Nations those rights through legislation.

Campbell slashed the public service with a vengeance in his first term -- now he worries about how to recruit and retain government workers.

Anyway, the good thing about political attention deficit disorder is that... what were we talking about?

Oh yeah, Gordon Campbell.

Related Tyee stories:

BC economy shrank in 2008 despite Liberal claims

Who Is Gordon Campbell 3.0?
Chatting with the polished puzzle who seeks a third term as BC's premier.

Premier Campbell Backing off Global Warming Effort?
Enviros worried that cabinet shuffle sends a signal priorities have changed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Need For Speed Undercover - featuring Flyin' John van Dongen! No Homos Allowed - with BC Liberal candidate Marc Dalton!

UPDATE MONDAY - One BC Liberal cabinet minister DID resign his post.

One BC Liberal candidate should quit the election.

UPDATE - Breaking news at 10:45 a.m. Monday - John van Dongen has bowed to public pressure and resigned his position as Solicitor General.
Here is van Dongen's statement, followed by the original blog posting:

"Over the weekend I have reflected on my actions. I have heard from those who have rightly criticized my driving record that has undermined their confidence in my role as Solicitor General.

I do understand how my conduct in this respect has reflected poorly on the credibility of the office.

In no way do I wish to allow my actions to distract from the tremendous work and ongoing contributions of the people who are working so hard to build confidence in our law enforcement system and in our efforts to improve public safety, particularly surrounding gangs and gun violence.

I have worked hard as Solicitor General.

Over the course of the last year, I have met with people who have lost family members because of speeding and other illegal driving behaviour. I have let them down and I have let down my constituents who depend on me to set the highest public example. For that I am deeply sorry. ...

As I stated last week, I fully recognize the importance of public safety and compliance with the laws of our roads. I apologize to those I have let down with these latest actions, and it remains my hope that the public will continue to have confidence in the office of the Solicitor General."


Just another quiet Friday afternoon in the BC election.

Solicitor General John van Dongen - the province's cabinet minister in charge of law enforcement - the top cop - got stopped by the cops one time too many for speeding and has lost his license to drive for four months.

Van Dongen, the Abbotsford-Clayburn MLA, should have been fired from cabinet immediately but wasn't, not by this morally-challenged premier.

Despite the fact that van Dongen was caught twice excessively speeding - in one case going over 120 kilometres an hour in an 80 km zone - Campbell actually praised the pedal to the metal minister.

“I take my hat off to John for bringing this forward and we have taken the actions that are appropriate," Campbell told reporters this afternoon. “[Mr. van Dongen has] come forward and says he wants to be open about this. He's carrying on with his responsibilities as solicitor-general because obviously we've got a major initiative to go after a lot of the gangs in British Columbia."

Yes the next time a gangland hit takes place, the perpetrators will have to think twice if they see a pickup truck with a BC Liberals bumper sticker careening towards them a breakneck speed!

It could be John "Speedy Justice" van Dongen!

The solicitor general, who was responsible for ICBC until this afternoon, when Campbell removed it from his portfolio, is still in charge of law enforcement in BC.

This despite van Dongen's own admission that he has a “history of speeding.” Sadly, he cannot recall how many speeding tickets he has collected during his 43 years of driving.

Then there's Marc Dalton, the Liberal candidate in Mission-Maple Ridge and his homophobic hollering.

In a 1996 e-mail discovered by Spencer Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver Burrard who himself is gay, Dalton makes clear his apparent disgust with homosexuality.

Dalton: “I believe homosexuality is a moral issue. There are other moral issues that large segments of our society do not see eye to eye: gambling, abortion, adultery, pornography. I believe that homosexuality fits in this category.”

Well, I'm betting - oops - guessing that Dalton must not realize that the BC Liberals have dramatically expanded gambling, or that former BC Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt was also openly gay.

And Campbell is prepared to let Dalton continue his candidacy despite the comments.

"I think the campaign is still about British Columbians asking themselves the question about who's best to get us through these challenging times, and get us out on the other side in the strongest possible position,” Campbell told reporters.

Others may just wonder why we are speeding towards incompetence, intolerance and an incomprehensible lack of principles.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NO STV releases Ipsos Reid poll showing both sides essentially tied in vote on Single Transferable Vote; releases TV ad

As readers here know, I am also President of No STV - the official opponent group in the May 12 referendum on the Single Transferable Vote.

Yesterday, No STV released an Ipsos Reid poll showing that BC voters are split almost evenly on whether to keep our current First Past The Post electoral system or change to the Single Transferable Vote.

At a news conference, Ipsos Reid Vice-President Kyle Braid outlined the results of the polling commissioned by No STV. The Ipsos Reid report can be viewed by clicking here.

No STV has also released to the media its television ad that begins running on stations across the province on Monday April 27.

You can see that television ad by clicking here.

The news release on polling is below.

* * * * *

Official Proponent - NO to the Single Transferable Vote - May 2009 Referendum

NEWS RELEASE Wednesday April 22, 2009

Ipsos Reid poll shows almost equal support for First Past The Post and Single Transferable Vote in May 12 provincial electoral system referendum - 43% for STV, 41% for current FPTP system

60% of respondents unaware there is referendum on electoral systems

Vancouver, BC - With less than three weeks to go until British Columbians vote on whether to keep the current electoral system or adopt a new one, an Ipsos-Reid poll shows almost equal support for both - and 60% unaware of the referendum.

The poll conducted for No STV, the official opponent group advocating against the Single Transferable Vote, shows that 43% of respondents who are decided intend to vote or are leaning towards voting for STV and 41% for our current First-Past-the-Post system, says Bill Tieleman, No STV President. (A further 3% were not voting and 14% were undecided.)

But STV needs to obtain 60% support from voters in order to replace FPTP under referendum rules established by the government, Tieleman said.

"We are cautiously optimistic that as British Columbians carefully examine the complicated STV electoral system they will find that STV's giant ridings take away local accountability and responsibility of MLAs to voters," Tieleman said. "But we do not underestimate the possibility that STV could pass if not enough voters understand the serious problems it would create for our province."

The Ipsos-Reid poll of 800 British Columbians was conducted by telephone from March 24 to 30, Tieleman said.

No STV Secretary-Treasurer David Schreck said it is still hard to predict what might happen in the referendum vote taking place concurrently with the provincial election because 31% of voters who lean one way or the other say they are likely to change their minds and vote for another option on May 12.

When the 14% who are undecided are added it means many voters haven't firmed up their position.

"We are urging all voters to question a STV system that fractionalizes your single vote in such a way that you may never know where your vote actually went or how much of it counted for any candidate," Schreck said. "When STV could be in place for the next three elections starting in 2013, it makes the referendum a very serious matter."

Schreck said that the poll shows 76% of respondents feel the current First Past The Post electoral system is very or somewhat fair and that 71% are very or somewhat satisfied with the range of choices of parties and candidates available to vote for under this system."No STV believes that adopting the radically different STV system that is only used in national elections in two small countries - Malta and Ireland - would be disastrous for British Columbia," Schreck said.

"While No STV takes no position on other possible electoral systems, we have been able to bring together supporters of the Green Party, the B.C. Liberals, the New Democratic Party, former Social Credit supporters and non-aligned voters who all believe that STV must be defeated on May 12," he said.

In addition to Schreck and Tieleman, No STV's executive members are Andrea Reimer, Vision Vancouver councilor and former Green Party Vancouver school trustee, Bruce Strachan, former Social Credit cabinet minister and Rick Dignard, a former Citizens Assembly member from the Sunshine Coast.

These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid telephone poll conducted March 24th to 30th, 2009 with a randomly selected sample of 800 adult British Columbia residents. The overall results are considered accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire BC adult population been polled.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Basi-Virk - Now we have word on Supreme Court of Canada secret witness appeal

UPDATE - Since this item was posted late last night, the Globe and Mail has posted and printed a full story from Bill Curry in Ottawa, who covered the hearing a the Supreme Court of Canada. My thanks to Gary Mason of the Globe here in BC for letting me know.

Here's the beginning of the Globe story:

"OTTAWA -- The defence in the BC Rail political corruption trial will centre on accusations the RCMP tainted its case through inappropriate political calculations and sacrificed the facts in an effort to spin the media, according to factums filed in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The defence will also question the personal and political relationships among elected officials, high-level bureaucrats, lobbyists, political-party operatives and RCMP investigators.

The factums provide the latest synopsis of the defence's plans in the long-delayed criminal case against Dave Basi and Bob Virk, two former ministerial aides in the B.C. Liberal government.

The two men are accused of corruption, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering in relation to the 2004 privatization of BC Rail. Aneal Basi, a former government communications officer and Dave Basi's cousin, faces charges of money laundering." The Globe story continues here.

Earlier post here:

I have tried and failed to find a single media report on Wednesday's Supreme Court of Canada session where Basi-Virk case Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino was appealing two BC lower court rulings on the secret witness issue.

I will continue to scour the news and make some inquiries on Thursday and let you know what - if anything - I have found out.


BC Election polling update - one more Ipsos Reid, two more Angus Reid before May 12

There will be at least three more polls on the BC election before the May 12 vote.

Ipsos Reid Vice President Kyle Braid tells me that they will definitely conduct one more poll - after the May 3 television debate of between Premier Gordon Campbell, NDP leader Carole James and Green Party leader Jane Sterk.

And Angus Reid Strategies Research Director Hamish Marshall says his firm will do two more polls before the vote but scheduling has not been decided.

The Mustel Group released a poll on April 14.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alexandra Morton puts Tzeporah Berman & David Suzuki in their places for supporting BC Liberals in election

Furious Rebuke to Suzuki, Berman

Salmon advocate Alexandra Morton enraged at support for BC Libs

[A shorter version of this column will be printed Wednesday April 22 in 24 hours newspaper]

View full article and comments here

By Bill Tieleman

Published: April 21, 2009

"As the living systems of this part of the world are under the final assault by the B.C. Liberal government, you make headlines. You seem to have no idea of what Gordon Campbell is bringing down on us."

-- Marine researcher/fish farm opponent Alexandra Morton to David Suzuki, Tzeporah Berman and others.

What kind of environmentalists would support B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell for imposing a 2.4 cent a litre gas tax when not one penny goes to public transit or expenditures that reduce pollution?

What kind of environmentalists support a B.C. Liberal government that radically expanded fish farms that are devastating wild salmon, promotes offshore oil and gas drilling, privatized rivers and streams for power projects, slashed wildlife protection, ended a ban on trophy hunting for grizzly bears and offers hundreds of millions in tax incentives for fossil fuel exploration?

Meet David Suzuki, Tzeporah Berman and friends.

In a well-timed attack as the election began last week, Suzuki and Berman blasted the New Democratic Party for rejecting the B.C. Liberals' unfair and ineffective carbon tax while ignoring the government's disastrous environmental record.

Neither Suzuki nor Berman have yet endorsed Campbell outright but they knew their assault would hurt the NDP and help the B.C. Liberals.

Statements don't add up

Berman even claimed she was a "long-time" NDP supporter who "quit" over the gas tax and had no connection to the B.C. Liberals -- two quickly disproved statements.

Berman's one-year NDP membership expired more than two years ago, said NDP campaign manager Gerry Scott, before the carbon tax was imposed.

As to B.C. Liberals, Berman told the Tyee: "I never talk to them. I have no ties to the Liberal Party, anyone can see that."

But in an April 15 e-mail obtained by the Tyee, Berman told a group called the "BC Energy and Climate Leaders": "I just spoke with the Minister who said that given our concerns that we have been raising etc they have committed... to creating a new green energy advisory task force..."

Berman continued: "I think this is a great step and a result of our work. He is open to recommendations on who should sit on it but names will not be announced until after the election."

Donors to the Suzuki Foundation, PowerUp, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics might want to send those groups a clear message about what they think of charitable organizations working hard to re-elect a government with the worst environmental record in the province's history.

Morton's blast

And voters should heed Alexandra Morton's message on May 12.

That e-mail message in full was sent to Suzuki, Berman and Karen Campbell of the Pembina Institute, as well to several environmental list serves -- it reads as follows:

Subject: PUNISH CAROLE JAMES!!!!!!!!

To Karen Campbell, David Suzuki, Tzeporah Berman

You want to punish Carole James??? Do you think this is grade school we are in? IS this really the most brilliant thing you could do?

As the living systems of the part of the world are under the final assault by the BC Liberal Government, you make headlines.

Do you realize that without so much as a heads up to those of us in the trenches trying to keep this coast alive you just snuffed out decades of work?

I am disgusted with the environmentalism in BC. There is no respect for anyone, least of all your peers.

You seem to have no idea of what Gordon Campbell is bringing down on us, irreversible wild salmon extinctions.....what do the trees that pull carbon out of the atmosphere need to survive???? SALMON!!!!!!

Your love in with Campbell is a betrayal to all that are alive in BC. Campbell is selling BC's most vital resources....fresh running water...And that is OK with you? Because you sure did not get that into the headlines.

Yeah, you got big what. If Campbell gets re-elected you can take the credit for all that follows.

I hope your funders are pleased with you because them and the Campbell government are the only ones.

Alexandra Morton

Question of priorities

Actually, only Tzeporah Berman has specifically called out Carole James and her NDP for punishment. At a press conference that Berman did not attend, representatives of the Suzuki Foundation and Pembina Institute declared their support of the carbon tax without attacking Carole James for her opposition to it.

But Morton's comments do raise the issue of why the environmental groups are taking such a strong and confrontational position over the carbon tax and private power producers, defending the B.C. Liberals.

Rumours continue to fly that environmental funders in the United States are pushing hard to ensure that B.C. becomes the first North America jurisdiction to implement a carbon tax.

Berman denied in a Georgia Straight interview that her organization PowerUp -- which advocates support for so-called "green power" independent power producers and their run-of-river projects -- is funded by the industry.

But it's not just Morton who is upset. A host of environmental leaders have taken umbrage with the Suzuki and friends attack.

Former Society Promoting Environment Conservation transportation campaigner David Fields is one of them, telling Public Eye Online that: "I would caution groups like The Pembina Institute and ForestEthics and campaigners like Tzeporah Berman to avoid making this mistake in the future," Fields said regarding their failure to consult other environmental organizations about that briefing. "It stands to alienate them from other environmental groups -- which it has already."

Meanwhile, if you do oppose the unfair B.C. gas tax, you can join more than 9,000 others on my "Axe The BC Gas Tax" Facebook protest group.

Related Tyee stories:

Activist who 'quit' NDP was no longer a member

BC's Clashing Shades of Green
How 'run of river' and global warming are splitting enviros this election.

In Canada, a Push for Obama-style Green Stimulus
PM to get plan backed by 850,000 group members.

NOTE - due to a technical problem a shorter version of this column was not printed in Tuesday's 24 hours newspaper but will appear in the Wednesday April 22 edition.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No to the Single Transferable Vote - column by Bob Plecas

As many of you know, I am the president of No STV - the opponent group in the referendum on the Single Transferable Vote being held concurrent with the provincial election on May 12, 2009.

My friend and No STV colleague Bob Plecas has written an excellent column in the Victoria Times Colonist today and I am reproducing it here.

This will be the first of several articles on STV. All posts are welcome within the usual bounds of good taste.

* * * * *

STV con: It just doesn't fit in B.C.

By Bob Plecas

The Victoria Times Colonist

April 19, 2009

Our present system is simple and effective -- in B.C. the winning party elects the most MLAs. The single transferable vote proposal wants to confuse this fact using a complicated formula to make the vote "proportional." They count the wrong thing.

Consider a hockey analogy that political science professor John Redecops uses. In the final series of the Stanley Cup -- a Canucks-Rangers final, say -- the Canucks win four games and New York three, but the Rangers wins were blowouts and they ended up scoring more total goals.

Vancouver wins four, finally winning the Stanley Cup. Right?

STV advocates would argue the point vigorously. "Not fair! New York had more goals! The Rangers win the cup." Not bloody likely.

They count the goals correctly but are fundamentally wrong in interpreting what they mean. Everybody understands that winning the Stanley Cup does not involve counting goals but counting wins.

STV is confusing. Former NDP MLA David Schreck challenges you to read the next two paragraphs and figure out how your vote disappears under STV.

"You get one vote, but you mark numbers to indicate preferences. First all the "1"s are counted. If a candidate receives the number necessary to be elected, the excess votes are reallocated to the next preferences of the people who voted for that candidate, in proportion to the excess. If a candidate is eliminated, some value of a vote is reallocated to the next preferences of the voters for that candidate.

Your second preference could get counted as 10 per cent of a vote while your neighbour's second preference could get counted as a full vote, or as some value in between, or not at all. With STV you cannot control what fraction of your vote is given to each of your preferences, because how your vote is counted is determined by how other people vote."

I want a voting system I can understand, where my neighbours (directed by Elections B.C.) count our votes, not a computer; one person wins from the community I live in; and the elected person is responsible and directly accountable to me and my community.

BC-STV replaces community with regional representation. It merges our 85 constituencies into 20 giants, each electing between two and seven people.

And even academic advocates admit with four or fewer members you lose proportionality.

Thirteen out of 20 constituencies in B.C. will have four or fewer elected members.

"STV is not designed to deliver true proportional representation," says Citizens Assembly member Rick Dignard. "Dr. Farrell, author of the text we used, said STV achieves proportional outcomes by chance, not design."

Forget the theory, the problems are practical.

The new giant capital region constituency will combine Esquimalt-Royal Roads, Juan de Fuca, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, Saanich North and the Islands, Saanich South, Victoria-Beacon Hill and Victoria-Swan Lake and elect seven candidates.

The ballot will include seven NDP candidates, seven Liberals, seven Greens and likely 7 independents. Pick seven of 28 -- sound like a new lottery game? And who is accountable when seven are elected? No one.

Also, huge constituencies destroy community representation.

Cariboo-Thompson covers Quesnel to Williams Lake, east to Kamloops, down to Princeton to the U.S. border with five members. The sheer size makes it impossible for the citizens living in the far reaches to receive representation.

Kamloops has over 50 per cent of the population. Candidates will have to be from there to win, effectively taking away representation from Quesnel and Princeton. Here, community representation for Sooke, Port Renfrew or the Gulf Islands effectively disappears.

Finally, the complicated formula discriminates between the percentage of votes needed to elect MLAs.

In the capital region a candidate needs 12.5 per cent to be elected. In the Northeast region it requires 33.3 per cent, in Columbia-Kootenay 20 per cent and in Vancouver West 14.3 per cent.

Seems the further from the capital you are, the more votes you need to get there.

To find more reasons why STV doesn't fit B.C., go to

Bob Plecas, a consultant and former deputy minister in several B.C. governments and ministries, is a member of the No-STV BC campaign.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Where in the world is Patrick Kinsella in the BC Liberal campaign?

Inquiring minds want to know - and we want to find out - so vote in our poll!

Premier Gordon Campbell has said that Patrick Kinsella - the former BC Liberal campaign co-chair in 2001 and 2005 is "working on a local campaign" but is welcome to join the main campaign if he wants.

Campbell also said that he hasn't talked to Kinsella "in ages."

That might be because Kinsella received $297,000 from BC Rail for business advice before, during and after the sale of BC Rail to CN Rail.

Or because the defence in the David Basi-Bob Virk case has alleged Kinsella may have also been working for CN at the same time as the $1 billion privatization went through.

Or because Kinsella has been accused in the BC Legislature of being an unregistered lobbyist, allegedly violating BC Liberal legislation.

But whatever the reason, it's time for this blog's most excellent and intelligent readers to weigh in!

To your right please find our first ever poll - please make your choice and we will see what our collective wisdom says about where Patrick Kinsella really is!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BC Liberals worst economic managers in provincial history! And other headlines you won't see but are true

Campbell Era Economy Nothing to Brag About

NDP saw higher growth. Now BC jobs are crashing.

By Bill Tieleman

Published: April 14, 2009 by 24 hours newspaper &

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

-Aaron Levenstein

Here are three screaming front page newspaper headlines that you should see -- but likely won't -- in British Columbia before the May 12 provincial election:

  1. Premier Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberals worst economic managers in province's history!
  2. British Columbia job losses lead all Canada in recession!
  3. B.C. 2009 budget deficit phoney as $3 bill!

What, you say? How can this be true?

First, look at the cold, hard facts about B.C.'s economy.

Growth was higher under NDP

Start from 2001, when the B.C. Liberals took power, and use private-sector estimates through 2009 -- even though they are rosy and likely to be far worse -- and the results are stunning.

During the B.C. Liberal government reign, the average annual rate of economic growth was 2.6 per cent.

But what was the average annual growth when the New Democratic Party was in power from 1991 to 2001 -- the so-called "dismal decade," to quote Campbell and a host of B.C. Liberal business donors who are sponsoring ads attacking the NDP, like the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association?

Try annual growth of 2.8 per cent -- a better record than the B.C. Liberals.NDP saw more job growth, too

Can't believe it? Think it's a trick? Look at employment growth then.

During the NDP's decade, employment grew by 22 per cent, or 344,100 jobs. Between 2001 and 2008, the B.C. Liberals have seen 20 per cent growth, or 392,700 jobs, for a lower percentage increase.

But wait! From January through March, B.C. has lost a staggering 63,000 jobs -- 35,000 in January, 5,000 in February and 23,000 in March, the month that led all of Canada.

Overall, Statistics Canada says B.C. lost 69,000 jobs since October 2008, a three per cent drop.

That means B.C. Liberal job growth is actually only 323,700 jobs from 2001 to April 2009 -- far less than the NDP.

And as Statistics Canada notes, B.C. had Canada's highest increase in Employment Insurance beneficiaries between January 2008 and 2009 -- a two per cent jump in the unemployment rate.

(The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' Marc Lee compiled some of these statistics on their B.C. election blog -- The Lead Up.)

Is that modest deficit for real?

Then there's the BC Liberal budget, which predicts a $495 million deficit this year, a number that is simply unbelievable.

Helmut Pastrick -- the respected chief economist of Central 1 Credit Union (formerly B.C. Central Credit Union) has said the B.C. Liberal government's numbers were way off -- he thought the deficit this year should be $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

"A deficit of $1 to $1.5 billion or 0.6 per cent of GDP in 2009-10 is the more likely outcome due to revenue shortfalls," said Central 1 Credit Union's report on the budget. "Revenue in 2009-10 is not likely to be realized, particularly in the personal income, social service and property transfer lines."

And writing in The Tyee, Will McMartin called it a "toxic fudge budget" because the numbers were so cooked and sweet.

"It's the same old pre-election, budgetary sleight-of-hand British Columbians have seen many times in the past, but of a scale and breadth never seen before. Expenditures have been artificially dampened, revenues boosted heavenward and a fiscal shock-absorber eliminated, all to create the illusion of a fiscal shortfall that is probably just one-quarter to one-fifth of its actual size,"

McMartin, a former Social Credit government aide, wrote in February.And all that was before B.C.'s disastrous unemployment numbers came in.

What does Alberta know that we don't?

Then, last week, oil-rich Alberta tabled a $4.7 billion deficit for the year ahead -- almost 10 times larger than B.C.'s, and projected a four-year, $10.3 billion deficit.

Alberta's government is planning for a full two per cent drop in GDP this year and expects a $1.4 billion deficit for the year that just ended, when all the numbers are in.

And Alberta did better than B.C. on unemployment last month -- a still substantial 15,000 job losses -- but far less than this province's 23,000.

But B.C. will have a balanced budget in just two years? I smell fudge.

Now, where are all those newspaper headlines denouncing the B.C. Liberals?

A shorter version of this column was printed in 24 Hours newspaper on Tuesday, April 14, 2009.

Related Tyee stories:This Budget Is Toxic Fudge
BC's government is in denial about the economic realities we face.

Forestry recommendations won't add jobs, say critics NDP platform full of shortfalls, bad for industry: BC Liberals

Bill Tieleman is a 24 hours columnist and regular Tyee contributor. Hear Bill Tieleman Mondays at 10 a.m. on CKNW AM 980's Bill Good Show.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gordon Campbell's collapsing financial house of cards

If anyone still believes Premier Gordon Campbell's budget bunk that British Columbia will only have a deficit of $495 million this year and will back to break even two years after that, take a look at today's unemployment numbers!

This directly from Statistics Canada this morning:

"Employment fell in several provinces in March, with the largest declines in British Columbia (-23,000), Alberta (-15,000) and Ontario (-11,000).

Since October, these three provinces also had the fastest rate of employment decreases.British Columbia's employment fell by 23,000 in March.

This brings total employment losses to 69,000 (-3.0%) since October 2008, largely driven by decreases in construction and manufacturing.

Over the same period, British Columbia has seen its unemployment rate climb 2.2 percentage points to 7.4% in March."

The financial house of cards built by Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen is collapsing just as BC goes into a provincial election.

The second harbinger is that Alberta yesterday announced a deficit of $4.7 billion - the first of four deficits in a row that will total $10.3 billion.

Earlier this year Helmut Pastrick - the respected Chief Economist of Central 1 Credit Union [formerly BC Central Credit Union] said the BC Liberal government's numbers were way off - he predicted our BC deficit before the budget was released in February would be $3 to $5 billion. After the budget came out Pastrick still said it should be $1 to $1.5 billion.

My friend Will McMartin - in The Tyee - called it a "toxic fudge budget" because the numbers were so cooked and sweet.

"It's the same old pre-election, budgetary sleight-of-hand British Columbians have seen many times in the past, but of a scale and breadth never seen before. Expenditures have been artificially dampened, revenues boosted heavenward and a fiscal shock-absorber eliminated, all to create the illusion of a fiscal shortfall that is probably just one-quarter to one-fifth of its actual size," McMartin - a former Social Credit government aide, wrote in February.

But you can't keep the truth secret for too long - Campbell's goal now is to just get through the election without serious questions about just how bad BC's budget really is - and what services he would slash to deal with it.

Here's a hint - take a look at his 2001 term, when he ripped up union contracts and slashed most of the public service by 25% to make up for his ill-advised 25% tax cut that put BC into a huge deficit.

Be very afraid if Campbell is re-elected on May 12.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

BC Conservatives and leader Wilf Hanni putting a scare into Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals in May 12 election

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday April 7, 2009

Conservatives could trouble B.C. Libs


I don't think it would be wise to ignore the impact of a potential split in the free enterprise vote, the centre-right vote.

- Mike De Jong, B.C. Liberal House Leader

The fate of Premier Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberal government in the May 12 election may rest in the hands of an oil and gas drilling rig supervisor from Cranbrook.

And Campbell should be very worried, since that man is Wilf Hanni, leader of the B.C. Conservative Party, who intends to run up to 30 candidates.

In an Angus Reid Strategies poll released last month, the B.C. Conservatives were included for the first time as a party choice - and picked up four per cent province-wide, with five per cent support in the north and Vancouver Island and seven per cent in the Fraser Valley/southern interior.

And with the New Democrats just six points behind, B.C. Conservative candidates could help defeat Campbell.

But De Jong's vote-splitting arguments don't bother Hanni, who believes his party can win enough seats to hold the balance of power in a minority government because conservative voters are fed up with Campbell.

"The B.C. Liberals have become a big, left-wing, tax-and-spend government," Hanni told me in a lengthy interview. "If the Liberals ever were conservative, they sure aren't any more. The B.C. Conservatives are the only party that advocates lower taxes and smaller government."

"The Liberal Party is going into the election saying the number one issue is the economy but what have they done to rebuild the economy? Nothing!" Hanni says.

Hanni is campaigning against B.C. Liberal plans for a Recognition and Reconciliation Act that would recognize aboriginal rights and title without proof of claim.

"We're the only party in B.C. opposing the Recognition Act. We really believe all B.C.ers should be treated equally," Hanni said. "We can't take the risk of giving up title to all public and private land. Title is title - there is no such category as aboriginal title."

And Hanni disagrees with Campbell's carbon tax on gasoline and heating fuels, which goes up again in July.

"We would scrap the carbon tax totally," he said. "The carbon tax is an unfair tax, it's a wealth-transfer tax. It takes money particularly out of people's pockets in the interior and the north.

"You can't take public transit and you can't drive a Prius [hybrid car] like the premier - you won't get anywhere. And you can't turn off the furnace when it's minus 30C in Fort Nelson," Hanni laughs.

Hanni says his big challenge now is to convince TV networks to include him in B.C. election debates. If he does, Campbell will worry even more.

The is running a longer version of this column online. Here is the rest of that version.

That's because Hanni is an affable conservative who is anything but doctrinaire right wing. Hanni opposes the B.C. Liberal's privatization of B.C. Hydro, the promotion of private power projects on provincial rivers and streams by banning B.C. Hydro from also doing so and the export of raw logs.

"We would not privatize B.C. Hydro without public approval through a referendum and we would not initiate that referendum, Hanni told me. "We would also end the prohibition on B.C. Hydro being banned from new power projects."

And on raw log exports: "I'd prefer to process the logs in B.C. – this government has done absolutely nothing to develop the forest industry in B.C. We have millions of tons of dead timber in our forests that we should be using for biodiesel, ethanol and wood pellets for fuel."

Slamming Railgate

And if that's not enough to differentiate the party, Hanni also raises the B.C. Legislature raid case, connected to the $1 billion privatization of B.C. Rail.
"The Liberals also appear to be ethically challenged, as we're finding out in the Railgate case," he says.

That's why Hanni confidently predicts that his B.C. Conservatives will defeat B.C. Liberals in some parts of the province.

"In some ridings in the Interior even some B.C. Liberal incumbents are going to come in third place behind the Conservatives and NDP – and a vote for the Liberals will split the vote," he says.

"The number one argument the B.C. Liberals and Gordon Campbell will use is 'don't vote Conservative – you'll split the vote," Hanni says. "Well, if you had a job vacancy and someone came to you and said: 'Hire me so you want have to hire that other guy' – is that a good argument? No."

Counting on Campbell's negatives

Hanni knows and counts on Campbell being disliked in much of the province. The Angus Reid Strategies poll shows that when asked, only 34 per cent of respondents felt Gordon Campbell should be re-elected, while 54 per cent said it was time for B.C. to have a new premier.

But it may be the B.C. Liberals' Recognition and Reconciliation Act that pushes the most buttons with rural voters in the election. Hanni says that with the B.C. Liberals introducing the act and the NDP likely to support it, only B.C. Conservatives will oppose it.

"We agree with signing treaties with aboriginals but treaties should involve cash payments by the federal government, who are responsible," he says with a view that isn't often heard or widely accepted in land claims discussions.

"With the giveaway of our rivers to foreign interests and the giveaway of our land to aboriginals, the B.C. Liberals have done serious damage to our province," Hanni says.

Fourteen candidates lined up

The B.C. Conservative Party first formed a provincial government in 1903 but has not had an elected member since 1977.
Hanni aims to change that, with 14 candidates nominated to date and more to come.

"We will accept applications to be candidates right up to the deadline. We expect to run 20 to 30 candidates but we will accept more if they come forward – we encourage people to apply," Hanni says.

And with people like popular former federal Reform Party MP Darrel Stinson coming forward to manage local campaigns and other former Reform and Conservatives running as candidates, maybe Hanni has some reasonable grounds for optimism.

Related Tyee stories:

BC Conservative Party rolls out platform, candidates
Carbon Tax Screws BC's North? Finance Minister Taylor defends its fairness, rural or not.

Why the NDP Has a Shot BC Liberals hold more safe seats, but 'green suburban swingers' could lift New Dems into power

A shorter version of this column was printed in 24 Hours newspaper today. Bill Tieleman is a 24 Hours columnist and regular Tyee contributor.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Vote for Action Team in Van City Credit Union board of directors elections - Saturday last day to vote

UPDATE - VanCity board of directors election results are in and congratulations to Jan O'Brien, who was one of three winners.

Unfortunately Hugh Legg and Tod Maffin did not make it this time.

Congratulations to Wendy Holm and Lisa Barrett, who won re-election.

Full results are at VanCity's website.

I encourage members to attend the Annual General Meeting to vote against the proposed 33% increase in directors' fees on April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Italian Cultural Centre.


If you are a member of Van City Credit Union I strongly urge you to vote for the Action Team today - my friends Hugh Legg, Jan O'Brien and Tod Maffin - on the last day of the election for board of directors.

This election is even more important than most - because Hugh, Jan and Tod are all opposing the proposed - and outrageous - 33% increase in directors fees.

I was elected as an Action Team director at Van City in 1998 and can attest to the value of having a progressive, experienced and dedicated board of directors running Canada's largest credit union.

Saturday April 4 is the last day members can vote in Van City branches - until closing time at 3 p.m. today. And you can vote in any branch that's open regardless of where you have your account.

Don't miss the opportunity to vote for my friends Hugh Legg, Jan O'Brien and Tod Maffin - three excellent candidates who will help Van City not only a leader among credit unions but a vital institution in our province.

For more information click this link to go to Vote Action.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Defence alleges possibility of political interference by Premier Campbell through Attorney General's ministry

The defence in the BC Legislature Raid trial today raised in BC Supreme Court the possibility that Premier Gordon Campbell used the attorney general's ministry to politically interfere with the case.

Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough alleged in a combative presentation that Justice Elizabeth Bennett should disclose additional documents from the attorney general's ministry that would let the defence potentially argue political interference in the case.

"The point of these submissions is to put documents in front of you to draw inferences related to political interference," said McCullough, who is acting for Bob Virk. Virk, David Basi and Aneal Basi face corruption charges connected to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003.

"That political interference is rooted in the fact that the premier, the premier's office, the politicians were using the attorney general's ministry as a political arm in this matter, and particularly, that this necessarily conflicted the attorney general's ministry in their role," McCullough alleged.

"The defence will argue there are fundamental conflicts - the attorney general's minister had dealings with the accused to determine if they would be funded at all for their defence," McCullough said, referring to indemnification agreement the accused have to cover their legal fees if found not guilty.

McCullough alleged that Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel was put into a potential conflict of interest position by Campbell when he was made responsible for giving directions to government lawyer George Copley on which documents could be disclosed to the defence and which should be withheld on the basis of parliamentary or cabinet privilege.

"The real thing that makes this documents relevant is that the deputy attorney general ought not to have been deciding on assertions of privilege whe that same ministry and people were deciding how much money, if any, they would give the accused to defend themselves," McCullough said. "That we allege, our argument is that it creates poltiical interference."

McCullough also alleged that the defence still has not been able to obtain government documents it needs.

"There are myriads of missing documents - where are they all? an exasperated McCullough asked Bennett when she asked: "Hasn't the government not blocked your access to documents?"

McCullough's approach brought warnings from Bennett on several occasions and objections from Copley.

McCullough said in his presentation that Copley had written he received his instructions from the cabinet secretary in July of 2007 but that later in the Legislature Campbell had said he had assigned Seckel to deal with cabinet privilege instructions.

"The premier is making it up on the fly, he's making it up as he goes along," McCullough claimed.

That brought Copley to his feet.

"The wording is very careful. What I don't say specifically [in the letter] is whom I am taking instructions from," Copley said, bringing objections from McCullough.

But Bennett was having none of it. "Sit down, Mr. McCullough," she demanded.

McCullough returned to his central theme however, that the attorney general's ministry should not have been dealing with document disclosure issues when it was also responsible for indemnification of legal fees for the accused.

The premier's office created has created a natural conflict - the same person deciding on funding for the accused's defence is the one deciding on release of document's," he alleged.

McCullough quoted at length from Province newspaper columnist Michael Smyth's column of February 22, 2008 in which both Campbell and Seckel made statements about the Basi-Virk case.

"I don't hear 'no comment' there," McCullough said, referring to the fact that Campbell, Attorney General Wally Oppal and other government members have said they can't answer questions about a wide range of issues, including the role of BC Liberal insider Patrick Kinsella in the BC Rail deal, because it's before the courts.

And McCullough alleged that Seckel was inappropriately speaking for the government about the case's political aspects.

"The deputy attorney general is saying the government has done nothing wrong, everything right, there is no political interference - to the press," McCullough said. "Do you not see that as a political statement on behalf of the government?"

McCullough then produced a copy of Campbell's personal agenda and said that between June 2005 and March 2007 there were 50 meetings or phone calls between Campbell and Seckel, drawing a skeptical response from Bennett.

"Having worked for many years in the attorney general's ministry, that's not uncommon," Bennett said.

"You got calls from the premier?" McCullough asked.

"No, but I wasn't the deputy attorney general," Bennett replied.

Earlier Bennett released a number of documents sought by the defence related to to BC Rail deal.

"Justice Bennett released first round bid documents and accepted defence submission that they were relevant to the accused to defend themselves," Michael Bolton, David Basi's lawyer, said outside court.

The bids were from the four initial bidders, Bolton said, CN Rail, CP Rail, OmniTRAX and Rail America.

The defence took the position that the bidding process was illusory - that CN was the predetermined winner," he added.

The pre-trial hearing is now adjourned until May 4, when the defence will make arguments to receive third party records from the office of the speaker and the clerk of the Legislature and from individual BC Liberal MLAs.

And on April 22, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal by the Special Prosecutor to overturn to BC lower court decisions regarding the possible appearance of a secret witness in the trial. That decision, which could dramatically affect the case, could be made quickly or take months.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Defence alleges BC Rail executive "change of control" and retention bonuses show deal underway in 2002 – well before sale announced

Basi-Virk defence fires another bombshell: alleges BC Rail executives had "change of control" bonuses in contracts in 2002 - before BC Rail even put up for sale by BC Liberal government - alleges deal in works long before Core Review process - and there was no "auction" for Crown-owned railway company

A shorter version of this story will be published in Friday's 24 hours newspaper

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours

A defence lawyer alleged Thursday that new evidence about B.C. Rail executives’ bonuses shows the 2003 sale of B.C. Rail was planned at least 15 months before the B.C government publicly announced it, and that it was not an auction of bidders as claimed.

In B.C. Supreme Court lawyer Kevin McCullough cited a February 19, 2002 email to Bob Virk from then-B.C. Rail Vice-President Kevin Mahoney that outlines significant “change of control” incentives as well as lengthy retention and severance payments for some B.C. Rail executives.

Virk, David Basi and Aneal Basi are former B.C. government aides facing corruption charges related to the B.C. Rail sale.

McCullough, acting for Virk, said the evidence shows Mahoney was promised a four-month “change of control” payment, a 12-month retention bonus and an additional guarantee of 16-months severance, although he had only been in his position for about two years.

McCullough alleged that the pay packages were put in place before the B.C. Liberal government had completed its “core review” of provincial assets like B.C. Rail and long before the May 16, 2003 announcement of a request for proposals to buy B.C. Rail.

“They [the B.C. Liberals] promise not to sell B.C. Rail in the election but before the core review, before the sale, they put these incentive packages in,” McCullough said.

“The election promise was broken way early – you can show the total politics of this deal and why it wasn’t an auction,” McCullough alleged. “The best way to get the smooth sale of these assets is to make a motivated package for these executives, to encourage executing and being behind the sale, to think it’s a good idea.”

Mahoney is now B.C. Rail’s president and made $569,975 in salary and other compensation in 2007.

B.C. Rail lawyer Robert Deane objected when McCullough alleged that the executives were offered ‘large, huge bonuses – these are not industry standard bonuses.”

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett agreed, telling McCullough it was a matter that he might raise in trial “but not now.”

Earlier McCullough expanded on his allegation that the pay packages made clear the BC Rail deal was planned far earlier than the government told the public.

McCullough noted that the BC Liberals had changed their position on selling BC Rail after they narrowly lost the 1996 election - in part because of that policy. But in the 2002 email between Virk and Mahoney it's clear that the "change of control" and other bonuses are indication that the sale is already planned, he said.

"So you have in 2002, subsequent to the election of the Liberals, you have the position to not sell BC Rail. It was sell in 1996, not sell in 2001," McCullough told Bennett.

"You [BC Liberals] claim that the core review is the reason you sell the asset but these pay packages went in before that," he said.
"They promise not to sell BC Rail in the election but before the core review, before the sale, they put these incentive packages in."

"Mr. Virk is in communications in 2002 - well before there's any suggetion they are going to sell BC Rail," McCullough continued. "Mr. Virk seems to be and is worried about this. That's what Mr. Virk would tell you - he's trying to get information."

McCullough also argued with Bennett about the admissability of his arguments on the individual bonuses given in BC Rail executive contracts.

BC Rail's Deane told Bennett he was not objecting to the general discussion but the specific nature of McCullough's comments.

"I have no problem with talking about information that is public but I'm concerned about third parties where it's not necessary to mention them by name," Deane said.

But McCullough fired back: "How can I do that with someone who I say is the point man for BC Rail? I thought I was being quite kind by not referring to the dollar figures in these documents."

Bennett ended that debate with: "Let's move on."

The last session of the pre-trial hearing before May is Friday April 3 at 10 a.m. and is expected to end by lunch or early afternoon.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thursday & Friday are last two days of Basi-Virk till May - Transportation Ministry documents likely up next

For those wondering - no pre-trial hearing today for the BC Legislature Raid case - regarding corruption charges against former BC Liberal government aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.

But the disclosure hearing resumes Thursday April 2 with government lawyer George Copley making presentations regarding documents from the Transportation Ministry and other ministries that the defence has sought through Freedom Of Information requests.

After Friday April 3 court session it is anticipated that there will be no further hearings until May - and until after the April 22 hearing of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Special Prosecutor's appeal of two lower BC court rulings regarding the issue of a "secret witness."

It is unclear when the Supreme Court of Canada might rule in this expedited hearing - regular readers will recall that Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino hinted that the prosecution might not be able to proceed without the secret witness, though that is far from certain.