Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Premier Christy Clark's ex-Chief of Staff Ken Boessenkool says Conservatives' biggest victory? Killing national child care threat!

If you want to know why BC Premier Christy Clark has a massive 30 point gender gap problem with women voters, take a look at this video clip of her ex-Chief of Staff Ken Boessenkool's argument that the Stephen Harper Conservative government's biggest victory was to kill a national child care program!

At about 3:35 minutes into this 2009 debate at the Preston Manning Centre for Democracy with Andrew Coyne, Boessenkool gets all choked up when he says the most important thing the Conservative government has done is that it:

"Stopped cold...a national, government-run, unionized child-care system and instead redirected billion of dollars so parents can make their own choices about their families."

Wow!  Really?  Boessenkool has been the brains behind Christy Clark for the last 8 months -  and the polls show how effective that has been.

You can watch the YouTube video clip here:

What were Christy Clark and the BC Liberals thinking when they hired Boessenkool?  Did anyone bother to Google his name and check his background?  

Or were they that desperate to curry favour from red meat Conservatives?


Ex-BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen calls BC Liberal MLAs in new search for NDP alternative

Leaderless and now ex-BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen Seeks New Allies while Leader John Cummins clears the deck and moves on
John Cummins speaks, Randy White listens at October 2010 BC Conservatives' AGM - Bill Tieleman photos

Lawyer Roger McConchie with John van Dongen outside BC Supreme Court Basi-Virk hearing - September 2012
After quitting BC Conservatives and BC Liberals, van Dongen talking to BC Liberal MLAs, says considering a 'range of different options' for non-NDP alternative

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday September 25, 2012
By Bill Tieleman
"Loyalty is a fine quality, but in excess it fills political graveyards."
- Neil Kinnock, ex-British Labour Party leader
The wild political shootout at the B.C. Conservative Party corral last weekend didn’t produce any fatalities, but it may have shaped the province's political future by laying the groundwork for yet another party -- or a B.C. Liberal leadership revolt.
On Friday, John Martin, the B.C. Conservatives' Chilliwack-Hope byelection candidate who came third in March, surprisingly joined the B.C. Liberal Party he had trashed mercilessly just months before.
On Saturday, B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins got through an unwanted leadership review vote demanded by dissidents unhappy with his style, winning 71.4 per cent of membership ballots.
Those who loudly complained about Cummins in the media, led by party vice-president Ben Besler, were all purged in their bids to sit on the executive.
The results led the party's only MLA, John van Dongen, to bolt for the doors, leaving the B.C. Conservatives again with no presence in the B.C. Legislature. The veteran MLA and ex-solicitor-general had quit the B.C. Liberals to join forces with Cummins in March, creating a political earthquake for Premier Christy Clark.
But beneath the drama, potentially yet more significant developments were taking place.
Sources in the B.C. Conservative Party told 24 hours Sunday they believed van Dongen planned to replace Cummins as leader and then approach the B.C. Liberals with a plan to ditch Christy Clark and bring the two parties together under van Dongen.
They alleged van Dongen has been in communication with B.C. Liberal MLAs Donna Barnett (Cariboo-Chilcotin) and Moira Stilwell (Vancouver-Langara).
Courting Liberals?
In an interview Sunday night van Dongen didn't confirm or deny holding discussions with the B.C. Liberal MLAs, but did reject B.C. Conservative claims of forming another party.
"I'm not going to disclose individual private conversations," van Dongen said. "I'd love to tell you about conversations I've had with Liberal MLAs, but I'm not going to."
But van Dongen says some of the allegations are way off.
"The Cummins group is convinced I'm going to start a third party -- that's news to me," van Dongen says.
The Abbotsford-South MLA, who intends to sit as an independent, says he does want to find an alternative to the current opposition facing the surging New Democrats under leader Adrian Dix, saying neither Clark nor Cummins can win.
And he fired both barrels at his recent former leader, veteran Conservative and Reform Party Member of Parliament Cummins.
"Cummins doesn't care that 30 per cent of his party is unhappy with him and he doesn't even make them an overture in his speech," van Dongen said.
"People like Cummins and all the people of his vintage -- Randy White, Darrell Stinson, Jim Hart [former Reform Party MPs now advising the B.C. Conservatives] -- none of them have ever been in government," van Dongen said. "It's easy to criticize in opposition, but it's not like being in government."
"This guy [Cummins] never even made it to parliamentary secretary in the Conservative federal government," van Dongen added.
For his part, Cummins laid into van Dongen too.
"One day he was satisfied, the next day he wasn't, now he's out of there," Cummins told Sean Leslie on CKNW radio Sunday.
"Now he told the news yesterday that he was going to the next Liberal convention in Whistler, but he wasn't going to join the party as long as Premier Clark was leading it -- if you can figure that out, go right ahead -- I can't," Cummins said.
But van Dongen said in an interview that he "might possibly" go to the B.C. Liberal convention's so-called "Free Enterprise Friday" that is open to non-members looking for an anti-NDP alternative.
Conversely, van Dongen confirmed that he would not re-join the B.C. Liberals so long as the party is led by Clark.
Party-building 'not for faint of heart': Cummins
Where will van Dongen end up?
"I'm open to a range of different options," he told me. "I'm at peace with my decision." And in an interview with CKNW's Sean Leslie on Saturday van Dongen said:
"I will work with anyone who wants to bring their resources and their capacity and their work ethic to the table to build a credible option for British Columbians. They are rejecting Christy Clark's leadership and they are rejecting John Cummins' leadership."
The veteran MLA left the B.C. Liberals in part over the B.C. Legislature Raid case scandal when he learned his government had paid the $6-million legal defence fees of former government aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk despite their guilty pleas for giving confidential information to lobbyists for a bidder in the $1-billion privatization of B.C. Rail.
Van Dongen says he will continue to work on digging up more information on that case and attending the final arguments in early December in an application brought by Auditor-General John Doyle to obtain government documents connected to Basi and Virk's legal billings and those of others with indemnifications for legal fees. Van Dongen was granted intervener status in the case.
But for Cummins, van Dongen and the dissidents are simply irritation removed from his road to the May 2013 provincial election.
The B.C. Conservatives held a training school Friday for 23 potential candidates, and notwithstanding their public bloodletting are recruiting both more candidates and corporate funding. A statement from Cummins on the weekend talks about his speech on changing the legislative calendar while ignoring the battle royale that took place.
When asked, Cummins acknowledges the challenges in a matter of fact way.
"Building a new party is not for the faint of heart. That's the bottom line here. It's unfortunate when these sorts of things happen, but that's life in the political realm," he told CKNW Sunday.
What's most important to Cummins now is that he has clear control over the B.C. Conservatives and eight months to build a centre-right alternative to the beleaguered B.C. Liberals, who lost Clark's chief of staff Ken Boessenkool Monday morning in a surprise resignation over an "inappropriate personal incident of concern."
Despite the infighting, the Conservatives polled 19 per cent this month and the B.C. Liberals just 25 per cent in an Angus Reid survey this month -- and those are the numbers Cummins cares about most.


Monday, September 24, 2012

SHOCKER: Premier Christy Clark Chief of Staff Ken Boessenkool suddenly resigns his post over personal incident!

Another shocking blow to Premier Christy Clark - her Chief of Staff Ken Boessenkool has resigned effectively immediately over a "personal incident".

Ken Boessenkool

Premier Christy Clark 

Boessenkool has been replaced at least temporarily by veteran bureaucrat Dan Doyle, reports the Vancouver Sun's Jonathan Fowlie.

Boessenkool's resignation letter talks about "hurting his family" and another's in the "incident of concern" which sources tell me involved Boessenkool's conduct in a drinking establishment.



Earlier this month I was involved in an incident where I acted inappropriately. 

I was wrong, regretted my behaviour very much and immediately and unconditionally apologized.

Notwithstanding my genuine apology and sense of regret, and following my meeting with you earlier today I tender my letter of resignation as your Chief of Staff effective immediately.

This will give me a chance to return to Calgary to be with my family - who I have also let down - and from whom I have been separated on a weekly basis for most of the last eight months.

I have been very proud to be at your side and proud of what I helped the team accomplish. 

Nothing should stand in the way of your successful leadership and the accomplishments of your government in creating jobs and making family life affordable.

I wish you the very best.


Ken Boessenkool"

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CANCELLED!!!!! Sorry!!! - Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case discussion with Bill Tieleman, John van Dongen in Vancouver



Just a late note to say that I will be speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at St. James Community Centre - 3214 West 10th Avenue at Trutch Street - at an event on the Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid case/BC Railgate scandal.

BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen is also scheduled to speak and it's sponsored by the Farmland Defence League but open to all.

Bill Tieleman interviews Dave Basi outside BC Supreme Court

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BASI-VIRK: "Stonewalling" - Auditor-General's attempt to get documents on $6 million payment to defence strongly opposed in court

More "Stonewalling" about $6 Million Legal Fees for Dave Basi and Bob Virk
Lawyer Roger McConchie and BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen outside BC Supreme Court hearing into Basi-Virk indemnity legal fees payment - Bill Tieleman photo
Auditor general, van Dongen battle lawyers to get to bottom of legal bill payment by BC tax payers

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday September 18, 2012
By Bill Tieleman
"Stonewalling is a good term to use to describe this situation overall and in this case."
- John van Dongen, BC Conservative MLA
How did two former ministerial aides charged with breach of trust and fraud get their $6 million legal fees paid by the B.C. Liberal government despite pleading guilty in the B.C. Legislature Raid case?
We may never know, despite B.C.'s independent auditor general John Doyle attempting to find out through a B.C. Supreme Court application heard for five days last week.
And the hallmark of the lengthy B.C. Legislature Raid case -- delay -- emerged again, with Doyle's application first put off from June to September and now recessing until early December for final arguments, meaning Chief Justice Robert Bauman is unlikely to make a ruling until 2013.
The issue arises from one of the province's biggest political scandals ever -- with B.C. Liberal government political aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk charged with leaking confidential documents in the $1 billion privatization sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 to lobbyists for a losing bidder in exchange for money and other benefits.
Government employees facing charges can have their legal defence bills covered under a process called indemnification -- but only if they are acquitted.
But Basi and Virk made a sudden surprise guilty plea in Oct. 2010 ending their trial after hearing testimony from just two of an expected 40 witnesses -- including former and current top politicians and staff, possibly even Premier Christy Clark and former premier Gordon Campbell.
Basi and Virk had strongly protested their innocence since the case exploded with an unprecedented police raid on the B.C. Legislature in Dec. 2003 to gather evidence against the two men.
Doyle's efforts to obtain the controversial Basi-Virk legal billings and those of about 100 other government officials whose costs were indemnified since 1999 are being strongly opposed in court, primarily on the basis that solicitor-client privilege blocks his access to the billings of lawyers.
Doyle's legislative authority to conduct an audit and make recommendations to government is also being questioned.
'An incredible effort to avoid accountability'
Outside a courtroom where government is funding up to eight lawyers to argue various sides of the case, John van Dongen, a former B.C. Liberal solicitor general who quit the party in March in part because of Basi-Virk, was "very frustrated."
"There's a fair question whether this issue should be in this courtroom at all and whether it's properly motivated," van Dongen said in an exclusive interview. "There's an incredible effort to avoid accountability and transparency to taxpayers -- there's a problem here."
"Disclosure has been avoided and covered up," said van Dongen, who was given intervener status by Bauman on the grounds that his past position could add information useful to the court.
While van Dongen was a B.C. Liberal cabinet minister and insider for many years, he says he found out about the $6 million payment of legal fees the same day as the public did from then-B.C. attorney-general Mike de Jong, now finance minister.
Veteran lawyer Roger McConchie was retained by van Dongen at his own personal expense to make submissions supporting the auditor-general's application and attend the entire hearing, as did the Abbotsford-South MLA.
Perhaps ironically given the importance of the principles involved, throughout the whole hearing there were always more lawyers in the courtroom than media and observers combined.
In court, McConchie made a powerful argument that denying the auditor-general confidential access to legal billings in indemnification cases was wrong.
"Where the public interest cries out for investigation and audit, the court should be able to permit access to privileged information," McConchie told Bauman.
And McConchie said the "auditor-general plays an extremely important role" in ensuring that government spending is accountable to taxpayers.
"An audit has a sobering effect on conduct," McConchie said. "The salutary deterrent effect is that a possible audit by the auditor-general can have on ministries owes its effect to the possibility of a wide-ranging, unrestricted audit."
Auditor general's plea for access
McConchie's 50-page submission and arguments echoed those of the auditor-general's legal counsel Louis Zivot, who filed a 111-page submission with hundreds of references to case law and legislative authorities to back the application.
"It was intended by the legislation that the Auditor general have full access," Zivot told Bauman. "The legislation could have been drafted to exclude legal expenditures."
"If we have to negotiate with the attorney general as to what we can have and how we can have it, it will impede the auditor general," Zivot said.
"It is absolutely necessary that the Auditor general have access to all these documents," he said. "While a good deal of focus is on Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk... they are only two of the hundreds of recipients of indemnities."
The records that have been given to the auditor general have been severely severed or redacted, effectively rendering many of them useless, Zivot said.
"Some pages are virtually black -- you can't tell who conversations were with -- these are insufficient for auditing accounts," Zivot said. On the lectern in front of Zivot observers could clearly see a document with blacked out pages.
In concluding, Zivot warned that a decision against Doyle would not only negatively impact the B.C. auditor general's powers but those of other provinces as well, who have very similar legislative authority.
"Essentially this is a very important matter for the auditor general of British Columbia but also for other auditor generals," Zivot said. "A finding that the auditor general does not have these powers would have an adverse effect on the [B.C.] auditor general, other auditors general and auditors."
The other side
But strong arguments against the auditor general's application for these files were also heard in court.
While the government has not taken a position for or against Doyle's application, an amicus curiae or "friend of the court" was appointed by the court to oppose the auditor general's application with all relevant arguments to protect solicitor-client privilege.
Not only were lengthy arguments made in an 88-page submission strongly fighting Doyle's position but lawyer Michael Frey [pronounced Fry] previously opposed van Dongen's application for intervenor status, saying the former veteran cabinet minister had nothing to add to the case.
When it came to the auditor general's application, Frey was completely dismissive of its merits.
"The Amicus's first and foremost submission to this court is that, as a matter of statutory interpretation and law, the petitioner [Doyle] has no power to compel the abrogation of solicitor client privilege. His general production power in the [auditor general] act does not authorize the infringement of privilege," Frey wrote.
"Further, the amicus submits the petitioner has also significantly overreached in claiming that the standards justify an interpretation of the act that empowers him to compel abrogation of solicitor client privilege, or an absolute necessity for compelled interference with the privilege on any basis in connection with audit work," he continued.
Frey noted in court that Doyle's office has received partial records of indemnification legal billings that have been redacted -- or blacked out to remove some details -- and could conduct his audit with those.
Justice Bauman intervened to ask for clarification at that point.
"Is your argument that what he [the auditor general] can get through redacted material... ought to be plenty enough?" Bauman asked.
"Yes," Frey quickly responded.
Mysterious Sandra Harper
Basi and Virk are also opposing the auditor general -- at least in part. They have given a partial waiver on access to those documents possessed by government -- but not the files of two lawyers retained to independently review the legal bills of Michael Bolton, lawyer for Basi and Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Virk.
And as always with the B.C. Legislature raid case, efforts to find out what happened invariably uncover yet more mysteries.
One of the lawyers attending the full five-day hearing was Sandra Harper, one of the independent reviewers of Basi and Virk's legal costs.
Harper took the stand briefly to explain her position: that she declined to provide her files to the auditor general when he requested them, saying that while she did not object, Virk did, and so Doyle should seek a court order for her to produce them.
But things took a strange turn in her testimony on Sept. 12.
"I acted as the independent reviewer of counsel for the accused, Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk, until Sept. 2010, when I resigned," she told Bauman.
What? The only independent reviewer of the $6 million in legal fees for the accused for five years quits just weeks before the actual trial starts in Oct. 2010?
Naturally, I wanted to know why, and approached Harper as she left court on a break Friday.
Tieleman: "Bill Tieleman, with 24 hours newspaper and The Tyee, Ms. Harper -- may I ask you one simple question?"
Harper: "No."
Tieleman: "But don't you even want to know the question?"
Harper: "I won't be talking to the media. You may find out the answers through others at the court."
And with that she was gone, leaving the puzzle additionally intriguing.
But wait, there's more.
Harper also publicly opposed van Dongen's application for intervenor status when it was made in May.
"It's so politically motivated and so off topic that I'm very concerned that Mr. van Dongen's real message is not inside court but outside court and there's a very real concern of the application becoming politicized," she said then. "The Basi-Virk matter has been political enough."
That view didn't hold sway with Bauman, who granted van Dongen's request, saying: "I am satisfied that a responsible intervention will be made."
But it's hard for this case to avoid being "political" when the co-accused were both senior B.C. Liberal ministerial assistants who leaked confidential government material not only to lobbyists Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran -- who were never charged and were slated to become key Crown witnesses -- but also to Bruce Clark, the premier's own brother, who also was never charged with any offence.
So why is Sandra Harper not willing to tell the public why she quit as the reviewer of Basi and Virk’s legal bills?
And why did she openly oppose van Dongen's application for intervenor status?
Hard to know when Harper won't even hear questions, let alone answer them.
But there's no record of Harper making political donations to any party on the Elections BC financial reporting website.
Fog has yet to lift
And so the mysteries continue nearly nine years after the Basi-Virk/B.C. Legislature raid case first exploded into public view.
Since that time the overall costs to the public have topped $18 million, including prosecution and RCMP expenditures as well as Basi and Virk's legal bills.
Overall, it's clear that win or lose, the auditor general's application will not be able to answer the much larger questions of what happened when the government sold the publicly-owned B.C. Rail that it has promised in 2001 to keep.
That's why it's worth continuing to call for a public inquiry, which has been supported by the B.C. New Democrats, the B.C. Conservatives and the B.C. Green Party.
You can add your voice at the Facebook page -- Basi-Virk Public Inquiry.
But until and unless that inquiry takes place, there are too many mysteries and not enough clues.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

BASI-VIRK: Auditor General battles in court to get access to government indemnity documents

Auditor General John Doyle's difficult road to get access to Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid legal indemnity documents faces government roadblocks
David Basi - far left - and Bob Virk - far right after entering guilty pleas in October 2010

In a nearly empty BC Supreme Court room where there are more government-paid lawyers - seven at least - than either media members or public observers, a serious legal street fight is being waged over access to confidential government documents sought by the independent Auditor General.

At stake - accountability to taxpayers and transparency in the expenditure of millions in government funds.

Specifically, Doyle is attempting to find out how the $6 million legal fees of David Basi and Bob Virk were paid by the government despite the two former BC Liberal Ministerial aides pleading guilty to breach of trust and fraud charges.

Government officials can be "indemnified" for their legal fees if they face charges related to the conduct of their duties - but only so long as they are found innocent.

In the BC Legislature Raid case, Basi and Virk admitted receiving money and other benefits in exchange for leaking confidential government documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail to lobbyists working for one of the bidders.

But in addition, there are nearly 100 other cases of government employees receiving millions in legal fees for indemnification.

And it appears there are no clear policies or even guidelines on how these funds were spent.

That is the purpose of Doyle's attempt to conduct a value for money audit - but it has been steadfastly opposed by the government.

On  Wednesday at court in front of Chief Justice Robert Bauman arguments for Doyle were made by lawyer Louis Zivot, who stated that the Auditor General Act was clearly drafted to give Doyle access to whatever government documents his office needs to conduct audits.

The key argument against letting Doyle have confidential files is that it violates solicitor-client privilege, but Zivot rejected that claim.

"It was intended by the legislation that the Auditor General have full access," Zivot told Bauman.  "The legislation could have been drafted to exclude legal expenditures."

"If we have to negotiate with the attorney general as to what we can have and how we can have it, it will impede the Auditor General," Zivot said.

"It is absolutely necessary that the Auditor General have access to all these documents," he said. "While a good deal of focus is on Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk... they are only two of the hundreds of recipients of indemnities."

The records that have been given to the Auditor General have been severely severed or redacted, effectively rendering many of them useless, Zivot said.

"Some pages are virtually black - you can't tell who conversations were with - these are insufficient for auditing accounts," Zivot said.  On the lectern in front of Zivot observers could clearly see a document with blacked out pages.

In concluding, Zivot warned that a decision against Doyle would not only negatively impact the BC Auditor General's powers but those of other provinces as well, who have very similar legislative authority.

"Essentially this is a very important matter for the Auditor General of British Columbia but also for other auditor generals," Zivot said. "A finding that the Auditor General does not have these powers would have an adverse effect on the Auditor General, other auditors general and auditors."

NOTE TO READERS - Veteran lawyer Roger McConchie made powerful arguments on behalf of BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen later on Wednesday.  Those arguments and an interview with van Dongen will be the subject of my 24 Hours/The Tyee column on Tuesday September 18 - along with other information from the hearing on Thursday and Friday.