Friday, December 29, 2006
Robin Mathews: Fifth Part. RCMP Raids on B.C.Legislature Offices. Hearings. Delays. Obstruction. And the collapse of responsible journalism in Canada
Gary Mason, special B.C. columnist for the Globe and Mail, has written one of the silliest and - at the same time - one of the most disturbing columns a Canadian might imagine. It was published to mark the third anniversary of the December 28, 2003 "raids" by RCMP on B.C. Legislature offices. It is based upon a face to face interview with two of the three men, David Basi, Aneal Basi, and Bob Virk, charged, variously, with a total of 14 criminal offenses, largely related to the dirty sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell government.
The three men and the charges against them are, you might say, the tip of the huge iceberg of suggestions, allegations, and factual revelations of corruption in the Gordon Campbell government.
The silly report by Gary Mason might be acceptable if the Globe and Mail was doing anything like reasonable coverage of the thickening corruption in B.C. government. It is not. Mason is what I call "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Globe and Mail". He manages to make the Campbell government look good in everything he writes. Or he manages to leave it out of stories in which it should figure importantly - like this one.
Recently he wrote a front page story on the complexity of Gordon Campbell's policies, never once referring to (a) the unflagging policy of destroying medicare in B.C., (b) the policy of removal of safety legislation all over the province (c) the policy of privatisation and sell-out of B.C.-owned wealth-assuring operations to large private (often foreign) corporations (d) the policy to downgrade and destroy protection of all kinds for all vulnerable people in the province (e) the policy to destroy the ownership of B.C. rivers by British Columbians and to hand ownership (in fact) to large corporate foreign control and ownership. What then did Gary Mason write? Fluff.
He is not alone. In a front page story (Globe and Mail, Dec. 11 06 S1) Mark Hume wrote a laudatory piece about the miraculous transformation of Gordon Campbell under (violins are heard playing softly here) the soothing guidance of a woman. All is beautiful, Hume tells us, about Native/B.C. government relations - never uttering a word of the information to appear a little later in this column. Vaughn Palmer I call "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Vancouver Sun." Why? Let me use one "for instance".
For instance, Vaughn Palmer has written column after column on the Native land claims in B.C.and about Gordon Campbell's sudden and stunning enlightenment and humanity on the whole question of Native rights. It took B.C. Mary, a serious non-journalist Canadian who is disturbed about the corruption in B.C., to point out that the recent Tsawwassen proposed treaty uses Agricultural Land Reserve territory to pay off the Natives AFTER they have given up some key treaty rights so they may be pushed into development games with private entrepreneurs probably to lose everything they have.
"The Tsawwassens have agreed to give up their Reserve status". The land they will receive has been removed "from the Agricultural Land Reserve making it OK to pave the richest, blackest soil in B.C." "So what seemed like a long-awaited treaty settlement is really just another part of Gordon Campbell's plan to sell off B.C. Rail and everything connected to it. Why else are there 185 spin doctors in the employ of the government, at the Ministry of Finance (See Order in Council #656 dated 12 Sept. '06)? " I quote BC Mary there to show what Palmer, Hume, Mason and the rest of the servants of the Private Corporate Press and Media fail, almost doggedly, almost devotedly to report.
B.C. Mary (not Vaughn Palmer! Not Mark Hume! Not Gary Mason!) revealed Campbell can attack the ALR preserves (and is doing so), destroy them, take in the Native peoples, rub out their historic defenses, and turn over land he has intended for Private Corporations to those Corporations under the guise of following a just and progressive policy.
Column after column from the major news journalists on Native Land Claims, and not a word of what B.C. Mary revealed. Two very simple questions offer themselves. If Gordon Campbell is doing his utmost to sell out every asset belonging to the British Columbia people and is doing so with secrecy, deceit, false advertising, and barbarous legislation, why would he work sincerely and humanely for the Native people? If he is permitting (and in fact earlier constructing) a ministry of Children and Families involved in the needless deaths of Native children, why would he be working for the future good of the Native people in B.C.? Are the journalists of the private corporate press really so stupid they don't look into real Native policy? Into the real designs of Gordon Campbell? Surely not. Then we must conclude their nonsense writing about Native policy and Gordon Campbell's enlightened humanity arises from other motivations. What are they?
On the legislature raids, from the allegations (true or false) against the three men named and the dirty sale of B.C. Rail, the focus shines hard down on B.C. affairs so that - played out in any reasonable way - the trial should threaten the very existence of the Gordon Campbell government. Is it fair to say the private corporate press and media are "employed" in covering up any information that may point to that central fact?
On the eve (?) of the trial of the three men Gary Mason secured an intimate interview with them. Two of the three men came together in one room with Mason. Two of them even posed for a photograph "at play" at Bob Virk's home. That's called, in the trade, a "human interest" shot.
How did Gary Mason get the interview? Why did the men agree to do it? What negotiations did the Globe and Mail have with the Defence lawyers? They must have been involved. What Globe and Mail executives were involved in any negotiations? What guarantees were given that Mason would not ask certain questions? Did the Globe and Mail consult Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell's chief of staff - the man who fired Dave Basi the day of the raid on the legislature offices? Was the Special Prosecutor, appointed by cabinet in fact, consulted? Who vetted the "story" before it was published - who read it pre-publication?
Clearly, the interview and story resulting from Gary Mason's meeting are considered important - or those events would never have happened. Who considers them important? The Defence team? The Special Prosecutor? Martyn Brown and Gordon Campbell? The purchasers of B.C. Rail? Who? Who else?
Not a word on any of that from Gary Mason.
Early in Gary Mason's story, we are told that Dave Basi "was an aide to the then-finance-minister Gary Collins [in 2003]. He [Basi] was considered the most powerful ministerial assistant in the B.C. government. Mr. Basi was also a political operative of some renown in both federal and provincial wings of the Liberal Party, highly prized for his ability to sign up large numbers of Indo-Canadian members." Bob Virk was assistant to Judith Reid, transportation minister.
We know, too, that Martyn Brown sent an early message, after the first Campbell victory, telling cabinet ministers, in fact, they were front-men only. Real power would be in the Campbell-appointed deputy ministers. I quote Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight, 2003-12-31: "On June 25, 2001, Campbell wrote a letter to all cabinet minsters telling them that [Martyn] Brown would arrange the 'structuring and staffing' of their offices. Campbell also instructed ministers not to act like the chief executive officer of their ministries, adding that this role should be performed by their deputies who would be selected by the premier's office." That was the building of a despotism under the pretence of conformity to parliamentary democracy, a despotism in which all decisions of significance were to be made by one person: Gordon Campbell.
In despotisms the despot is the person responsible for government crimes and wrong-doing, for he is, in fact, the sole power-holder. Gordon Campbell, therefore, is implicated in every crime and wrong-doing of the present B.C. government. He has to be because of the structure of power he, himself, has instituted.
We know, too, because Dave Basi tells us in the interview, that Martyn Brown phoned him on December 28, 2003, and fired him. Note carefully that his apparent employer, Gary Collins, didn't fire him, the minister for whom he apparently worked. Martyn Brown fired him. And he did so by saying, "We're going to have to rescind your OIC [Order in Council] immediately".
Was he not saying, in effect, that Gordon Campbell and I hired you, and we're firing you, now. He seems to be saying, in effect, "You don't work for the minister, Gary Collins. You work for Gordon Campbell and me, and we're firing you". Was he saying more things?
We all know the questions that should come out of Gary Mason's description of Dave Basi as "the most powerful ministerial assistant in the B.C. government" and the rest quoted about him above.
What were Basi's duties? Just what did he actually do? From whom did he take instructions? To whom did he report? To Collins? To Martyn Brown? To Gordon Campbell? What relation did he have - as the most powerful ministerial assistant - to other ministers, other aides and assistants? What "political work" did he do from the ministerial offices? And who directed him in it? What role did he play in the dirty sale of B.C. Rail? How did he "sign up large numbers of Indo-Canadian members" to the Liberal Party? Who paid for the memberships? Where did the money come from? What, in short, did he do as apparent aide to "then-finance-minister Gary Collins"?
From Gary Mason, not a word, not a question. If Mason had asked the questions, we would have the answers. If he didn't ask the questions, the "interview" was a game, nonsense theatre, smoke and mirrors. And if he asked them and answers were refused, he should have told us that.
At the general time covered by the Gary Mason "story", Herb Dhaliwal is reported as saying David Basi was instrumental in his [Dhaliwal's] loss of his federal Liberal candidacy. Bill Tieleman (The Tyee Nov. 30 2006) quotes Dhaliwal directly: "I was concerned that people in Victoria were involved in meddling in my ridingŠ.I was the senior minister for B.C. who was working closely with the premier, and they had their own political staff trying to undermine me. I find that incredible."
Notice: "they had their own political staff involved in meddling in my riding." That would be Dave Basi among others, would it not? Who were the others? Is it not obvious that Gordon Campbell would have to have been closely linked to such activity (as the employer of Dave Basi)? To what other dubious activities was and is Campbell directly or closely linked?
There was, indeed, so much open talk and reporting of fraudulent bulk Party membership gathering that some of us acted. Nineteen others and I wrote a joint letter to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and his office asking for an investigation of improper Party membership gathering practices in B.C. (Remember - see Fourth Part - Judy Tyabi Wilson reports that Gordon Campbell himself (earlier) allegedly floated to the leadership of the Provincial Liberal Party on what were alleged to be untraceable bulk Party membership votes.)
The Chief Electoral Officer - I believe - stalled and obstructed our request. He or his office wrote to say investigation is not in his hands. (Is he, or is he not, Chief Electoral Officer?) He referred us to another office and suggested we make our request there. Since the office was in the same building and part of the same operation, I wrote and said, in effect, "carry our material across the hall to them". Since the Chief Electoral Officer could hardly refuse to do so without looking like someone clearly attempting to obstruct, that was done.
The officer in charge of investigations refused to investigate and wrote - as I remember it - that if WE would get evidence of wrong-doing, he might act.
You could believe from that information that the Chief Electoral Officer and his offices cover for the dubious behaviour of the Liberal Party. But pause. They are not so exclusive. Remember when Peter MacKay broke his written promise to David Orchard not to integrate the Progressive Conservative Party into Stephen Harper's reactionary formation. Remember that MacKay then integrated with Harper, and the new force decided to call itself the Conservative Party. There were good grounds to fight both the integration and the choice of name - before the Chief Electoral Officer and before the courts - if the opponents moved fast.
But Harper, MacKay, and the Chief Electoral Officer moved faster. The Chief Electoral Officer extraordinarily opened his office on a Sunday and granted the Harper forces the status they wanted when the courts, of course, were not open to challenge the procedure, and most of the opponents probably didn't even know the Sunday meeting was being held.
Now, Jean-Pierre Kingsley has announced his resignation as Chief Electoral Officer after "a dustup with the federal Conservative party over political financing rules -- whether the party broke the law by failing to disclose more than $500,000.00 worth of political donations." (Vanc. Sun, Dec 29, 06 A4) Jean-Pierre Kingsley seems to have won that round. Is he being forced out by Stephen Harper because he did so and wouldn't okay wrong-doing? We can only hope so. If that is so, we might be convinced that even Jean-Pierre Kingsley has limits beyond which he won't go.
Strangely, none of that kind of information is even hinted at in the Gary Mason "story" called "There is nothing to these charges". And, indeed, no investigation has been conducted (as far as we can know), and certainly no charges have arisen from fraudulent bulk Party membership gathering which appears to have been an intense, illicit operation conducted in the surround of the Gordon Campbell cabinet and related circles at the time.
There is not much reason to write about the seemingly staged chatter presented by Gary Mason in the "interview". But a few things may be said. David Basi protests about the charge against him (later dropped) and the media fuss made over the tenant in his rented house being charged with running a marijuana grow-op there. Basi says: "How many landlords ever got charged for grow-ops in rental homes?" Very few, we can easily reply. But reasonable Canadians may ask how many landlords of grow-op rental homes can claim to be "the most powerful ministerial assistant in the B.C. government", hired by the premier himself, and active in political candidacies both legitimately and, allegedly, otherwise?
Reasonable Canadians might say: "If you have such a publicly important and responsible job, you don't let marijuana growers rent your revenue house, do you? And if you do, should you be surprised that the situation causes a storm?" Dave Basi seems to think so, perhaps showing a dangerous kind of naivete about his actions and actions occurring around him.
Clearly Gary Mason was on an inside track when he conducted the "interview" and wrote the "story". He knows just what to include and what to leave out. Motly. In his third anniversary story, before the January 15, 2007 hearing before Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, Mason tells us that the trial of the three men "is expected to begin next Spring". Obviously, Mason has consulted - with whom?
With Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett? She is the only person who can rule on the trial date. Or perhaps there were negotiations among the Globe and Mail, the accused, the Defence lawyers, the Special Prosecutor, Martyn Brown - and who knows what others? Could it have been the Defence Counsel, or the Special Prosecutor, or even Gordon Campbell who said there will be no trial until next Spring?
We have to face painful facts about the trial. To begin, the disclosure of evidence, it is argued, was obstructed by the RCMP and by the Department of Justice. The Special Prosecutor, appointed by the Attorney General with whom he had once been in partnership, appears to have done very little to produce evidence for the Defence in a clear, timely, and efficacious fashion.
The Associate Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, Patrick Dohm - who interested himself in the proceedings, and the trial judge, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, did not act quickly, surely, and insistently to make sure (over two years following the laying of charges) that all processes moved swiftly and with efficiency. The Associate Chief Justice, in addition, has put in place a set of protocols governing the release of public information concerning criminal trials which is an insult to democratic society.
Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett acts - in relation to this trial - as far as this observer is concerned, not as if she is presiding at events that bring into question the legitimacy of the whole Gordon Campbell government, but rather as if she is dealing with a rather annoying case involving break and entry to a street-corner pizza parlour.
Let it not be forgotten that the former Appeals Court judge who dropped into Gordon Campbell's cabinet in a move that violates the prudent and necessary separation of the courts and political power has taken on the mantle of Attorney General of the province. As such, Wally Oppal recently made irresponsible remarks which, plainly, served (whatever his intentions) to call into question the legitimacy of the Basi, Basi, Virk trial.
Altogether too much about this case reveals activity and behaviour that many reasonable and prudent Canadians would not in any way condone.
One item of Gary Mason's information - as I have pointed out - is the casual announcement that the trial date of the three men is now "expected" to be Spring of 2007. Each delay, of course, brings closer the date upon which the Defence can claim that the accused have suffered so much by delay the judge must declare a mistrial and release them from all charges.
For that reason Madam Justice Bennett must declare that the trial will go ahead very soon because it relates to the very fundamental basis of governmental behaviour in a free society and because it is a trial of deep concern to every British Columbian. Other commitments, other plans must be put aside by all parties concerned, and the trial must be undertaken before the end of January. If Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett does not insist on such a procedure, Canadians may assume that law, justice, and the proper conduct of public officers are, for her, a silly, old-fashioned joke.
The last small insight in Gary Mason's "interview" comes from Dave Basi's conversation about Eric Bornmann, "the Crown's star witness, against the word of the two Basis and Mr. Virk. Mr. Bornmann has told police he paid Mr. Basi money for confidential information related to the sale of B.C. Rail. One of Mr.Bornmann's clients, OmniTRAX, was a bidder for the rail line."
No one at OmniTRAX, not Mr. Bornmann, nor lobbyist Brian Kieran - the last involved with giving Basi and Virk "benefits" - is charged with anything. That point has been made before and may, usefully, be pointed out again.
But what is also interesting is Dave Basi's and Bob Virk's familiarity with the characters involved. Basi refers to Bornmann as "Erik", and to Kieran as "Brian". Indeed, Erik Bornmann sent an effusive card and "the largest bouquet of flowers Amy Virk had ever seen" when her daughter Aleena was born. That, according to Virk, happened well after Bornmann had alleged to police the information which makes him "the Crown's star witness" against Basi and Virk.
Gary Mason probed none of that. Nor did he ask what other people might be implicated in the kinds of criminal actions about which the three men claim absolute innocence.
The foolish, silly, smoke-and-mirrors "interview" by Gary Mason is another indication of the collapse of responsible journalism in Canada. It, however, opens two questions. First: how much is the so-called trial of the three men charged (altogether) with something like 14 criminal offenses a sham, a farce, a smoke and mirrors performance, a piece of ugly and ridiculous theatre never intended to have an end but to be, somehow, aborted? Secondly, Mason's interview opens another question - opens it widely without, apparently, Mason even intending it to do so. Who, from Gordon Campbell himself down through government and associated ranks outside, should be facing criminal charges arising out of the particular corruption related to the dirty sale of B.C. Rail, to dirty party membership gathering, and to general and widespread B.C. government corruption elsewhere?
Those are not questions Gary Mason poses, or even intends, it seems. But they are the questions that just won't go away no matter how much he and his private corporate journalist associates try to paint Campbell and the Campbell government in rosy colours - to, it seems, cover for their every dirty deed. The questions that Gary Mason and his private corporate press and media associates absolutely refuse to ask are the ones that, fairly answered, would very likely bring the Campbell government crashing down.
Martyn Brown ... he knows nothing, too!
When Premier Campbell called his first post-raid caucus meeting, the topic of Dave Basi's federal connections came up, and B.C. Liberals pointed fingers at Basi's boss, the then-Minister of Finance, Gary Collins.
Gordon Campbell told reporters emphatically that he was not aware of the extent of Basi's activities on behalf of the federal Liberals.
The premier insisted that his chief of staff, Martyn Brown, was unaware as well.
Some Liberals think the premier doth protest too much. They can't believe that he and his chief of staff, both of whom are known for controlling tendencies, were entirely ignorant of Basi's involvement in the Paul Martin organization.
More likely, they figure, the premier's office turned a blind eye, thinking it could help B.C. to have an "in" with the next prime minister.
The premier's denial meant that the buck stopped with Collins.
Collins can't very well say he didn't know what Basi was doing on the political front: He'd look like a fool.
Vaughn Palmer concludes, "Besides, I have to think that Collins welcomed his aide's well-cultivated connection to the incoming prime minister. It could be useful to him in his other role as finance minister when he needed to pitch B.C.'s case to the federal moneybags.
"And if Collins, who not so long ago considered running federally, were to reactivate that ambition, well, it couldn't hurt politically, either."
And, as we have said ourselves, the emotional story given by Basi and Virk to Gary Mason for the Globe and Mail, might not hurt them politically, either.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
With thanks to Vaughn Palmer for his long-ago column, "Basi's Federal connection upsets some B.C. Liberals"
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
They played Gary Mason like a violin
Dave Basi and Bob Virk blurted out their innermost feelings last week.
After waiting in virtual silence for 3 years, there it was in the venerable Globe and Mail newspaper, a real tear-jerker, lacking only Tiny Tim and Scrooge to be our own Christmas Carol. Why did they spill all this stuff to an Ontario-based newspaper two days before Christmas 2006? Well, trust your instincts, I always say. I figure Basi called Mason and set him up.
I have always felt a certain empathy with Basi, Virk, and the younger Aneal Basi. I saw them as ambitious young men, working hard to make their way up in the world. But Gary Mason's article took that away from me. It was so clearly an attempt to manipulate public opinion that even a first reading made me uneasy. Somebody asked me "What do you think of it?" and I heard myself say, "It's a paid political announcement." Odd, that.
I've often said that I wondered how Basi and Virk were doing. And yet this big, sprawling, teary-eyed story came across as creating suspicion, because it didn't seem that they or Gary Mason were being straight with the public. I don't know, but could public opinion then influence the trial verdict? I've never seen the inner thoughts of any other accused person put on public display before, almost like an endorsement of their innocence, just ahead of their trial. Have you? Is this legal?
A few nasty comments heaping opprobrium on the 37,000-member RCMP were left on this web-site on Christmas Day making it obvious that some people had swallowed the story and were ready to get onto that bandwagon themselves. I happen to see the profession of journalism as a high calling, the essential foundation of a free, democratic society. So I'd like to talk a bit about this story. And to encourage others to give it close personal examination.
The title(s) of Gary Mason's stories clearly provide the theme:
The print edition headline is: 'THERE IS NOTHING TO THESE CHARGES."
The On-Line edition's headline is even more biased: 'DAVE, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?' 'I DON'T KNOW, BOB. I HONESTLY DON'T' This is tabloid sensationalism, tailored to influence the public with an unofficial verdict. This is not the sober, erudite professionalism usually found in The Globe and Mail. How come? What's going on here?
Well ... the public loves a story about the underdog. Especially at Christmas. And this story was definitely all of that.
Gary Mason's story begins (in the on-line version) in bed with Dave and his wife Inderjit Basi. Got that? The reader is dropped right into the accused's marital bed. And I don't want to be there. Yuck to "grab-'em-by-the-balls" attention-getting. It's unworthy of an old Conservative newspaper. More about that point later.
The reader is told about the sound of cars "roaring" down Basi's street and pulling into his driveway. Car doors started slamming. The Basis' dog started barking. Who could be coming to the house at 8:45 on a Sunday morning? The doorbell rang. Oh, the humanity! Oh, those bad, bad cops!
Next jolt: Basi comes to the door, after Inderjit has told him "It's the police and they have a search warrant." If you've ever had a policeman show up at your doorstep, I defy you to explain Basi's first question, or his second. Instead of saying "What's the problem, officer? Has there been an accident?" no, Basi says: "Am I under arrest?" And then "Am I being taken in for questioning?" Plus "Do we have to stay here?" Something amiss here. Why would one of B.C.'s most powerful government aides immediately wonder if he's under arrest?
The on-line version (different from the newspaper story) includes one of the key pieces to this story: the telephone call to Basi from Martyn Brown, Premier Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff, who telephoned even before Virk had been visited by police. This brief conversation, as told to Gary Mason by Dave Basi for this Christmas Carol, is especially worthy of analysis. Mason is acting as stenographer here. There's no other way he could replicate this conversation, as he writes:
"Dave," Mr. Brown said. "This is obviously a very serious situation."
"Yeah," Mr. Basi said. "I know."
"Unfortunately," Mr. Brown continued. "We're going to have to rescind your OIC [order in council] immediately." [Why? And who is "we"?]
Dave Basi was being fired on the spot. Anyone being fired as from a shotgun would normally ask why. But Basi didn't. Mr. Brown told him there was little he could say about what was going on.
Stranger still, Mason seems to speak for himself while denouncing his own profession, the media, as if he has fully absorbed Dave Basi's point of view and thinks it's his own. He complains that Basi had "his name and face splattered all over the news in the most unflattering context." Splattered, as in mud. I've never seen news that was splattered. Have you?
Mason also says "A headline blared: Basi owns home busted for grow-op" which, although confused, isn't incorrect. Basi owned a house, the house was a grow-op, Basi got busted, but there wasn't enough evidence to convict.
The point is: news can't "blare" ... neither can it "splatter" ... so what's Mason doing? Being played like a Stradivarius, that's what.
It's a long article, mostly personal opinion, riddled with intimate personal gratuitous information. Basi is "stunned, "in shock", "his mind whirled" and "feeling numb", things which Mason has no way of knowing himself; but which he accepts in the role of stenographer. It's mawkish emotionalism, money-talk, baby-talk, daddy-talk, thwarted ambition, every maudlin angle to create sympathy except for one glaring omission. What about the public? What did Basi and Virk think about the public interest?
For 3 years, our journalists have mostly been afraid to write about the Legislature raids ... and now, as the trial-date approaches, we get a tear-jerker yarn about how difficult all this is for the accused. Certainly it must be hard for Basi, Virk, Basi, and their families. I too wish it had never happened and I'm sorry about the whole unfortunate affair.
But it's no good trying to pretend it never happened. Or that it never should have happened. Something sent the RCMP and Victoria police on a carefully prepared execution of search warrants, duly authorized. This was no mischievous whim on the part of bad cops. This was OKed by a special flight to the Speaker of the House. It was known in advance to the premier and the attorney-general. And the police were all at sergeant-level out of respect for the seriousness of a raid which had never happened before in Canada. It happened. And it shocked the bejapers out of all British Columbians, too.
So dammit, what about us? I wish Gary Mason or Basi or Virk had given even one little thought to how British Columbians feel ... we saw that raid unfold too ... we've worried about what might have happened to our railroad ... but we've been hung out to dry, left wondering what the heck is going on within our legislative precincts.
Yet these guys had not a word for the people of B.C. The public interest seems not to exist for them. And so my feelings for them hardened when I read about them ragging down the police forces of the countrty in an effort to save themselves. Or blaming the media. Or blaming racism or Bornmann or Kierans. I'd like to have seen a "Gosh, maybe I did slip up somewhere ... and I'm sorry," from either Basi or Virk, but no. It was everybody's fault but theirs. They are the victims in this Christmas Carol. And the public interest just doesn't figure in their minds. Not Basi's, not Virk's, not Mason's, according to this story.
There's understandably a heap of resentment in the hearts and minds of Basi and Virk toward their former friends who allegedly gave their detailed stories to the Crown Prosecutor in return for some sort of deal. That's probably the engine driving this story.
It's also possible that Gary Mason, a passionate Liberal, would like to see the B.C. Liberal story (the aides, the BCRail sale, and possibly the electioneering style of B.C. Liberals) sanitized before the next federal election. Dave Basi must be itching to get into that federal campaign already under way, and perhaps achieve his goal of serving in the Prime Minister's Office. Chief of Staff, I think he wanted. Not small potatoes.
It's surely eating at them that Erik Bornmann, their old pal, who is now their declared enemy, told police he paid Basi money for confidential information related to the sale of B.C. Rail. And OMNI-trax, for whom Bornmann was lobbyist, was a bidder for BC Rail. It's alleged the money was laundered through Aneal Basi.
It's also alleged that in exchange for information from Basi and Virk, Bornmann agreed to recommend the pair for jobs with the federal government. A colleague of Bornmann's at Pilothouse Public Affairs Group, Brian Kieran, has told police he supplied Basi and Virk with benefits in connection with the B.C. Rail deal.
Neither Bornmann nor Kieran face any charges and both have repeatedly refused to comment on the case.
The treatment Bornmann and Kieran have received compared with their own, irks both Basi and Virk.
Bornmann, for instance, was able to finish UBC law school and then article for one of the largest law firms in the country. He has travelled the world, attended state lunches. He has not been charged with any offences despite telling police he bribed government officials.
Mr. Kieran, meantime, has quietly slipped into semi-retirement without facing charges, despite admitting to paying Basi and Virk $3,000 for expenses the two incurred while attending an NFL football game in Denver with their wives and the head of OmniTRAX.
Bornmann has probably found his way back into federal politics in Ottawa, which is exactly where Basi and Virk had hoped to go. That must sting.
So it looks to me as if Basi and possibly Virk have played Gary Mason like a violin, to get themselves a nice big sob story in a national newspaper, just in time for a federal election and the Supreme Court trial.
It only leaves us asking: why didn't the hometown CanWest newspapers like Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province, or Victoria Times Colonist want the story? My guess is that Basi & Virk were bidding for a place in the Eastern political sunshine -- in those rich vineyards where their old cronies now labour -- and where they always wanted to be. Their ambitions are national in scope.
There are many glaring clues, subtleties, contradictions and points of interest in this story, well worth anyone's study. It's an article which will end up in university-level journalism and political science classes for all the wrong reasons.
There was a line in Gary Mason's story which did ring unequivocably true: "The prospect of a spring  trial has many inside and outside the public service nervous. The names of some of British Columbia's most powerful political movers and shakers could surface during the proceedings."
Sunday, December 24, 2006
A Christmas wish for one and all in B.C.
One of the Anonymice comments:
Merry Christmas Mary to you and yours.
Maybe the sock you hung by the fireplace will include a trial date that won't move again.
Let's all hope this thing will end soon. Let's face it, there has never been a raid on a Legislature in Canadian History.
It's getting embarrassing to all of us who simply believe such things never happen. Well it did, and it will take a long time to forget seeing the Cities finest, all senior NCO's, hauling those big piles of records away.
Thanks, and Merry Christmas back to you.
Merry Christmas, and trial completed 2007
Season's Greetings, everyone. It's a time of year for looking back, hoping we've done our best. And for looking forward, hoping the new year unfolds with fairness for all.
The first posting on this blog was dated 11 May 2006, and we were expecting a June 2006 trial. It seems such a long time ago, with almost 100 postings. But we're still waiting for that trial. Next pre-trial conference is 15 January 2007.
People tell me they visit this blog regularly. It's great when they add their comments, often with good information. This blog gives us the opportunity to discuss points which worry us. Generally there is a sense that this small news service is doing a necessary job. I like that. It keeps my spirits up.
In yesterday's Globe and Mail, Gary Mason wrote a story about Basi and Virk as if they are victims of something very bad indeed; as if they had no idea why their lives had imploded. He spoke of their ordeal being "splattered" across the newspapers, and of headlines which "blared" ... while we, on the other hand, have complained that there's so little, if any, news coverage about the Legislature Raids.
Gary Mason's story left me feeling as if British Columbia has no rights in the BCRail Case, and that we should not disturb Basi & Virk & their children any further. At first, I was cynical: "It's a paid political announcement," I said. But Gary's interpretation of the Basi, Virk story also left me feeling uneasy.
Where I had previously felt an empathy with Basi and Virk, I now began to question Mason's point of view story. Why the big, teary-eyed spread (beginning in bed with Mr & Mrs Basi) at Christmas? How is it possible that government employees are arrested, hundreds of thousands of documents are seized and studied, and Gary Mason's story implies that this shouldn't have happened? It's all about "nothing" ... ?
Well, that's partly what this Legislature Raids blog does: it allows us to talk things over amongst ourselves. So I offer Gary Mason's story, and this paragraph, from one of the first postings of this blog's life ... something that helps us understand:
"So now, everything depends upon how politically valuable these former ministerial aides still are. They entered the B.C. Legislature as part of the Gordon Campbell regime and from Day One, they knew every political detail worth knowing: everything about the Gordon Campbell government, every decision, every important discussion, every going-out and coming-in. Their on-the-spot knowledge extended far beyond their Ministries of Finance and Transportation, beyond the B.C. Legislature, into the electoral process, right up into the Prime Minister's office. Top-rank aides like these are walking encyclopedias. Or time bombs. But are they unique? No, they are not."
Let's hope that Basi, Virk, and Basi actually are unique in the sense that at trial, they will tell under oath everything they know about the B.C. Rail Case ... and will let British Columbians see the right or the wrong of it for ourselves. We could love them for that.
But for now, it's Christmas. It's OK to rest. It's OK to celebrate the joys of our lives even as we quietly mourn the sad spots. And it's OK to hope that the new year brings new hope for us all. Yes, all. -- BC Mary.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Real crime explosion is around B.C. casinos and "gaming centres" ... as compared to?
Gambling enforcement branch no match for the criminals casinos attract
Special to the Sun
October 23, 2006
VICTORIA - Forget about criminal activity on the streets. The real crime explosion is around B.C. casinos and "gaming centres," where investigations of serious offences like money-laundering and loansharking more than doubled last year.
The province's Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch reports it launched 3,414 investigations last year, up 36 per cent from the year before. The number of investigations launched into activities linked to organized crime -- like money-laundering and loansharking -- more than doubled, to 235 cases.
Organized criminals like casinos because they offer so many opportunities ..... snip .....
Solicitor-General John Les is in charge of the gaming branch, which deals with crime and gambling addiction. He's also responsible for the B.C. Lottery Corp., which has a business plan that calls for increasing the number of gamblers and the average amount each person loses.
About 2.2 million British Columbians gambled regularly last year. The plan is to persuade another 235,000 to start betting regularly by next year. (Based on conservative estimates, more than 9,000 of those people will see their lives messed up because of a gambling problem.) .... snip .....
But more than 2,000 investigations into criminal activity last year produced only 11 Criminal Code charges. More than 650 reports of Gaming Control Act violations produced -- for the second year -- not a single charge under the act.
You can't blame the Liberals for being embarrassed by all this. They were elected on a promise to halt gambling expansion, and have so far more than tripled the number of slots. Krueger even accurately predicted the "huge increase" in crime and opportunities for gangs.
Which makes their failure to deal with the problem all the more inexcusable.
© The Vancouver Sun 2006
Complete column is at: www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
New delay raises fears of a Fall trial
Fraud trial hits another snag
Globe and Mail BC edition
19 December 2006
VANCOUVER -- The Supreme Court of British Columbia was asked again yesterday to put off a trial date for a case stemming from a joint RCMP-Victoria Police Department raid on the legislature.
In granting the new delay -- this time for three weeks -- Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett raised fears for the first time that the high-profile case, which leaped into the headlines with the legislature search in December, 2003, might not come to trial until next fall.
"If you keep postponing the trial you end up crashing into people's calendars," said Judge Bennett, who said repeated delays could lead to scheduling conflicts for some of the defence lawyers.
"The concern is that suddenly we are going to be looking at a fall trial date instead of a spring trial date," said Judge Bennett, seeking assurance that everyone would be ready to begin soon. "Let's say we come back Jan. 15. . . . Are we then going to be able to start with applications Feb. 1?"
The three defence lawyers indicated they will be clear to proceed at that time, but two said they have trials that might have to be shifted to accommodate the legislature case.
William Berardino, special Crown prosecutor in a case that involves charges of fraud, money-laundering and influence-peddling against three former government officials, said another three weeks are needed to sort out disclosure issues.
"Everyone has been working full time, and that's an understatement," Mr. Berardino told Judge Bennett.
The original Dec. 4 trial date was set back when Judge Bennett granted the defence access to a highly secure "project room," where RCMP have stored more than 11,000 documents related to the investigation against Dave Basi, Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi.
Defence lawyers had sought access so that they could oversee a document inventory being undertaken by the Crown. That application stemmed from defence concerns that some of the thousands of documents had been mislabelled or misplaced.
Mr. Berardino said considerable progress has been made in the past two weeks. "We are working on all the disclosure issues, not just the project room," he said.
"We will work through the holidays," he said, asking court to wait until Jan. 15. "At that time I believe we will have narrowed the issues . . . very substantially. . . . Everyone is attempting to achieve the earliest trial date."
Michael Bolton, the lawyer for Dave Basi, said the latest delay was needed in part because on Nov. 17 the Crown had released "120,000 to 130,000 new pages" of information.
"We need to assimilate everything that we've been given," he said.
Kevin McCullough, lawyer for Mr. Virk, said that "if I work non-stop from today until then," he might be ready on Jan. 15 to set a trial date.
The case is of high public interest because of the political connections of Dave Basi and Mr. Virk.
At the time of the police raids, Mr. Basi was a top aid to the provincial finance minister and Mr. Virk was an assistant to the transportation minister. They are facing charges for allegedly trading secret government information related to the sale of BC Rail by the province.
The third man on trial, Aneal Basi, was a low-level information officer in the Ministry of Transportation. He is facing money-laundering charges for allegedly handling payments meant for Dave Basi.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Vancouver Supreme Court Criminal List. Charges 9 and 10. And in December 2004, after charges laid, Attorney General Geoff Plant telephones the media.
Vancouver Law Courts
Public Access Supreme Court Criminal List
Date: 18 December 2006
Case No. 23299 - 1
HMTQ v. BASI, Aneal
011 - accepting bribe as government official
012 - breach of trust by public officer
HMTQ v. BASI, Udhe S.
001 - accepting bribe as government official
003 - accepting bribe from person dealing with government
005 - offering to influence government official
007 - breach of trust by public officer
009 - fraud over $5,000.
010 - fraud over $5,000.
HMTQ v. VIRK, Bobby S.
002 - accepting bribe as government official
004 - accepting bribe from person dealing with government
006 - offering to influence government official
008 - breach of trust by public officer
009 - fraud over $5,000.
010 - fraud over $5,000.
Followed by 6 pages of disclosure items, very difficult to know what it's about. Except for one:
002 - Special Prosecutor to provide call logs for Authorizations P32 and P53 to defence counsel on appropriate undertakings.
Two counts against two of the men in more detail:
Udhe Singh (Dave) BASIS and Bobby Singh VIRK, between the 1st day of April, 2002 and the 28th day of December, 2003, at or near Victoria, or elsewhere in the Province of British Columbia, did by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, defraud Canadian National Railway Company, Canadian Pacific Railway, CIBC World Markets Inc., and the Government of British Columbia, of an amount exceeding $5,000.00, by recklessly putting at risk the bidding process for the Freight Division of BC Rail in disclosing to interested third parties confidential government documents and confidential government information including Cabinet confidences, contrary to Section 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.
Udhe Singh (Dave) BASIS and Bobby Singh VIRK, between the 1st day of January, 2003 and the 28th day orf December, 2003, at or near Victoria, or elsewhere in the Province of British Columbia, did by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, defraud(1)Macquarie North America Ltd. and OmniTRAX Inc.,(2)a consortium which included Canadian National Railway Company, Canadian Pacific Railway and the Vancouver Port Authority,(3)TD Securities Inc., and(4)the Government of British Columbia, of an amount exceeding $5,000.00, by recklessly putting at risk the bidding process for the Port Subdivision of BC Rail in disclosing to interested third parties confidential government documents and confidential government information including Cabinet confidences, contrary to Section 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.
From the archives of Public Eye OnLine:
ATTORNEY GENERAL SENT INTO LION'S DEN, ESCAPES UNSCATHED
Following the announcement charges would be laid against former ministerial assistants David Basi and Bob Virk, as well as public affairs officer Aneal Basi, Attorney General Geoff Plant phoned the press gallery to give government's take on the day's events. During that call, Attorney General Plant acknowledged the charges are not limited to the Roberts Bank deal, but rather the whole British Columbia Rail privatization initiative. He refused to speculate on whether Finance Minister Gary Collins would have been forced to resign because of those charges had he not already left government last week. The following is a rush transcript of the scrum.
Media: Do you have a statement or do you want us to shout questions?
Attorney General Plant: I do not have a statement.
Media: What is the government's response to this situation in terms of public's confidence in the B.C. Rail deal.
Attorney General Plant: My responsibility, first and foremost, is as Attorney General to say this is a process that has clearly taken a next, very serious step forward. The decision to lay charges is not a decision that would be made lightly. In this case, its been made by a special prosecutor who is independent of government. There is a very carefully structured process to make sure that decision like this are free from political influence. So I don't know a whole lot really about what's happened today other than the information that I received a copy of an hour or so ago. It's important to point out that the laying of charges doesn't represent anything like a finding of guilt. There will now be a court process. And, at the end of the day, the question of whether or not these individuals have done anything wrong will be decided by a court. And that's how it should be. As a member of government, I'm disappointed that this has taken the next step. But I'm not, frankly, completely surprised given that the police took this all very seriously a year ago when they went to get a warrant to seize documents at the legislature. And the question of how this relates to various aspects of B.C. Rail and the CN Rail partnership is a question that is more appropriately directed to Kevin Falcon.
Media: Will Kevin Falcon be made available today?
Attorney General Plant: I'm not responsible for Kevin's whereabouts. But I'm pretty sure he's around somewhere. I chatted to him. We both obviously have been following the news. And I wanted him to know what the information said in summary.
Media: Geoff, when did government become aware that charges were going to be laid?
Attorney General Plant: I knew a day or so ago that there was expectation that Mr. Berardino would do what he said he would do a few months ago, which was to make a decision before the end of the year.
Media: You've read the information. Were you surprised? I think the public had been led to believe that anything that happened related to the Roberts Bank line. Were you surprised, as a member of government, when you read the information that it was much more extensive?
Attorney General Plant: Well what I can say is to confirm the second part of your statement Paul (Willcocks). Which is to say, on the face of it, the charges here are not limited to the port subdivision contract. And I don't know anything about these charges beyond what's on the face of the information. But they clearly appear to be more general - although they appear to only relate to OmniTRAX.
Media: Nor do they seem confined to just B.C. Rail. Because my reading of the information (seems to indicate the charges are) related to matters of government business including OmniTRAX. That would suggest that this is not exclusively limited to B.C. Rail.
Attorney General Plant: The words lend themselves to that interpretation. But the words are also fairly standard language for an information laying a criminal charge. I don't know one way or another as to whether they're intended to go more broadly than that.
Media: Can you just fill us in on Aneal Basi. Does he still work for government? When did he stop working for the government?
Attorney General Plant: I'm pretty sure Aneal Basi worked for the government as of the first thing this morning. Martyn Brown, as the chief of staff, was responsible for making some employment-related decisions a year ago when the search warranted was executed on the legislature. I know that he is thinking about what the significance of today's developments are for the employment status of Bobby Virk and Aneal Basi. But, as of an hour or so ago, when I last spoke to Martyn, he had not as yet made a decision so far as I know.
Media: We had the resignation last week of a colleague of yours, Gary Collins, and the assumption was that (his resignation) was not connected to the legislative raids or charges. Given what's happened today, would it be fair to say that this is a situation today where Gary Collins would have had to resign given the very serious charges that have been laid against his former aide?
Attorney General Plant: I can't, at this point, draw those conclusions. I am just reading these allegations this afternoon for the first time. They are serious. They clearly relate to the performance of duties of office - at least by Dave Basi and Mr. Virk. Beyond that, I can't really go much further in speculating about what the implications might have been for people who are no longer members of cabinet.
Media: To the best of your knowledge Geoff, when it comes to information about the charges, who else was aware of what was going to happen and when were they aware?
Attorney General Plant: To the best of my knowledge, the solicitor general was aware earlier today because he called me.
Medi: But no one else?
Attorney General Plant: I don't know if anyone else knew that charges would be laid. I know that there were some folks in the premier's office who were aware of this sort of ticking clock on the fact that the special prosecutor had said he was going to make a decision by the end of the year. But that's the extent of what I know.
Sincere thanks to BILL TIELEMAN who kindly found out for us, that there was only a short session in Supreme Court today (18 Dec.) with Justice Bennett. The disclosure work in the RCMP Project Room is continuing. Next pre-trial hearing for Basi, Virk, Basi will be 15 January 2007.
Meantime, on 28 December 2006, the third anniversary of the Legislature Raids, Bill plans to talk about that issue when he's guest hosting CKNW's Nightline BC. Or check out his blog: http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/
Special thanks also to SEAN HOLMAN at Public Eye OnLine for permission to post his report of Geoff Plant's telephone call made to the media on the day charges were laid against Basi, Virk, and Basi. Public Eye OnLine is a unique news service about B.C. political events, people, trends, quotes, and forecasts, updated daily.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Pre-trial update: 18 Dec. 2006, 9:00 AM
On Monday, 18 December 2006 at 9:00 AM, defence and Crown lawyers will again meet before Justice Elizabeth Bennett in Vancouver Supreme Court.
Lawyers for Basi, Virk and Basi have been checking, with Crown Prosecutors, all documents in the R.C.M.P. Project Room.
If defence lawyers, Crown Prosecutors, and Justice Bennett agree that all documents have been disclosed, the trial date may finally be decided.
If so, this historic B.C. Rail trial is expected to get under way in late February or early March 2007.
Wealthy businessman became Hells Angel, owned a Vancouver Super Valu and Maple Ridge real estate; dies on flight to Maui
Influential Hells Angel dies on flight to Maui
Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, December 15, 2006
An influential member of the Hells Angels who owned a Super Valu in Vancouver's West End, died Wednesday on an airline flight to Maui.
Ross Douglas McLellan, 59, a key member of the Hells Angels chapter in Haney, died of natural causes, said RCMP Chief Supt. Bob Paulson.
"He was a fairly significant and senior player in the Haney chapter," said Paulson, who is based in Ottawa. "He was an older fellow who had been around for a long time and was very influential."
McLellan was accompanied on the trip to Maui by other Hells Angels members, said RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk, in charge of outlaw motorcycle gang investigations for the RCMP in B.C.
McLellan grew up in Vancouver's Point Grey and became a wealthy businessman, with many real estate interests plus his West End supermarket, added Shinkaruk. He joined the Hells Angels about 12 years ago.
"He got into the Hells Angels late in life. He was a millionaire prior to joining the Angels."
About McLellan's late entry into the motorcycle gang, Shinkaruk said: "People have their different reasons for becoming Hells Angels and there have been a few people who were successful and joined up later in life.
"It's not common but it has happened a few times."
Shinkaruk said that McLellan lived in Maple Ridge where he had many real estate holdings.
His ownership of the West End Super Valu was revealed in 2004 by The Vancouver Sun in an article detailing the extensive business holdings of Hells Angels members in B.C.
McLellan had been in the grocery trade for decades.
The Hells Angels are the most powerful and largest outlaw motorcycle gang in Canada, with 32 chapters and about 500 members, including seven chapters in B.C. The Annual Report on Organized Crime in Canada, released by the Criminal Intelligence Service in 2004, said the Hells Angels use lower-level criminal gangs and intermediaries to try to conceal criminal activities from police.
Members of the Hells Angels have been convicted for cocaine trafficking, assault, extortion and weapons offences -- but Hells Angels spokesmen have repeatedly said the motorcycle club has no business interests and no control over the lives of individual members.
Sometimes people say they don't believe organized crime has reached into all levels of our society. They believe that the Hells Angels, for example, are a motorcycle club, nothing much to worry about. I believe otherwise. Most people also believe that something has gone terribly wrong even within our Canadian society. But they don't connect the dots. Maybe it's too awful. But unless we face the problem, we'll never fix the problem. The story copied above helps us realize that even a mature, well-established man was somehow lured into joining a group well known to our Criminal Intelligence Service for serious crimes and for corrupting lower-level gangsters. Joining such a group puts its applicants through a horrific set of challenges first. For more: "The Road to Hell, How the biker gangs are conquering Canada" by Julian Sher and William Marsden, or "Paper Fan, the hunt for triad gangster, Steven Wong" by Terry Gould. Or "Bud, Inc., inside Canada's marijuana industry" by Ian Mulgrew. - BC Mary
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Lies, Deceit, Cover-Up. The B.C. Government. By Robin Mathews
Lies, Deceit and Cover-Up: The Gordon Campbell, B.C. Government
[Robin's complete report is at Vive le Canada, 6 December 2006. Excerpted here are the segments focused on B.C. Rail which is central to the charges against Basi, Virk, Basi in the B.C. Rail trial. - BC Mary.]
Gordon Campbell told British Columbians he would not sell B.C. Rail. He lied.
In the very dirty process of selling it, secretly, his government, moreover, lied in the legislature. Connected to that shameful set of events, RCMP raids were made on offices of cabinet ministers in the Victoria legislature on December 28, 2003. After a year-long investigation following the raids, four men were charged on apparently related matters to do with breach of trust, bribery, money laundering, counselling falsehood, and drug matters.
No one in the Gordon Campbell circle, inside or outside the legislature, has been charged. Why not?
Trial of three of the men - aides in cabinet ministers' offices - has become a circus, a farce, a black mark on the already highly dubious legal system of British Columbia. Judges of the Supreme Court of B.C. cannot elude implication in the farce of the trial delays.
The RCMP, we are led to believe, has made disclosure of evidence absurdly difficult. Is it - in addition - with the Special Prosecutor that the RCMP decided no charges were to be laid against any in the Gordon Campbell circle? A reasonable and prudent Canadian might very well like to know on what basis such a decision was taken. The Department of Justice, it seems, has stalled and delayed and denied information.
The Special Prosecutor - appointed, in effect, by the cabinet - appears to be wandering through the proceedings picking flowers by the roadside as if he doesn't know the importance of the whole matter. Can he be so naive?
All of that comes down to judges of the Supreme Court - two in particular. Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm and Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett have concerned themselves with the case. Reasonable and prudent Canadians might well conclude they have failed in their obligations to justice and to the Canadian people.
The issue before them is a criminal issue. The cabinet of Gordon Campbell is implicated as employers of the aides facing charges - even if we are asked to believe cabinet members should not have been charged. (We may or may not believe that.) The whole matter - of which a selected portion is before the courts - throws into question the legitimacy of the Gordon Campbell government and, stated simply, its right to continue in office.
For that reason the courts should - from the first - have issued whatever orders were necessary (a) to guarantee a wide investigation (b) to expose all evidence needed by counsel in the case, without delays (c) to assure quick and effective cooperation of all agencies involved and/or connected.
The court, it seems certain, did none of those things. Justice must be done, and it must be seen to be done.
And so - postponed one more time - from its set trial date of December 4, 2006, the whole process of the Basi, Basi, and Virk trial becomes more suspect, more dubious, more like a gigantic smoke-and-mirrors game played out to protect the Gordon Campbell government and to hoodwink British Columbians ...
[Go to Vive le Canada for Robin's complete analysis which cuts through a lot of fog to expose other issues of vital importance to British Columbia, such as B.C. Hydro, the secret deal with Alcan at Kitimat, B.C. Gas (Terasen), child poverty, Ted Hughes, B.C. Ferries, and the way the current government regularly wipes out systems that guarantee reputable behaviour.]
Thank you, Robin. Whenever you write, there are no fence-sitters. And that's the kind of impassioned discussion this province deserves. Thanks, too, to all who take time to read these reports and to contribute their own comments. - BC Mary.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
BC. Supreme Court Justice Bennett's ruling on disclosure of BC Rail Case documents
In the Supreme Court of British Columbia
Regina v. Udhe Singh (Dave) Basi, Bobby Singh Virk and Aneal Basi
Before The Honourable Madam Justice Bennett
Oral Reasons for Judgment [Excerpts]
In Chambers November 14, 2006
THE COURT: This case involves allegations of corruption regarding former ministerial assistants of the provincial government.
The defence brings an application which relates to the mechanics of disclosure in this case. The defence is not alleging breach of their constitutional rights at this point. The purpose of the application, in part, is to avoid the necessity of bringing an application alleging a violation of the accuseds' rights to make full answer and defence ...
Defence asks to be allowed into the R.C.M.P. "Project Room" where the documents are being held while the Crown and police perform a review of the documents to confirm that the defence have what they require.
As a result of the search [raid on the B.C. Legislature] and other investigative work, the initial investigation evolved into several separate investigations:
1) the drug investigation
2) the BC Rail investigation - which is this case
3) the Agricultural Land Reserve (A.L.R.) investigation
4) proceeds of crime investigation (I.P.O.C.)
An information [to obtain] was laid in the B.C. Rail case in December 2004. Requests for disclosure were made by defence immediately. Apparently no disclosure was made when the charges were laid. The defence has characterized this as a "black cloud" that hung over the whole process. I do not find that it was a black cloud given that it is not unusual that disclosure is not available the instant charges are laid.
Disclosure commenced on Jan. 20/05. A direct indictment was filed on Jan. 28/05 bringing the matter immediately to this court without preliminary inquiry in the Provincial Court.
March 10, a day prior to an appearance in this Court, 11,000 documents were disclosed electronically.
In the appearance before Associate Chief Justice Dohm on March 11/05, the Crown advised the Court that disclosure was substantially completed and final disclosure would be complete in 2 to 3 weeks.
A trial date was fixed for Nov. 28/05. It was clear, shortly after that date was fixed, that disclosure was going to be an issue ...
Defence is concerned that the Crown is not sufficiently involved in the disclosure process and has left the bulk of the disclosure to the police. This is supported in the affidavit of Corporal Mar wherein she states the procedure she and Constable Ma have followed to conduct disclosure ... suggest[ing] that at least initially disclosure was being performed primarily by police. Further disclosures:
Sept. 16/05 865 documents 4,489 pages
Oct. 21/05 on 6 CD ROMs 68,910 pages
December 05 16,066 pages
May, June, July/06
on CD or DVD disks, with index 10,000 pages
In her affidavit, Cpl. Mar states that up until May 23006, she was still rquesting notes, reports and documents from officers involved in the investigation. Thus, though charges were laid in December 2004, she did not depose that she had everything from the investigators 2-1/2 years after the warrants [to search the B.C. Legislature] were executed.
Defence counsel submit that because of the manner in which disclosure has occurred, the missing documents, the delayed disclosure without explanation, the improperly filed documents, the lack of a proper search function, and the lack of a proper index resulted in countless wasted hours and resources by the defence.
The defence submits that in light of all that has transpired, they cannot be confident that they have all the disclosure unless they do a document-by-document check with the Crown and the R.C.M.P. The defence is concerned that if more material surfaces later they will have to apply for a mistrial or worse: there will be a miscarriage of justice.
The defence is merely seeking to be present when documents are given a final review to satisfy themselves that they have all the documents which are located in the Project Rom that relate to the B.C. Rail case -- or at least are aware of documents that are not to be disclosed and the reason why.
I have outined the problems of disclosure in this case in terms of delay, electronic problems, and missing or mis-filed documents. I have concluded that the defence are not on a fishing expedition. There have been problems with the disclosure process, primarily because of the massive number of documents and the fact that the drug disclosure has required the attention not only of the Special Prosecutor but also of the Department of Justice.
... I find at this point that it cannot be said that basic disclosure has been met.
(Sgd.) Elizabeth Bennett
The Honourable Justice Elizabeth Bennett.
And 3 years later, we learn the name. This is The B.C.Rail Case.
That's how it will be remembered in British Columbia's history books.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Final disposal by 31 December 2007
Vancouver Wharves, BCRail's bulk marine terminal in North Vancouver, is up for sale. BCR has again invited C.I.B.C. World Markets to assist in selecting the winner of a 25-year operating lease, as they did in the mainline sale of BCRail.
Interested readers may glean some idea of the current situation by reading the company's most recent service plan, which is available on the website [http://www.tetracom.ca/transtalk/?p=1010].
BCRail's plan envisions final disposal, by December 31, 2007, of both Vancouver Wharves and the 23-mile railway line connecting three major railways (CN, Canadian Pacific Railway and Burlington Northern Santa Fe) with the port terminals at Roberts Bank.
There has also been a flurry of Orders in Council covering the sale of lands belonging to BCRail.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
BCRail port lands, most cruel hoax -- and further developments 18 January 2007
They call it a land claims settlement. A treaty with the First Nations Tsawwassen Band.
No, it's not. It's a continuation of the BCRail deal.
On December 7, 2006, a critical step in the sale of BCRail was celebrated because it was made to look like a Treaty settlement. The Campbell government has given 207 hectares of prime Delta farmland, situated beside the Roberts Bank port, to the Tsawwassen First Nations.
The Tsawwassens have agreed to give up their Reserve status and to begin paying property taxes. How are they going to do that? Well ... the Campbell government has removed this land from the Agricultural Land Reserve making it OK to pave the richest, blackest soil in B.C. (Only 4% of BC land is arable.)
And for what? So that the Tsawwassens will be forced to make deals with industrial developers, even selling the land to industry if they so decide.
And for what? So that the industrial developers (who probably would like to buy Deltaport and Roberts Bank someday) can build warehouses for the shipping containers arriving and departing via the adjoining port facilities.
In other words: the farmlands will become a functioning part of the port facility ... the BCRail port facility ... making it all the more pricey (in cash terms) when a future government again puts Roberts Bank up for sale.
So what seemed like a long-awaited treaty settlement is really just another part of Gordon Campbell's plan to sell off BCRail and everything connected to it. Why else are there 185 spin doctors in the employ of the government, at the Ministry of Finance? (See Order in Council #656 dated 12 Sept. '06) Why else?
Meantime, in a small quiet town farther up the B.C. coast, an unbelievable fairy story is being pitched to another First Nations Band in Powell River. The incredible offer is that -- if only the Tla'Amin (Sliammon) Band will accept a rare 900-acre piece of agricultural land (currently protected by the A.L.R.) as their particular Treaty Settlement -- which they too could sell to an eager developer named Yrainucep (that's "pecuniary" spelled backwards) which has never done this sort of empire-building before, but happens to be waiting in the wings.
Pecunuary/Yrainucep offers, they say, to build a 5-star hotel, an international airport, a championship golf course, 60 - 200 homes, equestrian centre ... whatever, whatever ... on their agricultural land -- and if the Sliammons accept, then this hoax will be celebrated as the Sliammon Treaty.
Lies, deceit, and cover-up ... so cruelly aimed at two innocent targets: BC's needful First Nations and the essential Agricultural Land Reserve.
Is it so hard to imagine that Ministerial Aides might lose their way, in an environment like this?
And so far, B.C.'s Loyal Opposition hasn't had a word to say about it.
Next pre-trial hearing for Basi, Virk, Basi (BVB) in B.C. Supreme Court - Monday 18 December 2006, 9:30 AM.
18 January 2007 - BC Rail wants new rail yard at Roberts Bank
DELTA - The British Columbia Railway Company wants to purchase up to 71 hectares of farmland to make way for a new rail yard at Roberts Bank.
While reluctant to confirm details of the purchase, BCR's properties president John Lusney admitted the company is speaking to property owners on both sides of Deltaport Way between 41B Street and Arthur Drive.
BCR, a provincial Crown corporation, owns an option consisting of a 250-foot strip on the south side of the current rail line in the same area.
"We know the expansion of Deltaport is going ahead, so we are exercising those options," Lusney said.
He said the company had some land owners approach it about the possibility of purchasing the remaining land. The option cuts through four parcels of farmland.
However, the major landowner involved maintains it was B.C. Rail that approached him, asking to purchase about 54 hectares.
It appeared to Peter Guichon the railway believed the family would be anxious to sell because its quality of life would deteriorate due to the noise and shunting from the proposed rail yard.
"We said if you [BCR] really want this land, we make our living farming, so we want other farmland in return," he said.
Anne Cameron, on hearing of the Tsawwassen land deal
-AND right out of the blue, zippidee doo dah, a previously unheard of treaty is signed with the Nuu Cha Nulth which will give them..............YEP...........the Carmanagh........and the agreements are already in place to allow logging and.....
and Carole James is as much help as a quart of warm goat piss. The NDP did a better job when they only had Jenny Kwan and what's-er-name the redheaded virago who is now seen pulling tickets out of a barrel for the win-a-dream-home lottery (which we wouldn't even need if the fekkin government would properly fund the hospitals).
What isn't being said is that this ALR deal with the Tswassens includes Burns Bog. Kiss it goodbye. And if you want to see the snow geese better get in the old SUV and get out to the bird sanctuary while it's still there.
There's a thing happens on steep snow covered slopes. All it takes is for one little hunk to slip. In slipping it attaches to other little hunks and then a bigger hunk slips and in no time flat lordy baldy look out there's thousands of tonnes of the white shite racing down to bury the town! And that's what has already happened. Too many people have sat back and thought Well, they don't need me, between the environmentalists and the natives' things will be protected. So too many have sat on their airses for too long.
And the Phillistines have found a way to divide and conquer. Now the environmentalists can go at it hammer and tongs against the natives and the corporations will profit, the lawyers will profit, the arstles in Victoria will profit and if you can't sit down comfortably, it might be because of ... well.
And I'm insane. I know I'm insane because a sure sign of insanity is to keep on doing the same non-productive thing time after time after time, expecting a different result will occur in future than has in the past.
I write my letters, I go to Council meetings, I try to keep myself informed, I support WC-squared, I just keep on doing what I've been doing for more years than makes any kind of intelligent sense at all. I'm insane.
The FlimFlam men have come to town and they've been made welcome. It's Doctor Do NoGood's travelling snake oil show, come one come all. Dig in your pocket, buy a bottle of this elixir, drink it and do not notice your wetlands are being drained, your forests shaved, your children dumbed down and your politicians are hand-in-glove with the corporations. All the way to the top.
Steve is going to pour millions into a plan to assess the types and amounts of toxic chemicals being poured into the environment. That doesn't mean he's going to make them stop pouring, it just means a new bureaucracy, keeping track (more or less and probably more less than more more) of what it is has inflated the rate of childhood chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
But not to worry. Because both levels of government are going to "do something" about the starving homeless on Vancouver streets and have the streets clean before 2010 when the world comes to watch the privileged play winter games. And THAT is going to mean that small towns in remote areas have a surge in population as these poor bastards are deported to areas where they won't be seen by the moneyed crowd when it arrives. It would be quicker and cheaper to just gas the bastards but if anyone noticed we'd be in warm water so we'll do our own polite version of ethic cleansing and send 'em to Spuzzum or Horsefly or Leaky Gumboot or Patched Elbow. Well, not Patched Elbow, that's in Saskabush.
YA BIN HAD!! YER STILL BEIN HAD!!
Is it an accident? Who profits?
In the sweet bye and bye
there will be pie in the sky bye and bye
raisin pie, apple pie,
there will be pie in the sky bye and bye...
when I was tiny, many years ago, my grandfather, Bill Graham, mine union organizer, would hold me, rock me, cuddle me and sing me to sleep with that song. Grandpa, I love you, and that song is more true now than when you sang it to me.
all together now
In the sky, in the sky, there will be pie in the sky bye and bye.
Friday, December 08, 2006
BC Rail, the jewel that once was ours, and BREAKING NEWS 14 December 2006
Lawyers for Dave Basi, Bob Virk, Aneal Basi (BVB) will again go before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett next week in another pre-trial hearing.
BC Rail figures largely in this affair. Some background data is given below, excerpted from a Canadian Transportation Act (CTA) Review Panel's report dated 23 February 2001. That date is important. The NDP government of Ujjal Dosanjh was still in power. The Gordon Campbell government was installed 3 months later after the election of May 17, 2001.
The CTA Review Panel had been asked (by whom, it doesn't say) to assess rail competition in Canada, especially the running rights and "other forms of access remedies."
The report says that these rights are significant for British Columbia because the Province owned the largest regional railway in Canada, BCRail. As such, BCRail was a strategic resource for the province.
BC Rail was Canada's 3rd largest railroad by revenues, operating 2,315 kilometers of mainline track and 740 kilometers of industrial and yard track throughout B.C. In addition, BCR had a 37 kilometer line connecting CN, CP, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) to the West Coast's largest coal terminal and Deltaport container terminal at Roberts Bank.
BC Rail was provincially regulated and competed fully within the private sector in a market environment without government subsidy.
Freight traffic involved 200,000 revenue carloads annually from over 200 customer facilities. In 1999, forestry, mining, energy, and agricultural products made up 80% of the $329 Million annual revenue.
The overwhelming percentage of BCRail tonnage was transported beyond BC's borders. 40% of BC Rail shipments were forwarded to other North American railroads. By contrast, loaded rail cars forwarded to BCR by other railroads accounted for only 2% -- an imbalance which results in an inordinate number of train miles without revenue loads.
BCR's only direct rail link was with CN at Prince George and Vancouver. CP and BNSF were accessed through CN in North Vancouver. Big railroads threaten regional ones.
Recommendations of the C.T.A.:
1) Negotiate Competitive Access over major rail lines, e.g., Prince George to Edmonton, using haulage rights, not running rights.
2) Provide access to final arbitration on disputes such as tariffs.
3) Regulatory oversight for major mergers, i.e., must prove it's in the public interest. [This must be where the Competition Bureau Report, mentioned in Hansard re the BCRail sale, comes into the picture.]
Nowhere did it suggest selling BC Rail.
[There is much more interesting information in this report, which can be readily googled at the identifier below. The report is easy to read, and well worth anyone's time. - BC Mary.]
From: Canadian Transportation Act Review Panel "On Competitive Rail Access", BC Rail -- 6 October 2000.
Almost immediately after CN won the bidding on BCRail, CN & BCR issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to third party tour trains over the BCR network from North Vancouver to Prince George, and on CN line from Prince Rupert to Prince George, and Jasper. Of 3 final submissions, decision was held back by delayed report from Competition bureau. Great Canadian Rail Tour Co. Ltd. abd Whistler Rail Tours Ltd. were final submissions, with one submission rejected. 16 June 2004. both officials of both proponents as well as BCRail & CN, are on a train to Whistler. 26 August 2004 the 3-member evaluation committee decides that Great Canadian Rail Tour Co. is the successful bidder. 2 Sept. 2004, CN & GCR execute agreement.
Now read on, from Vancouver Sun, 14 December 2006.
Rocky Mountaineer head has a continental 'dream'
By Malcolm Parry
PETER ARMSTRONG's Armstrong Hospitality Group Ltd. [formerly known as Great Canadian Rail Tours] should end the year with about $180 million in revenues. Most of that will come from the 140,000 passengers -- "guests," Armstrong calls them -- who'll have paid an average of $1,000 each to ride aboard the deluxe trains his Rocky Mountaineer Vacations firm runs to Whistler and beyond [i.e., Prince George], and along the Yellowhead and Kicking Horse route to Banff and Jasper ....
With former Conservative MP Jim Gouk's urging, he's planning a 2008-2009 route south from Calgary via the Crow's Nest Pass to Nelson. Entry costs for that would be $35 million to $40 million for 10 new cars, and $2 million for a pair of refurbished locomotives.
Beyond that, Armstrong's "dream for some years" has been "some kind of transcontinental service." Unlike the other Rocky Mountaineer itineraries, which put travellers into hotels overnight, this one "could be sleeping-car service; I have to be somewhat vague."...
There was no such vagueness in late-1992, when Armstrong's three-season outfit -- then called Great Canadian Railtour -- had lost $6.3 million, owed $800,000 (much of it to hoteliers in overnight-stop Kamloops), and basically had nothing for a week-away payroll. Further, GRC was about as popular as a burning trestle with Via, from which Armstrong had pried the all-daylight train service in an early example of federal-government privatization policy.
The story of that brinkmanship period is recounted in author Paul Grescoe's 344-page Trip of a Lifetime: The Making of the Rocky Mountaineer. Rare for an authorized book, it includes then Via executive-VP Jim Roche's assessment of Armstrong as "smarmy and unctuous."
In the relevant chapter, Grescoe reports how a tough deal saw Calgarians Sandy Slaytor and Mike Phillips add $1.1 million to their $2.5-million investment, thereby saving the fledgling company. Then-Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski's executive assistant, Dave Allin, also recalls Via boss Ron Lawless or another official saying of GCR: "They are not going to make it. You cannot run a profitable private-sector rail line in Canada -- you cannot do it." ....
While awaiting the election of a majority federal government that could level the playing field between Via and private operators, Armstrong is stoked to see equity money pouring into "huge growth opportunities" in "quality tourism products." He means deals like the Fortress Investment Group's $2.8-billion acquisition of Intrawest Corp. stock at $35 a share; Bill Gates's Cascade investment firm and Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal's Kingdom Hotels International offering $3.7 billion for the 71-hotel Four Seasons group; and Prince Al-Waleed paying $3.9 billion earlier for the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts chain.
Full Story at Vancouver Sun, 14 December 2006.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Final Basi, Virk, Basi pre-trial Supreme Court hearing on Friday 15 December ... or Monday 18 December ... maybe.
That's right, there have been two different dates reported for what we hope is Basi, Virk, Basi's final pre-trial Supreme Court hearing.
It will be on either Friday 15 December ... or Monday 18 December ... maybe. It all depends upon confirmation.
BC Mary has been busy, trying to find out some more of the basic things we need to know about the wider significance of the police raid on our provincial legislature. I'm not, as you know, convinced that this is only about the three men, Basi, Virk, and Basi. I believe it's our whole system of government which will be on trial. And that we dare not let any factors slip through unremarked.
I'm not playing games when I tell you that I cannot post yet, most of the things I've learned. But people are obviously losing patience. They're worried that some information may never be revealed -- not even under oath, during the trial.
And so they're thinking, remembering, digging, talking, and helping me. And when the time is right, you'll hear about it. Right here.
And if there's anything you'd like to say privately,
my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Well ... BREAKING NEWS ... as they say. And thanks, Keith!
On Thursday, December 7, 2006, at 02:30 PM, Baldrey, Keith ((Global BC)) wrote:
Someone asked me to send you information you are seeking concerning the next court date of the legislature raid case, as there is confusion about it.
It is Monday, Dec. 18th (there was a type or misprint in one of the stories in one of the papers that said it was on dec. 16th). It is simply a hearing to provide an update on the disclosure of evidence by the Crown to the defence.
It was Bill Tieleman who, some time ago, had fielded two dates: Dec. 15 or Dec. 18 ... so even Real Journalists find this a bit tricky. Thanks again, all. - BC Mary.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Potvin asks: Is Campbell a "made man"?
One of the most hard-hitting editorials from the past 3 years, takes the media to task for its arbitrary rules of engagement. The complete editorial is at: http://republic-news.org/archive/113-repub/113_potvin_media.htm
Is Campbell a “made man”?
With enough rumours to end his career, how come the media leave him alone?
by Kevin Potvin
The Republic of East Vancouver - May 12 - May 25, 2005
The media establishment in British Columbia is infamous for its vicious aim when it comes to public figures caught in the headlights of scandals. Or rather, it used to be. In the past, politics in BC was universally regarded as a blood sport, and that blood—usually that of whomever the sitting Premier of the day was—was largely spilled down the blades of grinning media hacks. But during the last four years, despite a thick odour of scandal wafting over the province, Gordon Campbell and the Liberals have miraculously escaped the slightest nick ......snip.......
... Campbell has as many scandals of the real and significant kind swirling around him as all the media-hyped ones his predecessors had thrown at them, combined. And yet, where the establishment media cut all his predecessors down at the knees, for some reason, none of them are touching this Premier. It almost looks like there’s a larger picture here coming into focus, and that Campbell, soaked in sex, booze, drugs, and party money, is some kind of “made man” with the owners of the establishment press. He does appear to be unaccountably untouchable in a media environment famous for exactly the opposite behaviour.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Gary Collins, ex-BC Finance Minister, quits Harmony Airways today
Gary Collins shocker - Ex-BC Finance Minister quits as CEO of Harmony Airways!
By Bill Tieleman
1 December 2006
Former BC Liberal finance minister Gary Collins has dropped a bombshell this afternoon by quitting as President and CEO of Harmony Airwaves!
Harmony owner and major BC Liberal donor David Ho must be in shock, since Collins has been there for less than two years. Collins quit his job as Premier Gordon Campbell's finance minister on December 14, 2004 to move to Harmony and a reputed $300,000 annual salary running an airline that currently has just four aircraft.
Collins has told media that he will be pursuing one of several employment opportunities but has not given any details.
Collins' former ministerial assistant, David Basi, faces trial on breach of trust charges that will be heard in the new year. In a defence application for disclosure of evidence in November it was disclosed that police had put Collins under surveillance when he met with an executive from OmniTRAX, one of the companies bidding in the $1 billion BC Rail privatization.
The defence application also disclosed that a conversation between Premier Gordon Campbell and Collins was captured on a police wiretap on Basi's cell phone.
You can see an interview by Public Eye Online's Sean Holman with Collins this afternoon and Sean also reprinted Collins resignation news release.