Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I did not know the alleged behaviours were taking place
(With much help from a long-ago column by Vaughn Palmer)
At their first caucus meeting after the police raid on the B.C. Legislature, the B.C. Liberals were understandably shaken up.
The caucus whip, Kevin Krueger, said that a source of political concern was the degree to which Dave Basi, the fired aide to House Leader and Minister of Finance Gary Collins, was involved with the Paul Martin federal Liberals. Krueger said, "We have an internal rule that our staff don't work on federal campaigns." [Ever wondered why?]
Well, there's a good reason. The LINO party, or Liberal In Name Only, is a coalition of political parties, some of whom support competing parties federally. For example, B.C. Liberals who are federal Conservatives were embarrassed to discover that a senior aide to a B.C. Minister of Finance was recruiting for the federal Liberal party.
Their comments were directed not so much at Dave Basi, as at Gary Collins, the B.C. Cabinet Minister who had recruited him into the inner circle of government," wrote Vaughn Palmer.
Politicians were upset that the Martin link might undermine their ability to work with supporters of other federal parties.
Palmer explains: Collins had to struggle to reassure his colleagues. No one listening would have doubted that he was on the spot. He was put there, be it noted, by none other than the premier himself. In his first press conference after the raid, Gordon Campbell made a point of telling reporters 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.
Campbell repeated that line Thursday, saying "I did not know the alleged behaviours were taking place" even as he warned provincial Liberals to stay out of federal politics. Palmer surprisingly notes that: "On that score, 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 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. "
Nevertheless, the premier's denial meant that the buck stopped with Collins, who was personally devastated by the affair. Basi was a friend as well as an aide and he expressed hope again Thursday that "this works out for him and his family."
In political terms, some damage has already been done because the premier says provincial political aides were never authorized to be involved in federal politics. Collins can't very well say he didn't know what Basi was doing on the political front: He'd look like a fool. Besides, writes Palmer, "I have to think that Collins welcomed his aide's well-cultivated connection to (Paul Martin) 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.
Now Basi is gone, the federal conduit stands exposed to embarrassing scrutiny, and some of Collins' provincial colleagues are circling for a closer look, just to see if the minister is bleeding, and how much. "
Vaughn Palmer was undoubterdly accurate in his views at the time, to have expected "embarrassing scrutiny" after December 2003. But as we ploughed through one election after another, I didn't see any. You?
Here it is, just an example of what a free forum service can do...
But it might be a useful adjunct. Howzabout you trying it?
Or be brave, watch for the signs.
The other investigation that never took place regarding the standing rule of BC Liberal employees is how Basi managed to hold down two jobs that not even his political bosses were not aware of at the Provincial level......
"Krueger noted reports that Basi was an active federal Liberal organizer on Vancouver Island, including for Paul Martin's leadership campaign, while working as a provincial ministerial assistant.
"That is certainly a concern of ours," he said. "We have an internal rule that our staff don't work on federal campaigns."
Krueger said he does not believe Basi was on B.C. taxpayers' time when worked on federal Liberal matters, but "the fact is Mr. Basi is no longer working with our organization.
"Certainly he should not have been involving himself in federal membership drives if he was on our payroll."
Campbell said he was unaware Basi and Virk were active federally.
"I didn't know that the alleged behaviours were taking place that I've heard reported in the last little while," he said."