Friday, October 06, 2006
Corruption charges raise doubts about the whole BC Rail deal
BC Rail corruption charges raise doubts about whole deal
By Paul Willcocks - Paying Attention
23 Dec '04
VICTORIA - The charges alleging corruption in the BC Rail sale are very bad news for the Liberal government.
The talk around the legislature for months has been that there was less to the case than meets the eye. Charges - if there were any - would be petty offences, based on the boastful tendencies of would-be political wheels.
Wrong. The charges are explicit, and raise doubts about the legitimacy not just of the sale of BC Rail's Roberts Bank spur, but of the whole $1-billion deal to sell the Crown corporation ...
They are just unproven charges. But they are very serious, taking the case far beyond the Roberts Bank spur or allegations that provincial government staffers tried to trade favours in return for jobs with the Paul Martin Liberals.
Most seriously the Crown is alleging Basi and Virk "recklessly put at risk the bidding process" for BC Rail by leaking confidential government documents and other information. Their actions defrauded taxpayers, CN Rail, CP Rail and CIBC World Markets, the financial institution arranging the sale, the prosecutors charge.
This charge isn't about the Roberts Bank spur line sale, a $70-million side deal. It alleges that the whole controversial sale of the Crown corporation was compromised, and taxpayers - among others - lost out as a result.
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon killed the Roberts Bank deal - at a cost of $1 million to taxpayers - after police warned him it had been compromised.
But Falcon always maintained there were no worries or concerns about the main BC Rail deal. Now you have to decide who was right - the minister or the police and Crown prosecutors who conducted a 15-month investigation.
The government has maintained, the concern was that OmniTRAX had the inside track, and the company didn't even succeed in winning the competition to buy BC Rail. That should show no harm was done.
But no matter who wins, a compromised bidding process - as alleged by the charges - hurts taxpayers and the participants that don't have inside information. If even one participant is moved to reduce its offer because of something it knows, or fears, the whole bidding process goes wrong.
And the Crown is suggesting that is exactly what happened, and that you lost as a result.
... The case will move slowly through the courts, and information will gradually emerge.
But meanwhile a huge, controversial and defining deal of the Liberals' first term is under a dark cloud. The Crown says the deal was criminally compromised and the government did not succeed in dealing with the damage.
Got an email noting your comment on Question Period, but couldn't figure out what post you were responding to.
But no, the Liberals didn't cut back QP from 30 minutes to 15. It had always been 15 minutes until Campbell doubled its length. The NDP resisted 10 years of efforts to open government up to better scrutiny.
B.C. Opposition stunned by new limits on question period
Last Updated: Friday, February 11, 2005
The Speaker of the B.C. legislature has taken steps to restrict the length of questions and answers in the assembly's question period which, at 15 minutes, is already the shortest in the Commonwealth.
The New Democratic Party Opposition said it was stunned by the new limits, which Speaker Claude Richmond, a Liberal, imposed Thursday without consulting them.
The new rules limit questions to one minute, with a supplementary question limited to 30 seconds, and any subsequent supplementary to 20 seconds, if the Speaker allows one.
Answers will have to follow the same time guidelines.
Deputy government house leader Barry Penner said the Liberals were not given advance notice of the rule change either.
Richmond said the rules would allow more than three people to ask questions during the short question period.
The Speaker said that with an election coming in May, "emotions and adrenaline are running high" in the legislature. And he cited Wednesday's raucous question period, the first of the new session, as an example of what he wants to avoid.
NDP house leader Joy MacPhail said it will be more difficult to hold the government to account. She wonders who's afraid of her three-member caucus.
"All of a sudden there are brand new rules that never existed for question period before, no notice, no heads up, no consultation from the Speaker's office, and I need to know why," she said. "I need to understand why he did what he did and why he related it to an election. It was his party that brought in a fixed election date."
It's a happy, feel-good report about a $2 million gift to Oshawa's University of Ontario's Institute of Technology which is "just across the street" from the Taylor family's Windfields Farm, famous for its race horses.
Judy Mappin, E.P. Taylor's daughter, helped deliver the cash donation. Quoting the newspaper report, it says:
"... That's right. Cash.
"Two security guards stood ramrod straight beside a clear case that held neatly piled bundles of colourful bills in the university's business and information technology building ..."
No explanation as to why such a large gift came in the form of ... cash.
But it's sure got me wondering.