Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Fourth Part. The 2003 RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices. The Tide of Corruption. The Soiled Milieu.
BY ROBIN MATHEWS
Disclosure of evidence has been chaotic. Judicial delays and fumblings - as well as inadequate availability of court records - have been inexcusable. Coverage by the private corporate monopoly press and media has been grossly inadequate (especially by CanWest monopoly publications which are ardent supporters and "cover-up" organs for the Gordon Campbell government).
On September 29 the trial for counselling the making of false report held to examine former police officer Ravinder Singh Dosanjh - a background person in the larger criminal investigation - was concluded. We still await his sentencing. Who is delaying? For what reasons? Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Wally Oppal, appears to be publicly grand-standing on any issue that may undermine and/or draw attention from the Basi, Basi, Virk trial.
A key witness, self-admittedly involved in an act of bribery at the heart of the Basi, Basi, Virk activities is going uncharged because - it would seem - of a deal or deals made regarding his status as a Crown witness. What were the deals? Erik Bornmann is a EuroCanadian, even, perhaps, with blue eyes.
His story is told by Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail (for B.C.) on November 18. Oho! say a few people. Things are heating up because the press is finally getting on to the story. Maybe. Maybe not. For if, as I say, Vaughn Palmer is "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Vancouver Sun", Gary Mason is "Gordon Campbell's personal representative at the Globe and Mail". By the merest chance, the Mason story about Eric Bornmann takes attention away from the Gordon Campbell cabinet and away from highly placed Liberals outside the legislature -- or it nearly does.
Out of those matters and many more - the political circumstances, the series of events leading to the raids on legislature offices of two Gordon Campbell cabinet ministers, and the long, long, drawn out legal proceedings since 2003 - might bring any Canadian to believe a significant attempt is afoot to pervert justice. And not primarily in relation to Basi, Basi, and Virk. Rather, the question surfaces - is an attempt afoot to pervert justice in relation to some cabinet ministers, some of their associates and contacts outside the legislature - all of whom should have been closely investigated, publicly reported upon, and - if appropriate - charged? We hear almost nothing about them.
Put simply, in another way, what was the Gordon Campbell cabinet doing hiring into intimate association with top cabinet officers and Liberal Party officials outside the legislature men who could engage in activities that eventuated in serious criminal charges being laid against them? Did the people hiring for cabinet make a huge mistake? Or did they make no mistake at all?
At this point the colour of Eric Bornmann's eyes may have relevance. The people charged in relation to all the issues connected to the raids on the legislature offices share ancestry with those originating - as people used to say - "East of Suez". Are we to see that as coincidental? Or are we to see it as planned? In the vast and turbulent arena involving, among other things, the dirty sale of B.C. Rail, the vigorous activity of dubious party membership gathering, alleged money laundering, the cancelled sale of the Roberts Bank rail spur, bribes allegedly offered and bribes allegedly received, alleged illicit drug activity, and alleged illicit breaking of agricultural land protection codes - are we to believe that only people with ancestry located "East of Suez" engaged in activity allegedly criminal Or should we believe that those men are being so presented, with great care, in order to protect others from (to put the matter delicately) West of Suez?
Are we to believe that all the "blue-eyed" EuroCanadians present in that turbulent arena acted prudently within the law? We know that Eric Bornmann didn't, and we know that he - unlike Basi, Basi, Virk, and Dosanjh - faces no charges of wrong doing.
Those who believe it is unfair to jump to conclusions are correct. In a period of honest government that enjoys a reputation of integrity, suspicions of the kind I have floated here might be heard uttered at a low level in discussion, but only as part of the scene that no one takes very seriously.
But this is not such a situation. The Gordon Campbell government is neck deep in moral breach of trust, violation of policy promises, enactment of sleazy and deceitful legislation, disinformation and questionable advertising, and active sell-out of the trust and wealth of British Columbians.
To suspect the Gordon Campbell government of attempting to undermine just investigations, the laying of charges, and fair pursuit of legal remedies in the history following the legislature raids is not, in my opinion, an option. It is a fundamental necessity.
The Gordon Campbell government promised not to sell B.C. Rail, kept secret all negotiations to sell, lied to the legislature about terms of sale, and permitted such rancid behaviour to develop that - on the recommendation of police forces - the sale of the spur line to Roberts Bank had to be aborted. That, after the dirty, dishonest sale of B.C. Rail, which took from British Columbians a vital, publicly-owned, and effective part of B.C.'s infrastructure. The sale of B.C. Rail is a source of important allegations in charges that have been laid.
Other allegations which involve drug related activities could connect to Liberal Party bulk membership scams and the "influencing" of candidacies. The question arises: who - more influential and powerful than the three men charged - were connected to those activities? Was Gordon Campbell himself?
Gordon Campbell himself, according to Judy Tyabi Wilson, floated to the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party on a sea of newly-signed-up Sikh members who didn't even have to appear for the leadership vote or to identify themselves over the telephone other then with a pin number assigned with membership. Perhaps it is fair to quote Tyabi Wilson. In the contest that gave Gordon Campbell the leadership: "The [Liberal] party was unable to ensure that the hundreds of new members, whose names were signed up and accorded post office box numbers, even exist[ed]."
(Judy Tyabi Wilson, POLITICAL AFFAIRS, Horsdal and Shubert, 1994, p. 235)
A pattern emerges. It involves (1) the destruction of Gordon Wilson as leader of the B.C. Liberals in the early 1990s and the ascendancy of Gordon Campbell. (2) It involves what I call "the fraudulent investigation, trial and destruction of Glen Clark, B.C. NDP premier". (3) It involves the strange rise to NDP premiership of Ujjal Dosanjh who appeared (to me) to give away the election before beginning work for the Liberal Party very soon after. (4) It involves the dirty sale of B.C. Rail, (5) the destruction of B.C. Hydro, and (6) the present, gigantic fraudulent giveaway of B.C.'s water energy to private corporations (many U.S.). (7) It involves - with particular relation to B.C. Rail, B.C. Hydro, and the giveaway of B.C. rivers - secrecy, deceit, and legislation to curb and/or to deny democratic powers and rights.
The pattern provides a case-study of what I have called elsewhere in these columns the arrival of "the New Fascism", a displacement of democracy by the rule of private corporate capitalists (many from outside Canada) supported in fraud and deception by police, the courts, private corporate wealth, monopoly journalism, and cabinet executives in power.
The Gordon Campbell government promised not to privatize B.C. Hydro. In order to work a breach of trust by deception, it froze B.C. Hydro, divided it into three parts, and has forced the tiny third part called B.C. Hydro to end any increase in energy production and to purchase any new energy power from private corporate entities. The Gordon Campbell government is in the process of giving those private corporate entities the water power energy owned by the people of British Columbia.
To further its breach of trust, the Gordon Campbell government has given a third of B.C. Hydro to an Enron scandal-connected entity called Accenture. The contract with Accenture to run B.C. Hydro's metering, billing, and financial services exists in a secret contract deliberately withheld from British Columbians. The secrecy of the contract is assured by legislation which should be, if it is not, unconstitutional.
Almost certainly, a part of that secret contract gives the right to Accenture employees to use vehicles marked "B.C. Hydro" so that British Columbians won't know the B.C. Hydro they believe operates no longer exists.
The third division of B.C. Hydro is formed by the creation of the so-called "transmission" section, said by the Campbell spokespeople to be wholly owned by British Columbians. Except it is constructed to by-pass all B.C. priorities in order to serve private owners, to supply the expensive U.S. market, and to force up B.C. electrical prices.
As if that weren't enough, the Gordon Campbell government (through the frozen B.C. Hydro) is in the process of granting licenses for dirty coal-fired electrical generating plants in Princeton and Tumbler Ridge B.C. doesn't need coal-fired plants. But the Campbell government intends the multi-billion dollar river resource energy of B.C. to be owned by and directed to U.S. sources. British Columbians can have expensive, needless, dirty coal-generated electrical energy - where it can be found. (Neither Vaughn Palmer nor Gary Mason nor any of their Globe and CanWest Media fellow journalists have written a word about those major issues in B.C. life. Are those journalists bribed? Coerced? What?)
Because of the (just described) dishonesty and corruption of the Gordon Campbell government, is it fair to ask if that government might come under suspicion of doing everything in its power to protect people in the ever-enlarging circle of deceit that exploded in the legislature raids and the charges arising out of them?
Can even the Special Prosecutor in the Basi, Basi, and Virk trial come under suspicion? Involved in the chaos of evidence disclosure which is still unsettled two weeks before the allotted trial date, and in the judicial delays, he is an appointee, in effect, of the Gordon Campbell cabinet. That cabinet has become famous for time-serving, cynical, opportunistic appointments. For example, consider.
To the new national health council, Campbell appointed his anti-medicare brother-in-law. To review the - probably criminal - negligence in the scandal-ridden ministry of Children and Families, Campbell's cabinet appointed proven hack Ted Hughes whose earlier APEC Report is a disgrace and is followed by an equally disgraceful Report on the Children and Families scandal. A chief recommendation of Hughes (who cut short his investigation) was that there should be no further investigation and no criminal investigation should take place.
Responding to the staggering and scandalous toll of forestry deaths as a result of the Campbell erasure of the forestry safety code, the cabinet appointed as new forestry ombudsman a former, defeated cabinet colleague whom the electorate had very obviously removed as unsuitable to serve the B.C. public.
Are we to believe the appointment of a Special Prosecutor in the Basi, Basi, and Virk case (a case connected to Gordon Campbell cabinet ministers and the dirty sale of B.C. Rail) was made with the single goal of achieving fair, transparent, just, and spotless results? If Defence is to be paid heed to, the Special Prosecutor's role has not contributed to those kinds of results.
I have already reported that the Supreme court system of access to public documents - directed by Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm - is a disgrace to a democratic society. Dohm was, earlier, dubiously involved in what I call the fraudulent investigation and trial of Glen Clark, former NDP premier. (I have repeatedly called for a Royal Commission level investigation into the whole, odious set of events.) It is Justice Dohm who has kept information from the public on the legislature raids and their aftermath.
Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, just by coincidence, has become (out of some 100 B.C. Supreme Court judges) trial judge for the Basi, Basi, Virk case. She was, as we know, the trial judge in the Glen Clark case. That case involved millions of dollars of investigation expenditure over many, many months. It eventuated in a very long, long trial which resulted in Clark being declared innocent but only after he had been destroyed politically and his party had been severely crippled - by the investigations and the court case conducted against him. "Democratic" means and the legal system, played out in the B.C. Supreme Court, were used to cripple democratic society in British Columbia, perhaps irreparably. Like it or not, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett sat on that trial which I (not alone by any means) believe should never have been held. Did she have a special role?
A chief investigating RCMP officer in the Glen Clark fiasco, Sergeant Peter Montague, just happened to be a known Liberal supporter, previously wooed by Gordon Campbell - one source says on at least two occasions - to accept a Liberal nomination. On March 22, 1999, Time Magazine commented:
"Last week, journalists learned that Peter Montague, the head of the crime unit that conducted the search on Clark's house, was invited by Gordon Campbell back in 1997 to run in the riding of Surrey-White Rock in an up-coming provincial by-election." (Judi Tyabi Wilson, DAGGERS UNSHEATHED, Heritage House, 2002, p. 132)
Sergeant Montague happened, before that, to figure prominently in the 1995, probably criminal, activities of the RCMP during the disagreement at Gustafsen Lake between a few dozen First Nations people and combined RCMP and Canadian military forces. The operation was marked by large areas closed to journalists and serious allegations of media manipulation, in which Peter Montague was named. During that operation, Montague is on record as saying of the RCMP that "smear campaigns are our specialty".
From the Gustafsen Lake disgrace Montague moved to the Commercial Crime section and position of a chief investigator in the case against Glen Clark - who was referred for investigation to the RCMP from Gordon Campbell's constituency office.
When Peter Montague retired a few years after the Clark trial, journalists attended his retirement luncheon. Among them were John Daly and Gary Hanney who covered the RCMP (search warrant) "raid" on Glen Clark's house. They not only attended the retirement luncheon, but they also presented Montague with a retirement gift.
Something is wrong, deeply wrong. The Defence in the Basi, Basi, Virk case have given an indication that they will argue a mistrial should be declared when (and if) the trial is held. In the previous column on this subject I asked if lawyers in the courtroom are puppets moving on invisible strings. By that I meant are some of them doing their best, trying to win their case with hard work, determination, and honesty, without knowing they have been set up, their actions prepared for them without them even knowing it. If a mistrial is declared in the Basi, Basi, Virk case - or if it is aborted for some other reason - will the end of the trial come about because the reason to end it has been carefully placed in the way of Defence counsel by forces least expected to do such a thing?
And if it is carried through to an end, will that be because the gentlemen with ancestry located "East of Suez" have been so insulated from the active, political community in which they worked that they can safely be handled without bringing into question the implicated, blue-eyed others from more virtuous birthplaces found West of Suez?
I don't quite see it that way - Young and Duncan are really another case - You have to go back in the news to the T/C coverage of the Dosanjh trial and the statements made therein, as well as to the FEDERAL side of this mess. The links to Liberal leadership aspirations and a particular community are hard to ignore, in my opinion. All the 'insider' characters in this story (with 3 exceptions) have tried very hard to erase the connections between themselves and the Basi boys. Joy McPhail, in a committee hearing in the Douglas Fir room on Monday, April 26, 2004 asked a whole lot of very interesting questions that I don't think ever got satisfactory answers - from the politicians or the civil servants involved. But then, so many of the principals had been able to, as they say, MOVE ON by that time. So, before you dismiss Robin's speculation - hunt up that hearing in Hansard and read it - very carefully. This case might have taken a very different arc if someone else had been in that committee room to face one of the two members of what was then - a REAL OPPOSITION. Even if our Dear Leader didn't treat is as such.
How often do you use someone else's cell phone?
I never do.
Here's part of the Hansard record
beginning [Page 10470] and 
Committee of Supply
Estimates for Ministry of Transportation:
Hon. K. Falcon: On March 2, as I've stated publicly…. I actually went over this quite extensively with the media in a scrum — it lasted about 30 minutes — where we went over the time line. I indicated that Mr. Trumpy had popped into my office on an unscheduled visit on March 2. If the member is going to ask me the time, I have to be candid and tell her I don't recall the time, to be honest.
That was the first time that I myself, as Minister of Transportation, became aware of that. What I would suggest to the member is that it's evident from the time line that the Premier would not have even been aware of this issue at that time.
J. MacPhail: Okay, but the minister was aware on March 2. On March 3 here's what the Minister of Transportation said. The Minister of Transportation on March 3, after having been informed by Mr. Trumpy about the RCMP's information that one or more of the advisers to the bidders may have received confidential information, tells the media about the differential treatment between Dave Basi and Bob Virk. He said on March 3, fully informed of Mr. Trumpy's information from the RCMP: "In the one case they, the Premier's office, felt that there were serious enough allegations being presented by the RCMP to terminate, and the other was much less clear."
The Minister of Transportation got in trouble for those remarks, because everybody leapt on them to say: "Well, the government knows more than what they're stating about the investigation." It's true. This minister did know more. This minister knew more. He'd already been informed by Mr. Trumpy the day before that, to believe one or more of the advisers to the bidders may have received confidential information.
What role did Bob Virk play in the minister's office?
Hon. K. Falcon: The question was what role Bob Virk played in the minister's office. The member knows well that I've never worked with Bob Virk. Obviously, I wasn't minister at the time that Bob Virk worked in the office. Obviously, it's impossible for me to describe what role he played, but I would presume that he played the role of a normal ministerial assistant — which, the member would be fully aware of, involves liaising with ministry staff, etc.
J. MacPhail: That's why we have public officials advising the minister — so that there's actual continuity of answers. I'm sure the minister knows that a cabinet shuffle is not a reason to not answer questions. Ministerial continuity is a premise of our British parliamentary system regardless of who holds the office.
I know that Mr. Virk was the ministerial assistant advising me on the B.C. Rail sale legislation. I knew he was involved in those discussions before it was tabled in the Legislature. He had access to confidential information around the legislation. What involvement did he have, other than that, in the B.C. Rail deal? Did he meet with the steering committee? Did he attend meetings of the steering committee that directed the sale of B.C. Rail?
Hon. K. Falcon: I have to go back to what I said before, and that is that I wasn't minister at the time that Mr. Virk was involved. I can't possibly even begin to discuss what his level of involvement is, because I can't possibly do that in any knowledgable way that would add any value to this.
I remind the member that we are referring to the vote for '04-05, and the member is referring to the previous fiscal. Unless there is a question associated with the financial implications, I can't add anything for the member.
J. MacPhail: This deal is being booked in '04-05. The sale and the proceeds of this B.C. Rail deal are being booked in '04-05. I always love it when the government tries to say: "Oh my God, you're a fiscal out of order." Wrong. I want to know whether this deal is going to survive or not, and these questions all relate to the survival of this deal. We've got a police investigation into this sale. We've got part of the deal stopped because of a police investigation.
Mr. Chair, these questions are completely in order. If the minister is afraid to answer them, that's a different issue. It is completely unacceptable for this minister to say: "Oh, I wasn't there, so I don't have to answer these questions." It's completely unacceptable, because the minister is being advised by the very people who sat on the steering committee.
Did Mr. Virk attend steering committee meetings regarding the sale of B.C. Rail?
Hon. K. Falcon: I can confirm that Mr. Virk, according to the advice I'm given, attended some of those meetings.
J. MacPhail: That's what our leaks told us too, so I'm glad our sources are exactly accurate. Bob Virk at-
[ Page 10483 ]
tended the steering committee meetings where the terms of the B.C. Rail sale were discussed. That's what the Minister of Finance said. That's the body that discussed the sale of the B.C. Rail deal. That's what the former Minister of Transportation said in the Legislature when she was ramming legislation through: "Don't worry. The steering committee handled all of these arrangements."
Mr. Bob Virk attended those steering committee hearings, so he had access to inside information. Mr. Virk also saw the legislation before it was tabled in the Legislature, so he had access to confidential information, both financial and legislative. Did Mr. Virk have access to Treasury Board information through the minister's office regarding the sale of B.C. Rail?
Hon. K. Falcon: Again, I'm left in the position of certainly not being prepared to speculate on what information Mr. Virk may or may not have had access to, because I actually don't know. What I can say is that within my office, typically, the ministerial assistant has access to whatever information is at least passing through them to the minister, to myself, relating to cabinet information and Treasury Board information. That certainly wouldn't be uncommon.
J. MacPhail: I'm forced to compliment the minister, again, for his courage. In this case, it's speculative courage, but nevertheless, it's courage.
It is completely unacceptable for the corporate information to disappear with the change of a ministerial political staffer. It is completely unacceptable, so the minister should be able to answer the question. Now he's answering it in a way that actually implicates him, to say that one would have to reach the conclusion that Bob Virk did have access to confidential Treasury Board information.
Being a smart person, I should just sit down and accept that, but I also know the minister knows the answer to that question or can get the answer to that question, because it is simply unacceptable for him to not outright confirm that Mr. Bob Virk had access to confidential Treasury Board information.
Mr. Chair, the reason why this is important is because there's some question about when this deal was actually approved and whether it was approved by cabinet, but we do have everybody admitting that Treasury Board, at least, dealt with this. We can only assume that Mr. Virk, given the practices of ministers' offices, had access not only to confidential legislative information and not only attended steering committee meetings but had access to Treasury Board information regarding the sale of the B.C. Rail deal.
On March 2, Chris Trumpy advises the Minister of Transportation of the RCMP's conversation with him, Mr. Trumpy, that would eventually lead to the cancellation of the Roberts Bank spur line sale. Yet when the Minister of Transportation was questioned on March 3 in the media scrum to which he just referred, when he was asked about whether the Roberts Bank deal may be tainted, the Minister of Transportation said, emphatically, no. Why?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member should know that when you're in the position of minister…. What I received from Mr. Trumpy through a very brief…. When I say very brief, I mean an unscheduled meeting that lasted certainly not more than a few minutes. Mr. Trumpy advised me that he received a visit from the RCMP and indicated he may have information that would suggest there could be a problem associated with it, and he would be getting back to me to talk about that.
That is the full and total extent of what I knew at that point on March 2. That certainly, I want to underscore to the member, is not information that, as a responsible minister, I am going to do anything on until I get some facts and some more information from Mr. Trumpy about what this information has to do with or what the facts are regarding it.
J. MacPhail: I don't care whether the meeting lasted 15 seconds. It's the basis upon which this minister said the decision-making process started to roll about cancelling the Roberts Bank spur line sale. The minister didn't just say, "I'm not prepared to comment," when asked whether the Roberts Bank deal may be tainted. He said, emphatically, no, and he was emphatically misleading at that point because he already had advice that it may be tainted. He already had that advice. He had it on March 2, and on March 3 he deliberately misled the media.
March 1, the RCMP visit Chris Trumpy. March 2, Chris Trumpy visits the minister. March 3, the minister is asked a question about the Roberts Bank deal and whether it's tainted. He says no. No wonder people don't believe this government. No wonder they're suspicious that they're not being told the truth. They have every right to be suspicious. I think that the media…. I will say this. I think the minister deliberately misled the media on March 3 in that scrum — deliberately misled them.
On March 3, I was also in estimates with the Minister of Finance. It was during those estimates that the Minister of Finance said he met with Pat Broe, who's the head of the company that holds Omnitrax, which is bidding on the Roberts Bank spur line sale. It was on March 3 that the Minister of Finance said he met with Pat Broe twice: once before the B.C. Rail deal, the $1 billion sale; and once after that sale.
The Minister of Finance admitted that he met with Pat Broe, the CEO of Broe Companies, of which Omnitrax is a subsidiary, on two separate occasions. Can this minister tell me if he was aware of those meetings?
Hon. K. Falcon: The answer is no.
J. MacPhail: When did the minister become aware that the Minister of Finance was meeting with Pat Broe, the head of Omnitrax, while the bidding process for the
[ Page 10484 ]
Roberts Bank spur line was going on? When did he become aware of that?
Hon. K. Falcon: The fact is, I'm not even sure when I became aware. I think I recall reading something in the media about the member's questioning of the Minister of Finance in estimates or something. I have some brief recollection that I read something in the media, but that would be it.
J. MacPhail: I just want to clarify. It is this Minister of Transportation who is responsible for the sale of B.C. Rail — am I correct? — including the spur line to Roberts Bank.
Hon. K. Falcon: The member knows very well that that's correct.
J. MacPhail: Okay, and he was the minister on March 3.
When the Minister of Finance was asked questions about these private meetings with Pat Broe by a Vancouver Sun reporter, the Minister of Finance admitted that he discussed the Roberts Bank spur line sale with Pat Broe. He said, "Oh, it was inconsequential," but he did admit to discussing it. That's his interpretation. It was inconsequential — a private dinner between the Minister of Finance and one of the bidders on the Roberts Bank spur line sale while the bidding process was going on. The Minister of Finance admits that it was discussed at their private dinner.
Did the Minister of Finance ever tell this Minister of Transportation about the nature of those discussions? Did he ever declare that discussion in what's supposed to be an open and transparent bidding process, of which Omnitrax was one of the bidders?
Hon. K. Falcon: No.
J. MacPhail: Well, I guess for reasons other than the RCMP investigation, it's darn good that this deal was cancelled, when you've got those kinds of private meetings going on about an ongoing bid. Thank God for the police raids on the Legislature is all I guess we can say here. Thank God.
[Previously published here under the title:
"Thank God for the police raids on the Legislature"]
you have expressed the views of many and your literary skills are self evident.
the blue eyed devil will face the people soon enough.
All told, I've been proud of the comments made on this blog, most of them reflecting our efforts to understand this serious chapter in B.C. history.
I value every contribution that advances our understanding. Thanks again, tim.
Are you both planning to attend the pre-trial hearing tomorrow?