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.
Your articles have gone from goofy to absurd. Next I expect to see you trying to link Basi and Virk to global warming.
Basi's ties to the drug trade and organized crime are peripheral at best. He has a couple of "cousins" that are wannabe gangsters. He does a couple of ill-advised property rental deals with members of his extended family and poof he is a player.
Basi and Virk were MA's because they did one thing very well, they were good at organizing and recruiting members for the party. Incidentally, almost every MA chosen by Martyn was chosen for the same reason. I don't see you complaining that those appointments are all tainted as well. Matter of fact, seems to me that the NDP does/did the same thing.
Information for favors goes on 24/7 in any Government and is how things get done. Too bad for Basi that his "cousins" got pinched are else this whole affair would have never seen the light of day.
Also too bad for Basi that he was starting to flex his power a little too much downtown. His comments about anyone wanting to meet with Collins had to go through him first didn't sit well with the back bench or those who felt that Collins owed them something. No wonder he got axed as soon as an excuse presented itself.
Outside of the Liberals Basi and Virk are small fry. Jamie and Brian have a lot of history with the party and carry a lot of weight. No wonder they got off lightly.
Don't count on Basi or Virk to spill their guts any time soon either. Not only do they not know or have involvement with half of what you suggest, Basi in particular has made a small fortune in the past 3 years in development and I am sure is happy to put all of this in the past.
I was sorely tempted to remove your comment because of your personal insults to Robin Mathews. That kind of talk puts people off, not just me. But I decided to let your remarks stand, for the moment, because Robin is strong; and because most of what you say is interesting in a weird sort of way. So would you return with a few specific answers?
Who are the Basi "cousins" you speak of? Do you mean former Constable Ravinder Dosanjh? Surely you don't honestly mean to say that he was "a wannabe gangster"?
What do you mean by Basi's "ill-advised property deals with his extended family"? Come on. If you think this situation isn't genuine global warming B.C.-style, tell us exactly what you're hinting at here.
"Information for favours goes on 24/7" you say (and presumably 24/7/365, too, as the current organized onslaught against this blog began Christmas Day, which is pretty wierd).
I think what you're saying is that bribery is OK by you? And that it should be OK by everyone, if only we understood this? Really?
I'm sure Basi will thank you for telling us that he has "made a small fortune" in development the past while; that should be easily proven. Or not. What do you think?
But it creates a question: So why do you think he was moaning to Gary Mason about the legal fees required to defend his reputation?
Dunno: maybe someday we'll all thank you for introducing us to this New World Order ... but BC Mary says: Don't come on this blog insulting an author with courage and concern, while you yourself are whitewashing and revising what little we do know about the B.C. Rail affair.
Maybe we should ask for full disclosure before people comment: are you a friend of Erik Bornmann? Of Brian Kierans? Of Basi, Virk, or Basi? All of the above?
Or are you -- please -- speaking out of concern for the public interest (as Robin Mathew is)? Because it sure seems to make a big difference.
Basi was picked by Collins supposedly, or so we were told. we were also told that Collins stated pubiclally he hardly knew the guy. Most folks would no doubt know their MA or they wouldn't be the MA. And of course they can be dropped as quickly as they get appointed. OIC's don't take long. No political staffer like Brown could do that. Brown fired him. If I recall correctly neither the Premier or Collins were in the province at the time. Campbell being a control freak would have of course been told in advance of the firing. If Martye didn't get the OK from Gordo those guys would still be on the government payroll. The only guy convicted to date was the slightly bent cop who told some other fellow in this case to lie about where the money came from. I'm pretty sure the Senior Judge got involved as possibly some political people might end up in the case. He did earlier on, with the Glen Clarke case. Maybe you or I don't like Mary's writing style , and maybe that's how democracy works. You might be as concerned as she that things get resolved. To say favours is how things get done and by everyone is a bit of a fantasy. It was under Brian Mulroney's time in office, and possibly some fiddling under the Liberal government. But don't tar all elected people with that brush. You took offence at some of Mary's comments and then tell us that Basi and Virk are small fry.How do you know that is the case, or are you, just like Mary is doing, thinking aloud. Are you looking for the Premier or some other political person to fall on their sword and say. Hey it was me all the time. If those three guys are innocent or guilty the judge will make the decision not you, Mary or Me. The Judge didn't just leave school and end up on the Supreme Court bench. Time will tell and the time is getting closer. So let's all come up with information on the case.Let's not shite on the person who is doing the looking. Do I support Gordo and his party? you got to be kidding. dl
There's a lot you don't know, dunno, or don't care to know about!
Some folks, with federal election winds stirring the grasses, are getting very anxious to clean up their sordid past and 'revise' it right out of existence.
Erik Bornmann isn't just sending congratulatory bouquets these days.
More later, I hope.
Basi rented out, turned out to be used to harvest pot, I'll bet is another smoking mirror to coverup for other illegal drugs! The government won't let the truth come out because someone may connect the dots... and those who go digging recieve a nasty visit from the boys in blue or the men in black (with or without legal passage and badge), or whom ever it is, that you been bullied by!?