Tuesday, February 27, 2007
See what the Opposition asked the Attorney General today, 27 February 2007, in the B.C. Legislature, about the sale of B.C. Rail and the trial. Read what Leonard Krog (Justice Critic) said, what Carole James, Leader of the Opposition said. And what Wally Oppal refused to say. It came up in Oral questions today. For the whole story, click on:
And thanks to DL for finding this.
News1130 has a piece on the trial coverage
Me thinks the Attorney General should stop hiding behind a convention he's ignored both in this case and in the Picton case.
If he can't shut up when someone shoves a mike in front of his face outside the house, he shouldn't be so bashful about answering questions in the Legislature.
Has the Opposition finally found its voice and its legs?
DISCLOSURE OF DOCUMENTS IN
B.C. RAIL?CN RAIL INVESTIGATION
L. Krog: The former Finance Minister, Gary Collins, told this House that his meetings with Omnitrax representatives had nothing to do with the sell-off of B.C. Rail or the Roberts Bank spur line. New allegations cast those assertions into serious doubt. The allegations suggest that representatives of the Liberal cabinet and caucus set up the Roberts Bank spur line as a consolation prize for failed bidders. Mr. Collins was not the only member overseeing negotiations. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Can the Minister of Transportation confirm that other government ministers and MLAs sat on a committee to oversee the negotiations, and can he tell us who they were? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: This case is before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The member knows that. A special prosecutor has conduct of the case. The member knows that too. Where the matter is before the Supreme Court and a special prosecutor has been appointed, it is totally inappropriate to discuss this matter in public. The member is a member of the bar. He should know better than to ask that question. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
L. Krog: With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, members of this government are not currently under investigation. This is a matter before the public. In an information bulletin dated November 3, 2003, this government established a steering committee to "assist in overseeing negotiations." The committee was struck "to ensure the best deal for British Columbians." [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Committee members included the current Minister of Education, the current Minister of Agriculture and the current Minister of Energy. Did that committee ever discuss the potential of the deal collapsing if only one bidder remained? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: However the opposition member may characterize his question, the fact is that when he's talking about B.C. Rail, he's talking about a matter that's before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
He knows full well that it would be totally improper for me or for any other member of this House, as lawmakers, to discuss this issue. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
C. James: Within the application for disclosure, there is a long list of documents the defence counsel has requested. Those requests are now a year old, and the government has withheld the information from the special prosecutor. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
To the Attorney General: why has the government refused defence counsel's requests to access information? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: The special prosecutor has advised us that it is not appropriate to comment publicly on any of these allegations that are made. These are allegations that are made by defence counsel. When the defence makes allegations of this sort, I can tell the Leader of the Opposition that the normal course of events is for the prosecutor to respond in court. That's where these matters are heard ? in court. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a supplemental. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
C. James: I must state again that my understanding is the government is not before the courts. We're talking here about very specific materials that have been requested. When this case began, the Premier personally pledged that the government would fully cooperate in the investigation. Now it seems that the government is withholding information. It's been over a year, according to documents, since counsel asked for this information. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
So my question again to the Attorney General: why is the government refusing to cooperate? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: There's absolutely no evidence that the government is not cooperating. I'll say it one more time. The conduct of the case is in the hands of a special prosecutor who's at arm's length from the government. He conducts the case. He has advised us clearly ? and it has got to be obvious to everyone in this House ? that it is totally inappropriate to talk about a case that's being litigated in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
C. James: I'm not speaking about the specifics of this case. I am speaking about government's actions related to information to ensure that this case will go forward. The disclosure requests were sent to a representative of the provincial government over a year ago. So my question to the Attorney General is: who is the representative that received those requests over a year ago? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: You know, we have a trial judge who is presiding over the case. The trial judge will ensure that all those matters that are necessary for defence disclosure will be made. In the meantime, it's appropriate for us to keep out of the case and not discuss the case. I don't know how much more plain I could be. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: Just a friendly reminder to members that if we're going to continue along this line of questioning, the Attorney General has stated clearly that this is a matter before the courts. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
J. Kwan: The government holds the documents that may assist in the court case. If the government can't get bidders in their privatization schemes, then there's not even the appearance of competition, and the process falls apart. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
If the government doesn't release the information requested by the defence counsel and the special Crown prosecutor, how can British Columbians then be asked to have confidence and be sure that other privatization schemes have not been tainted? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: I'll say it one more time. Defence counsel has made certain allegations. The special prosecutor, I would expect, will reply in kind. In the meantime, the special prosecutor has advised us quite clearly and quite properly that it's inappropriate for us to comment on these matters. There may be some substance to the defence allegations; there may be none. It's foolish to assume that because the defence have asked for certain documents, they already haven't been provided. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
That's why we have the rule. We keep out of matters that are before the Supreme Court or any court. We're not in a position to comment on those matters. It's inappropriate for lawmakers. That is so clear, so basic, so fundamental ? as to why we observe that rule. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: The member has a further supplemental. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
J. Kwan: The opposition is not asking for the government to comment on the case. The opposition is simply asking the government?
Interjections. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. Proceed, Member. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
J. Kwan: ?to release documents that would actually assist in that process with the court case. The Premier made a commitment. "The important thing is that neither the RCMP nor the government shy away from carrying out a thorough, complete and diligent investigation in the public interest." The Premier further said: "Obviously, it's troubling to everyone, but the important thing is that there is an ongoing investigation and that I've told everyone to be as open and as transparent as they can about the entire situation, and I hope the RCMP will do that as well." [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
The opposition is asking the government to live up to the spirit of the Premier's comments by advising the public who is the representative representing the province with respect to the information that's not being released. Who is that person, and why won't the government release that information to the courts? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: As near as I can understand the question, the member is asking the government to release documents. We have a trial judge that does that. The application is before the trial judge. It's not before the government. It's not before us. We can't release the documents. That's entirely before the trial judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia who's presiding over the trial. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: Just a friendly reminder again to members to be cautious, if we're proceeding along the same line of questioning. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
M. Farnworth: The issue is disclosure. The question that we are asking is?. It's been a year since the request was put forward for that information to be released, yet it has not been released. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
So the question we will ask ? and the Attorney General may not like answering it, but it's legitimate for us to ask ? is: why has it taken so long to have this information released or given to the court? How long will it be, and when will it happen? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: Same question with more vigour. First of all, we don't know that the documents haven't been given. I can tell you a little bit about courtrooms. Defence counsel often make allegations. Sometimes they're accurate; sometimes they're not. We have a trial judge that presides over these. The trial judge will determine ? forgive me if I'm lecturing, but I am ? whether or not there's any substance to the application. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
In the meantime, we as lawmakers keep out of it. It's for the courts to decide on an independent basis. We don't interfere with the deliberations of courtrooms and of judges. That's why we have independent judges who decide these cases and decide these difficult issues in criminal and civil cases. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
M. Farnworth: If only a few of these allegations are proven true, hon. Speaker, that will be very disturbing indeed. So once again, the question is quite simple. Can the Attorney General confirm or not confirm whether this information has at least been released? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. W. Oppal: I'm not going to confirm anything. It's not my job to confirm anything. The member of the opposition obviously has the document that's been filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. That's what he's referring to. It's a document filed by defence counsel. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I'll say one more time that it would be inappropriate and it would be wrong ? 100 different ways ? for me to comment on it, and I'm not going to comment on it. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You've got the best, and most insightful Anon-O-Mice in all the land.
(and that includes those that run the wheel over at Mr. Holman's place).