Wednesday, April 25, 2007

 

25 April 2007 - Press Cuttings

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DARK CLOUD HANGS OVER GOVERNMENT
CKNW - April 24 2007 - 11:50 PM

VICTORIA/CKNW(AM980) - Allegations of a media manipulation campaign stemming from the trial of three former Government aides dominated Question Period Tuesday.

Premier Gordon Campbell refused to answer any questions about the claims that his staff orchestrated fake calls to talk-shows to praise the Premier or bash the NDP. But Opposition House Leader Mike Farnworth didn't buy Campbell's argument that he can't comment without jeopardizing the trial, "I didn't mention the term courthouse, I didn't mention the term trial, I didn't even ask if these employees came from the firm of Haldemann, Erlichman, Dean and Mitchell Mr. Speaker."

The Premier says he won't answer any questions related to the trial until the court proceedings are over.


http://www.cknw.com/news/news_local.cfm?cat=7428545912&rem=63752&red=80154523aPBIny&wids=242&gi=1&gm=news_local.cfm

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[Significantly updated]
DEFENCE LAWYER SEEKS CABINET DOCUMENTS ON BC RAIL SALE Ex-aide's counsel wants to examine integrity of the bidding process
Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Documents expected to involve Premier Gordon Campbell and his cabinet will be sought in an application regarding the controversial sale of BC Rail, the defence announced Tuesday at the corruption trial of three former provincial government aides. {Snip} ...

"Clearly there are overtones and undertones of very significant political involvement in this case," said Bolton, who is representing Dave Basi, former assistant to then finance minister Gary Collins when the government announced on Nov. 25, 2003, the sale of BC Rail operations to Canadian National. {Snip} ...

The defence decided to file the new application after realizing the RCMP never sought certain documents, he said.

"It's our belief that because of the involvement of the solicitor-general and the cabinet in the BC Rail deal, that there must be additional documents that the RCMP have never sought," Bolton said. {Snip} ...

Most of Tuesday was spent by defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, representing Virk, arguing that the special prosecutor, Bill Berardino, failed in his obligation to provide full disclosure of the negotiations and immunity-from-prosecution deal reached with Bornmann, who has connections to the federal Liberal party and was a key organizer for Paul Martin's leadership campaign in B.C.

"Mr. Bornmann has received special treatment by not being charged," McCullough said in court.

Janet Winteringham, a member of the special prosecution team, objected to McCullough's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, telling B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett that the prosecution will have more to say later.

McCullough told the judge that Bornmann admitted to police in early 2004 that he gave bribes to government aides but was allowed to continue "merrily along" lobbying government, as were Bornmann's partners, Brian Kieran and Jamie Elmhirst, in the Pilothouse lobbying firm.

Pilothouse was paid $297,918 by OmniTRAX for lobbying services, he said.

McCullough also revealed that police, after executing a search warrant on Bornmann, found a screenplay on his computer titled Politico, which the prosecution deemed irrelevant but the defence considers relevant.

He said the prosecution also failed in its obligation to provide witness statements from nine people listed as potential Crown trial witnesses, including Ken Dobell, a special adviser to the premier. {Snip} ...


The Basi-Virk trial resumes FRIDAY


http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=c53de2ad-a167-478d-a2a6-c2cef24378b2&k=17660

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Vaughn Palmer
OKAY, WHO DO CAMPBELL AND OPPAL THINK THEY'RE FOOLING BY STONEWALLING?
VANCOUVER SUN - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

VICTORIA - ... The premier also maintained that "as far as I know this is an isolated incident."

Does he still think it was an isolated incident? Has he checked? Are his current staff involved in these kinds of things?

"I expected the premier would want to clear things up," Opposition leader Carole James said following question period.

"But he can't tell us whether his own staff is involved in political activities."

Won't tell, is more like it. The premier isn't about to comment on a proceeding he doesn't control.

The allegations of dirty tricks had some Opposition members harking back to the gold standard of political scandals, the Watergate case.

House leader Mike Farnworth cracked that maybe the Liberals had been recruiting office staff from "the firm of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean and Mitchell," all figures in the imbroglio that brought down their boss, U.S. president Richard Nixon.

When Campbell got up to speak at one point, New Democrat David Chudnovsky, heckled a line from Nixon: "I am not a crook." (The Speaker of the legislature directed him to withdraw, and he did.)

The deliberately unresponsive strategy also recalls the Nixon administration's way of stonewalling irksome queries from reporters, critics and others.

"Stonewalling: Saying 'no comment,' hanging tough -- a strategy based on those actions," former Nixon speechwriter William Safire wrote in his definitive Political Dictionary.

"The word was popularized during the Watergate investigation," he continued. "To stonewall is to impede ... usually through silence, sometimes through delay."

Time will tell whether the strategy works any better for Premier Campbell than it did for the originator.

Read Vaughn Palmer's complete column for April 25 at:
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=52002e4f-3e17-4021-9ad3-bcf1e0786b57
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CORRUPTION PROBE
Defence seeks documents RCMP left behind in raid
MARK HUME
THE GLOBE AND MAIL - 25 April 2007

The defence team in a case about alleged corruption connected to the government's sale of BC Rail for $1-billion will be seeking access to confidential cabinet documents and other material the police never gathered during an unprecedented raid on the legislature in 2003.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia was given notice yesterday that an application for government documents will be coming within days. {Snip} ...

The privatization of BC Rail is at the heart of the RCMP investigation that led to charges of fraud, accepting bribes and money-laundering against Dave Basi, Mr. Virk and Aneal Basi. Dave Basi and Mr. Virk are accused of leaking confidential government information about the BC Rail process in return for bribes, and Aneal Basi, who was a low-level information officer, is alleged to have laundered the payments.

The defence contends, however, that Dave Basi and Mr. Virk were "political operatives" who at all times were following government directions.

The defence argues that the RCMP "tailored and targeted" their investigation to focus on the minor figures to leave politicians out of the case. {Snip} ...

In Victoria yesterday, Mr. Campbell refused to respond to allegations from the defence on Monday that his top officials were involved with Dave Basi in a dirty-tricks campaign that included setting up phone calls to radio stations and disrupting protests by groups opposed to government policies.

Mr. Campbell said the matter is before the courts so he can't comment.

Read the full story at:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070425.BCVIRK25/TPStory/TPNational/BritishColumbia/

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PREMIER DEFLECTS QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDIA MANIPULATION ALLEGATIONS
Jeff Rud and Lindsay Kines
Times Colonist - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Premier Gordon Campbell refused to comment yesterday on allegations that current and former senior government and Liberal caucus staff members were actively involved in media manipulation tactics. {Snip}... Campbell refused to answer any questions about whether he was aware of these activities or whether the public can have confidence that his staff is not involved in such activities now.

Thirteen times during a media scrum at the legislature -- the most fierce interrogation Campbell has faced since his arrest for drunk driving in Maui in 2003 -- Campbell declined comment, citing the fact the Basi and Virk case is before the courts.

Read the full story at:
http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=9e07748d-0489-4e6c-a8b0-e23a43506409

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VIRK-BASI TRIAL GIVING NDP LOTS OF AMMUNITION
Les Leyne
Special to Times Colonist - April 25, 2007

Kevin McCullough is a Victoria criminal lawyer few people have heard of, but he's emerging as the hot new star of the Official Opposition.

And he couldn't have come along at a better time. After limping along and making only sporadically successful forays against the B.C. Liberals, the New Democratic Party now has a bulldog, normally specializing in murder and dangerous offender cases, who might have an entire backyard of political bones to dig up.

McCullough's politics are unknown to me. But he better get used to New Democrats hanging on his every word for the next few months. Because like it or not, he's the NDP's new main man when it comes to supplying raw material for use against the Liberals.

He's currently acting as defence counsel for Bob Virk, charged in the long-awaited corruption trial involving the manoeuvering that went on behind the scenes during the government's move to privatize B.C. Rail.

The three-year wait for that trial to begin has given everyone lots of time to collect evidence, or at least, identify places where evidence lies. So only a few days into the trial, McCullough has detonated a few little bombshells that the NDP quickly adopted as their own. {Snip} ...

It's easy to imagine what will happen if the lawyers turn up some hard evidence about how things work in the Liberal government. There's going to be a direct pipeline running from the Vancouver courthouse to the legislature. Deliciously embarrassing questions for Premier Gordon Campbell will be BlackBerryed from NDP courtroom observers to the Opposition caucus faster than you can send Canucks scoring updates.

The Liberals cut all ties with one of the accused, Dave Basi, right after the legislature raid. They eventually terminated Virk, as well.

So the defence appears to be in payback mode. The opening of the trial showed them in a mood to take down as many Liberals as they can in support of their position that Basi and Virk were only small fish in the big pond into which the police dipped their net.

All of which leaves the premier in an awkward position. Yesterday he took the time-honoured stance all B.C. premiers adopt when government matters end up on the Supreme Court docket: "I will not be commenting ... matter is before the courts ... protect the integrity of the process."

The trouble is, he had to repeat that position six times and Attorney General Wally Oppal had to reiterate it another nine times. No matter how principled that stand is, after 15 times in a row it starts to sound a little lame.

Particularly when the questioning eventually morphed into pointed queries about whether Liberal staffers sitting in their legislature offices were butting into radio shows using fictitious names and disguised voices during daytime hours, when they were supposed to be beavering away for the good of all British Columbians. {Snip} ...

In the hallway later, where "blatant media manipulation" is an art form, James told reporters that the Liberals are running away and trying to hide, but "the premier's going to have to hear those questions, because we're going to keep asking them."

That assumes he keeps showing up for question periods. Given how uncomfortable he looked Tuesday, it's safe to assume his schedule of appointments elsewhere will fill up rapidly.

In the mean time, the operative phrase in the NDP caucus is "Go, Kevin, Go!"

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/columnists/story.html?id=6700f74a-102f-40fc-87ac-960571f79020

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Comments:
Although I can't speak to any interviews that occurred outside the Legislature yesterday the 24th I have just read Hansard and to clarify some things in the above articles nowhere in Hansard is it printed that the Premier nor the Attorney General used the word "can't". In all questions about the conduct of the deputy ministers or staff the word "won't" was used. In other words in the legislature they "won't" comment on any matters arising from this court proceeding.
So to me if they are using the word "can't" outside the legislature they are again misleading the public.
 
Mary,

Did you see the reference to how much these lobbyist earned? I mean $300,000 for what?

My god, what is with this lobbying racket.
 
I see Vaughn Palmer got off his but and started writing about this case. Do you think it's because he's embarrassed about being manipulated by the Libs? I think so. And the rest of the mainsream media? You bet. Maybe now the people of this province will wake up to how they have been shafted.
 
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