Friday, April 27, 2007

 

27, 28 April - from the newspapers

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LIBERALS, NDP MUST ASSURE VOTERS THEY DON'T CONDONE DIRTY TRICKS
Vancouver Sun Editorial
Friday, April 27, 2007


{Snip} ... there is another issue that has to be weighed. The mere fact that former Liberal staffers Dave Basi and Bob Virk are on trial on charges of fraud and influence peddling connected to their work in government cannot preclude any discussion of the operation of government, past and present, in the political arena. {Snip}

Public officials of all political stripes must be able to declare at any time that they are not using tax dollars to fund unethical political practices. Campbell's position has been further undercut by the willingness of Attorney General Wally Oppal to proclaim during the same question period in the legislature that the allegations made by Virk's lawyer, Kevin McCullough, were "baseless." We'd like to know what Oppal knows, so that our confidence in the ethical operation of the premier's office can remain undiminished. {Snip}


An editorial worth studying for its familiar style of reaching out to include the NDP in the headline and tail-line (if the news is bad). Read it in full at:
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/editorial/story.html?id=dec171f5-6fbf-4b2c-858c-f552abebd316

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CORRUPTION TRIAL TOLD WITNESS GOT SPECIAL DEAL
Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - Friday, April 27, 2007

Defence lawyers representing two former provincial government aides at a corruption trial hammered away today at the Crown's failure to disclose an immunity-from-prosecution deal with the Crown's key witness.

Erik Bornmann, who is expected to be the Crown's star witness at trial, apparently cut a deal with the special prosecutor some time in 2004, months after the raid of the legislature offices of Dave Basi and Bob Virk.

Virk's lawyer, Kevin McCullough, alleged in legal arguments seeking further disclosure that Bornmann was given special treatment and was not charged, even though he confessed to bribing government officials involved in the $1-billion privatization sale of BC Rail in November 2003.

The defence lawyer said the special prosecutor, Bill Berardino, had a duty to keep detailed records of his contact and negotiations with Bornmann and his lawyer, George Macintosh, to provide a transparency to show how the immunity deal was reached. {Snip} ...

McCullough pointed out that one of Macintosh's letters, sent April 15, 2004, suggested he had received a "most disturbing message" from Berardino that the agreement reached with Bornmann "is at an end." The defence lawyer said there is no disclosure over what prompted Berardino's message.

"He did something to bring about that call from Mr. Berardino," McCullough told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett. "Something must have occurred and we have absolutely no disclosure of it," he said. {Snip} ...

The trial continues Monday at the Vancouver Law Courts.
nhall@png.canwest.com

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=723e2999-717c-4b03-9aab-3a8a12328124&k=17945
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Updated version of foregoing article:

B.C. RAIL CASE WASN'T FULLY PROBED: DEFENCE
Basi-Virk lawyer says RCMP didn't look into close ties between lobbyist, deputy minister

Neal Hall
CanWest News Service
Saturday, April 28, 2007

VANCOUVER -- The RCMP "tailored and targeted" their efforts in a bid to nail two former British Columbia government aides accused of accepting bribes involved the sale of B.C. Rail {Snip} ...

The defence lawyer speculated that the call may have stemmed from Bornmann issuing a news release that indicated he had been cleared of any wrongdoing and was now a witness instead of a suspect.

It was untrue, McCullough said of Bornmann's false claim of exoneration, which was reported by a number of media outlets at the time.

The defence lawyer questioned whether part of the Crown deal was to allow Bornmann to pursue a legal career. Bornmann received a law degree from the University of B.C. and then went to Toronto to article for a law firm.

He had applied to the Law Society of Upper Canada to become a lawyer and would have had to disclose on his application that he was under investigation for bribing government officials, McCullough said.

He alleged Bornmann lied about his past in his application, which undermines his credibility.

He said Berardino had a duty to tell the law society about Bornmann but instead did nothing until the law society contacted him.

McCullough told the court that Bornmann now is facing a disciplinary hearing after a member of the public filed a complaint. {Snip} ...

Read the complete column at:
http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=69cf6ba7-1744-4d65-9c59-0fda028d0260&k=32867
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Vaughn Palmer looks at British parliamentary history to discuss the B.C. government's evasion of questions in the Legislature:

OPPAL AND CAMPBELL HIDE BEHIND 'PRINCIPLE' TO STAY QUIET ON RAID

Palmer writes: "The B.C. Liberals can, and do, duck questions on any number of matters, including this one. But they needn't pretend their stance is grounded in any principle other than naked self-interest."

Read all about it at:
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=9ae68f88-5470-45c4-b7ed-569f5b1c892a
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Take the following as the preview of a horror movie about things which could happen anywhere. In particular, note the "whirlwind speed of change" factor:

Excerpt from:
SACRIFICIAL WOLFIE
By Naomi Klein
The Nation - 14 May 2007 edition


When Yeltsin left office, his family had become inexplicably wealthy, while several of his deputies were enmeshed in bribery scandals. These incidents were reported on in the West, as they always are, as unfortunate local embellishments on an otherwise ethical economic modernization project. In fact, corruption was embedded in the very idea of shock therapy. The whirlwind speed of change was crucial to overcoming the widespread rejection of the reforms, but it also meant that by definition there could be no oversight. Moreover, the payoffs for local officials were an indispensable incentive for Russia's apparatchiks to create the wide-open market Washington was demanding. The bottom line is that there is good reason that corruption has never been a high priority for the Bank and the IMF: Its officials understand that when enlisting politicians to advance an economic agenda guaranteed to win them furious enemies at home, there generally has to be a little in it for those politicians in bank accounts abroad.

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[It's important, when reading articles like the following, to note that the current government hired 185 new spin doctors under Order in Council #656 dated 12 Sept '06 in addition to those already on staff. Not a misprint: 185 new "communications officers".]

LIBERALS' INTEREST IN OPENNESS FADING WITH EACH YEAR
By Les Leyne
Victoria Times Colonist - April 28, 2007

The older a government gets, the less enraptured it is with high-brow concepts like openness, transparency and accountability.

Premier Gordon Campbell's government is six years old this spring. {Snip}

Campbell's practice is to convene the media in his office for a group interview semi-regularly. He's done that once since the legislature resumed sitting in February.

He also did a scrum this week after an event, repeating more than a dozen times that he had nothing to say, because the issue involved was before the courts.

His office's explanation for the lack of press conferences? "No one's asked." On the other hand, what's the point in asking, when you know he's not going to answer?

There are two more current examples of how experience has corroded that early commitment to transparency. {Snip}

The other example of opacity overtaking transparency was the recent introduction of changes to "strengthen" freedom of information legislation. It's the sixth year in a row they've amended the law and the sixth time they've missed the mark.

Open government campaigners say the one amendment in the new bill that directly affects FOI requests actually impedes them, by increasing the government's proven ability to stall.

It's the latest of 16 specific amendments over the years that make FOI requests more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. (The commissioner found this month that the Environment Ministry's estimate of the fee for compiling pollution data was unreasonable. It wanted $173,000!)

Freedom of information commissioner David Loukidelis dumped on the latest changes. They do nothing to change the loophole that lets government censor anything considered advice to a minister.

He said that section "seriously undermines public accountability."

Changes have been recommended throughout the Liberal term, but the longer they're in power, the more intent they are on ignoring them.

Which reinforces the unfortunate point: The longer a government's track record, the shorter its patience with openness and accountability.

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/columnists/story.html?id=f2e2e43d-c88b-4e59-adf1-ae42d870bbfe
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DIRTY TRICKS ALLEGATION SIGNALS 'DISTURBING CROSSOVER' IN POLITICS

Jeff Lee
Vancouver Sun - April 28, 2007

A defence lawyer in the B.C. legislature raid case touched off a firestorm this week with allegations in court that high-placed government appointees engaged in a dirty tricks campaign to discredit Liberal opponents.

Kevin McCullough used information from RCMP wiretaps, e-mails and other documents obtained for discovery purposes to allege that friends and associates of Premier Gordon Campbell used their government positions to manipulate the media and public opinion by stacking telephone lines on radio shows with paid callers and paying someone to heckle protesters.

The explosive allegations -- an attempt to dislodge more government documents McCullough and other defence lawyers want to use to defend their clients, -- Robert Virk, David Basi and Aneal Basi -- caused the premier to issue a blanket statement in the legislature that he wouldn't comment on any allegation while the case is before the courts.

But suggestions that political appointees in Victoria used their taxpayer-funded jobs to orchestrate partisan political activities raise troubling questions about both government and party operations.

And the allegation by McCullough that the premier himself was aware that some radio callers were organized by Basi -- a ministerial assistant to then finance minister Gary Collins -- points to a disturbing crossover of traditional lines in politics, according to Norman Ruff, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Victoria.

"Everyone knows that (stacking radio shows with sympathetic callers) goes on. But the concern here is that this seems to be part of the daily activities of a ministerial assistant condoned by the premier's office. That's where it crosses the line," Ruff said. {Snip}...

McCullough unveiled a strategy that appears to be aimed at showing that Basi was acting within a network of political operatives at the Legislature condoned by both the premier's office and the B.C. Liberal Party. {Snip} ...


Included among the allegations McCullough made in court were:

* That Campbell was aware -- and thankful -- that Basi had stacked a talk show with friendly callers;

* That Morton had emailed Basi to say he would let Campbell know "your team is in place" when the premier appeared on a CKNW talk show;

* That McDonald and Basi discussed faking calls on talk shows, and of being careful not to use people whose voices could be identified;

* That Campbell angrily upbraided Reichert when Morton was seen at a Liberal fundraising dinner sitting with officials from OmniTRAX, a company that was bidding for BC Rail;

* That McDonald told Basi to "get the posse" to ambush NDP Leader Carol James on another CKNW talk show with Bill Good;

* That Basi and Reichert had at least 43 telephone conversations in October and December, 2003, many of them dealing with the pending BC Rail sale, talk-show stacking and elections legislation Reichert didn't like.

Ruff said all the allegations are troubling and pose serious problems for Campbell. But he was particularly struck by McCullough's statements in court that Basi had received two $10,000 "media monitoring" contracts from the Liberals while he was a ministerial assistant.

Such government assistants "are inherently party-political, in that they are there to protect the political interests of the minister," he said. "But they're not regarded in any way as an agent of the political party. This week is the first time I've heard of someone who is a ministerial assistant and have a contract with a political party. I rolled my eyes when I heard that."

Ruff believes people will be troubled by the allegations made by McCullough because the public understands that "dirty tricks" campaigns at the best of times are wrong. When they are orchestrated on the public payroll, they're worse.

"The kind of activities being described here are dirty tricks, and if they are being engaged by political parties, they are to be deplored," he said. "But what's offensive and alarming is if they are being performed by someone who is on the public payroll."

He also says the crown argument that Basi and Virk were acting on their own and tried to use their offices to obtain federal government jobs has been damaged by McCullough. {Snip} ...

Ruff notes that the allegations coincide with several significant political events: the pending privatization of BC Rail, the selection of James as leader of the NDP, and the continuing fallout from Campbell's drunk-driving conviction in Hawaii.

Campbell was caught driving drunk in January 2003, and pleaded guilty several months later. James was elected as leader of the NDP on Nov. 23, 2003. Two days later the Liberals announced the BC Rail deal.

Morton, McDonald and Basi all were appointed to their jobs when the Liberal government came to power in 2001. McDonald worked for Campbell when he was Mayor of Vancouver. When he left the provincial government in December, 2003, Campbell stood up in the Legislature and gave him a warm farewell. One month earlier McDonald's wife, Jessica, was hired as a deputy minister in Campbell's office, where she remains to this day. {Snip} ...

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=6ef7b344-bbe8-4923-bd8b-d7c6fbe3cb10

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Comments:
Dontcha just love how the media is calling on the Liberals and the NDP to disavow dirty tricks? Excuse me, but is it my imagination or has only one side been doing the tricks? Prem Vinning, anyone?

This pox-on-both-their-houses nonsense is EXACTLY why the Liberals get away the crap they get away with. A-Channel in Victoria last night was comparing suggested letter campaigns on a website to taxpayer-supported dishonesty coming out of the premier's office. Anyone with half a brain can see the difference
 
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