Saturday, July 21, 2007
Thousand-year B.C. Rail deal
Should we add Gary Rennick to the Basi-Virk-Basi Witness list? And his colleagues at omniTRAX, Pat Broe and Dwight Johnson? And ask them how they felt after losing out on the bidding to buy B.C. Rail, especially when they felt the bidding might have been rigged?
Another bidder, CP wrote in a bitter private letter, dated November 21, 2003, and copied to the premier's office, that the government's handling of the BC Rail deal was "extremely prejudiced", that CN had been provided "enhanced access to shippers", and that CP was formally withdrawing from the bidding.
"By allowing CN access to BC Rail's customers at a time when CPR was prohibited by its confidentiality agreement from contacting such customers, the province has, whether intentionally or not, provided CN with an unfair competitive advantage," says the CP letter.
The trainmen in Prince George were equally upset, and were calling for a 2-year delay before considering B.C. Rail a done deal.
Sawmills along the BC Rail line were concerned about their need for secure schedules.
Then I came upon this helpful 3-year-old article:
THOUSAND-YEAR BC RAIL DEAL LEAVES LIBERALS LOOKING BAD
Paying Attention - April 20, 2004
VICTORIA - The BC Rail sale is turning into a huge problem for the Liberals.
Even people who don't think government should be running a railway are worried about the Liberals' slipperiness and self-serving secrecy, highlighted by the news that CN Rail is getting the right to run the railway for almost 1,000 years.
When the Liberals announced the deal in November, they released a summary of the terms designed to sell the public on the merits of the sale. Everything else was to stay secret until the federal competition bureau approved the deal - when it would be too late for any changes. [Has the full agreement ever been released to the public? - BC Mary]
And a centrepiece of the Liberal spin was the claim that the deal was for 90 years, with CN Rail getting a 60-year lease with a 30-year renewal option.
That was part of Premier Gordon Campbell's bogus claim that he wasn't breaking a campaign promise not to sell BC Rail.
Now columnist Michael Smyth reports in The Province that the deal includes 15 more 60-year renewal options that the Liberals never mentioned. And CN won't have to pay the government a nickle more if it exercises those options and operates the railway on public land for 990 years.
Normal business practice, says Transportation MInister Kevin Falcon. Sure CN Rail can keep operating the line until 2994 (unless centuries of global warming mean parts of it are under water). But every 60 years government can decide to buy the business back from CN. No big deal.
But if it's normal business practice, and no big thing, why did the government not only keep it secret but mislead the public with its claim the deal was for 90 years? (One answer may be that the money CN paid works out to $750 a year on the longer term.)
The government also kept secret a contract clause that specifies that CN Rail can close parts of the line - after a five-year moratorium - and buy the land for $1.
Falcon defends the provision. It protects the province, he says. If the land is valuable, the government will exercise its right to keep it. But if it's contaminated and requires costly clean-up, the government will be able to force the burden on to CN Rail. It's good business.
But if it's good business, why the secrecy? Why, even now, does the government refuse to release the details of this and other provisions that could bind the people of the province for 1,000 years?
The deal faces other big problems. The courts have ruled that before any Crown land is transferred to private ownership, local First Nations with unresolved land claims must be consulted.
The Liberals maintain that because the government retains ownership of the dirt beneath the tracks, there is no duty to consult. And they set up a $15-million development fund to try and win support from the 25 First Nations along the rail line.
It's not working. First Nations have already served notice that they believe the deal is a sale, and will exercise their legal rights.
BC Rail has turned into a nightmare for the Liberals. Campbell's 1996 campaign pledge to sell the railway helped lose him that election. In 2001, he said he had learned his lesson: BC Rail would not be sold or privatized.
But that's exactly what he's done. The government's claim that because the province continues to own the dirt beneath the tracks BC Rail hasn't been sold is bogus. CN owns all the equipment, and the business, and runs it with no strings attached.
Campbell could have defended the sale of BC Rail. He could have argued that the risk to taxpayers in owning a railway outweighs the potential economic development boost for resource communities. (It's a good argument.)
But it's much tougher to try and deny the broken New Era promise, or defend the unwarranted secrecy - and slipperiness - around this deal.
Footnote: Falcon made much of CN Rail's likely investment of some $3.5 billion in the railway over the next 90 years. But that is comparable to past BC Rail spending each year on maintenance and equipment, money that in recent years has come from the railway's profits.
More details on Information to Obtain, prepared by RCMP at:
For Google generated HTML copy go to HTML Version
For the more impressive version in Adobe Portable Document Format - where the missing parts show in BLACK - go to PDF Version
The date when this 75% to 80% unredacted document was released is October 7, 2004, or nearly one full year after the warrants were executed at the Legislature. Generally this type of information is public immediately following the execution of the warrants. Though search warrants and their reasons seldom are considered "newsworthy"
and thus on the front page of the Vancouver Sun, the reasons for their existence are "supposed" to be available to the public AND the defendants, if any, ASAP. The only acceptable reasons for redaction used to be to protect law enforcement "informants" and other private/personal information such as phone numbers and addresses.
This is not a Liberal Govt. It is the Govt. of a small vested interest 'circle' that have controlled BC for many years amongst themselves.
Actually, many of the same players are part of Campbell crew recycled, including the bagmen, key advisors/strategists etc. - follow the money & see who is pulling the strings regardless of whether it is BC Rail, Vanoc, crown land access . . .
We must never forget the role of the hidden senior levels of the bureaucracy - most who are ethical & cringe at what they witness. However, some mandarins have learned how to play the game well; how to accommodate which ever agenda their bread is politically buttered on to facilitate these dirty deals &/or to carry out their own private agendas, knowing no one is home at the top, to question unethical conduct.
When our political leaders have no morals then the it allows for the same conduct from a few powerful bureaucrats from within the senior levels of the Govt. administration to use & abuse their powers. It all starts with the Leadership mind set whether a Province thrives or dives.
The people of British Columbia must not be complacent - they must take back control of our province because it is a train wreck waiting to happen if this cancer is not stopped.
Perhaps some high profile internet petitions to recall this Govt. would be a good start - they are easier than Public Inquiries which are called at the Govt.'s whim.
It's all about PEOPLE POWER BEING MADE VISIBLE.
What do you think Mary?
The information is about the search warrants and provides a good insight into the background of this case. Although some words and a couple of paragraphs are deleted. I wonder if the deletions would put a different slant on things.
Good for you, gary e.
As I read through that "Information to Obtain a Search Warrant", I kept thinking how many legal hoops the RCMP must jump through in order to do their investigations.
That's important in a free society.
The hoops must be met, jumped through, and cleared with absolute precision. The RCMP's Musical Ride springs to mind as a perfect allegory.
But what I started to say is: no matter that their quest is entirely clear, investigative, and in the public interest -- the RCMP will be challenged repeatedly in court, as we have already seen in the raid on the B.C. Legislature.
We have the summer to ask ourselves some questions such as: What if it can be shown that the RCMP got a room number wrong, at first, when searching for the Ministry of Finance of a quiet Sunday morning in the deserted Legislature ... how significant is that, in the larger pursuit of justice?
Does it merit having the case dismissed? Many would like to see that happen. Should it?
anonymous @ noon:
I want to believe you, but defence lawyers have already raised the room number as an issue.
And yes, I'm sweating the small stuff, I guess.
But the Basi-Virk/BC Rail trial is beginning to seem like such an uphill battle. All the more reason it needs to be aired, under oath.
Which is all the more reason the public needs to be questioning it.
"Hey debruyckere, if you were the "team leader" of the investigation and you wanted to pursue gary collins why did you stop, aren't you the one in charge of this investigation? Thats like saying our Montague didn't tip off bctv the day Glen Clarke's house was raided. Its simply not believable!!"
The unbelievable is everyday stuff for the Campbell Crime Family and their cohorts in the Justice Ministry, Law Enforcement and the Corporate Elite.
If the Mounties are serious about salvaging their "reputation," washing their own hands and sharing the truth in the rinse water with the public would be a good start!
But in my humble opinion (which is becoming more cynical daily) many more grandmothers will rot and/or die in jail before any of the true criminals face justice for their pillaging of what used to be our shared, "common" resources.
Good Luck with the Rich People's Road to Whistler, Gord and Gang. You might consider a wall around Whistler for your next magic trick!
I'm only halfway through today's rake-through of the three big CanWest dailies in B.C., and already I'm surprised.
There are two articles expressing genuine concern about some of the decisions and tactics of the current provincial government. Yeah. No kidding!
One story in Vancouver Sun is about the cover-up of a report warning of overdue maintenance of BC Place, even before the roof collapsed.
Another story concerns DeltaPort and the South Fraser Perimeter Road which might serve industry but endangers the salmon fishery and completely impacts on one of B.C.'s oldest neighbourhoods not to mention encroaching upon Burns Bog. Yeah! This one's in The Province. Unbelievable, eh?
For further hopeful signs of the Big Media awakening to the dangers, don't miss Raif Mair's article today in today's The Tyee ... about DeltaPort expansion and its negative impacts.
I always figured the Tsawwassen deal to pull farmland out of the Agricultural Lands Reserve was actually part of the Roberts Bank "consolation prize" i.e., part of the original B.C. Rail deal.