Thursday, September 27, 2007

 

It's Right To Know Week! Yes! We've had a Right to Know for 4 days and didn't know it! Good one, eh? Oh. But check Lucinda's editorial at end.

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I've just read it in the Vancouver Sun: this is Right To Know Week. [Cue the hysterical laughter!] It's almost over -- and this is the Sun's first mention of it -- but what the hey. Here's part of an editorial from today's [27 Sept '07] Vancouver Sun whose Managing Editor promised us on 22 Aug 2007 a Basi Virk Basi story "in 2 or 3 days". Today's Sun editorial might have been written by Kirk LaPointe himself. It is to roll on the floor laughing, as the editorial concludes:

Secretive governments should take a refresher course in democracy. [Vancouver Sun editorial - 27 Sept '07]

... Earlier this year, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell amended the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act through an order-in-council to exclude a cabinet committee on climate change from its provisions. Climate change has become one of the top public concerns. How is the public interest served by secrecy on this issue?

This is Right to Know Week, an annual celebration of freedom of information. It would be an ideal time for politicians to recommit themselves to it. Citizens requesting access to information are not a nuisance, but are exercising one of their fundamental rights in a democracy. Governments refusing to recognize that should bone up on democracy.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/editorial/story.html?id=a5bd0cfe-cc74-4886-8b0b-6077b2c2fba1

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It would be an ideal time for Mr LaPointe to publish that Basi Virk / BC Rail story he promised his readers. It would be a perfect time for a group of his best journalists to dig into the history of the trial and put together a general understanding of the players, the background, the charges -- as we on The Legislature Raids have tried to do this week -- even without knowing it was officially the (cough, choke) Right to Know Week. So come on, Kirk. This is Right to Know Week, eh?
- BC Mary.

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Friday 28 September 2007: If we overlook the fact that Right To Know Week is just about finished for this year, we can take comfort from the editorial appearing in Lucinda Chodan's newspaper today. It goes like this:


Editorial: Protect your right to know

Times Colonist
Published: Friday, September 28, 2007

It's a simple principle. Unless the public knows what government is doing, our democracy can't function. Citizens denied information on government spending or decision-making are also being denied the right to hold those in power to account. [Yaayyy! - BC Mary]

The provinces and the federal government all have freedom-of-information legislation, supposedly to protect the principle that the public -- as citizens, taxpayers and consumers -- have a right to information.

But too often, politicians and bureaucrats undermine that principle, either directly by failing to pass effective legislation or indirectly through delay and obstruction. [Yaayyyyy!]

The Canadian Newspaper Association has been trying to fight one significant attack on the public's right to information since 2005.

That's when it presented evidence to the federal Office of the Information Commissioner that indicated media freedom-of-information requests were being flagged as sensitive, resulting in illegitimate delays and high rates of refusal.

The principle is important. There are legitimate limits on the right to information, to protect privacy or commercial interests. But access is not supposed to be limited based on who is making the request or the potential for political embarrassment.

Sadly, the commissioner has not conducted the needed full investigation to assess the extent of the problem. The effort to ensure openness has, so far, failed.

The B.C. government, unfortunately, takes a similar approach. Requests for information from reporters and political parties are routinely flagged as sensitive. They also routinely take longer to be processed and are more likely to be deemed denied because the government has failed to respond in the required period.

It might seem that this is a dispute between the media and government. But it's really an issue that affects you. Governments are reluctant to share information, particularly information that raises questions about their performance. Freedom-of-information laws let news media get the information that politicians and bureaucrats don't want made public.

The Times Colonist, for example, was forced to rely on the freedom-of-information process to uncover major problems with the child-death review process in B.C. We were able to report on ocean pollution, cleanliness in seniors' care homes and the risks of police chases only by using the legislation. All those issues were of public interest.

This is Right to Know Week, an annual celebration of the importance of freedom of information.

But the right to know is under constant attack, by governments of every political stripe. The public must demand openness and access to information. The alternative is a steady erosion of one of the foundations of a functioning democracy.

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=54fbcfe3-a07e-49cb-b6be-783774f1ae59

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Damn right, Lucinda! [Stomps feet, claps hands, shrieks Woooooo!] And because I want to trust your good intentions in this matter, I have posted the entire TC editorial here so that others may enjoy every word you've said and benefit from it. I'll be sending you a belated request for permission. Is that OK by you? And thanks very much indeed for the thoughts expressed in this editorial. One big virtual bouquet to you! - BC Mary.

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Footnote: Before the sun went down, a reply came in from the Times Colonist editorial offices. The Editor-in-Chief is away so my request for permission was handed to our old friend, Paul Willcocks, who said TC is delighted to share their editorial with us. In fact, they were very pleased we liked it. Nice, eh? Like, sorta civilized. - M.

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Comments:
Mary,

Here is the article that Kirk Lapointe referred to! :)

QUESTIONS SURROUND APPOINTMENT OF GEORGE MACINTOSH IN OPPAL INVESTIGATION

Vancouver lawyer George Macintosh has been appointed special prosecutor in charge of a criminal investigation into a real estate transaction in Abbotsford. The investigation involves the brother of Attorney General Wally Oppal, Mr. Harry Oppal.

Mr. Macintosh, appointed on Sept. 6, 2007, has taken over duties from Victoria lawyer Harold Rusk, who was appointed a special prosecutor on Feb. 28, 2007 but had to step down for personal reasons.

As is the case with criminal investigations that have sensitive political links to the BC Government, special prosecutors are appointed so that the investigation is conducted without the perception that there could be any political interference.

George Macintosh, who leads the litigation group in the law firm of FARRIS, is no stranger to high profile court cases.

Erik Bornmann retained Mr. Macintosh shortly after the RCMP executed search warrants at his home in Vancouver in December of 2003. Erik Bornmann is the key witness in the Crown's case against former B.C. Liberal government aides charged in the raid-on-the-legislature case. Recently, in BC Supreme Court, Mr. Macintosh has come under fire for his handling of Erik Bornmann’s immunity arrangement in one of BC's most important trials.

Defence lawyers in the Basi – Virk case, raised serious questions about the lack of full disclosure of any "deal" with star witness Erik Bornmann. Special Prosecutor, Bill Berardino, who is prosecuting the case, claimed that there was no further information in writing and that all information had been disclosed.

On June 4, 2007, Justice Bennett, who is presiding over the Basi-Virk case, clearly stated that disclosure regarding any deals with witnesses must be disclosed to the defence and she ordered as such.

"I have concluded the Crown must answer the following questions," Bennett writes in her decision.

"Did Mr. Berardino tell Mr. Bornmann, either through the police or Mr. Macintosh, that Mr. Berardino would not correct the falsity of the exoneration; that he would not advise the government in order to stop the lobbyist activities; or that he would not advise the Law Society of Upper Canada regarding the admission made by Mr. Bornmann? In other words, did Mr. Bornmann, in any way, know Mr. Berardino's policy of not interfering with his employment?"

In summarizing the orders from the Supreme Court, Justice Bennett furthur added, "I order that anything relating to Mr. Bornmann's agreement, whether in the hands of the police or the special prosecutor, is to be disclosed to the defence.”

Most importantly, Justice Bennett allowed the defence to renew its application to call Bornmann's lawyer George Macintosh if it is not satisfied with the Crown response. Given the lack of disclosure from the Crown, there is a good chance that Special Prosecutor Macintosh could face some tough questions from defence lawyers while sitting in witness box.

One of those questions will likely be, why was Bornmann allowed to continue his lucrative lobbying business despite allegedly admitting to bribery, allowed to finish his law school studies at the University of B.C., start articling with prestigious Toronto law firm McCarthy Tetrault in order to become a lawyer in Ontario and allowed to write the New York State bar exam?

Mr. Macintosh refused to answer questions regarding this latest development.

*with files from Tieleman's Blog
 
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Paul Gill: Did you see this comment by Keith Baldrey from an article mostly about Carole James and the Tsawwassen Treaty?

Keith Baldrey, Special to the Times
Published: Tues, September 11, 2007

"... There's no connection between the legislature raid case and the investigation involving the attorney general's brother. But it seems at least ironic that the special prosecutor is also involved in a case that alleges corruption of a government of which the attorney general is the senior legal official."


In the item you contributed, we've seen that information before. It isn't new. It isn't about Basi Virk or B.C. Rail. Surely this isn't the story that the Managing Editor asked us on Aug 22 to "bear with him" and wait 2 or 3 days for.

The Baldrey column was dated almost 3 weeks later.

I'm wondering if what you sent was actually a Vancouver Sun piece? Or, is it from Bill Tieleman? I can't find it on a Vancouver Sun or Canada.com search. Do you have the byline? Or the date?

And I really wonder how you know which story Kirk LaPointe intended to use to fulfill his promise?

More details, please.

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Mr. Willcocks is in charge?

Quick!

Call in the chits and send out the hounds.

Because there are stories to be to be run to ground.

And the Western Forest Products land give away that PW spotlighted earlier in the week would be a nice place to start.

OK?

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