Sunday, October 21, 2007


Victoria's wild horror stories

Break-ins, shady deals and plain bad behaviour

Michael Smyth
The Province -- Sunday, October 21, 2007

... Paul Battershill: Victoria's police chief is a respected, well-spoken career cop with an endearing habit of falling off his bicycle. (He broke his collarbone in the last spill.)

He's so well-regarded that the NDP tried to sweet-talk him into politics and the City of Edmonton tried to head-hunt him to become their top cop. He turned them both down.

Now, in a shocker, Battershill has been placed on paid leave while the local police board reviews undisclosed allegations of misconduct against him.

In a weird twist, Battershill's lawyer's office was rifled through in a midnight break-in. Police from neighboring Saanich were called to investigate to avoid any appearance of bias by the local gumshoes. {Snip} ...

[Michael Smyth describes Husband-and-wife bureaucrats Ron and Joan Danderfer who had senior, well-paid jobs in the provincial government ...Until last week, that is, when they both quit amid official inquiries ... {Snip}

Graham Bruce: The former Liberal labour minister is on the hot seat over his contract work for Cowichan Tribes, a Vancouver Island native band. He was paid $121,000 to help the tribes secure funding for the 2008 North American Indigenous Games.

But ex-cabinet ministers aren't supposed to lobby their former colleagues for two years after leaving office. There's also the pesky Lobbyist Registration Act, in which professional lobbyists must reveal every politician and bureaucrat they butter up on behalf of a paying client.] {Snip} ...

The Basi-Virk saga: While all this toil and trouble bubbles away, the grandaddy of 'em all smolders just beneath the surface.

The fourth anniversary of the notorious police raid on the legislature is approaching. Two key former officials in the B.C. government -- Dave Basi and Bob Virk -- face fraud and other corruption charges in the $1-billion sale of B.C. Rail to CN Rail.

The trial date has been put off five times. But now things are finally coming to a head. Maybe.

Sources describe an intense behind-the-scenes battle over secret government documents and whether they should be presented in court. The government is trying to keep cabinet records and other secrets under wraps. The defence wants every last e-mail and post-it note coughed up for scrutiny.

The March trial, if it ever happens, could be Victoria's wildest horror story ever

Michael Smyth: Here's another pair of smoldering horror stories. Judith Lavoie did two good columns in Times Colonist on Western Forest Products' licences on public forest lands sliding into private hands in the beautiful Jordan River area, almost on Victoria's doorstep.

Each level of responsible bureaucracy is claiming administrative error. "We didn't know about the by-law!" "We've had staff changes!" "We can't do anything now or we might be sued!" And the ultimate insult: "Don't worry, be happy, it won't happen again!" I mean, how could it happen again ... there's no other place like that, so close to Victoria.

So Question #1 is: How did lands held as a public trust by Western Forest Products under Tree Farm Licences (the forestry equivalent of the A.L.R.) get transferred into the private pockets of real estate developers? At very least, the public needs prior consultation. At very least, one of the basic tenets of contract law is that some benefit must accrue to both parties to a contract. I hope readers will study Lavoie's reports and sent your comments here.

See: CRD error - Jordan River
By Judith Lavoie

Plus: "Error slipped by CRD at all levels" - by Judith Lavoie
Times Colonist - 20 Oct 07.

Question #2 asks if there is still a pending trial concerning neighbouring Sooke lands ... charges of accepting and/or offering bribes in connection with the removal of Agricultural Land Reserve acreage into private real estate developers' ownership (now built up as Sun River Estates).

"File No. 134750-1-D" Udhe Singh (Dave) Basi, James S. Duncan, and Anthony R. Young.

The charges are: against Basi: Breach of trust by a public officer. Against Duncan and Young: person dealing with government offering bribe.

How about that, Michael? - BC Mary.


I wouldn't normally do this because the size, pervasiveness and cost (measured in all kinds of ways) is so much greater in the US, but there is an interesting parallel between the way things happen in Washington and what is happening here.

Have a look at Frank Rich’s column from the NYTimes this morning:

I think we are dealing with corruption at the heart of the government involving surrender to people without any principles - apart from greed and self-interest - of the levers of what was once democratic power.

Keep setting 'em up, because, apparently, Mr. Smythe appears to be getting his stories these days by trolling your blog. How elso to explain why he is coming to these issues so late and and in such a matter of fact manner?

How is it possible that Mike Harcourt got drummed out of office (in part by hacks like M.Smythe) for an incident that happened a decade before his time in office, but Gordon Campbell's boys can raid the cookie jar on a regular basis and the press just yawn? How is that possible?
I am aware of several cases where police admitted either destruction or non-access to exculpatory evidence, that tanked a case as per the Supreme Court of Canada in "Carosela." It is my suspicion that tanking was deliberate. Basi-Virk is proceeding in a way that suggests that evidence will be found to have been destroyed. Wally Oppal is hardly enthusiastic about a trial that is embarassing to the Sikh community. He has already cover up a Special Prosecutor "investigation" (or whatever) into his own brother. We'll see.

When he was at the Appeals Court, Oppal went with the pack except in one case. Read the attached link and you will see that Oppal stood alone against 3 BCAC judges who found it proper for police to omit turning over an unconscious person in custody, to medical professionals. Don't read the following after eating:

Members of the BC Bench are not decent people. Most are scum, completely void of human decency. As you can see in "Roy" they base decisions on either group-think or personal career interests. Oppal left the lawless-pack only because he was under consideration for the AG role at the time, and needed to wear an integrity robe. Oppal isn't burdened by conscience; conscience is an alien concept to him and the rest of the occupying army that runs our Courts.
Anonymous 11:00,

You're scaring me a bit. Where do you sit, in this scene which is causing you so much anger?

Trying to follow your argument, I couldn't get the link to work. Could you look at it? Thanks.

Wally Oppal is not my favourite public figure, but I can't see how he enters into the BCRail trial. Can you help us on that point? I mean, isn't he ... aren't Oppal, Campbell and Falcon always saying they dare not even speak the name, as it's "before the courts"?

Am wondering where you from your perspective think the BCRail trial is heading? Jeff was just asking if I think Basi and Virk are protecting somebody. I don't. Do you?

Thanks for commenting. I hope you'll add some.

Hey folks,
I say keep up the pressure on the media but remember that people working in journalism have a pretty difficult job. With massive cutbacks in newspaper rooms across the country reporters are constantly pressed for time and attention to cover stories. I've heard over and over again from reporters that there are so many issues they would like to report on, but that they just don't get enough time or support from editors in terms of pursuing these stories.

I kind of look at the issue as somebody who did write for publication for awhile.

When I was writing about the corruption on just one indian reserve, I only had one column a week - usually limited to 1000 words or less (usually 800) to pursue my reporting or opinion columns.

What I was actually able to report - by following generally accepted rules of reporting, was a mere fraction of what was actually going on... I would hear about all sorts of strange goings-on in Cowichan but unless somebody was willing to go on the record and lose their job -- or provide documents, or be willing to say "I would testify in court to this" -- I couldn only publish 1/10th about what I knew of the activities in the band office.

Often times a rumour would start to circulate, and I would be able to get confirmation from a few reliable sources placed within the band government... but there would be no documents to back up the allegations until months and months later - at which point the story wasn't news anymore...

It was a tough job trying to sort out what to report and pursue and investigate, and what to leave alone.

I sense in the last couple of weeks with the Graham Bruce affair that reporters are getting a little more punchy about BC politics. Most of the people who I spoke to about the Bruce affair said regardless of how it's being explained away by the band or Mr.Bruce, the whole thing stinks to high heaven.

Like I said to you in email Mary -- working with media is almost an artform. You have to make sure that if you are giving them info - that it's topical, that they can use it, that it's NEWSY (i.e. you should supply a hook for the story before you even approach them) -- and even then... newsrooms are so short-stafed, budgets for investigative hard reporting has been cut to the bare bones... and even if reporters really want to sink their teeth into something - they generally have to get approval from their bosses.

I do believe the reporting that Antonia Zerbisias has done on media in Canada that the biggest problem we face with respect to media in Canada is the concentration of power into the hands of too few people... people with their own agenda...

And don't forget -- the government has the ability to completely destroy a media congolmerate by taking away their liscence to broadcast... and so naturally the decision makers - not even the editors but the business end of the paper has influence on what and how things are reported - and sucking up to Government is the order of the day.

It's clear that the BASI-VIRK case goes all the way to the top of the BC Liberal Party as well as touching the Liberals...

Until the Liberals lost power it would almost be unsafe to publish things that were so damaging to the Liberals as to cost them the election.
Now the reverse is true and the sucking up is going on with the Harper government... and we all know how that's being handled..

Mr.Harper only takes pre-approved questions from a list of reporters and his appearances with media is all carefully choreographed and planned to prevent any rogue reporter from asking hard and damaging questions...

Notice that the scandal involving the Convention-Gate issue has barely caused a ripple in reporting, and yet it's been determined by the Elections Canada Head that improrpiety had occured on the part of the Conservatives and that they were not entitled to 1.1 million in rebates from the government due to their double-recipiting of delgates to the convention.. Harper's government is taking the issue to court... last I heard this week...

Then there was another scandal that proved that the Blogging Tories is/was simply a front for the Conservative Party -- (Tom Flanagan has even admitted in his book that high-level officials in the OLO were using some top con bloggers to amplify certain stories that "weren't quite ready for mainstream media coverage"

Visit La Revue Gauche and punch in keyword "payola", and you find that indeed, some blogging tories were being paid to blog....

When Walks-With-Coffee and I exposed this last year, we couldn't get a single reporter to investigate, although Walks did manage to get some LTE's in some papers back East.

But have you heard about this story in the news? Nope...

Nobody is touching it.
Why? Because it's damaging to the Harper Government.

Be a little easy on the reporters.... It's not always them that gets to decide whether or not news is newsy.

Your letters to editors I think is the best activism that could be done... letting the editors and business end of media know that the public is interested in these stories...

best Regards
Valuable advice, Meaghan. I know you don't have ANY spare time, so your comments are that much more appreciated.

I hope you had a good laugh at my encounter with the Managing Editor of Vancouver Sun 2 or 3 months back?

Also an earlier encounter with the Editor-in-Chief of Times Colonist. That was interesting for the way it began: I simply wrote an LTE which somebody at TC passed to Lucinda Chodan who replied to me. It's in the archives here.

Then there's Maurice Cardinal's technique of "Adopt a Reporter" and stick with him/her ... what do you think of that approach? I seem to be "stuck" with Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) whose life as a presstitute crosses the line now and then.

Some folks argue that complaints to the CRTC are more effective, about broadcast media.

Like you, Meaghan, I favour the old-fashioned Letters-to-the-Editor (LTE) which, true enough, mostly don't get published but which are always read behind the scenes. Always. Read and considered. (See Chodan, above.) It tells the newsroom what you think is important. In my view, it is never a wasted effort. (As long as it's brief and clear.)

I'd like to add one suggestion to what you wrote. That is, we need to pick our newspaper, and pick our reporter as carefully as we can, if we're going to try working with them. (I've never done that, and liked hearing your advice.) No use getting a proven airhead or someone hopelessly biased, if you're working on a serious problem of public concern.

You made a wise choice when you picked Chad Skelton for outing the Graham Bruce story. In today's Vancouver Sun, in an article about last evening's newspaper awards, I see the following:

"...Chad Skelton of the Vancouver Sun was the year's top print reporter for revealing that a disproportionate amount of B.C. lottery winnings were going to vendors who sold the tickets. His stories prompted an investigation into lottery ticket sales by the provincial ombudsman and led to the dismissal of the B.C. Lottery Corp.'s president and CEO."

Not that I think lotteries are the burning issue in B.C. these days (hahaha), it's the "investigation" part about Skelton that seems impressive.

On the whole, I fully agree with you that the job of the journalist is one of the toughest. And when well done (Robert Fisk), requires so much intelligence, background study, strength, bravery, determination ... all of which are of no use whatever unless the journalist can find a newspaper publisher capable of allowing that to flourish, as Fisk did with The Independent (U.K.).

Will that ever happen in B.C.?

A great article by Bill Tieleman(Feb 24 2005 on titled "Car Dealers Zoom Away With Liberal Fuel" should be read to understand Canadian newspapers. This article would never be printed by 98% of newspapers in BC. Take a look at all those automobile adverts and 2-3 driving sections in the Vancouver Sun and Province. The auto dealers in this province are a powerful and well connected group to Victoria and newspapers bottom lines. Sean Holman(Publiceye) did a great story Aug.17-22 2007 (aprx.) on a reporter and editor from Victoria area being fired for reporting on the benefits of cross border shopping for cars. The local dealers got involved and pulled their adds and made a few phone calls to the paper. I don't know if that was ever reported in 24 hours with auto dealer Pattison owning this paper at the time,somehow I doubt it.

Anyone notice the lack of coverage by the Sun and Province on the Paul Taylor(ICBC),lobbyist Kieran and the auto dealers cozy email relationship. The cozy relationships with the former finance ministry,auto dealers,pilothouse lobby boys,Paul Taylor and ICBC add quite an added dimension to the Basi-Virk Trial. The editors at these newspapers print only auto friendly articles, thier jobs depend on it. Holeman also reported online(Sept. 16 2004.) about one of the Sun's editors(Stewart Muir)being married to Athanna Mentzelopoulous. Mrs. A at the time was the new head of government communications. I could not believe it then and still can't now. I wonder if she is still with the government?

There are seven effective rules for dealing with the media,however these rules have to be thrown out when auto dealers and newspapers are involved. You need more than a smoking gun to get a story out regarding this crew.

Mary keep up the good work.I think someone should start up a blog on all the conflicts of interest with our current and former government types and content consultants. I am having difficulty keeping up with all the snakes in the pit.
I think Meaghan gives very wise advice.

And I think the Anon-O-Mouse above does, indeed, have a great idea for a blog that would be very useful, and important, indeed.

In fact, I think Mary knows someone who could do it.

We kinda knocked ourselves out with that great idea for a graph showing the connections between Persons of Interest and the various Plum Jobs available for favourites. It requires a lot of reading and some days, it's hard to keep up with just normal stuff.

Anonymous 10:27 mentions an excellent column by Bill Tieleman, well worth looking up. More insight, more glimpses behind the scenes.

OK - thanks Mary.

Guess that is something that could only be done if, say, an 'editor' decided to put somebody on it fulltime.

Then again......

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