Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Government lawyer argues against releasing BC Rail privatization documents

to defence but says "fully cooperating"

By Bill Tieleman

The government's lawyer in the Basi-Virk case argued in BC Supreme Court this morning that the defence should be denied documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail due to solicitor-client privilege.

But George Copley argued that the government was being "completely open and cooperative" in its approach.

And in a surprising move, Copley quoted an exchange in the BC Legislature on May 28, 2007 where New Democratic Party leader Carole James extensively questioned Premier Gordon Campbell about the government's cooperation in the case or lack thereof.

At issue are 17 documents that the government is claiming solicitor-client privilege over because they all relate to what it says is legal advice on the BC Rail deal received from law firm Borden Ladner Gervais.

The defence argues the documents should be released for several reasons - including that accused former BC Liberal ministerial assistant Bob Virk actually was provided with them in the course of his duties but now cannot access them; that co-accused David Basi and Aneal Basi should have equal knowledge to what Virk might have from having seen the documents; and that two or more of the documents were released to the defence separately through a Freedom Of Information request previously.

Copley argued the government's case throughout the morning, dismissing all grounds for disclosure and citing past case law to back up his position.

"We have attempted to be completely open and cooperative with the Court, the Special Prosecutor and defence counsel," Copley told Justice Elizabeth Bennett.

He later quoted both James and Campbell from debate in estimates on the premier's office budget.

"On May 28 the premier was responding to questions from the leader of the opposition," Copley said before quoting this segment from Hansard:

"C. James: My question would be to the Premier. Will he commit to releasing documents without invoking privilege?

Hon. G. Campbell: Again, I would go back and say that obviously there are issues with regard to cabinet confidentiality that must be and would be considered in these issues. Having said that, my goal and the objective of the government throughout has been to proceed with an unfettered and, frankly, independent process.

There's a special prosecutor in place, and I will not be involved in those discussions. That has been delegated to the Deputy Attorney General, and he will make those decisions as he sees fit."


Copley then continued to quote the premier's answer to another question:

"Hon. G. Campbell: I do want the Leader of the Opposition to understand what I've done here. In terms of the screening of cabinet documents, all those [ Page 8246 ] documents will be available to the Deputy Attorney General. He will make the decision vis-à-vis cabinet confidentiality or any of those issues in consultation with the special prosecutor."

Copley then interjected that: "I think the premier's not got that entirely correct" and then continued back to Hansard.

"He will make the decision without any further consultation with me or anyone in the Premier's office," the rest of Campbell's answer read.

BC Rail lawyer Robert Deane will also argue against disclosure in the afternoon, followed by defence rebuttal either Friday or Monday.

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Diligent readers wishing to re-read that unabridged segment from Hansard (which in my opinion says the opposite of what George Copley was suggesting in court today), please scroll down, down, down to the posting titled Basi-Virk lawyers want 'smoking gun' documents + Allan Seckel DAG. I have highlighted the Hansard text in red so it's easier to find.

Many thanks, Bill, for permission to copy and post your valued column.

- BC Mary.

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Comments:
Exactly Mary,

Where the hell is Copley from? Mars. The whole deal is supposed to be put in the hands of the Special Prosecutor to 'REMOVE' it from government interference....now we have:

a) The Premier going back on what he originally said, and;
b) Delegating duties to a Deputy in the AG ministry, and;
c) Further delegating the defence of that claim to another lawyer who quotes,
d) Campbell himself in his own support.

Holy sh*t! This is worthy of a George W Bush ' I'M THE DECIDER!' skit.

I've never seen a better case of entirely circular logic....

Keeerist!
 
Your right Mary. Hansard tells a completely different story. And the way I read Bills' blog, it seems to me that Copely is trying to paint Campbell with Teflon. That is to say he is semi-quoting from hansard things that are supposed to let us beleive that Campbell is distancing (or has distanced) himself from the court case. It's disturbing that I can see the lawyers trying to set a precedent for not having Campbell testify in person.I'll say it here. If it comes to him testifying I bet they try to delay further by having a statement read to the court by him. No Cross. Am I dreaming? Do we have a Teflon Premier?
 
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