It is exceedingly hard to believe that the dramatic televised news of a police raid on the British Columbia Legislature was four years ago today - December 28, 2003 - and yet the trial of former BC Liberal government ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk and communications staffer Aneal Basi has still not taken place in BC Supreme Court.
I well remember that day. On vacation in Seattle, my cell phone suddenly started to ring constantly. When I finally answered I discovered the Legislature had been raided and that the offices of Dave Basi and Bob Virk were the targets.
The reason my cell phone was inundated with calls was because I had profiled Basi in my October 2, 2003 column in the Georgia Straight newspaper for a piece on all the connections between the federal Paul Martin Liberals and the Gordon Campbell provincial Liberals.
Every reporter who Googled Dave Basi got that column in their search.
Interestingly, as you read this piece over four years later, the number of players mentioned who were subsequently implicated in some way in this case is amazing, including key Crown witnesses Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran.
So, as an ironic look back in time to just weeks before the raid, here is that column. Most of those with connections to the case are named in the second half of the column.
[Canadian Press reporter Camille Bains, one of the regulars at BC Supreme Court room 54, has done a good wrap-up look at the BC Legislature Raid case. Regrettably, neither the Vancouver Sun nor Province has noted this remarkable anniversary in their editions today, nor printed Camille's piece.]
The Basi-Virk trial is scheduled to begin in March 2008 and the pre-trial hearings will resume January 7, 2008. As always, stay tuned for more on this blog in the new year.
Bill Tieleman’s Georgia Straight Political Connections column
Oct 2-9, 2003
Local "Liberals" Prime B.C. for Martinizing
By Bill Tieleman
After promising to reverse the course of the hated Tory government, Paul Martin actually went on to embrace the policies of that administration with breathtaking enthusiasm, refashioning the role of government to an extent never dared by Brian Mulroney.
- Murray Dobbin, Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?
Forget "unite the right" merger talks between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.
A far more powerful right-wing alliance is being forged by two other political parties: the Paul Martin Liberal party of Canada and the B.C. Liberal party of Premier Gordon Campbell.
Unlike the loveless union that would result from a shotgun wedding between Alliance leader Stephen Harper and Conservative leader Peter McKay, the Paul Martin-Gordon Campbell match is a joyful political same-sex marriage.
The connections between the federal Liberal Martinites and their B.C. Liberal counterparts are legion, though neither side is publicly announcing the love that dare not speak its name.
But from deputy premier Christy Clark on down, the B.C. Liberals are loaded with Martin disciples eager to help see Paul ascend to his rightful place as prime minister, stepping over the bodies of Jean Chrétien, Sheila Copps, and others who thwarted him.
Both Liberal parties see much to gain. The financially destitute B.C. Liberals, officially a separate party, desperately need money from Martin for projects they can't afford themselves.
The federal party needs provincial party help to elect more B.C. MPs.
The B.C. Liberals, of course, are "liberal" in name only. After the 1996 election choke, Gordon Campbell realized he needed the provincial Reform party's 10-percent vote for a Liberal win.
So he courted B.C. Reformers (and former Social Credit followers) like Richard Neufeld, now energy and mines minister, and Martyn Brown, now Campbell's chief of staff, to join his Liberal fold.
Then Campbell sold his liberal soul to win redneck votes, attacking the historic Nisga'a treaty and promising a divisive referendum on aboriginal treaties.
Paul Martin, for his part, will become the most right-wing federal Liberal leader ever. Author Murray Dobbin's new book, Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?, argues that Martin will easily displace former Conservative PM Brian Mulroney as Canada's farthest-right prime minister.
Dobbin's book makes a convincing case that Martin is a Gordon Campbell for all of Canada. For example, Martin waxed eloquent in his 1995 budget speech about slashing social-program spending down to levels not seen since the days when men wore fedoras and drove Studebakers.
"Relative to the size of our economy, program spending will be lower in 1996-97 than at any time since 1951," Martin extolled. Dobbin says that while Mulroney cut federal social-program funding by 25 percent over nine years, Martin axed it a further 40 percent in just four years.
B.C. suffered big time from the Martin cuts of the 1990s, losing at least $2.5 billion in health and social-program funding.
But Martin's B.C. campaign team still thinks Paul is the province's best friend. Led by Education Minister Clark's husband, Mark Marissen of Burrard Communications, the Martinites are a controversial group of Liberals, many working for Martin since his 1990 leadership loss to Chrétien.
Marissen is a communications consultant who has done well through the patronage of his former boss, Environment Minister David Anderson, and Martin.
A "BC Campaign Structure" federal Liberal document leaked to the Georgia Straight reveals another key member of the Martinite team with deep B.C. Liberal roots.
Former Paul Martin aide Erik Bornmann is a provincial lobbyist with Pilothouse Public Affairs Group, started by former Vancouver Province political columnist Brian Kieran. The Martin document shows Bornmann in charge of "operations".
The Pilothouse Web site says Bornmann has "over a decade of political experience inside both the B.C. Liberal Party and Liberal Party of Canada, serving in advisory and elected director capacities". Bornmann apparently earned the nickname "Spider-Man" for daring, gravity-defying feats connected to the federal Liberal membership.
Another key Martinite active in both Liberal parties is also a Pilothouse lobbyist. Jamie Elmhirst is a former David Anderson aide who recently served as ministerial assistant to Joyce Murray, B.C. Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, after years with the B.C. Liberals in opposition.
Victoria insiders say that up to 60 percent of B.C. Liberal political staff are Martinites, including David Basi, ministerial assistant to Finance Minister Gary Collins.
The Marissen-Clark family connection with Martin is further cemented by Bruce Clark, Christy's brother, who serves on the Liberal Party of Canada's B.C. executive.
But despite media fawning over Martin's vaunted B.C. machine, a Liberal source says leadership voter turnout languished below 25 percent of the estimated 44,000 party members. That number raises questions about Marissen's ability to pull the vote when it really matters: the federal election expected by May 2004.
Speculation is rampant that several current B.C. Liberal MLAs, including Christy Clark, will run for the federal Liberal Party in that election, forcing multiple provincial by-elections should they win. More on the Martinizing of British Columbia in a future column.