Monday, May 19, 2008
BC Rail Scandal. Robin Mathews asks: Who is "political"? Who has "violated"?
The RCMP investigation now requested by Leonard Krog MLA into alleged violation of the first protocol, for testing if cabinet materials are "privileged" (in effect, denied to the court).
Leonard Krog has published the letters of October and November of 2004 which appear to reveal that George Copley, counsel for the cabinet, and Ken Dobell, deputy minister to the premier, were, in fact, violating the terms of the carefully worked out protocol to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of materials sought, and investigative procedures to be undertaken, by the RCMP. Krog has written a letter to RCMP Deputy Commissioner Bass asking for investigation of the alleged violation.
Tracing the change from the old protocol that worked for nearly four years to the sudden and unilaterally imposed protocol by Gordon Campbell opens important questions. Did it happen because Defence was asking for documents revealing pressure on the Campbell government over the BC Rail sale? That is a fair question - as many others would be, since no one in cabinet will explain why a new protocol was put in place unilaterally by the chief political agent of the government, the premier.
I have said that the appointment of deputy attorney general Allan Seckel was political and that Seckel can make no move in the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter that is not political, having been a political appointment erasing a protocol constructed to prevent political interference in the court process.
But a question now arises about George Copley. He worked within the established protocol for the nearly four years. In February and March 2007, he gives evidence (in the released documents asked for by Krog) of working with the established protocol without difficulty. Then in May 2007 Gordon Campbell unilaterally changed the protocol, placing Allan Seckel, deputy attorney general, in a position to screen and decide whether cabinet documents will be privileged materials.
Without apparently batting an eye, and - as far as we can see - without asking a single question, George Copley accepted the new system. On June 5, 2007, dealing with an application by the Defence for disclosure by the Provincial Government, Copley reported to cabinet secretary Elizabeth MacMillan that he was "presently seeking instruction from the Deputy Attorney General on what position to take at [the] appearance before the court".
Who gave George Copley instructions to abandon the old protocol and follow the new one? What reasons were given to Copley for the change? Did he consider the change better? Did he consider it a brazen political move? Perhaps it would be appropriate for the Defence to request the right to cross-examine Copley as someone who may not only be a party to violation of the original protocol but a willing actor under the new (dubious) one.
As they say in detective stories the plot thickens. Consider. When I read the two letters published by Leonard Krog, I was surprised. I was sure I had never seen them before. But when Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett released the documents requested by Krog, she stated that they were released generally, to the public. I went to the Criminal Registry desk and asked to have copies. I was told there were many pages and I could read them there and order copies of what I wanted at one dollar per page.
Reading them there meant standing at the counter the whole time because neither Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett nor people in Criminal Registry would think to offer a concerned Canadian a seat at a desk to examine the some 300 pages of material. Nonetheless, I persevered, going through the whole gathering. Not being able to afford the whole batch at one dollar per page, I selected. Anything that mentioned Judith Reid or Gary Collins or questions to be asked about documents found by RCMP was the kind of thing I wanted and would order.
As a reasonable Canadian, I would say that the letters Leonard Krog published were not included in the materials I went through at the Criminal Registry desk. Of course, as they say in detective stories, I couldn't swear in a court of law that they were not in the gathering of documents I went through. But if the letters Krog published were not in the gathering I went through, the integrity of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett is in question. I cannot swear they were not there, as I say.
Perhaps my doubts make a serious point. Charging a dollar a page for the documents was an insult. Making readers stand at the counter to examine the whole gathering was an insult. If I had been allowed the whole gathering for a decent price, there would be no question about whether Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett chose to keep some of the more significant pages out of public hands. That the doubt exists, ironically, is her own fault for making public access so difficult.
That statement applies, in my opinion, from long before the 'Raid' on the BC Legislature. There was, I believe, a purposeful campaign in operation from the beginning of the Campbell regime to disenfranchise the power of the people, to manipulate the public interest in favour of special interests and to actively obscure what this government was actually doing as temporary custodians of the public assets of the province.
In the end though, the most thorough indictment must be leveled against the supposedly independent media in this country and this province.
Instead of pursuing this case with diligence and dedication, they have (with a few notable exceptions) been sitting on their hands.
Every concerned citizen should have been writing letters to each of the local and national media outlets in this country and pouring scorn on their efforts.
And it's not too late. Instead of the pandering coverage of non-announcements like the Premier's latest revelation about the fate of a failed BC Place facility the few reporters in this province who still have a pulse should start asking some very hard questions.
And when those questions are answered with the usual nonsense and blow (as has been the case in the Legislature from the beginning) from such as the Attorney General, then those reporters need to follow Robin Mathews' lead and begin to detail the ins and outs of this case and its history with the kind of perseverance and diligence that we have seen virtually nowhere else than here at 'The Legislature Raids'.
The involvement of the Premier and the Executive Counsel in a case in which they have repeatedly claimed not to have been involved is, at this stage, a virtual certainty.
The people of this province deserve better and the hollowness and corruptibility of their elected 'leaders' must be exposed.
"NDP MLA Leonard Krog claims Premier Gordon Campbell misled BC Legislature":
"Point of Privilege"
.....in "The execution of search warrants in the British Columbia Parliament Buildings," Kate Ryan-Lloyd, the Parliamentarian, 2004, issue 2, page 158.
According to the article, four of the five stages were:
(1) a lawyer selected by the government must sever any documents that contain deliberations of the province's executive council;
(2) the associate chief justice reviews these documents and decides if they are relevant to the police investigation;
(3) if confidential cabinet documents were found to be relevant to the criminal investigation, those documents would be sent to the deputy cabinet secretary (read Ken Dobell/Ms. MacMillan???) to confirm that the material is to remain confidential;
(4) if the documents in question are considered to be confidential, the associate chief justice asks the special prosecutor and other prosecutors to argue in closed court whether the information is to remain confidential in law. That's at page 160.
EXTRA EMPHASIS on the "supposedly independent media."
"Instead of pursuing this case with diligence and dedication, they have (with a few notable exceptions) been sitting on their hands."
Notable exceptions? Any would be and are notable, and generally those are simply an attempt at "spin adjustment." Please, don't forget that the BC Rail Corruption Trial IS NOT about Glen Clark and his back porch, nor does it involve Italians from the neighborhood. We don't talk about the neighbors in say.....Point Grey! We don't even mention top level cabinet ministers that may be under investigation unless some media "maverick" accidentally asks the "wrong" question leading to an embarrassing situation. I think Robin had a piece that asked the question "Is Gordon Campbell a Made Man?" awhile back. It is worth looking up and re-reading, even if somebody other than Robin wrote it.
"Every concerned citizen should have been writing letters to each of the local and national media outlets in this country and pouring scorn on their efforts."
I'm sure I'm not alone in having done this. The most common result is to just be ignored. Sometimes it is worthwhile just to find out how poorly some of these fellows are at using their "training as writers" to be arrogant, insulting and exhibit a stunning blindness to reality. If you hit the jack-pot, one of them may accuse you too, of being a "conspiracy theorist."
Perhaps a course in the difference between investigative journalism and public relations could be required in J-School. Today it is all about "communications" which unfortunately is too often, just a product/service!
In general the "truth" doesn't pay as well to have its interests promoted as "special interests." Okay, the truth simply doesn't pay to be promoted, and its promulgation generally isn't "good marketing."
Darned if I can see how you made your own copies with or without prepaid cards if -- like Professor Mathews -- you weren't able to remove the documents from the Registry desk.
And if you ask me, I'd bet that senior judges could get Courthouse improvements on behalf of the public any time they chose to do so. You say it yourself, that "a senior judge, now deceased, started the idea of making cases available." They also make restrictions.
I'm thankful that Robin persisted until he and Bill Tieleman got to see as much as they did, of documents relevant to the BCRail Corruption Case. If Robin had waited, as you suggest, until the trial is finished -- when Court Cases Completed come online -- we wouldn't have had the benefit of their essays right now, would we.
I can well understand that in the calm and quiet, the clerks would respond like you say. You don't say how old the documents were.
It seems to me, however, that there's a nervousness surrounding the ongoing Basi-Virk / BC Rail Case.
Maybe in another 20 years, the documents will be easier to access.
And no, I didn't imagine that public documents are sitting somewhere for folks to pick up. Nobody is being unreasonable.
Robin said that the clerks have recently been kindly and helpful, but he did have to telephone them the day before, you know.
And the clerks made the photocopies.