Information obtained exclusively by the Georgia Straight raises new questions about the drugs, money, and organized-crime investigation that led to police search warrants being executed last week at the B.C. legislature and the homes and offices of several key provincial and federal Liberals.
The information also shows the extensive links between the Paul Martin federal and Gordon Campbell provincial Liberals. It includes: a list of more than 11,000 Indo-Canadian federal Liberal political supporters in British Columbia obtained by the Straight that indicates the potential extent of Liberal membership sign-ups done by the Martin leadership campaign; confirmation that the federal Liberal party in B.C. privately chartered an airliner to fly more than 200 Young Liberals from Vancouver to the November leadership convention in Toronto at a cost of almost $90,000; and extensive links between a money-losing telecommunications company, many of those who were subject to police search warrants, and key provincial and federal Liberal party insiders and supporters.
A key Paul Martin leadership organizer was David Basi, the ministerial assistant to B.C. Finance Minister Gary Collins who was fired in late December after his office and home were searched by police in connection to the investigation. Neither Basi nor anyone else had been charged in that probe at press time, but Victoria police constable Ravinder Dosanjh has been suspended with pay in connection to the investigation.
Others connected include: Mark Marissen, husband of deputy premier and Education Minister Christy Clark; Bruce Clark, Christy's brother and federal B.C. Liberal executive member for party finances; Erik Bornman, a provincial lobbyist and federal B.C. Liberal executive member for communications; and Bob Virk, ministerial assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid. The offices of Bruce Clark, Bornman, and Virk were searched by RCMP and Victoria police officers, while Marissen was visited at home by the RCMP and asked to turn over documents of interest, which he says are unrelated to the Martin leadership campaign.
The anonymous source who provided the Straight with the federal Liberal list of Indo-Canadian supporters said it is not a membership list but does include many prominent members, such as Basi. Federal Liberal membership in B.C. skyrocketed from about 4,000 in February 2002 to more than 37,000 today, with most new members coming from the South Asian community. Adult membership in the party costs $10, meaning the Liberals collected more than $300,000 in dues.
The list was reportedly started by former Liberal cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal and his backers. The names of both Dhaliwal and his wife, Amrit, are included on the list. Martin supporters obtained the list after Dhaliwal lost control of his riding association in November 2002.
In several media interviews, Dhaliwal has blamed Basi for that takeover and also criticized Premier Gordon Campbell and Collins for allowing their aides to undertake hostile political activity at the federal level.
The Straight's source says the list is available to former NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh if he decides to seek a federal Liberal nomination in the Lower Mainland, a possibility that is already causing major divisions in both the federal and B.C. Liberals.
In another development, Bill Cunningham, president of the Liberal party of Canada in B.C., confirmed reports to the Straight that an HMY Airways jet was chartered at a cost of about $90,000 to fly predominantly Young Liberal delegates to the November 12-15, 2003, leadership convention in Toronto.
Cunningham said in a telephone interview that the Young Liberals did their own fundraising for the flight, with between 200 and 215 people on board the aircraft. He said the effective price for the flight was $419. That would put the cost at between $83,800 and $90,085. In addition, delegates had to pay for hotel accommodations, food, and convention fees that ranged from $785 to $1,100 each.
Cunningham said that despite rumours he has heard connected to the police investigation, he has no concerns about fundraising by the Young Liberals and said the Liberal party would disclose all details as required by law.
"I don't want to say there's no way we could be used for wrongdoing, but I can't see it," Cunningham said.
In July 1997, the Vancouver Sun reported that Young Liberals were the subject of a police investigation when $30,000 raised for federal convention costs went missing. [... Bill Tieleman, in granting permission to reprint this column, has weighed in -- urgently -- to say that he had been misinformed on this point. In his next column, he corrected what he calls "a serious error" about Jim MacLaren. - BC Mary]
Erik Bornman had been president of the Young Liberals during the time the money was raised, while Jamie Elmhirst, one of Bornman's colleagues at Pilothouse Public Affairs Group, a Victoria-based PR and provincial lobbying firm, took over as president after MacLaren's departure. Elmhirst is a former Gordon Campbell aide who also worked for federal Environment Minister David Anderson, as did Mark Marissen.
Another series of strong political connections are all tied to Bruce Clark, who is a key Paul Martin operative. Although these connections are unrelated to the investigation, they show how close top provincial and federal Liberals are in B.C.
Clark was CEO of a money-losing telecommunications company called Canada Payphone Corporation between late 1998 and late 2000, earning up to $115,000 a year.
Patrick Kinsella, the influential cochair of the 2001 B.C. Liberal election campaign along with Christy Clark, was a director of Canada Payphone from 1995 to 2001, as well as buying a private placement and having share options, according to Stockwatch.
The Progressive Group, Kinsella's consulting firm, also bought a private placement in Canada Payphone in 1996 and received shares for debt in 1999. Kinsella and his firm have given more than $50,000 to the B.C. Liberals since 1996.
Bornman was Canada Payphone's communications director in 2000 and 2001.
The Earnscliffe Strategy Group, a powerful Ottawa-based public- and government-relations and research firm, became "consultants" to Canada Payphone in 1995. Earnscliffe was a "virtual parallel finance department" when Paul Martin was minister, according to the Globe and Mail, with the firm winning $1.6 million in communications contracts from the finance department from September 1993 until July 2002.
Earnscliffe partners David Herle and Scott Reid are both senior Martin political advisers who hold enormous influence with the new prime minister.
Canaccord Capital, whose CEO, Peter Brown, is a major supporter of Gordon Campbell, helped Canada Payphone with a brokered private placement of two million units, with shares valued at $1.40 each. Those shares are currently worth just nine cents apiece. Canada Payphone losses for financial year 2003 were $1.8 million while those reported for financial year 2002 were $5 million. Canaccord donated more than $191,000 to the B.C. Liberal party between 1996 and 2002.
Darcy Rezac, executive director of the Vancouver Board of Trade and B.C. Liberal political supporter, was another investor in Canada Payphone.
The Neighbourhood Pub Owners' Association of BC chose Canada Payphone as its official payphone supplier in December 1998. The executive director of the association was then Brenda Locke, now Liberal MLA for SurreyGreen Timbers.
Needless to say, there is much, much more to come on this story. Stay tuned.
Bill Tieleman is a political commentator Thursdays on CBC TV's Canada Now and regularly on CBC Radio's Early Edition. E-mail him at email@example.com.