Saturday, July 05, 2008
Legal fees for Basi, Virk, Basi
A contribution from North Van's Grumps"
First, or maybe we should say last (judgement), Basi/Virk would have to be found innocent of the charges, and of course we are all innocent until proven guilty.
Hansard - WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2004
J. MacPhail: .... We've discussed the indemnification policy around court actions in this House many times. In fact, the government, when they were in opposition, raised this over and over again. I know, Mr. Chair, because I had to answer the questions when I was in government.
What is the indemnification policy for political staff who may be charged in relation to their government duties? For those that may not be familiar with it, indemnification, as I understand it, means who is indemnified for covering the legal expenses if one is charged in relation to their government duties.
Hon. G. Campbell: I wanted to be sure that this was correct. Indemnities are available for elected officials and for staff, if in fact something takes place that is part of being in the course of their duties. If it is something that is outside of the course of their duties, there is no indemnity that's in place.
J. MacPhail: Is there anything in the legal arrangements of the severance of Mr. Basi, David Basi, that would prevent him from asking the government to pay legal fees if he is charged pursuant to his government activity as ministerial assistant to the Minister of Finance?
Hon. G. Campbell: Again, we're getting close to a hypothetical question here. Mr. Basi has not been charged, and neither has Mr. Virk been charged. In terms of people that are involved in the public service, if there is a legal action taken as a result of them exercising their public duties, then there would be some indemnification. If they are charged outside of their duties, there would be no indemnification. That's the simplest answer, Mr. Chair.
J. MacPhail: Isn't that interesting? Taxpayers may be on the hook for legal fees for both Mr. Virk and Mr. Basi, because of course the warrants that we know about so far are to do with them in their official capacity relating to government business. The Premier can't in any way tell me that his government, in severing Mr. Basi, dealt with that issue so that the taxpayer wouldn't be on the hook. That's just another great piece of news for the taxpayer around the whole B.C. Rail fiasco.
Back to the matter of selling BC Rail property to CN Rail within five years... same Hansard page....
J. MacPhail: Well, call me stupid; I don't understand a word of what the Premier has just said. I have no idea why five million to six million bucks had to be charged to register leases, register the title of land that B.C. Rail already owned, unless it was to prepare for the transfer of that title to CN. Is that the case?
Hon. G. Campbell: The short answer to the member's question is no, that is not the case. We consolidated it all so that we could have it in public ownership, as we said we would — the right-of-way, the railbed and the rails. It is now consolidated. Since we are entering into a long-term lease, over 30 years, we will now register the lease on that consolidated property.
J. MacPhail: Well, we know that after five years CN can purchase the Crown land on discontinued lines for a buck. For a buck they can do that. So it seems to me that the government has done all the nice little legal work, paid for it for itself to make sure the titles are all nice and clear — for the land that CN can purchase for a buck after five years.
Question to BC Mary: Has CN Rail intentionally discontinued lines so that they can buy the property for a buck?
Question to BC Mary: The consolidated land that BC (Rail) Properties is selling to Metro Vancouver to build a new sewage treatment plant on the North shore, for $15 million bucks, is it being taken out of the consolidation in the same fashion as that of lines on Agricultural Land Commission properties being moved for the benefits of developers and insiders (Chilliwack and Sooke)?
I've been unable to listen/watch either of those two events and have relied upon commentors to tell us what happened.
I understand that both of them are available on the web-sites of CKNW and Shaw but such is my skill I haven't succeeded in accessing them.
I hope you're more successful. Sure wish these things would show up on YouTube, eh.
Chorus of BC Liberals: "Lets hear Seventy-seven cheers for BC Rail sale to CN Rail.... for a dollar." - Kevin Falcon
Backgrounder: By July 14, 2008 CN Rail will have been in possession of running their railcars over BC Rails. And in many cases "over" has included off of the tracks.
Only now, as we approach the five year deadline, a sinister plot is finally emerging, one that was conceived to prepare the public to accept the fact that running a railway is a dangerous and expensive proposition, especialy when environmental damage is done.
The penalty to CN Rail? They must purchase the environmentally damaged rail line for a Dollar!
Page 10559 of Hansard:
J. MacPhail: ....
I want to ask about this $1 land sale and the first nations. We know, actually, that the view of northerners about the single greatest impediment to economic growth is it's the failure to settle land claims — the single greatest impediment — so the settlement of land claims is actually extremely important.
We know from the leaked parts of the deal that the government claims they can sell land for $1. The government claims to have been fulfilling their duty to consult with first nations. We know that is being challenged hugely by the first nations. The revitalization agreement has a clause that the first nations have seen — a clause that allows the government to give publicly owned B.C. Rail land to CN for $1.
The Liberals — and I heard the minister say it again today — have said that in this case, if CN contaminates any land with an environmental spill and the government is upset about that, they can force ownership of the polluted land on CN. Actually, before the government changes to the Waste Management Act, that responsibility would have rested with CN regardless. This government, of course, has weakened the environmental protection language. They are saying: "Oh, if that CN has a spill, we can force them to buy the land for a buck."
"Hon. K. Falcon: No, I'm just suggesting that it might be one avenue where the member can answer this.
What I will point out is that the province requested and specifically put in this provision because this provision allows the province, at our sole discretion — that is the legal language — an option to force CN to take ownership of abandoned rights-of-way if the railway operations are discontinued.
Let's talk about that for a minute. If that was going to happen…. We know, of course, that they can't discontinue it for the first five years of the agreement, because that's part of the agreement. After that, if they applied for discontinuance through the Canada Transportation Act, if no short-line operator stepped forward that was prepared to operate on that discontinued portion of the track and if the province has exhausted all the options available to it for land disposition…. Remember, we are the owner of the railbed and right-of-way. This is another one of the great advantages of why we wanted to maintain public ownership — because we have those options to work with first nations, to work with local government, to work with the private sector, looking at what options we have available.
One thing I would underscore to the member and one thing she's quite incorrect about is that we would always respect our constitutional obligations with respect to first nations prior to engaging in a transfer of any discontinued track lands. That would automatically trigger our obligations, and we would — as we have done and always will do — fulfil our constitutional obligations to first nations.
The reasons why the province might want CN to take ownership relate…. I used the environment as an example. The member is quite right. If there is an environmental spill, there are agencies of government that deal with the immediate impact of that spill.
There are other issues where we want to make sure that future taxpayers and future governments are protected. If there is, over the course of the use of the train over a certain line, some significant remediation costs that were never considered at the time — who knows what those could be; who knows what they might be hauling in 30, 40, 50 years? — it does allow the province, at its sole discretion, to ensure that a discontinuance doesn't take place for the sole reason of trying to off-load
[ Page 10560 ]
that cost onto the public taxpayer. That, to me, is an example of a very smart evaluation team working hard to protect the public interest by adding that clause.
There are also safety issues that would be considered. For example, if part of the discontinued track included a tunnel, there could be significant safety and engineering issues associated with that tunnel. That may be something a future government wants to be very aware of before they find themselves locked into a position where they may have to consider absorbing enormous costs associated with upgrading or spending significant dollars on a tunnel."
From this audience's point of view, the BC Liberal cast deserves a thumbs down for a lousy plot. It was no secret, we knew from the start, who the bad guys were.
Stage Left: Provincial government enters like New Zealand did, but on a great white steed, purchasing the consolation prize, contamination and all, for a cool Four Billion dollars.
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