Monday, July 21, 2008

 

Stink of corruption sticking to B.C. government

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Even the National Post -- which was unabashedly established by Lord Conrad Black in the Crosshairs to turn Canadians deeply Conservative -- is beginning to see the situation in British Columbia more clearly: as rotten and downright unfortunate. Wow. To think that we have lived so long as to see such a welcome turn of events! - BC Mary.
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Brian Hutchinson
National Post - July 17, 2008

Something smells in British Columbia and for once, local pulp, paper and lumber producers are not to blame. Most of their malodorous mills have been mothballed, putting thousands on the dole and forcing industry executives to find new sources of revenue.

The real source of stink is Gordon Campbell's B.C. government, now seven years old and showing serious signs of rot. The latest evidence is in an eye-popping report delivered on Wednesday by the province's Auditor-General. John Doyle criticizes a Cabinet minister's decision to give lumber and wood chip player Western Forest Products Inc. the right to pull thousands of hectares of private land on Vancouver Island from the protection of a tree farm licence arrangement.

The decision, made last year by former minister of forests and range Rich Coleman, represented a $150-million windfall to WFP. Mr. Coleman's brother, Stan, is WFP's manager of strategic planning.

{Snip} ...

British Columbians are still waiting for answers on a number of other suspect fronts. It's been more than four years, remember, since the RCMP raided government offices in the legislature buildings, looking for evidence of alleged misdeeds related to the government's sale of B.C. Rail.

Charged with corruption are three former government aides, including Dave Basi, ministerial assistant to Gary Collins, who abruptly resigned his post as finance minister and left politics. Interminable court proceedings have delayed the trial; recently, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that denied a bizarre application by the Crown to have defence lawyers barred from the courtroom while a secret prosecution witness gave evidence.

The Crown is now seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which means the B.C. Rail corruption caper will likely not be aired before the next provincial election, to be held in May, 2009.

A second case involving Mr. Basi, the legislature raid and the alleged bribery of yet another government official has not been scheduled for trial.

That's not all: British Columbians are waiting to learn what charges, if any, will result from a police probe into the business affairs of former solicitor-general John Les. He resigned from Cabinet in March when news emerged of an investigation into decade-old municipal land dealings in Chilliwack, east of Vancouver. Mr. Les was mayor of Chilliwack from 1987 -1999.

Premier Campbell has already lost some of leading lights from the cabinet table, ahead of the next election. Scandal did not push out skilled and polished pros such as Geoff Plant and Carole Taylor; they chose to leave politics on their own accord and have been circumspect with their reasons why.

No surprise, then, that B.C. voters are beginning to wonder if this government - once unassailable, even after the premier's drunk driving conviction in 2003 - has passed its Best Before date.

bhutchinson@nationalpost.com

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=662060

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