VANCOUVER - Former B.C. Liberal government aide Dave Basi, now on trial for accepting bribes, used a phoney name when he called a Victoria radio station to ask Premier Gordon Campbell a "softball" question about BC Rail, a defence lawyer revealed Friday during legal arguments.
While Campbell was appearing on CFAX radio on Nov. 27, 2003, Basi called from his home phone to praise the government's controversial privatization of BC Rail, lawyer Kevin McCullough told the criminal trial of Basi and Bob Virk.
"Basi calls CFAX, disguises his voice and said his name was Don from East Saanich and puts a question to Mr. Campbell," the defence lawyer told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett, who is sitting without a jury.
"It was a call from Mr. Basi to the premier, lobbing a softball for the premier to hit out of the park," the lawyer said.
He pointed out that before Basi asked his question, he told the radio show host: "I think the BC Rail deal is the best thing you could have done for the province."
Basi, the lawyer added, then asked Campbell: "I just want to know, as far as Prince Rupert is concerned, if you could maybe let me know when those projects are going to start there?"
Two days before Basi's call, the government announced Canadian National Railway was the winning bidder for BC Rail, which was sold for $1 billion.
McCullough questioned whether the call to the radio station was an organized event that Campbell or Basi's boss, then-finance minister Gary Collins, knew about.
What the phoney call showed was how political operatives such as Basi were being used by their political masters, the lawyer said ...
At the time of the phoney call to the radio station, Basi was in charge of administering "media monitoring contracts" that were paid for by the B.C. Liberal party, McCullough said.
The contracts were "a highly political effort" to sway public opinion through radio talk shows and other media, said the lawyer, who is representing Virk, the former ministerial assistant to then transportation minister Judith Reid.