Tuesday, December 02, 2008
... there are no headlines detailing the ever-growing shadow over Gordon Campbell and his office, regarding his involvement and activities surrounding the Basi/Virk trial.
The reputation and integrity (what is left of it) of the BC premiers office is at stake yet again, and one would think that this is news that all British Columbians should be hearing about, yet little- if anything- that develops in this riveting case is ever reported in The Sun or The Province. I talked to people both locally and in the interior, and no one seems to really know anything.
Although the average working Joe might have heard of the names Basi/Virk, do they know exactly who they are, how the premier is involved, and what it could mean for the Liberal party of BC?
Not a chance.
This is one of the biggest,ongoing stories in politics anywhere, and yet we are provided with no ongoing coverage by any major media outlet. No weekly feature, or updates.
Why is that?
It could lead one to surmise that the local media is able to be influenced by those who are compromised most in this story. What other explanation is there? How about a two page special chronicling the entire saga to date, to get those who have not been privy to the events that have transpired, up to speed? It's anything but a boring read.
Dave Basi and Bob Virk, are two ex-government ministerial aides that have been charged with corruption ,stemming from the legislature raids several years ago. Disclosure has been going on forever and has been plagued by delays, obstructions and missing evidence.
Now, defence attorneys are asking for Premier Gordon Campbell to testify and answer some pertinent and loaded questions regarding allegations of political interference surrounding the release of documents required as evidence. It is alleged that the Premier arbitrarily changed a court protocol on disclosure, and now defence -and the opposition - want answers as to why he would do such a thing without involving a government lawyer.
Read the entire story here, on political commentator Bill Tielmans blog : http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2008/03/defence-demands-premier-gordon-campbell.html
Bill Tielman has been diligently providing almost daily coverage since the beginning, and not without consequence. His office was broken into and ransacked at one point, with a cryptic message left - an obvious message from someone pissed off by his dogged determination at relaying this story to the public.
It brings to mind the role media outlets play in our political landscape. Sadly, I think the majority of the public relies on mainstream media for their political information and news . The standard should be held that our mainstream media remains unbiased and reports the news in its entirety- good or bad. So when a story of this political importance is conspicuously ignored over and over, the motive for doing so must be questioned.
After all, the more informed the public is about political process in British Columbia, the better.
Information is power.
Credit to the lively blog of Laila Yuile for this editorial. - BC Mary]
And Williams Lake is beginning to notice these things, too! - BC Mary.
Then, back in May 14, 2007 - see Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Public Affairs Bureau coverage of Basi Virk Court Case, p. 7910
Oral Questions [No kidding, it's worth a look-back ... BC Mary.]
PUBLIC AFFAIRS BUREAU COVERAGE OF BASI-VIRK COURT CASE
L. Krog: Recently we learned that the Ministry of Attorney General is paying a political appointee with the public affairs bureau to attend the Basi-Virk trial. He reports back daily to his political masters. Now, this is not a matter that's before the courts, so the Attorney General can't answer with that excuse today.
Why does the Attorney General think that it is appropriate to ask taxpayers to pay for someone to sit in a courtroom just to keep tabs on this B.C. Liberal legal mess?
Hon. W. Oppal: The person in question is a junior public affairs officer, and he merely reports to the government and other people regarding what's going on in courtrooms. He assists the media, and he assists the people….
Interjections. [It was an unruly session so I have deleted all rest of the shouting and interruptions. - BC Mary.]
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. W. Oppal: Members of the opposition may find it surprising that the media has an interest in cases that are before the courts. Mr. Chase is there to assist in the major cases that are of public interest, and he prepares reports on daily court sittings and court activities at all levels of the courts in Vancouver.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Krog: Well, hon. Speaker, coming from a government that refuses to denounce the practice of taxpayer-funded dirty political tricks, it's a little hard to believe that this type of activity is in the public interest, when the Attorney General won't answer any questions about the trial. The Attorney General has acknowledged today in this House that the taxpayers are paying for this individual to report back to his political masters with information that is not ever made public.
My question to the Attorney General is very simple. If the public is paying for this service, will the Attorney General commit to making all the reports of the public affairs bureau staffer public starting today?
Hon. W. Oppal: You know, this person has been there for a while. He sits in on all of the trials; he assists the media. This is nothing new. I congratulate the opposition for finally finding out that Mr. Chase has been in the courts — been there for a long time. He's doing an excellent job.
M. Farnworth: The Attorney General says that this public affairs bureau assists the media. It's unfortunate that the Attorney General can't assist this House in their inquiries into these matters.
My question again is to the Attorney General. He says these matters are always before the courts and he can't discuss them. Then, can he tell this House what this taxpayer-paid-for individual assists the media with, what he discusses with the media, and why he cannot table those discussions and those reports in this House?
Hon. W. Oppal: You know, it's amazing to me that the member opposite still doesn't understand the role and the distinction between the courts and the Legislature. We do not discuss the evidence that's before the courts.
... Last November I was asked by a number of members of the media about the admissibility of wiretap evidence, and I gave a legal opinion as to the generic law as pertains to the permissibility of wiretap evidence. Listen to what the member for Nanaimo had to say about that. On November 2 the critic said: "The Attorney General should leave this case to the courts and keep future comments to himself."
... The opposition critic then went on to say that there have been many high-profile cases in the past where prosecutions failed because of public comments made by politicians. He wasn't content with that. He went on to say: "It is essential to the rule of law that the integrity of the judicial process not be interfered with. High-profile prosecutions have failed in the past because politicians felt compelled to make comments in public that were later deemed prejudicial." That's the opposition.
M. Farnworth: This individual is a conduit between the courts and the government. What other purpose is there for this individual if not to report back to government what is taking place and, as the Attorney General just said, to assist the media? Assist the media with what is what we want to know.
My question is to the Attorney General. Did the Attorney General approve the appointment of this individual to monitor the court case? If not him, then who did?
Hon. W. Oppal: I've already said he's not there to monitor any particular court case. He's there. He sits in on the courts, and there's nothing unusual about that. He's not there to comment on any particular case the way the opposition would like us to comment on the cases. He reports to the media. He assists the media.
J. Kwan: My question is to the Minister of Finance. Is the Minister of Finance aware of this, and has she approved having the public affairs bureau staff at the Basi-Virk court case?
Hon. C. Taylor: I am aware of it as of today. I was told of the situation. The public affairs bureau has informed me that the Ministry of Attorney General made a request that instead of having all of their communication people in Victoria, they would have someone who was in Vancouver and would be able to monitor the major trials as they went forward.
Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.
J. Kwan: How many reports have been presented to the government to date from this political appointment who is monitoring the court case? Will the Attorney General commit to tabling all of those reports in this Legislature today?
Hon. W. Oppal: There's nothing sinister about having a person there to advise the public as to what's going on in the courtroom. Obviously, with the economy going the way it is, there's nothing much to ask on that side of the House. But I can tell you that this person….
... Mr. Chase has followed a number of the trials, including the Xiao Zhang file that involved the death of the New Zealand physician who was killed in a motor vehicle accident. Those are some of the trials that he's monitored while sitting in courts in Vancouver.
B. Ralston: The Attorney General says that there's nothing sinister about these reports. He's attempting to brush it off. If there's nothing sinister about the reports, then why doesn't he table them in the House now?
Hon. W. Oppal: I don't know what reports the member is speaking about. The member should know that one of the problems in the civil and criminal justice system is that the public doesn't fully understand the workings of the system. It helps that if there is somebody there monitoring trials, that person then apprises the….
... It assists if we have somebody there explaining how the system works to the public. You know, the criminal justice system need not be a mystery to the public.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, do we want to continue?
Hon. W. Oppal: Mr. Chase is there to assist the media, to apprise them of the witnesses that are being called and the progress of the trial. That's all he's there for.
Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.
B. Ralston: Apparently, the Attorney General won't commit to tabling the reports that we just spoke of moments ago. So my question is to the Minister of Finance. Since the Minister of Finance is responsible for the public affairs bureau and pays for Mr. Chase's salary, will she commit to tabling those less than sinister reports today in the Legislature?
Hon. W. Oppal: You know, if the opposition has an interest in the reports, they can always FOI them.
R. Fleming: Jeez, another victory for openness and transparency.
The Attorney General has said that Mr. Chase's reports are submitted to him and to other members of the government. Can the Attorney General confirm that he has received reports from Mr. Chase, and does the Premier of this province also receive those kinds of briefings?
Hon. W. Oppal: I did not say that he filed reports with me. I said that he's there to assist the public in understanding what's going on in the system, and he's doing that….
... There's nothing wrong with having an officer sitting in the courtroom to assist the media in….
R. Fleming: Well, the Attorney General keeps saying that this person is in the courts on a daily basis to assist the media. So is this person a spin doctor? What does he do? How does the Attorney General — who has been very careful to remind members of this House on an almost daily basis when he doesn't answer questions that it's a matter before the court — reconcile that and make sure that Mr. Chase isn't politically interfering in the proceedings?
Is this person a delegate of the government? Is he an authorized spokesperson? And once again, will the Attorney General table those reports to the House?
Hon. M. de Jong: I am only curious and involve myself because I'm wondering if the member who just asked the question is prepared to apply those same standards that he professes to expect of others.
We talk about spinning. I've got a briefing note from April 2, 2001. It's….
Mr. Speaker: Government House Leader, just take your seat.
Mr. Speaker: Government House Leader continues.
Hon. M. de Jong: Nothing unusual, obviously, about the preparation of briefing notes. But I found it odd that the government of the day felt it required a briefing note entitled — well, now the member — his name and "contract," the suggestion being that there was something perhaps unusual about this contract. I won't bore the House with the details now….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. M. de Jong: But when you go to the contract that involved the payment of $38,000 to the hon. member, there is a notation on it that says: "The approval received but not endorsed, service specifications and performance standards sparse comparative to value of contract."
Could it possibly be that the government of the day had to prepare a briefing note because they were concerned that this member and the contract he signed wouldn't withstand the kind of scrutiny that might have applied? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Just take your seat, Member. I'm not continuing till there's silence.
Member for Vancouver-Kensington has the floor.
D. Chudnovsky: The Attorney General has said on several occasions this afternoon that it is the job of the employee of the public affairs bureau to provide advice to the public. Could the Attorney General tell the House what advice Mr. Chase has provided to the public, where and when?
Hon. W. Oppal: I'm not privy to the advice that he has provided. He's there on a daily basis. He goes to….
Mr. Speaker: The Attorney General has the floor.
Hon. W. Oppal: I'll repeat, hon. Speaker. Mr. Chase is employed in the public affairs bureau, and he reports to the director of communications for the Ministry of Attorney General. What he does is sit in a courtroom, prepare articles and assist members of the media or anyone else who is interested in the progress of trials. That's not unusual at all. It's done in major trials. It's done throughout all the significant trials throughout the province and in other provinces as well.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
D. Chudnovsky: I want to just do a little review, as is my wont as a veteran teacher. We've spent a number of minutes in this House this afternoon exploring the activities of an individual who works for the public affairs bureau. It is the Attorney General who has said to us on several occasions this afternoon that it is the job of that individual to provide advice to the public.
It is an entirely reasonable question to now ask the Attorney General: what advice, when did he give it, where did he give it, and what did he say?
Hon. W. Oppal: With the greatest of conceivable respect, the question, quite frankly, is silly. This man sits in a courtroom…. Obviously, the person doesn't understand what happens in the courts. What happens is that….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. W. Oppal: For instance, he's been attending the Pickton trial in New Westminster — a complex trial, a trial that really requires explanations because of the various nuances that are taking place in the trial.
He doesn't file reports to me, but what he does is help people — the media and other people — in the courtroom who need assistance to understand the proceedings. At times, you see, during the course of a trial, a jury may be…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. W. Oppal: …absent for evidentiary issues. A judge may adjourn in order to consider certain deliberations and come back with certain decisions regarding issues. These are matters that have to be explained to members of the public who are not entirely familiar with the workings of the system.
B. Simpson: It seems like the Attorney General does not really understand what's going on in this case at all. He's the one who raised the issue that it was reports that were being produced.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
B. Simpson: Then, when asked questions about the reports, he said that they weren't sinister reports. Then when asked further questions about the reports, he said that, actually, reports don't exist. The confusion abounds.
Now the Attorney General is saying that articles are written by this individual. To the Attorney General: where are those articles? How can we find them? Are they published on the Web? Are they published under this author's name or some other name if he's writing in a pseudonym?
Hon. W. Oppal: I'll repeat. Mr. Chase is in a courtroom to assist members of the public through the media to understand how the system works, why particular rulings are made, why particular exhibits are filed and all of those things that members of the public may not understand by themselves. That's why he's there.
B. Simpson: The Attorney General said, to start off this line of questioning, that this person writes reports. He's backed off of that. The Attorney General has now said that he writes articles. He's now trying to back off of that. Check the Hansard after this. You will find that the Attorney General said both that reports were written and that articles were written.
Where are these reports, and are those articles published? If so, where can we find them?
Hon. W. Oppal: All right. The officer in question, Mr. Chase, who's employed with the public affairs bureau, works in the courts. He attends various trials, the high-profile trials. He assists in preparing articles. He meets with the media on a regular basis. I'm not privy to the articles that he writes or prepares, and I've never spoken to the man, but his purpose in being there is to assist those people who may not have an understanding of the judicial system.
S. Simpson: The Attorney General referenced the Pickton trial. We know that Mr. Stan Lowe is the government person who provides information at that trial, and appropriately so. The reality of the situation is that Mr. Chase is not a public information officer of the courts. He's a political appointee of this government and a spin doctor for the Liberals.
Frankly, the reality is this. If this minister isn't prepared to release those reports, release those articles. Let us know. Then maybe we can only assume that he is trying to influence the media on this — Mr. Chase. That's wrong, and this minister knows it. Release the reports, and clear the matter up.
Hon. W. Oppal: Stan Lowe is only one of the officers in the Attorney General Ministry, one of the lawyers who interact with the media. There are others that do it as well. There's nothing….
Hon. W. Oppal: There's no effort to influence anybody's opinion or give a….
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Attorney.
Hon. W. Oppal: The purpose of the officer being there is to assist the public in understanding the system, understanding some of the rulings and all the things that are going on in a courtroom.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
S. Simpson: I'm not aware that Mr. Chase is a lawyer. Maybe we could be enlightened about that. The reality is this. Mr. Chase is a spin doctor for the government and for the B.C. Liberals. That's his job.
If the Attorney General would like to enlighten us, maybe he could enlighten us all and release the information. Maybe he could enlighten us all and tell us what Mr. Chase is telling the media and the public instead of keeping it hidden, keeping it secret and just raising the concern that this is about manipulation by this government of the trial.
Hon. W. Oppal: You know, we don't need a spin doctor on trials of this nature. We don't need that. You know, those types…. The fact that the member would suggest that a government needs a spin doctor in a criminal trial indicates to me that he's completely ignorant to the workings….
Mr. Speaker: Member.
Attorney, that statement?
Hon. W. Oppal: I withdraw that.
Mr. Speaker: Continue.
Hon. W. Oppal: The member is obviously uninformed as to the workings of the system. In a criminal trial the Crown lays charges against a person against whom they allege some wrongdoing. We don't have any interest in that particular trial. The Crown lays the charge. They prosecute the case. The judge and/or a jury will ultimately decide the case.
We don't need a spin doctor to put forth the government's view, whatever it may be, in a trial ...
G. Robertson: Now that we've had the Attorney General's hopelessly confusing account of what Mr. Chase is doing at the trial — from "monitor the trial" to "assist the media" to "report to government" to "assist the public" — the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for this public affairs bureau staffer, is now aware of this confusing complex of job descriptions.
Does the Minister of Finance think that it's appropriate to have a taxpayer-funded political appointee at the Basi-Virk trial? .... [The man who asked this question is now the Mayor of Vancouver. - BC Mary]
Yo ... is that our Learned Friend? Nice to see you back again.
Thanks for the BVB news. There was no mention of them on the regular Supreme Court listings for today, Dec. 2 ... difficult for people to keep track of what's happening.
I get a bit steamed when I read in the newspapers or hear on TV that "people are apathetic ..." and I wonder how people are supposed to show enthusiasm for understanding issues they never hear about.
Good to hear from you.
We obviously have another blowhard here that doesn't know even half of what he/she/it thinks he knows. It is also, OBVIOUSLY, the one who doesn't "read well" as no one ever suggested that anything is blocking all access to your website", only that there were difficulties that were magnified by use of Internet Ex(creble)plorer. What server is hosting your connection (or masking your actual connection) was never suggested as being relevant to the problem - and the fact that you are using a proxy server is well.....irrelevant..though it might make some folks wonder why and what you have to hide!
Actually, there are still many people accessing the site, as evidenced by this comment and the ones above including the one from anon-0-Proxy itself. Some people aren't satisfied just being stupid, but feel the need to compound it by being rude as well!
Even with the as yet unsolved issues regarding the mysterious Google Mapping Key Issue, more people are able to learn more about the shameful BC Rail Trial from The Legislature Raids than from the entire Canned Wasteland empire, which THEORECTICALLY has an obligation to INFORM THE PUBLIC. I think the fact that they are so derelict in performing their duty as a responsible media has much more to do with their current economic woes than the fact they were nowhere nearly as competent as the late Ted Rogers at learning to understand and utilize the new technologies as they came down the pike!
Technical difficulties seem less intrusive today.
I am more and more thinking that it's a blogger problem with too many blogs, photos, videos overloading the system.
Others are having the same problems.
Anyway ... that's my theory and I'm sticking with it ... for the moment.
The Basi trial was adjourned on Tuesday until this coming Monday Dec 8. Then Justice Bennett will give her rulings on the solicitor client privilege and litigation privilege claims pertaining to the documents defense is seeking access to. Once this is done. the court will address waiver and innocence at stake issues.
Many thanks G.
The weird thing is: the item I posted this morning is nowhere to be seen. Gone, gone. Is it lost forever? I don't know.
I wonder if this comment will post successfully.
Anybody heard of "clipboarding"? The latest thought is that this might be what's happening here.
Paul Palango (author of "Dispersing the Fog") describes it in a special column today in STRAIGHT GOODS. It seems that Paul is being hit hard by the forces -- using Clipboarding -- which don't want his message to be heard.
There's so much work for the conscientious Citizen Journalist to do these days.