Sunday, April 05, 2009

 

The Supreme test for British Columbia: April 22, 2009

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THE QUIET UNRAVELING OF CANADIAN DEMOCRACY
Jim Travers
Toronto Star - April 4, 2009

http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/613535


Jim Travers was the kindly journalist who -- 3 years ago -- listened again and again as I told him of journalism's absence in British Columbia at a time of its greatest need. In the end, it was Jim Travers -- who wanted to help but couldn't -- who convinced me that the East couldn't see beyond the Rockies, maybe not even beyond the Canadian Shield.

Apart from occasional chats with one journalist or another (Toronto Star, CTV, The Globe and Mail), I never tried again to awaken an eastern journalist to what was happening to BC. Chantal Hebert, in fact, suggested that I was making it all up about BC Rail. At that point, it seemed impossible for them to understand BC.

And so -- almost like a blow to the heart -- today I see that it's Jim Travers who is trying to tell his country that corruption has reached them too. That Canada is making Africa look good these days. Or, as Sgt Ward said on 29 Dec. 2003, that crime has reached critical mass.

What Jim Travers says about the dangers of corruption to Canada is also what I could say about the BC Rail Case. It's not an abstraction happening somewhere in the way-beyond. It's about us and what we've allowed to happen, for example, to a railway that was the envy of a continent (apparently).

This morning, I had been working on an editorial, trying to express the visceral horror of those BC Rail executive pay packets, devised by the very BC government elected on a solemn promise to safeguard that public asset.

I kept trying to describe those pay packets laid out in a straight line, like a railroad, each "change of control" incentive richer than the last, each packet designed and even timed to tempt and corrupt the payee to move ahead, unable to resist the idea of selling off a key public asset into private hands. What kind of men create schemes like this?

I tried to imagine men calculating the going price for honour and public service and I kept shrinking from the disgusting job.

Enter Jim Travers. [If you watch CBC Newsworld, you see Jim each Friday afternoon on "Politics" with Don Newman.] Jim Travers despite 20 years as a foreign correspondent would faint, to see how BC Rail executives were trapped.

But today, I think I'll try again to tell him.

Because Jim Travers did get it straight about the shift of values which not only allowed such crooked events to be planned but saw nothing wrong (so long as they remained hidden) in carrying them out. This new climate of corruption required a tremendous shift, now seen capable of permitting two contradictory values to function at the same time. Almost as one.

That's the crucial battle right now, with BC Rail. Because it doesn't stop.

Who could imagine an Attorney General's department negotiating a different sort of pay packet -- the payment of legal costs -- to the three men capable of revealing these and other facts about the government which double-crossed its people? [Tieleman, April 3, Defence alleges ...] Jim Travers would faint to see that.

That's how important the BC Rail Trial is. And if that trial doesn't begin soon, I believe it will mean that all is lost. Deliberately lost. Trampled, dirtied, thrown away. Repeat: deliberately.thrown.away.

The only unplanned element in this story (my view) is that police raided the Legislature. By some happy chance, that police action alerted BC citizens. Never mind that even the BC Supreme Court helped to suppress the Search Warrants. Never mind that Big Media maintained complete silence when the man tracked by police right into the BC legislature went on trial, was found guilty, and was sentenced (I broke the story 6 months later). Bit by bit, the people of B.C. have found out that things which simply didn't look right, didn't sound right, smell right, or feel right, were probably not right at all.

And that's how I see the BC Rail Trial. It's the test of whether British Columbia itself is straight or crooked. It's fast becoming the test of whether we even want to be seen as straight or crooked.

The supreme test will be on April 22, 2009 when a tiny part of the BC Rail issue moves to Ottawa and the highest court in the land. Will a wider vision prevail there? Or will a perverse secrecy continue when the people's best interests are at stake?

I'll tell Jim Travers he should attend. - BC Mary.


Toronto Star column is HERE.

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Comments:
Excellent editorial Mary, thanks.

In it you said:

"(The BC Rail trial) is fast becoming the test of whether we even want to be seen as straight or crooked".


I would go one step further and most humbly suggest that it is also of whether we even care.

After all, if folks like the good Mr. Baldrey are correct, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that most of the citizenry is quite happy with almost anything as long as the trains run on time.

If you get my drift.


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Well, thanks, revered Gazetteer, but I guess some of us are FREE to state our beliefs and some of us are serfs.

If you hear that train whistle echoing off the canyon walls ...


or some such thing.


Just in passing, though: I can't remember having to write anything as difficult as that "change-of-control" stuff, and the "negotiating the BVB legal fees" stuff ... ugly, distressing, stomach-churning stuff ...

like so many other people, I absolutely don't want to believe what I'm seeing. But we must. Must see, must care, must deal with it, must straighten things out. And, yes we can.

As somebody else said wryly, "Think of BC Rail as a sundeck!"

Can't help but think that regaining ownership of our very own railroad ain't such a bad prize.

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How about this, Mudie was fired, he was top exec. He took his case to BC supreme Court, you can search that decision.

"The Agreement deals with the rights and obligations of the parties in connection with the termination of Mr. Mudie’s employment, both at the instance of BC Rail and at the instance of Mr. Mudie.  As Mr. Mudie deposes in his affidavit and as is apparent on its face, the parties entered into the Agreement in contemplation of a possible change in control of BC Rail. (NOTE THE DATE, PROMIOTED TO CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER May 2001, which he signed the agreement) The Agreement recites that its purposes were to induce Mr. Mudie to remain in the employ of BC Rail and to assure BC Rail that he would be able to assess and advise the Boards of Directors of BC Rail and its parent company on any proposed change in control without being influenced by the uncertainties of his own situation.

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He was promoted to the position of President and Chief Operating Officer of BC Rail in May 2001.  BC Rail terminated his employment by letter dated August 23, 2002.  BC Rail asserts that it had cause to terminate Mr. Mudie’s employment as a result of his conduct in relation to a personal relationship he developed with another senior management employee of BC Rail.  In this action, Mr. Mudie alleges that he was dismissed without cause and without notice, and he claims damages for breach of contract.

----Headlines @that time re Mark Mudie and BC Rail

Vancouver Sun December 17,2002, BC Rail head fired for doing too well
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BC Rail union calls for inquiry.Dec.20
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B.C. Rail exec sues for wrongful dismissal. February 25 2003 The Province
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Fired B.C. Rail boss fights to keep pay. [Mark Mudie]The Province December 17, 2002 p A18
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Vancouver Sun
CN has eyes on BC Rail - if it's for sale.April 16, 2003 p D4
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Fired over love affair, a B.C. Rail executive fights back. Dec 15,2002 The Province

You dont need to post this Mary, but worth looking at dates, and agreement, YES, changing control in May 2001 was being considered.

EM
 
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Very special, EM. Thank you!

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