Tuesday, June 30, 2009

 

Basi-Virk: Judge orders e-mails of 15 MLAs be disclosed to defence

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By Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - June 30, 2009

Vancouver – The judge in the Basi-Virk case granted today a defence application to produce the e-mails of 15 MLAs and former MLAs, including Premier Gordon Campbell.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett's ruled that any e-mails are likely relevant involving contact with the government and the Pilothouse lobbying firm between Jan. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2004.

The defence still has an outstanding application for disclosure of the premier's executive branch records, which will continue to be argued when the case resumes July 16 in B.C. Supreme Court.

"I have no idea how long it will take to get the records," the judge said Tuesday after making her ruling. "I guess it would take a month anyway."

Outside court, defence lawyer Michael Bolton said: "Overall, the defence is pleased."

He didn't know the volume of e-mails to be produced. "It could be huge," he said.

It was only the first stage of the third-party records application, which will continue Aug. 21, when lawyers for former and current MLAs can argue the issue of privacy rights.

The defence also will make an application July 20 for the judge, who was recently appointed to the B.C. Court of Appeal, to continue to sit as the trial judge.

The special prosecutor wants a new trial judge appointed as soon as possible.

A ruling made by Bennett last year in the Basi-Virk trial was appealed in April to the Supreme Court of Canada, which reserved judgment.

During her ruling Tuesday, Bennett said former deputy premier Christy Clark was served notice of the defence application but did not respond, so the judge assumes Clark is not asserting any privilege over her e-mails.

The judge pointed out that an e-mail already disclosed said Clark had contact with Erik Bornmann, one of the principals of the Pilothouse lobbying firm that was representing OmniTrax while it was bidding on the privatization sale of BC Rail in 2003.

{Snip} ...

The defence has also filed an application to seek the e-mails of the premier and cabinet ministers concerning the BC Rail sale.

A government lawyer told the court earlier this month that those emails may have been purged by the government's computer system.

Filed in court was an affidavit by Rosemarie Hayes, manager of the government's e-mail system, who said e-mails cannot be retrieved after 13 months.

The defence was shocked by the revelation but takes the position that the e-mails might still exist. The defence will likely call witnesses to hear how thousands of government e-mails could disappear.

nhall@vancouversun.com

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Vanished e-mails undermine trial

Editorial
TIMES COLONIST - JUNE 25, 2009


The apparent loss of four years of provincial cabinet e-mails strikes a blow at any notion that the B.C. Liberals see the need to be accountable for their actions. {Snip} ...

That e-mails written by cabinet ministers on key issues could have been deleted is almost unbelievable. The government has an obligation, after all, to retain important records. To that end, it backs up its electronic data, including e-mails, on servers housed in at least two locations in Greater Victoria.

If these cabinet e-mails are truly gone, that means there was a concerted effort to get rid of them. And that effort would have been made after the legislature raid and after the three men were charged. It would be hard to imagine that cabinet ministers did not discuss the central issue in the case, the $1-billion sale of B.C. Rail to Canadian National, either before or after the raid. {Snip} ...

Campbell says that all records that should have been kept under government laws, have been retained.

That provides no consolation, because the potential value of these records should have been noted by the government. Preserving them, rather than destroying them, should have been the priority. {Snip} ...

... cabinet e-mails reflect the reasoning of the most powerful people in the provincial government. These documents could have provided valuable background information that would give context for the actions of ministers. They could have made a huge difference in the court case as well. {Snip} ...

If cabinet communications, especially those potentially relevant to an ongoing criminal case, are not deemed worthy of retention, what is? And, more importantly, what else has been electronically shredded by the Campbell administration?

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Comments:
Happy Canada Day, Mary!
I read this Neal Hall article in the Sun last night, and I posted a comment. There had already been one comment posted. I searched for the same article today and found it with some difficulty. The editors at the Vancouver Sun (online version) didn't make it easy to find when I first looked for info related to this specific story; and they made it even harder to find today. When I did find it, I found all comments had been removed from it - my polite and factual comment had never gotten past the editors. I note that this often seems to be the case with the way they publish just about any of the "Bad for Campbell" stories.
 
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