Tuesday, June 30, 2009

 

Robin Mathews: June 30, 2009 in Courtroom 43

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The ruling on the broad MLA materials disclosure application by Defence was handed down today in Courtroom 43 by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett before ten lawyers and six or seven in the gallery.

Defence expressed general satisfaction with the outcome.

That in the midst of what the press appears to believe is a deepening of suspicion that Gordon Campbell is living his own "Watergate". Well-informed BC Rail Scandal journalist, Bill Tieleman, writes that the "parallels between the actions of the Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberal government and the Richard Nixon White House are becoming increasingly, disturbingly clear." (24 Hours, June 30).

Mark Hume,(Globe and Mail, June 30 09 S2) reports the request by NDP MLA Leonard Krog for an "independent and public investigation to determine the reasons for the disappearance of ...e-mails" that a government lawyer has just reported "disappeared" in the face of clear retention protocols and laws.

This morning, as if the e-mails are existent, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled that in all cases where materials are related to lobbyists connected to Pilothouse, and those clearly connected to the allegations of fraud and breach of trust, documents are obviously relevant - not excluding those generated by Gordon Campbell.

That includes the Northern Caucus of MLAs, Gary Collins, Christy Clark, and others.

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, however, appeared to draw a circle around Gordon Campbell, premier, and to suggest that apart from the potential connection stated, other relevance of his e-mails seems doubtful. The premier's materials, she ruled, with the exception of connection to Pilothouse, are not relevant.

The ruling today covered only the e-mail accounts of MLAs. Argument about the e-mail accounts of Gordon Campbell as premier and of the premier's office will be made by George Copley, lawyer for the Executive Council (premier and cabinet) and the Defence beginning on July 16 - Madam Justice Bennett to rule on relevance by July 20.

Postponed - perhaps until August - is the argument on the motion that Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett be removed, and replaced as trial judge. The Crown argues that she has been promoted to the Appeals Court and should go. Defence argues that she has - for three years - been "seized" with the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter and cannot simply leave. Crown argues she is not "seized". The term usually means that the judge sitting has taken into his or her (almost) "ownership and responsibility" all matters related to the charges levelled against the accused. And there is every reason (I believe) - especially because of the number of applications for disclosure and decisions she has had to make - to say that she is, indeed, "seized" with the Basi, Virk, and Basi matters.

Moreover, the motion to have her removed might be seen by many to be on a parallel with the "disappearance" of four years of MLA and cabinet e-mails - a convenience that is altogether too fortuitous to be accidental. Michael Bolton for the Defence, outside the court, reiterated his belief that the person to rule on the motion for her removal is Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett herself.

Her decision, when it comes, I believe will say volumes about "the interests" being served in the whole BC Rail Scandal. Many believe the RCMP has shown itself so biased in the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter as to be almost without credibility. The Crown seems, to some at least, to have been too ready to observe delays in disclosure with passivity and, perhaps, to further the delays.

No one who I know or have spoken to (those well informed) seems to believe that the case has been pursued with determination and efficiency. I have observed from time to time what I believed was a failure of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett to require timely and expeditious response to disclosure requirements.

Delay in the past has been "arguable". The so-called loss of four years of MLA e-mails cannot be placed in that category, nor (I suggest) can the motion to remove Madam Justice Bennett. They appear to me to be wide open signs of fear and near-panic among the Gordon Campbell forces. That, I believe, is why Bill Tieleman writes about Gordon Campbell's own "Watergate".

History, however, doesn't usually repeat itself. Gordon Campbel sold off BC Rail against all odds (and promises). He has managed to keep important terms of the sale secret from the people of B.C. for years. On July 14 there is every likelihood that he will alienate more of the BC people's assets to CN Rail - probably in secret, without intervention of the Opposition or anyone else.

I am saying: "Don't count Gordon Campbell out." Someone as willing as he is to manipulate, violate, and besmirch democratic protocols and procedures may still have considerable rope to pay out before he hangs himself.

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