Friday, July 17, 2009

 

BC Rail: Time for Campbell & Co. to come clean

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No less than integrity of B.C. government at stake

The time for stonewalling is over. The political stench is just too great.

The Campbell government must come clean with British Columbians over yesterday's bombshell revelation that cabinet e-mails from the time of the so-called raid on the B.C. legislature in 2003 were ordered destroyed as recently as this May, during the provincial election campaign.

It should also release the full details of the divisive deal, finalized in 2004, to sell publicly owned B.C. Rail to CN Rail, despite a pledge not to privatize it. [Emphasis added. Couldn't help myself. - BC Mary.]

OK, the government will say, it can't comment on this entire issue because the criminal corruption trial against former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk continues to wind its way through the courts.

But for years now, let's face it, Campbell & Co. have been using the B.C. Supreme Court trial as a smokescreen, praying it won't interfere with their re-election plans -- and hoping the whole stinking mess will eventually just go away.

They can be forgiven for their optimism in this regard. The apparently interminable legal proceedings have already managed to become a poster boy for delays in B.C.'s criminal-friendly justice system.

No, we're not just talking about a little bit of sleaze here. The so-called Vasigate scandal involves the entire machinery of government, at its highest level.

If the allegations are true, it would make Bingogate, the Nanaimo-Commonwealth affair involving the New Democratic Party and the skimming of charity funds, look like small potatoes. And it continues to make the B.C. Liberal government look really bad, as if it had something truly shocking to hide.

CN Rail wound up paying $1 billion for B.C. Rail's freight operations. But who knows how much the fallout from the sale has really cost taxpayers? The legal costs alone must be staggering. So must be the damage to B.C.'s reputation.

Basi and Virk are accused of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly leaking confidential information about the B.C. Rail bidding process, in exchange for cash and other benefits. Their defence lawyers, however, believe that information contained in cabinet e-mails will show their clients were simply following orders.

And this is where things get weird. Last month, we learned from a government lawyer in court that e-mails from 2001 to 2005 could not be retrieved, since backup tapes were only kept for just over a year.

Now we learn via a court affidavit from government messaging director Rosemarie Hayes that backups of e-mails dating back before May 2004 remained -- at least until early this May.

In other words, they were ordered destroyed even as Gordon Campbell was battling to save his political hide.

As the NDP opposition points out, government rules require such records to be stored, if relevant to court and other official inquiries.

So these e-mails were clearly making some VIPs in Victoria extremely uncomfortable. And we should be told who gave the order to zap them.

We need, in fact, to know a whole trainload more about Vasigate, before the truth about this seemingly impenetrable scandal is buried in still more years of legal wrangling.

The integrity of our government in this province is at stake.

E-mail: jferry@theprovince.com

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The news is beginning to use its new legs. See the South Asian Observer HERE for another point of view.

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Comments:
I applaud John Ferry and the Province for releasing this opinion piece.

The time for writing this type of opinion piece has gone well-past its best before date. CanWest and the BC government must now vacate and clean the whole fridge because every surface has become toxic. The cold Stonewall of silence can no longer hold back the rotten stench. If CanWest and BC are to survive, the fridge-cleaning will require a public enquiry into both The BC Liberal government's and Can West's chains of commands. It is time for a public outing. CanWest has fiddled while BC has been burning!
 
Couldn't get the South Asian Observer link to work for me...could this be the one you were thinking of?

http://www.southasianobserver.com/south_asian_canadian_news.php?mid=2&cid=1628
 
Many thanks, 12:31:

I just checked the link I had (obtained off South Asian Observer's web-page) and it took me to a different page of their newspaper.

So, you found the story. Thanks again.
 
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