Saturday, July 24, 2010

 

If only the BC Rail story had begun this way ...

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Toronto Star is, in my view, the best newspaper in Canada; also the most generous. I couldn't help thinking, as I read this "breaking news" (dated July 19, 2010) on the Ontario Provincial Police action raiding certain Ontario provincial government offices, how much it would have helped in British Columbia, if West Coast media had behaved this way at the time of our big, unprecedented raid on the two offices in our BC Legislature. That was back in December 2003 and we're still waiting ...

We would surely have received better attention, I think, if BC media had done their job. The shocking issue of police raiding a parliament wouldn't have been left, unconsidered (or so it seemed), until concerned citizens set up their own news services, as best we could.

Toronto Star isn't perfect; but it does occupy a special place in this picture. As Canada's largest newspaper, its pages are freely accessible (no fees involved) by all who want to read their news reports.

A wee bit like the bloggers.

OPP probing corruption by staff in at least three ministries

Civil servants escorted from buildings in raids and investigation of bid rigging, bribery and corruption on contracts

Toronto Star - Published On Monday July 19, 2010


Kevin Donovan
Tony Van Alphen   Robert Benzie Staff Reporter
 
Police are investigating staff of at least three Ontario government departments including the Ministry of Community and Social Services in a widening corruption scandal. The ministries of Energy and Infrastructure and Children and Youth services are among the other targets of the Ontario Provincial Police probe that broke open publicly last week with raids on a block of buildings steps from the Legislature, sources told the Star on Monday. Sources said the government escorted an undisclosed number of employees from the Ministry of Community and Social Services as part of the execution of search and seizure warrants in the vast complex known as the Macdonald block at the corner of Bay and Wellesley. Officers also raided the home of one senior manager in that ministry. One area of the OPP’s focus is that ministry’s “capital and accommodation services” branch, which is responsible for strategic planning, project management and dealing with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. That ministry includes Ontario Realty Corp., which sells and manages provincial lands and buildings. Ontario Realty Corp. selected Toronto-based CB Richard Ellis Canada, a major commercial real estate company, to handle all its responsibilities last year. At that time, it inherited several hundred employees working on government contracts. In March, the Star asked Ontario Realty Corp. about former and current managers allegedly receiving benefits such as home renovations in return for government contracts. At that time, Ontario Realty spokesperson Bill Moore said those allegations of “suspicious procurement practices” were under investigation. It is unclear whether the current raids have any connection to the earlier probe. John O’Bryan, vice-chairman of CB Richard Ellis, would not comment on any allegations against company staff that might be subject of the investigation. Contractors, who regularly deal with the government, have complained to provincial officials during the last two years about competitors gaining unusual favourable attention in winning work. The OPP has said the ongoing investigation involves “irregular transactions” between government staff and outside contractors but has offered few other details. OPP spokespersons said the force has not arrested or charged anyone yet in the probe. “We do not want to release any further information at this time because it could jeopardize an ongoing investigation,” said Sgt. Pierre Chamberland. Despite calls from opposition politicians, government officials would not confirm any suspensions or firings of staff or other information in connection with the probe of alleged bid rigging, kickbacks and fraud. “The OPP is conducting an investigation that concerns some individuals in the Ontario government,” said Michael Patton, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government Services. “Since the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to speculate or provide further comment at this time, At the same time, we are fully cooperating in the investigation.” Other government officials have stressed that no politicians or their aides are under investigation. [Voice from B.C. asks: "If not, why not?" At Queen’s Park, opposition politicians pressed Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals for more disclosure on the investigation. “This is the time for either the premier or one of the ministers to come forward and to reassure the public and those working in the public service who have all been tarred with the same brush about what the realities are,” said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. Hudak said Ontarians don’t know which public departments or agencies are under investigation since the Macdonald block houses offices for 13 ministries The secrecy is also tainting hundreds of public servants and contractors, he noted. The Tory leader noted there are 13 ministries and agencies — including the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the Ontario Realty Corp., the government’s real estate arm — in the Macdonald Block. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was troubled by the silence from a Liberal government already under fire for excessive secrecy surrounding questionable regulatory changes before last month’s G20 summit of world leaders. “This ongoing criminal investigation is extremely disconcerting and casts an unfortunate cloud over all provincial government operations,” she said.
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BC Mary says: Sorry about the formatting problem ... I've gone through this posting about 15 times trying to get rid of that Google ad., and twice more, inserting paragraph spaces ... no luck on either of them. Dang! I think it's a good report and I would keep on trying if I thought it would do any good. Sigh. I hope readers don't miss the story on that account.   
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July 26 update: It was the Ontario Ministry of Transportation that was raided by O.P.P. And now it's starting to sound more familiar ...
Click HERE for the story.
http://ottawa.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100726/OTT_Transport_Raid_100726/20100726/?hub=OttawaHome
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Comments:
http://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/article/838197--opp-targets-bloor-st-project

OPP targets Bloor St. project
Yorkville building part of government probe

Not sure if this link has been posted, but it gives specifics, names.

With the paint barely dry on the walls, 101 Bloor St. W. project manager Tony Lazzaro was escorted out of his nearby government office last Thursday.

The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating Lazzaro, other government officials and some contractors in relation to the project.

The 14-floor building — with ground-floor commercial tenants Cole Haan and Royal De Versailles — has been home to government offices for many years. Last year, the province decided to consolidate the offices of several ministries and launched a massive renovation of at least five floors.

Detectives are probing what police have called “irregular transactions” between government staffers and private contractors.

Police are looking into a number of projects, including the Yorkville building. Longtime civil servant Lazzaro was put in charge of the project. It is unclear how much of the work was tendered.

....
Much of the work was done or subcontracted by John Tsagaris, whose small company Royal Painting and Contracting has done numerous jobs for the Ontario Realty Corp., which manages government real estate.

On Tuesday, Tsagaris told the Star he has heard that he and Lazzaro are under investigation.

“Sure I have heard some stuff but I don't know what (police) are looking for,” Tsagaris said in a brief interview Tuesday.

“The bottom line is I have nothing to say.”

Previously, Tsagaris had done work with ORC project manager John Cursio, who left the ORC three years ago under a cloud of suspicion over his dealings with Royal Painting and Contracting and other contractors.

A previous Star investigation uncovered allegations that Cursio had improperly awarded contracts to Tsagaris, and an ORC spokesman in March said the OPP was continuing to investigate these matters.
 
Notice how the RCMP are NOT involved.
 
Many thanks, E.M., your findings are always interesting.


Watchingfromnextdoor ...

I did notice that, right from the first reports of trouble in the Ontario provincial govt. offices ...

and wondered if Ontario's provincial police are better organized, better guided, better suited to clean-up projects in their own province

or what.

Of course, it's early days. The O.P.P. haven't completed their investigations yet ... and if it starts to take YEARS, then I think Ontario's got troubles, same as BC's.

Looking back in history to the days when BC had a provincial police force of its own ... well, that didn't look too cheerful, either.
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I think it's about time, Canada has a purge. We need a leader strong enough, to stomp out the corruption in this, failing country. No more giving millions of our tax dollars to, banks, large corporations, gas and oil companies. They also get huge tax reductions, and, in some cases, the HST. They are bottomless pits. If a political party can't win without bribes, we don't want them. Can you imagine the squealing, if the big boys, had to pay their fair share? Harper, Iggy, Campbell and Hansen, each and every one of them, lied about the HST. We are sick of liars, deceivers, broken promises, wasting our tax dollars, on out and out foolishness. If I ever hear the words, Liberal party, in this country, I will leave.
 
Anonymous 1:25,

Here's what you'd be rejecting, if you went away angry:

History of the Liberal Party of Canada [Wikipedia]
19th century
Origins
See also: Rebellions of 1837
The Liberals are descended from the mid-19th century Reformers who agitated for responsible government throughout British North America. These included George Brown, Robert Baldwin, William Lyon Mackenzie and the Clear Grits in Upper Canada, Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia, and the Patriotes and Rouges in Lower Canada led by figures such as Louis-Joseph Papineau. The Clear Grits and Parti rouge sometimes functioned as a united bloc in the legislature of the Province of Canada beginning in 1854, and a united Liberal Party combining both English and French Canadian members was formed in 1861.
[edit]Confederation
At the time of confederation of the former British colonies of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the radical Liberals were marginalized by the more pragmatic Conservative coalition assembled under Sir John A. Macdonald. In the 29 years after Canadian confederation, the Liberals were consigned to opposition, with the exception of one stint in government. Alexander Mackenzie was able to lead the party to power in 1873 after the Macdonald government lost a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons because of the Pacific Scandal. Mackenzie subsequently won the 1874 election, but lost the government to Macdonald in 1878. They spent the next 18 years in opposition.
[continued]
 
[cont'd.]


Sir Wilfrid Laurier
In their early history, the Liberals were the party of continentalism (free trade with the United States), and opposition to imperialism. The Liberals also became identified with the aspirations of Quebecers as a result of the growing hostility of French-Canadians to the Conservatives. The Conservatives lost the support of Quebecers because of the perceived role of Conservative governments in the execution of Louis Riel and their role in the Conscription crisis of 1917.
It was not until Wilfrid Laurier became leader that the Liberal Party emerged as a modern party. Laurier was able to capitalize on the Tories' apparent alienation of French Canada by offering the Liberals as a credible alternative. Laurier was able to overcome the party's reputation for anti-clericalism that offended the still-powerful Quebec Roman Catholic Church. In English-speaking Canada, the Liberal Party's support for free trade made it popular among farmers, and helped cement the party's hold in the growing prairie provinces.
Laurier led the Liberals to power in the 1896 election (in which he became the first Francophone Prime Minister), and oversaw a government that increased immigration in order to settle Western Canada. Laurier's government created the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta out of the North-West Territories, and promoted the development of Canadian industry.
[edit]20th century
[edit]Canadian sovereignty


William Lyon Mackenzie King
Under Laurier, and his successor William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Liberals promoted Canadian sovereignty and greater independence from the British Empire. In Imperial Conferences held throughout the 1920s, Canadian Liberal governments often took the lead in arguing that the United Kingdom and the dominions should have equal status, and against proposals for an imperial parliament that would have subsumed Canadian independence. After the King-Byng Affair of 1926, the Liberals argued that the Governor General of Canada should no longer be appointed on the recommendation of the British government. The decisions of the Imperial Conferences were formalized in the Statute of Westminster, which was actually passed in 1931, the year after the Liberals lost power.
The Liberals also promoted the idea of Canada being responsible for its own foreign and defence policy. Initially, it was Britain which determined external affairs for the dominion. In 1905, Laurier created the Department of External Affairs, and in 1909 he advised Governor General Earl Grey to appoint the first Secretary of State for External Affairs to Cabinet. It was also Laurier who first proposed the creation of a Canadian Navy in 1910. Mackenzie King recommended the appointment by Governor General Lord Byng of Vincent Massey as the first Canadian ambassador to Washington in 1926, marking the Liberal government's insistence on having direct relations with the United States, rather than having Britain act on Canada's behalf.
[edit]Liberals and the social safety net


Lester B. Pearson
In the period just before and after the Second World War, the party became a champion of 'progressive social policy'.[2]
As Prime Minister for most of the time between 1921 and 1948, King introduced several measures that led to the creation of Canada's social safety net. Bowing to popular pressure, he introduced the mother's allowance, a monthly payment to all mothers with young children. He also reluctantly introduced old age pensions when J. S. Woodsworth required it in exchange for his Co-operative Commonwealth Federation party's support of King's minority government. Later, Lester B. Pearson introduced universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, Canada Student Loans, and the Canada Assistance Plan (which provided funding for provincial welfare programs).
 
Etc.

I had a bit of trouble with formatting this, too, so I hope you'll look up rest of Wikipedia's explanation of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Not such a shabby history, would you say?
 
... but, on the other hand, if you meant the BC Liberal Party once Gordon Campbell got control over it,

that's a whole other sad, awful story. But leaving that bozo a free hand to continue doing as HE pleases, inflicting more damage, isn't the best answer either.
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My, my. Did Fadden, from the CSIS, ever call it right. BC and Ontario. I wonder where Harper fits in? The HST, was just a little too pat, especially because, of the short time frame. Harper is also, doing his part, to make China's access, into Canada easier. Hence, the expanded rail yard, in Ashcroft, BC, is for China. Harper, Iggy, Campbell and Hansen, all lied about the HST. Campbell is selling out BC to China. I think, Fadden, fired a warning shot over the bow.
 
All party articles in Wikipedia are heavily vetted by party apparatchiks, despite Wikipedia guidelines against "conflict of interest" edits. Generally the national party articles are independently edited and kept neutral in tone; the BC Liberal Party article is a bit thin on the ground, and needs more expansion on various counts, but as with all else the history of BC is not quite the same as the history of Canada:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia_Liberal_Party

Needless to say, the last few sections need some major rewrites; over time I'd taken over some very blatant party propaganda but never did take the time to expand/cite a lot of important aspects to the "New Liberals"....too much work, too much bad taste in my mouth.....
 
Actually I thought you might find this interesting; I don't know who provided the write-up but I suspect there might be some pretty interesting, and oddly parallel, news stories to do with the PGE from the 1920s and the elections in question:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia_general_election,_1924#Campaign

Oliver died in 1927, with John Duncan MacLean of Greenwood, who had been Minister of Finance since 1924, succeeding him as Premier. I don't know the story, it doesn't seem as if MacLean led the party in the 1928 election, not in either Grand Forks-Greenwood or Yale, both of which he had represented - the Wikipedia page, possibly incorrect and certainly incomplete, lists him as incumbent Premier but he doesn't show up in any riding races as sourced from Elections BC:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia_general_election,_1928

He was beat by Tolmie, who didn't last long (as it wasn't just Grits who were "genetically corrupt").

And no, I don't know if that's the same MacLean family; it stands to reason the family of a former Premier, even an unelected one, would have a lot of clout in the party that put him there; but my previous impression is that "the CN MacLean" (McLean?) is from that of Mayor McLean, Vancouver's first.

A full history of corruption and politicking in relation to BC Rail has yet to be properly written. But consider that endemic corruption is implicit in the history of a rail line born in insider land grants and "license to print money"-type speculation (as was the Howe Sound and Northern and another few hundred railways chartered in the 1890s and early 1900s) and taken over as a political-economic rescue mission on behalf of a certain party's interest (the Tories, as it happened) and maintained that way by the other parties (the Grits and much later the NDP).....not just a political football, but a political sacred cow (as often commemorated as such by Len Norris); is it any wonder its machineries are those of insider influence and patronage? (a railway is by definition one of the main trading-pieces of pork barrel, also)

The transition from Tory control of the early Crown Corporation, from McBride through Bowser (another lame duck Premier like MacLean) to Brewster and Oliver and what the latter were accused of strikes me as interesting material, though I wouldn't know which sources are the best for it.....that period of BC history, particularly parliamentary history, I don't know well. Might be some editorials about railway corruption from that period could stand reprinting today, huh?

Some of George Murray's stumpings on the value of the railway, which he defended and sought to promote during his tenure as MLA for Lillooet, might be worth digging up, there must be some in Hansard; I know of his speechifying only by second-hand non-quote mentions in his daughter's book about him and Ma; and of course old Bridge River-Lillooet News editorials about the rail line are probably pretty juicy too (the Murrays also owned the first Squamish paper, and therein lies a tale too long to go into here).
 
Other than The Newspapering Murrays, another book which has interesting material on the railway is Pemberton: History of a Settlement I think it's called, by Frances Decker; one interesting aspect of local infrastructure in backwoods BC is that a lot of it was citizen-initiated, even citizen-financed; likewise Murray campaigned for road improvements to stand in lieu of taxes for ranchers and other settlers. The people of the Pemberton area only got government infrastructure funding and design support years after they built the local road and bridge infrastructure themselves; the same is true of Mission Mountain from Shalalth into the Bridge River Country. The railway likewise was built along the road grade established by the Lillooet Cattle Trail of the 1870s, which had undergone rebuilding by John Currie (namesake of Mount Currie( and his native in-laws.....Foley, Welch and Stewart had pretty nice roadbed pre-built and later upgraded for the route from Squamish to D'Arcy....the railway's origins, in other words, lay in trying to bring West Fraser and South Cariboo cattle to the coast, ten years before the CPR (i.e. in the 1870s)...and Pemberton cattle in the 1890s-1900s. Both efforts saw disastrous cattle drives and were complete economic failures, but the roadbed remained in use as a trail by locals and became that largely followed by the PGE (at a huge savings for the railway contractors FW&S). Parts of the original trail can still be found if you know where to look, though....
 
Skookum1,

Thanks a million for this huge chunk of BC history ... back later.

Thanks again!
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Just a postscript to that; the Lillooet Cattle Trail was the biggest boondoggle of the 1870s and the largest capital project in BC since the Cariboo Road; and was a fiasco and led to not a few resignations, including an epic Lillooet by-election. Dollar value in currency of the day was $7 million; usual multiplier is 40:1 - $280 million in today's dollars for a six-foot wide trail lined by white-painted rocks.....with a grade smooth enough for cattle (except for the pass into the upper Seymour, where "stairs" for the cattle were built...)

The route was inspected/considered by the CPR Survey of the same decade.
 
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