Tuesday, September 21, 2010
BC Rail Political Corruption Trial: Sept. 21, 2010
Morning in Courtroom 54.
By Robin Mathews
September 21, 2010
Being in the courtroom frequently, a person can begin to forget what the reaction of other Canadians would be to activity there. A person gets used to the formalities - rising for the judge and jury, the fine points of procedure (and behaviour) argued at length. When the father of one of the prosecuting team spoke a few words to a jury member on a skytrain platform, the (possible) implications took a few days of court time to iron out.
Mr. Brian Kenning, a recent director and Chair of the Evaluation Committee of the Board of BC Rail, is in his fifth day of cross-examination. He doesn’t seem to be very comfortable. Being cross-examined is not a picnic.
Nonetheless, it is easy to miss the big picture – and, sometimes – the lawyers miss the big picture, too, it seems. Mr. Kenning was in a major position of trust, on the Board of Directors of a huge Crown Corporation. He was appointed by the new Gordon Campbell government in 2001. (And the gossip – fiercely denied – is that the board was chosen to dump BC Rail with all haste into the hands of the CNR.)
Indeed, this morning in testimony, Mr. McCullough, for the Defence, elicited from Mr. Kenning that Pat Bell a Northern MLA had made the allegation when the bidding for BC Rail was in process that Mr. Kenning was saying that CN would get BC Rail. Mr. Kenning denied the allegation. Mr. Virk, too, Mr. McCullough said had spoken to Mr. Kenning about the possible problem of his bias. Mr. Kenning remembered discussing the Pat Bell allegations with Mr. John McLernon, but remembered nothing about Mr. Virk.
Mr. McCullough asked why Mr. Kenning took so long to come round to remembering the Pat Bell event. Such a question might be asked frequently.
Mr. Kenning, as I have written already, forgets a great deal.
It is possible, sitting in the court, to become absorbed in close details – like the revelation that many, many people had not signed confidentiality papers about the BC Rail transfer to private ownership. Many who had access to computers and offices had not signed confidentiality papers. The point being made by Defence is that sources of leaks were widely potential and are not easy to find – though sometimes they can be found.
Those are the face-to-the-glass details one sees easily.
Much more difficult to see is that Mr. Kenning was in – as I say – a position of great trust on the Board of BC Rail. He was acting for all the people of British Columbia who needed to have their assets under impeccable stewardship. But he told Defence counsel – as I understood him – that the Board of Directors and the Evaluation Committee (of which he was chair) listened to the recommendations of ‘management’ without questioning them and demanding hard responses. They made no key decisions on the “sale” of BC Rail and did not intervene in negotiations the Campbell government was having with bidders and buyers.
In fact, only months after his appointment to the Board, Mr. Kenning joined the rest in recommending BC Rail be privatized, be handed it away from ownership by British Columbians.
Mr. Kenning and the other members of the Board of Directors didn’t, seemingly, question anything. Guardians of a major asset of British Columbians, the directors didn’t even question the enormous interest of 9% on the tax loss revenues that might at some time fall as a debt on the shoulders of B.C. taxpayers!
If there were discussions of sale matters by the directors or the Evaluation Committee of BC Rail (of which he was chair), Mr. Kenning cannot remember any of them. A Board of Directors of a Crown Corporation exerting no oversight over sale, making no interventions, asking no questions, simply ‘taking orders’ from ‘management’ and ‘government’ has no reason to remember … anything.
But British Columbians have many, many questions to ask. Argument grows that the transfer of BC Rail to CNR was corruptly engaged in. More and more people believe that the timeline of ‘sale’ properly seen began the first day Gordon Campbell took office (or earlier), that all BC Rail appointments from the beginning were made to assure BC Rail would be privatized – and to CNR … and that all other explanations are so much spin and disinformation. And, it happens, “all the other explanations” are those of the (mostly) major figures involved in dumping BC Rail on CNR.
If the growing sentiment has roots in the truth of the matter, then other questions arise. Were the directors of BC Rail in Breach of Trust? And if they were, was it Criminal Breach of Trust? And were (and are) others who manipulated the transfer of BC Rail to CNR (if the transfer was done illegitimately) also in Breach of Trust, in Criminal Breach of Trust?
No one says that kind of thing in Courtroom 54, as day after day after day drags out in the trial of three Order in Council appointed aides: Basi, Virk, and Basi. The trial has to be – because of the history of the BC Rail Scandal – about their guilt or innocence. No other people in the whole seamy dumping of BC Rail have ever been charged. Perhaps a trial should be about the guilt or innocence of Gordon Campbell and his associates in the transfer of BC Rail - not excluding the Board of Directors of BC Rail.
That is why I have asked RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass to undertake a criminal investigation of Gordon Campbell and his associates in the “sale” of BC Rail – to clear the air for once and for all. Mr. Bass refuses to undertake such an investigation.
Ex-B.C. Rail board member accused of bias offered to resign
BC Rail executives had incentives to get large bonuses if railway was sold, trial hears
By Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun - Sept. 21, 2010
... Kenning explained that once executives get a whiff of a company being sold, they get concerned about the future and start looking for other jobs.
To retain the key employees at BC Rail, Kenning recalled, the executives signed retention and severance agreements on Jan. 1, 2002. (The government announced the BC Rail sale Nov. 25, 2003.)
The agreements included a retention bonus of 12 months of salary, a 12-month severance bonus, plus a change-of-carrier bonus, which in total amounted to 28 months of salary.
McCullough questioned why a BC Rail vice-president, Kevin Mahoney, would be offered a 28-month severance package only 10 months after the railway had hired him ...
The Real Story - Sept. 21, 2010
McCullough asked Mr. Kenning the obvious question. Did the evaluation committee – which Kenning sat on – evaluate the three final bids in light of this taxation deal with CN. In other words, if CN gets paid back $900 million was CN’s bid still the best bid?
And Kenning said “no.” The Evaluation Committee did no due diligence on the tax deal when assessing the bids.
But wasn’t it the evaluation committee’s job to evaluate the bids, you ask? Well “no”, said Kenning. Because the tax deal was negotiated by the government after the Evaluation Committee made its recommendation...
Read more HERE.
Did, perchance the matter of when Mr. Bell allegedly voiced his concern to Mr. Kenning.
I ask given the recent timeline I have assembled over at my place.
A gentle reminder of my reaction as an "other Canadian" is choleric, angry. And I allow that anger to manifest fully by reading your articles, BC Mary's comments etc. I share the information with friends, family and work colleagues. Sometimes I try to dig a little to understand something about the gap between a persons words, their actions and the title they hold especially if the title is to denote trustworthiness. I find myself becoming increasingly interested in the objective to clearly de-fund the public trust, the public purse and wonder how a presumably self conscious person or person's knowingly commits such acts of deceitfulness. The fact that Mr. Kenning was collecting funds after the transfer is absolutely contemptuous. This is disgraceful. His actions do not merit trust but a choleric contempt for his obvious lack of honour or integrity. This is the slumdog class of our current provincial liberal politicians. Such is my reaction to the BC Rail corruption trial however my reactions have become habitual actions to learn more about how our government is supposed to function. Thank you for all that all of you have done to keep us informed. I hope that I may repay the debt someday.
Reading your posting, it is I who wish to thank you. You have expressed exactly what I am doing, feeling and thinking. I suspect you speak for a growing number of people who are waking up to an awful reality, and shaking off the shackles that slumber imposes.