Saturday, December 18, 2010
Paul Willcocks: If British Columbians decide just to forget about this scandal, we'll have given up something as a society. Bravo, Paul ...
B.C. Rail scandal questions leave a stench
By Paul Willcocks
Times Colonist - December 17, 2010
The B.C. Rail scandal is back in the news, a good thing. New information from search warrants has been released thanks to a media application.
If British Columbians decide just to forget about this scandal, we'll have given up something as a society.
The issues are huge -- corruption tainting the sale of a public railway, broken promises, bribery to exert influence in two cabinet ministers' offices and a $6-million benefit to two offenders, at taxpayers' expense, that encouraged guilty pleas and stopped the trial.
This is like stuff from some sleazy California municipal government.
The new search warrant information is grim.
It hasn't been proved in court, but police swore that Eric Bornman, a lobbyist and political foot soldier, told them he started paying bribes to Dave Basi long before the B.C. Rail bribes.
The money was to pay for "his political support, his support in referring clients to my business and for assistance on client matters," Bornman said.
After the election, Gary Collins became finance minister, and Basi was named his political aide. Bornman was with Pilothouse Public Affairs, a lobbying firm. Both Bornman and Basi were political operatives, working in federal and provincial Liberal campaigns, particularly active in the federal ones.
Bornman says he paid Basi, and in return Basi steered lobbying clients his way. He also got special treatment for the people who paid Pilothouse to influence government and "political support."
There is a serious stench about this. Companies or individuals have a concern about government policy. They raise it and are told it might be wise to hire a specific lobbyist. The lobby firm pays a bribe to help get the problem solved.
Why wasn't Bornman charged with bribery or tax fraud, since he told police he paid less in taxes because he made the bribes look like a legitimate business expense?
Who decided the people who took the bribes were a more important target than those who paid them?
And how much effort was spent ensuring these practices weren't more common?
The search warrants include the claim Basi had bank deposits that showed unexplained income of $870,000 between 2000 and 2004. Defence lawyers say the Crown's expert showed the real unexplained amount was $112,000.
But that's much more than bribes paid by Bornman and capital region developers wanting Basi's influence getting land out of the agricultural land reserve.
Who else paid and benefited?
The warrants also reveal that Brian Kieran, a principal in Pilothouse, paid Basi $3,000 in cash. Basi and Bobby Virk, political aide to then transport minister Judith Reid, took a free trip to an NFL game in Denver, thanks to OmniTrax, a bidder for B.C. Rail. They paid for their airplane tickets to make it look legit, the warrants say, and Kieran came through with cash so no one would know about the freebie. He billed the client.
It's all sordid and corrupt. At least some people paid money and got special treatment and favours from government. It mattered who you could pay and who you knew.
The important question is whether these are aberrations, or symptoms of an unhealthy relationship between people who float back and forth between lobbying, campaigns and political jobs in government.
And British Columbians really can't know, based on the information that is available. They know, for example, that a police search found Bruce Clark, a federal Liberal activist, lobbyist and B.C. leadership candidate Christy Clark's brother, had B.C. Rail sale documents "improperly disclosed" by Basi and Virk.
Clark was working for the Washington Marine Group, which was interested in buying the B.C. Rail line to the Roberts Bank superport.
But how did he get the information, and what did he do with it? Those facts have never been revealed.
The Liberals would like people to forget about the scandal. To do that, without more answers, would be to say that British Columbians are comfortable with the threat of government corruption.
"And how much effort was spent ensuring these practices weren't more common?"
ROTFL. It's more like "and how much effort was spent ensuring nothing would be found out about how common these practices are".
I remember after the raids, the pundits and the pop-up consultants were saying "but this is the way business is done" and "where will it stop? Government and business cant' function together without such arrangements" etc. In fact, one of those pundits might have been Paul Willcocks. There were certainly a lot of talking heads, all trying to help paper over the situation and express dismay that the case might disrupt the cozy relationship between "the businessmen's party" and "the businessmen".
It's bizarre to read an account of the overboiling stew of BC Rail eye of newt and toe of frog witches' broth that doesn't mention CN, doesn't mention Kinsella, doesn't mention Campbell, doesn't mention David McLean. And really only talks about Basi, Bornmann, Kieran and, as if almost in passing, Bruce and Christy Clark.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, "if OmniTRAX paid $120,000 just to stay in the running, what did CN pay to come in first place?"
Willcocks doesn't mention once what's widely known - that the main sale, never mind the bollocks of the WMG and OmniTRAX arrangements, was a rigged bidding process distasteful to the other big player railways. That CN bankrolled Campbell's ambushing of the Liberal Party in the mid-90s, that they bankrolled the scorched-earth 2001 election.
Willcocks talks about $6 million as if it's a lot of money, relative to the much vaster scam it's just dandruff too. To me, this article smacks of the same kind of junk we see from the Anonymeese, wanting to focus the controversy on Basi, and Bornmann, and to avoid discussion of elected officials, keeping them out of the way of both public attention and prosecution. It has PAB written all over it, despite appearing to be "on the attack"....it's an attempt to keep the controversy focussed on the visible, and to keep the larger facts even more hidden and passed over than ever.
It's not as if Basi pioneered the system that he took part in, and it's not as if he was alone in doing the kinds of things he did. Who taught him? Who showed him "this is the normal way of doing business"? "This is the way government/politics runs". Them that has the money makes the rules, etc.
Also given Mike McDonald's and Patrick Kinsella's association with the Christy Clark campaign, and that these, er, gentlemen, helped oversee and took part in the "dirty tricks" of the Martin and Campbell leadership and election races - that they are cut from the same political cloth as Basi - is something of course the media, even on the attack, give a wide berth to. That the Liberals are having a membership drive while the NDP have a 90-day lockdown on membership, re their leadership conventions, is suggestive of the bulk signups of the Martin and Campbell campaigns - in which Basi was not alone in contriving, and which were masterminded by a certain federal organizer now not connected by marriage to Clark's campaign, and whose name you also won't see often in BC Rail-related copy.
Willcocks is right in asking who decided who took the bribes are more important than those who paid them. And if WMG's purchase of the Roberts Bank line was tainted, why wasn't Bruce Clark charged for his role in that? Why wasn't WMG investigated? Having a consultant who was the Deputy Premier's brother was clever, but exactly what did he do for them? Why, if OmniTRAX was even investigated, why weren't they charged for offering a benefit?
But these are all bit-players. The fat lady in this opera is CN, and the "abduction from the seraglio" of the BCR. Willcocks' article is among a tide of pieces which I think are meant to steer the public enquiry concept solely towards the details of the one transaction, and not the larger context which is far more serious. In a way, it's reminiscent of Crown's behaviour in the trial, and of the PABsters, wanting to keep attention on Basi and Bornmann, and off everybody else - an "everybody else" who were, as Defence was trying to prove, their political masters and where the orders were coming from.
Did OmniTRAX break US trade laws by squiring junior government officials to come see a football game and have some drinks? Maybe....but why haven't US authorities acted on this?
And c'mon, how many perks has CN given all kinds of Liberals (in addition to those huge campaign contributions). And where's that story again, about Campbell, Kinsella and McLean hanging out during the thick of the so-called bidding process?
And speaking of tax fraud, those tax indemnities in the BC Rail deal, those stink to high heaven and given the origin of the deal in a insider-influenced bidding process, the paperwork should be looked at closely....if only we knew where the paperwork was, i.e. what the contracts actually are.
I note the news item about Hydro and the IPPs and the mutual non-disclosure agreement about rates and other terms. "here's this huge deal, but you're not allowed to tell anyone what it's worth". Why it's called an "Open" Power Call if it's built so much out of secrets is anyone's guess, but the idea is the same with the BC Rail contracts that nobody seems to know the full details, or consequences of.
They're even more secret, it seems, than anything that was under publication ban or in a sealed warrant.
That those warrants were selective and only targeted certain people, as decided by a Special Prosecutor who was illegally appointed as being too close to the government and the Ministry of the A-G....that those few warrants were politically-defined, that's also of interest to a public inquiry.
Raking over the coals of Basi's relatively petty misdeeds while keeping the big logs out of the fire is what I see the MSM doing right now....scapegoating Basi as smokescreen for the greater misdeeds of those above him.
- who taught basi how to set up a grow op in Shawngan Lake?
- who taught basi how to take bribes from developers?
- who taight basi how to take bribes from Omnitrax?
WHO WHO WHO TAUGHT BASI?, DEMANDS SKOOKUM.
No one. Had be been "taught" maybe he wouldnt have gotten caught on all of the above (and more, for all we know).
Also, methinks Christy Clark must have a hole in her head, parading with Ida "Lets-do-lunch" Chong, which imo amounts to self-sabatoge at its finest.
Chong, vilified by just about every man woman and child for her apparent exessive lunches-at-the taxpayer-trough saga. And Clark cozies up to that, tells the public, I am okay with this, Chong, and the current way of governing.
Clark says NO to inquiry.
Clark is daft, if not doomer to failure.
On the one hand, Willocks writes rather well in this piece--it's clear and concise, as far as it goes; and he hits some nice opening notes.
But, on the other hand, Skookum1 is absolutely and totally correct--after all these years, we're still being sold a limited hang-out of a few minor players, while the real powers are being left out of the picture on purpose.
The problem is that we are up against an immensely powerful international crime syndicate, one which is replete with psychopaths, vast material resources, and legions of sycophantic loyalists only too willing to work for ill whenever necessary.
My sense is that the good people who actually care enough to make things right are few. And it's going to take some sort of divine intervention for the truth to prevail and righteousness to return.
Failing that sort of providence, however, then, i'm afraid we're going to be taken from this twilight of democracy and dragged ever further down into the full darkness of tyranny.
Hope i'm wrong and all will be well.
We've been had, and we're being had still, and there are plenty of helpmates in the media who knowingly or simple-mindedly play the pawns for the power mongers and robber barons. The media play an essential role, more important than PAB. The media are the enablers.
When all is said and done, I blame the enablers, not the crooks. Without the enablers, the crooks wouldn't be getting away with this.
I'm embarrassed to call British Columbia home, so stupid and complacent are it's people. I expect flack for that comment, and I know full well there are many concerned people who are wanting to do something or taking action already. But in general in our society NO ONE WILL SPEAK UP, and that's at the heart of my embarrassment, even shame, about being a citizen of British Columbia. Carol James and the NDP are just one example of that. They are enablers just as the media are.
The media are more than enablers though. They are the gatekeepers, experts at keeping from the public what the public needs to know. That's the last of the rot in our society. We've already lost any respect for the police and the courts and the lawyers and the politicians. The media were our last hope of a civil society. If we can't turn this corrupt society around, we're headed for a very, very ugly period. It's happened in other countries. No reason why BC will be any different.
Skookum, your postings are vital lifelines. More please.
I couldn't agree more ... and I actually like the idea of speaking with one voice,
taking the discussion forward instead of sideways.
We, the citizens (from near and far) have work to do.
Happy New Year!
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