Thursday, November 30, 2006


Paul Martin's B.C. boys are busy again


Key BC Liberals helped Paul Martin overthrow Jean Chrétien and take control of the party. Now many have joined another team.

By Bill Tieleman - Nov. 30/2006

Canada's bloodless coup -- the one that saw a Liberal prime minister who won majorities in three successive elections deposed by his chief rival -- took place thanks to some tough organizing, thuggish behaviour and a ruthless rejection of compromise.

By the time Paul Martin had become prime minister, evicting Jean Chrétien from 24 Sussex Drive, the field of battle had been littered with the political bodies of those who stood in his way.

British Columbia was a key province in the Martinites' war for control and his lieutenants here were bloody-minded in the extreme.

Now that the Martin regime has collapsed and a new Liberal leader is about to be chosen, where are those lieutenants now? Which leadership candidates are they now giving whispered advice and organizational muscle? And are there any echoes of the Martin effort to dethrone Chrétien? ...

.... So far, the dirty tricks and malevolent manoeuvres haven't sunk quite that low. But the public drubbing of Mason Loh, the B.C. chair for former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae's campaign, by the forces of Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal front-runner, certainly set the tone ....

Here's where the major Liberal players have landed on the new leadership game board:

Mark Marissen

He was Martin's top lieutenant here and half of what was once B.C.'s top power couple. His wife, Christy Clark, is a former deputy premier to the B.C. Liberals' Gordon Campbell.

Marissen is now the organizational brains behind Stephane Dion, who came fourth in the first round of delegate selection, but could be the eventual winner of a multi-ballot battle royale on Saturday, Dec. 2.

As Dion's National Campaign Director, Marissen is trying to regain past glory and show that he is no one-trick Martin pony.

Alex Tsakumis is no friend of Marissen or Clark -- whom he strongly opposed in her run for the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association nomination for mayor against Sam Sullivan in 2005.

In fact, he claimed in an April memo to NPA members that: "Mr. Marissen's ego can't handle how they blew it against Sam, so here they are with an effort to lay the groundwork to take over this board by 2007. All to save a spot for Christy in 2008. They destroyed the federal Liberal party and now they want to destroy the NPA. Should we let them?" But Tsakumis has apparently mellowed out. He more recently says that Marissen is "arguably the best organizer in the country, across all parties."

Erik Bornman

Now the most controversial player in the game, Bornman is scheduled to testify early next year as the Crown's key witness against former friends David Basi and Bob Virk, the fired ministerial aides he is alleged by police to have bribed in exchange for confidential government information on the $1 billion B.C. Rail privatization.

Bornman, an amateur photographer, B.C. lobbyist and former Paul Martin aide, became known as "Spiderman" for his late 1990s break-in to B.C. party headquarters, where a federal membership list allegedly resided.

After completing a law degree at the University of B.C., Bornman headed to Toronto where he was articling with McCarthy Tetrault, the prestigious law firm that gave $118,000 to Paul Martin's leadership campaign. But media reports caused him to withdraw and he recently postponed a hearing by the Law Society of Upper Canada into his "good character" after a complaint was lodged against him in relation to the Basi and Virk case.

Bornman has not surfaced at any of the leadership campaigns, but his communications consultant and ex-Liberal staffer brother Roy Bornmann (Erik has spelled his name with alternatively one or two "n"s while Roy uses both) is a stalwart of the Ken Dryden campaign.

David Basi

Basi's hands are full trying to make a living while fighting charges of fraud, breach of trust and influence peddling related to the Dec. 28, 2003 police search of the B.C. legislature. Basi was also charged in April with additional counts of breach of trust over allegations of his involvement in efforts to remove land near Sooke from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

But Basi was previously one of Marissen's top soldiers in the Martin campaign while working as then-finance minister Gary Collins's ministerial assistant. In fact, Dhaliwal blamed Basi personally for the takeover of his riding association.

"I was quite concerned that people from Victoria were involved in meddling in my riding," Dhaliwal told Burnaby Now. "I was the senior minister for B.C. who was working closely with the premier, and they had their own political staff trying to undermine me. I find that incredible."

Basi's cousin Aneal Basi, charged with money laundering, is also a federal Liberal Party donor and supporter.

Neither Basi has been officially linked to any current leadership candidate, but David Basi did reportedly show up to vote at his Saanich-Gulf Islands federal delegate selection meeting in late September.

Bob Virk

While less high profile than Basi, Bob Virk was another Paul Martin campaign soldier in the takeover efforts, while working as then-transportation minister Judith Reid's MA.

Virk and Basi were both allegedly being promoted by Erik Bornman for lucrative political staff jobs in Ottawa in exchange for providing confidential government info on the B.C. Rail deal for Bornman's lobbying client OmniTRAX.

If you doubt that this case has dragged on, consider that since the legislative raids in 2003, Virk has become a father twice.

Jamie Elmhirst

Currently president of the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C., Elmhirst has what have to be uncomfortably close connections to the legislature raids.

The office of his former lobbying firm, Pilothouse Public Affairs, was searched by police. And his Pilothouse partner, former Vancouver Province columnist Brian Kieran, is another key Crown witness in the case against Basi and Virk. He'll take the stand along with fellow Pilothouse lobbyist Erik Bornman. Elmhirst has joined forces with old pal Mark Marissen and endorsed Stephane Dion for leader.

Bruce Young

Young is one of those adaptable types able to transform from a lobbyist for fish farms, private health care clinics and other corporate interests one day to being a key staffer providing neutral advice to the prime minister the next.

Young, a Marissen rival in the Martin camp, was the prime minister's senior advisor for British Columbia before joining Earnscliffe Strategy Group, a favourite supplier to Martin as finance minister, in September 2004.

Young is now a key B.C. backer of Gerard Kennedy, sitting in third place after the initial Liberal membership vote, but generally viewed as not able to win.

Kennedy's other supporters in B.C. include Senator Larry Campbell, the popular former Vancouver mayor; Tex Enemark, a longtime provincial deputy minister in the Social Credit days and a federal Liberal stalwart; Prem Vinning, the short-lived advisor to premier Gordon Campbell, who was caught using a phoney name to call in to a talk radio show with the boss; and, Hill & Knowlton lobbyist Steve Vander Wal, a former aide to federal Environment Minister David Anderson, the "godfather" to many of the Martin troops.

Bruce Clark

Another of the people integrally linked to the legislature raid who is also still a Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. executive member. Clark is brother to Christy Clark, brother-in-law to Mark Marissen and a former top Paul Martin fundraiser.

Clark's home office was searched by police, who allege in unproven police search warrant "Information To Obtain" or ITO documents that documents related to the cancelled B.C. Rail Roberts Bank privatization deal that was worth $70 million were passed by Basi to Clark. Clark does not face any charges. Not surprisingly, Bruce Clark is another enthusiastic supporter of Stephane Dion.

Bill Cunningham

The cherubic former pro-Martin president of the federal Liberals in B.C. and controversial parachute Liberal candidate in Burnaby-Douglas in 2004 and 2006 has joined pal Marissen in the Dion camp.

"I have a lot of time for Billy Cunningham," Paul Martin once said. Will Dion feel the same way?

So the final score going into the Liberal leadership convention shows that by a considerable margin, the Stephane Dion camp has attracted the most former Paul Martin supporters, while Michael Ignatieff has been shut out.

Whether that is a good or bad thing will be clear on Dec. 2.


Many thanks to Bill Tieleman for permission to show these excerpts from his longer article in today's The Tyee.


Pot: You should realize that I won't allow that kind of personal attack on this blog. I hope you'll return when you have something constructive to contribute to the discussion.

tim: thank you for your support in this matter. It seemed best to take your comment out, too, as it repeated some of what pot said. Come back soon, eh?
What do you know, Dion wins this afternoon and those watching CTV would have noticed a number of the infamous players along with the entourage of several dozen east indian "delegates".

I guess the real power struggle will now start!
Hi, Anonymous Dec. 2:

Who were the "infamous players" eh?

I was watching CBC Newsworld.

Are you happy with the results? I am. Stephane Dion seems like a decent, smart guy and I'm so glad Icky Iggy didn't win the leadership.
Several of the "BC contingent" were named today in the TC and Sun.

What will be interesting now is how they are repaid for their loyalty and hard work getting Dion elected.

Despite all the assurances that Dion is a decent guy, one is judged by the company they keep and I hardly think that Elmhurst and gang are putting their chips down beside Dion out of the goodness of their own hearts.
Hi, Dec. 4 Anon: Only Mark Marissen is named in today's Times Colonist.

Please tell us ... who are the others?

And, y'know, it's entirely possible that Dion doesn't know -- just doesn't damwell know -- what's gone on in B.C. and its police-raided legislature. The eastern press seems to figure there's a brick wall somewhere west of Lake of the Woods. Ask Chantal Hebert who, I kid you not, decided I was making it all up ... !!

Betcha a trip to Tim Horton's that Stephane Dion doesn't know.

Remember the prestigious law firm, McCarthy Tetreault? Remember the Law Society of Upper Canada? They didn't know until somebody told them. And I betcha Chantal Hebert still doesn't know, either.

I'm willing to give Stephane Dion some breathing space for the next 3 months, hoping for the best.

The big trial itself, may clue him in. What do you think?
You would be out a trip to Timmies my dear.

Jamie was there, so was the weenie from the UVIC "baby Liberals society" along with half of the "Basi Boyz" contingent.

Sorry to shatter your illusions about Dion but it looks like he decided to make a deal with the "devils" in order to get himself elected. No different than what was done in a half dozen other Liberals riding associations and nomination committees over the past few years.

Dion will find out that " what the lord giveth can be taken away as well". I think that for fun we should speculate as to what "favours" he will be asked to give. Christy for DPM perhaps?!
Dear Anon of 06 Dec.,

BC Mary does not have illusions ... or at least, I try my best not to, by testing the theories. And if Chantal Hebert doesn't have a clue about B.C.'s legislature raids, it's safe to wonder if Stephane Dion knows either. Like I said, did the Law Society of Upper Canada know about Erik Bornman? Did McCarthy Tetrault know? Sure, BC knows ... maybe not all of us, but some of us do ... remember those Rocky Mountains -- our own Great Wall.

But I digress. Please tell us who, amongst the Basi Boys, was in attendance at that Liberal convention?

You wouldn't call Mark Marissen a "Basi Boy" would you? Or Jamie Elmhirst? So who were the Basi Boys?

Not Dave Basi, surely? Or Bobby Virk? Who?

Come on, Anon ... don't let teasing become torture ... tell us which "half of the Basi Boys" was there.
BC Mary.

The "Basi Boys" is a general term used to describe a group of Liberal "fixers". The names of those suggested as being associated with the group can be found on publiceye, smalldeadanimals, the tyee, etc.

MA's don't get their jobs by responding to want ads in the TC. They are political soldiers and lieutenants who are rewarded for their time in the trenches and their ability to get things done for the party.

For someone who has followed the Basi trial diligently and who has reported several allegations of Liberal corruption and abuse, I find it amazing that you haven't strung the dots together.

I would suggest to you that the conversation goes something like this ...

"So Mr. Dion, our polling shows that you and Mr. Gerrard are running neck and neck for 3rd. We have spoken with Mr. Gerrard and he has agreed to support you if after the second ballot you are ahead of him and he expects the same of you. For his support, Mr. Gerrard would expect some consideration, perhaps a senior cabinet position once you are elected. He of course would do the same for you. We happen to know some good people as well, hard workers, who would be loyal and supportive of you ...."
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