Monday, July 28, 2008


BC Rail court charade


Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun - Monday, July 28, 2008

Victoria lawyer Kevin McCullough looked as if he wasn't sure whether to fulminate or tap-dance as another make-work hearing over the unprecedented and infamous 2003 raid on the B.C. legislature wound down.

"I'm not being critical," the senior defence lawyer tentatively said as he moved to the lectern.

He didn't get any further.

"That's my ruling," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett shot from the bench, "and I'm not changing it! This is the only way this can be analysed under the case law."

She had decided key provincial cabinet documents protected by a cloak of privilege could be shared with the defence without her having to rule on whether the curtain of secrecy will be ultimately lifted on them.

{Snip} ...

Justice Bennett maintained she understood the public's concern and need to know what happened in this case, but well, you see, there were processes.

Fair enough; she should also understand why everyone's patience is threadbare.

Justice Bennett looked as if she were treading water Friday, like someone awaiting a legal life-preserver -- perhaps a Supreme Court of Canada decision against the Crown that will result in a stay of proceedings or the expiration of the looming deadline of the right of an accused to fair and speedy justice.

The raid on the legislature is fading into memory -- five years this December -- and the trial remains a will-o'-the-wisp. Who even remembers the billion-dollar BC Rail privatization auction that triggered it? The concern about ties to former prime minister Paul Martin's federal Liberal campaign machine? Paul Martin?

Justice Bennett accomplished little with her ruling on roughly 90 jealously protected e-mails and correspondence seized by police from government offices and computers.

Former Liberal insiders and government aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk, accused of corruption in connection with the sale of BC Rail assets in 2003, now are receiving copies of those documents. After interminable squabbling, the government agreed to allow the defence to have copies of the documents on the condition cabinet's claim of lawyer-client privilege remain in place.

Justice Bennett agreed with that idea.

The cabinet and BC Rail, she said, don't want their cooperation to "come back and haunt them" so it was important to keep the documents beyond public purview and access-to-information requests. The defence can't do anything with the material, Justice Bennett added, unless the government and BC Rail waive their privilege or the accused persuade her a document is crucial to determining guilt or innocence.

"At this juncture at least, you have the documents," she told the lawyers. "At least you are in a better position to ascertain their usefulness. I've read the documents and I can anticipate to some degree what's going to be used in open court."

McCullough, who is Virk's lawyer, and Michael Bolton, Basi's lawyer, both nodded. They, too, are familiar with the material: Their clients authored most of it, which is part of the irony of this ongoing charade. Two documents alone are likely relevant, they have told the court, and another may be critical.

The only people in the dark here are the public.

Virk, who was an aide to then-transportation minister Judith Reid, and Basi, Collins's right-hand man, know what happened; the Liberals know what happened; the cops and the special prosecutor, presumably, know what happened.

But the rest of us are being treated like mushrooms.

With special prosecutor Bill Berardino off to the Supreme Court of Canada to protect his star witness, which will certainly continue to delay and possibly derail the trial, who knows when we will see the light? Even before then, the defence may successfully halt the process because of the length of time it is taking.

Years ago these accusations of political corruption were the talk of the town and fuelled fears that organized crime had infiltrated the highest echelons of provincial power. In spite of such rhetoric and more, the substance has yet to emerge.

The lawyers will be back spinning their wheels Sept. 17.

One of the more notorious examples of bribery in Canadian history
took place in the 1950s in the province of British Columbia. Robert
Sommers, then Minister of Lands and Forests of British Columbia,
was charged in 1953 with receiving bribes in connection with the issuance of
forestry management licences. The licences were issued to forestry
companies to regulate the amount of timber that could be harvested.
These licences were extremely valuable, so much so that companies
were accused of making huge profits based on the sale of shares issued
after the licence was granted, but before a single tree had been cut.

These companies made substantial donations to the coffers of Premier
W.A.C. Bennett's new-fangled Social Credit Party.

It was considered a long drawn-out affair, with the premier trying every tactic including election calls, to protect his Minister of Forests or to delay the inevitable. Even in those days before the Charter of Rights when trials moved more quickly, it was 5 years before the Sommers case was closed.

A number of representatives from forestry companies were eventually charged with giving bribes, and Sommers was charged with receiving bribes. Under the intensive public scrutiny of the media, the case was prosecuted over a lengthy period with prolonged political and legal wrangling in the Legislative Assembly and the courts. Eventually, after 5 years, Sommers was convicted on five of the seven accusations of receiving bribes, including $607 worth of rugs, $3,000 in bonds, $1,000 in cash and $2,500 sent by telegraph.

As a result, Robert E. Sommers became the first person in the Commonwealth found guilty of conspiring to accept bribes while serving as a Minister of the Crown.

And if I remember BC history correctly: those Clayoquot forest management licences were renewed without question when their terms expired. In my view, a serious wrong could have been reviewed, renegotiated, and corrected, at that juncture. - BC Mary.


Ian 'gets it'.

The 'game' plan of the politically corrupt, 'banana republic' puppet masters, is in FULL force extending into the BC Supreme Court, as per usual on stinky matters such as this.

Ponder if you will, the career path sideways of Judge Bennett if she allowed justice for the people to prevail in her courtroom, putting at risk the members of the Campbell Cabal . . . . . there you have it: the well worn pattern of protection and coverup for the guilty, in British Columbia's justice system.
Does "cabinet" privilege extend to the right to commit crimes against the public, yet claim privilege in spite of documented guilt and liability. That sure is PRIVILEGE, kinda like old King Henry the Eighth enjoyed.

At some point ACCOUNTABILITY should take precedence over privilege.
If the judge makes a decision that is wrong, the appeal Court awaits. If The appeal court is split , the Supreme Court of Canada may agree to hear the case. The judge is being cautious which may upset some but her job is to judge not necessarily that we all want to know, and right now. It is a tough job in my view. Lets let her do that job.
"the intensive public scrutiny of the media"

Mary if you remember back then, Bennett was privatising everything. Hydro, Ferries, BC Rail. So given how the MSM has been defending big business today do you think maybe Bennett stepped on their toes back the and that is why he was slammed in the media.
As a commentor noted on Harvey O's blog, the Sun and the Province had advertisements for the Pemberton Festival. Do we think that was rthe reason for the playdown on the chaos arriving fron thousands of people travelling hiway 99 at the same time? He notes that other papers are reporting the chaos.

Personally I think the phrase "Money talks" fits very well in news reporting.

W.A.C. Bennett was nationalizing things. Out of the former private corporation -- B.C. Electric -- he created B.C. Hydro; out of various small private ferries, he created B.C. Ferries. B.C. Rail was, I think (without looking it up, which I should) built and owned by the province.

So I don't remember that part of our history as privatization, quite the opposite.

But the corporations which got nationalized didn't much like it ... and for that, W.A.C. took quite a thumping from the media ... for a while.

What I do recall vividly is the much later pitiful warning from the aging, ailing W.A.C. that "the socialist hordes at the gate!"

Jeez. That was really somethin' when those "socialist hordes" were made up of approx. 1/2 the B.C. citizens voting in a democratic election for the candidates of their choice.

More and more, I think that partisan politics are a curse.

But partisan media is even worse: it's a terrible reality when the media decides to report on something like the Sommers bribery trial only when it pleases the supporters of big media.

I guess that's what you're suggesting, Gary ... that we'd be seeing much more energetic coverage of the BCRail Case if it pleased the current pals of big media to see that case unfolding in Supreme Court.

If so, I must sadly agree with you.

You are so right, Mary. Thank you for reminding us all that former Premier WAC Bennett DID nationalize many of the people's services for the benefit of the Province as an entity; including extending and natioalizing the railway to Prince George. He kept his promise to Northern BC residents to help open up the economic engine.

To be human is to be imperfect. Beyond partisan politics, I believe that former Premier WAC Bennett's record for benefiting British Columbia, far surpasses any other Premier's.

He was a true, 'populace' Premier who in all probabiliy is more admired now in retrospect; in context with the political rot that has entrenched BC today.

His unique, far sited recipe for BC built a vibrant economy to support a strong social service network . . . for all British Columbians vs a chosen few.

Your post underlined well, how this Premier blended the best of socialism with free enterprise principles through "nationalizing" certain key economic sectors; political stewardship at its best.

It is a travesty to see Campbell dismantle BC Rail, BC Hydro and the Ferries (WAC viewed as an integral part of our transportation system) . . . all originally created for the people's benefit NOT private interests as they are now, with Campbell's regime

It is going to take a very strong, new 'leader' with considerable skill and integrity to dig BC out of the mess Campbell has created.

Shame on the Campbell BC Libs; the worm will turn.
Sorry Mary, you are of course correct. Nationalizing was the word. Late night last night with you know who. I must edit my posts and comments little better.
Anyway it provoked a good response from you.
Proposed in 1912, construction started in 1913

PGE "not long after the P.G.E. began operating it ran into financial problems and had to be saved by a provincial government takeover"
Pacific Great Eastern Railway 1912 - 1918 Its financial backers were Timothy Foley, Patrick Welch and John Stewart

And its here that it gets interesting, shall we say deja vu`:

"In the 1916 provincial election campaign, the Liberal Party alleged that some of the money advanced to the railway for bond guarantee payments had instead gone into Conservative Party campaign funds. In the election, the Conservatives, who had won every seat in the legislature in 1912 election, lost to the Liberals. The Liberals then took Foley, Welch, and Stewart to court to recover $5 million of allegedly unaccounted funds. In early 1918, the railway's backers agreed to pay the government $1.1 million and turn the railway over to the government."

Four years ago the BC Liberals sold BC Rail and reaped donations from CN Rail in "donations" to their political party.

That's a great piece of research, NVG, many thanks indeed. Who could ever say that history is dull, eh?

To make the quote complete, would you please give us the source?

Thanks again.

Hi Mary,

Have you seen this video?
Anon 9:42,

I tried it but your URL doesn't seem to be working.

Can you give us a bit more info?


Gary E,

No problem. I've been there, done that so often -- working late, late, and start saying the opposite of what I meant to say. Easily cured: get some sleep! Not to worry.

Interesting background added onto BCRail history by NVG, eh? Seems we had to either fight or build, build or fight every inch of the way toward getting ownership of BC Rail.

How did we let it go so easily?

There's a post-it stuck on my computer which says:

"HANSARD - March 3, 2004

"No minutes exist to seal the BC Rail deal."

It's almost unbelievable ... that Premier Goddam Campbell could decide to sell Canada's 3rd largest railway ... then carefully avoid leaving Minutes of the Cabinet meeting which must have discussed and approved any such sale.

Or did they approve it? Certainly Paul Nettleton, M.L.A. for Prince George, fought it tooth and nail. There must have been others who voiced warnings, withheld approval. No Minutes, eh?

It's unbelievable only until you start to read what Vaughn Palmer says this morning about ICBC ... and then suddenly the modus operendi starts to glow in the dark.

Hi Mary,

I’m not sure why the address I provided did not work?

No big deal, if you go to youtube and type in “BC Rail corruption trial”, the video should come up.
Anon 1:22, thanks! I got it this time.

Very informative glimpse into Question Period in the BC Legislature.

These videos of what goes on during Debates are impressive ... nothing like the dull stuff suggested from reading the newspapers. Or the nothing at all on the TV news.

Thanks again.

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