Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Former Attorney-General smells cover-up in sale of BC Rail


Former attorney-general Alex Macdonald was on the phone urging me to pay more heed to the legal smokescreen being used to divert scrutiny from the impugned sale of BC Rail assets.

Macdonald was incensed at the Liberal government's response to questions about the scandal and the role, if any, played by the ultimate provincial insider, Patrick Kinsella.

"I smell a cover-up," he insisted.

{Snip} ...

Attorney-General Wally Oppal's recent invocation of the "sub judice rule" to defend the government's refusal to comment had Macdonald frothing in retirement.

"What unadulterated legal nonsense!" he fulminated. "I resent having the wool pulled over my eyes. This is almost a joke."

Macdonald saw absolutely no reason for the government not to answer questions about Kinsella and certainly not because of the mumbo-jumbo about "sub judice" offered by his contemporary successor.

Kinsella, mentioned peripherally in the legal proceedings, was not before the court and no one was asking about the guilt or innocence of those who were in the dock, the legal veteran said: Oppal was obfuscating.

"If they get away with it now, they'll get away with it in future," Macdonald warned.

A longtime socialist gadfly [wha-at??], Macdonald wrote a book a few years ago, Outrage -- Canada's Justice System on Trial, that took great swipes at the young offenders law, procedural wrangling, the Charter and other modern court procedures that got up his nose. The acerbic iconoclast spent 40 years practising law and remains impassioned.

Macdonald is angry the Liberals broke their promise not to sell the provincial railway and he's tired of waiting to hear answers to the criminal charges that tarnished that sale.

The New Democrat complained about the sell-out of the vision of premier Richard McBride, who launched the railway in 1911, "pushing it north through rugged terrain," Macdonald romantically added.

I impudently asked if he knew the old Tory personally. [Jerk. Ian, I mean. Not Alex.]

He harrumphed -- McBride died in 1917.

Macdonald was born here in 1918, the son of former attorney-general M.A. Macdonald. He became secretary to Cooperative Commonwealth Federation leader M.J. Coldwell in 1944, running unsuccessfully as a CCFer twice before being elected for the NDP in Vancouver-Kingsway. He became B.C.'s longest-sitting MLA and moved into his father's former office as attorney-general in 1972 under Premier Dave Barrett.

In My Dear Legs: Letters to a Young Social Democrat, published in the mid-1980s, Macdonald recalled his life in politics and dispensed advice to the new generation. In Alex in Wonderland a decade later, he argued for a better world through cooperation, decency and hard work.

He has never been shy of venting his spleen. But in this case Macdonald was making good points.

"How come that criminal case is still going on after five years and still we have not gotten to the soup and nuts?" the old warhorse asked. "Five years, my God."

The May 12 election is the second since the most senior level of the provincial government civil service was accused of corruption. Yet we still do not know the particulars.

He's right.

"In 1788, U.S. president James Madison said, 'Abridgements of the freedom of the people can come by silent encroachments of those in power,'" Macdonald said. "Let's not let this encroachment get away with silence."

That's a little deep for me.

Unfortunately, like the rest of us, Macdonald must wait until the Supreme Court of Canada rules later this year on whether defence lawyers should be told the identity of the police informant at the heart of this prosecution.

Only if the special prosecutor wins the day to preserve the person's anonymity will B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett be able to finish the trial.

There is a chance it could all be derailed.


Aw, Ian. Jeez. So you're saying Berardino is now Judge, and that Berardino will decide that this case will not proceed? You OK with that idea?

Aw ... forget it. Jeeez.

But wait. There's a fading post-it still stuck to the frame of my computer which says April 22, DAVE BARRETT to speak in Vancouver on behalf of Mel Lehan who is contesting the Vancouver-Point Grey riding against an overpaid, over-publicized poster boy for the BC Liberals. Guess it was a tough call in the newsroom.

So I didn't see any mention whatever of that rare event featuring a popular speaker of the NDP persuasion. No mention. Is that worse than a sneering, jeering mention? I wonder.

- BC Mary.


Noted in passing ...

Queen of the North survivor testifies to flashbacks

Keith Fraser

The Province - April 30, 2009

The story is HERE. And because the survivor in this news report is a retired BC Rail trainman, I especially wanted to leave a comment. I wrote the comment carefully because, after all, it's a message of condolence. However, it wouldn't post on The Province site. A message popped up on my computer screen: Please try again, it said.

Several hours later, I was going to try again ... but the comment section for that story had disappeared. Na, no, no, heck no, I don't think it has anything to do with my mention of BC Rail. Do you?

This is what I wanted to say, especially to Les Wilson, the retired BCR trainman:

Sincere sympathy is owed to Les Wilson, Josh Snow age 15, and all other survivors of that awful event when the Queen of the North sank to the bottom of the ocean.

Each of us has memories which come to the surface in times of extreme stress like this. I don't mean the post-traumatic stress ... I mean older memories of our past traumas which remain hidden but have a way of guiding our thoughts and actions as we carry on living our lives.

Mr Wilson said something which touched my heart, and made me wonder.

He said, "I feel a bad thing is going to happen." This, from a man who has already survived the loss to our province of BC Rail. Then Queen of the North.

I couldn't help thinking that Mr Wilson has every reason to recognize "a bad thing" because bad things had happened in his life, not once but twice. I sincerely hope he finds comfort in knowing that people care about that, as well.

Best wishes to all the survivors.


Mr. Mulgrew writes:

"He has never been shy of venting his spleen. But in this case Macdonald was making good points...."Look.

I understand that these folks have to protect themselves against backlash and all that codswallop.



Are they so scared of their editors that, even when someone is saying something of import that is backed by evidence, they have to add ridiculous credibility-destroying qualifiers like the one Mr. Mulgrew stuck at the front of that paragraph?

I can hear Alex's voice and see his face as I read your column :). He is what the NDP is all about. Individuals dedicated to doing their best for the PEOPLE, not for a few moneychangers. I fear that if Campbell is re-elected, we may as well give up on any form of justice taking place over the BC Rail deal. The case will drag out a little more, then it will be thrown out of court, never to be heard about again. No public inquiry, no more police investigation (although they seem to have done much more obfuscation than investigation during this sorry affair) and even less mainstream media attention (I'm not sure thats actually possible).

All those jobs lost at BC Rail, all the money lost to the province, and all the future possible revenues, which used to help pay for health care and education. Add to that the pollution of our rivers by the pathetic safety record of the new owners (remember the huge spill of toxic chemicals into the cheakamus river north of whistler) and this entire, outrageous, theft of BC Rail becomes intolerable.

I pray the outcome of the election will be positive so this corruption can be swept away, like just so much dirt on the floor. I remember the 90's in a much kinder light than the "media" and "liberals" try to portray it. The homeless problem almost didn't exist. We had balanced budgets without kicking the hell out of working people. We had clean hospitals and simple yet effective policies to do things like laundry in BC with BC workers and taxpayers being the ones receiving the remuneration, not some friend of Campbell's in Alberta. Yes, in my mind, those were the good days. Lets hope there is a change back to that in May...
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