Thursday, April 02, 2009
Robin Mathews: Morning in Courtroom 67 April 2, 2009
The morning continued the courteous shadow-boxing over documents that - I insist - should be available to the Defence and to the public without question. Documents created in the service of the British Columbia public (in the sale of BC Rail and in the plans and payouts related) were fought over by lawyers holding huge document lists in their hands. Sometimes they got mixed up. Sometimes pages were wrongly marked.
The refusal of BC Rail and the cabinet to release all available documents concerning the sale of BC Rail is an outrage. Those people are doing everything they can to keep documents from British Columbians that were created in the service of the people and the Province. The obstruction stinks to high heaven.
British Columbians don't know how bad their court and legal system is. Gary Mason in the morning's Globe and Mail had to lay out the outrageousness of Attorney General Wally Offal's claims that he can speak about nothing at all because everything in the Province is sub judice. The AG is showing open contempt for the people of the Province and for justice.
Journalists keep saying Wally Offal is uncomfortable and doesn't like making a complete fool of himself in order to shield the Campbell forces. The journalists delude themselves. The Attorney General is part of the Campbell forces.
In relation to the documents that should be in the hands of the Defence and the B.C. public, Kevin McCullough for the Defence drew a picture of the Gordon Campbell forces (which Wally Offfal has happily joined) preparing for the sale of BC Rail almost as soon as they arrived in power. That fact - I showed in an earlier report - is clear in the 8000 FOI pages released recently.
Gaining release of documents in B.C. is much more difficult for press and media than in, say, Ontario. Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett sits on bundles of documents (which she does not make public) the way a broody hen sits on unfertilized eggs (that will never hatch). The larger the amount of material she keeps from British Columbians, the happier she seems to be. The system of access to documents by the press and public in important public cases MUST CHANGE.
Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett has a role in this staggeringly important public trial which I believe she cannot see, or refuses to see. Today, she seemed to me to be unnecessarily blocking movement in the case. When Kevin McCullough pointed to retention bonuses, severage packages, carrier bonuses of strange kind and outrageous size set out for top BC Rail brass BEFORE the sale was even publicly contemplated, she did not seem to understand.
In a gentle explanation to Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, McCullough explained that the Defence holds that the bid amounts that were made in the first round of bidding for BC Rail, discussion of the bids, withdrawal from bidding, and following bids are important to understanding the allegation that the government was masking the fact that they were going to sell to CN whatever... McCullough suggested evidence could well reveal that there was no auction at all. He suggested, as well, as I understood his argument, that requirements may have been changed in order assure CN would succeed as bidder.
His explanation was gentle because he wanted her to understand that to see the relation of those things to the allegations against the accused would help her realize they are matters relevant to the Defence. Myself, an ordinary Canadian, without sophistication or legal training, I believe she should have understood such matters a long, long time ago.
Then McCullough went through a process of showing that a structure of bonuses was set up for top BC Rail brass that was very generous and that might well lead them to urge the sale of BC Rail rather than to resist it. He described retention bonuses, severance bonuses, and "carrier' bonuses (if their jobs carried over from BC Rail to operation by some other Rail Co.) And, indeed, he alleges that the structure was put in place before the Core Review of government activities was completed - the Review that is supposed to have concluded BC Rail should be sold. His suggestion, as I understand it, is that the structure was created as a way of winning BC Rail brass to the sale - and well before the Core Review was done and well before there was any suggestion the Gordon Campbell forces were going to betray the election promise not to sell BC Rail.
He described the size of the bonuses and their peculiarity in considerable detail, ending by saying, "These are huge bonuses, not industry standard bonuses." Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett demurred. She didn't think they were out of range with comparable structures. She said he might convince her further on that these matters were connected but she wasn't convinced at the moment.
I am forced to believe she does not see what the Gordon Campbell forces are doing or she chooses - with painstaking care - not to see.
British Columbians don't know how bad their court and legal system is.
(Document argument continues this afternooon and tomorrow.)
Let's just crown Gordo emperor and be done with it. After all, it is such a chore to pay attention. Let Gordo decide what's best, and just assume that what is best for him and his cronies is best for us also!
Do you think things would be moving along more swiftly?
These allegations appear to be of considerable importance...Will be interesting to see what comes up today, Friday....We await your next report.