Sunday, October 24, 2010
BC Rail Political Corruption trial continues in the Court of Public Opinion. Please welcome a very interesting new blogger: Brian Kieran, who says he "will be looking for therapeutic opportunities to contribute to a meaningful public discussion about the tragically flawed B.C. Rail sale process. That will include launching a hard-hitting political blog. If my views prove embarrassing for the current government . . . great!"
Man at the centre of Basi-Virk case speaks out
By Brian Kieran
The Province - October 24, 2010
The glacial pace of the B.C. Rail trial and the unexpected guilty pleas on Oct. 18 have left many British Columbians feeling like they haven't heard the whole story.
As a central figure in this affair I can sympathize. After twisting in the wind for the better part of seven years, I never got to tell my story as a witness for the Crown. And I had quite a story to tell. While I don't get to tell it all in the space I have today, I can, at least, provide some initial perspective.
Looking back on the two years that my former Victoria-based firm, Pilothouse Inc., was employed by Denver-based OmniTrax, I see the sale of B.C. Rail as a colossal failure of public-policy implementation. There was no reason to sell such a valuable provincial asset and no one along the rail line was clambering to unload it. As well, it was just bad business to contemplate turning a regional, short-haul railway system over to a Class 1 long-haul operator such as Canadian National or Canadian Pacific.
My job on behalf of OmniTrax was twofold: To help articulate the value of its bid with respect to service to shippers, added value to communities and retention of the regional integrity of the asset; secondly -- and most importantly -- it was to try and keep the playing field level during the pre-bid and bidding period. The way to do this was through timely intelligence gathering, an integral and entirely legitimate element of government-relations work.
That second task speaks to the question left unanswered by the outcome of the trial: Was the process fair? Or, to put it more bluntly: Was the fix in?
I can say this: My client was convinced from Day 1 that Canadian National was destined to win the bid. Why, then, did OmniTrax persist in playing what could arguably be described as a multimillion-dollar game? For openers, its senior management was repeatedly assured by government that price wasn't the only bidding criterion.
The OmniTrax team appreciated the intrinsic value of B.C. Rail and held fast to its belief that a balanced bid that protected and enhanced the asset and the region could ultimately prevail and remained worth pursuing. Their plan, in the interests of the long-term success of B.C. Rail, included moving the headquarters from North Vancouver to Prince George, which definitely did not endear them to B.C. Rail's cozy movers and shakers.
Intel flooding into OmniTrax from the North American railroad community and material I reviewed continued to support the conspiracy theory that CN was the chosen one. Don't take my word for it. CP Rail's acrimonious 11th-hour letter to government in which it abandoned what it deemed to be a discredited bidding process speaks volumes. That CP Rail letter could have blown the doors off the entire sale process if its implications had been more closely assessed at the time.
Over the past six-plus years I have assisted the authorities willingly and fully in their investigations. From the outset, it was made clear to me that I was never suspected of wrong doing. Unfortunately, no one in charge of the case would brief me on the role my then Vancouver-based partner Eric Bornman played in the investigation.
But Section 9b of the Crown's agreed "Statement of Facts" is so important: "Basi received payments totalling $23,695 from Eric Bornman during the same time that OmniTrax was bidding . . . ."
When this information was first made public -- about five years ago -- my Victoria-based staff and I were stunned and blindsided. Our wonderfully successful boutique agency, which had enjoyed an outstanding reputation and had been viewed within the industry as an organization of utmost integrity, was dead in about 12 hours.
In the aftermath of the trial I want my friends, colleagues and former clients to know that my work and efforts on behalf of OmniTrax never included the offer of bribes.
Also, it is important to me that they know that I expressly cautioned my client not to entertain anyone from B.C. at a Denver football game. I ordered my partners and staff to have no part in organizing such an ill-advised junket.
Am I still pissed off? Oh yeah, but I'll get over it.
In the coming weeks and months I will be looking for therapeutic opportunities to contribute to a meaningful public discussion about the tragically flawed B.C. Rail sale process. That will include launching a hard-hitting political blog. If my views prove embarrassing for the current government . . . great!
Brian Kieran, a former political columnist for The Province, was a partner in Pilothouse Inc.
Also, a video HERE.
Interview with Basi, Virk, and others about the gag order HERE.
Brian, if you see this, I'd like to add special thanks to you for your decision to speak out -- to tell us what you know about the way this province lost ownership of BC Rail. My hopes are with you. Also a few fears. British Columbians have been blind-sided too many times.
We (the collective "we" who care deeply about this province) have learned a lot in the past 9 years ... especially the past 7 years ... and most particularly in the last 7 days. We've been knocked down and steam-rollered time after time.
One of the most painful aspects of the BC Rail Political Corruption trial (apart from the fact that the perps were never charged) has been the refusal of Big Media to even try to tell the story truthfully ... and the refusal of Big Eastern Media to give national coverage to a story which involved Prime Minister Paul Martin as well as Gordon Campbell, also the nation's 3rd largest railway (the lifeline of the province) and, oh yes (ho hum) the first time in British Commonwealth history that police ever raided a legislature.
Collectively, Brian, "we" have learned to expect the worst because that's what we've been given. It will be a challenge to you, a former Ink-Stained-Wretch yourself, to publicly pin the correct assessment of what Big BC Media did, all these years, on the BC Rail Case. The death of responsible journalism has, in my view, been a tragedy in itself.
And that's why most of us became bloggers ... to fill in as best we could, any information we could find which helped us understand how we lost BC Rail and (dare I say it?) how we might yet regain possession of the railway which, I insist, is still rightfully ours. A deal, secretly and fraudulently agreed, is not a legal deal in my view.
So you can see, Brian Kieran, why I'm especially pleased to see that you're prepared to help inform us of the real story. You'll receive many questions, I'm sure, and I hope you'll respond from a shared understanding of how important BC Rail is, in the hearts of those who want to preserve and protect this province.
My old friends and neighbours on Pender Island (where people live by the rule of "Preserve and Protect") speak well of you. I want to share that point of view about you, too. And it looks to me as if we're off to a good start with your column today for The Province ... the first real breakthrough we've had. I'm grateful. I hope The Province will forgive me for posting it -- admiringly -- in full.
I wish you, the blogger, the very best of luck in serving the public interest, which begins (I'm pretty sure) with leaving partisan politics behind. People hollering "Me good, You bad" ain't gonna help us now. We're all in this together. So I say again, "Good luck, Brian Kieran."
Gabriel Yiu: Questions remain in wake of abrupt ending of BC Rail corruption trial.
"de Jong and the feckless"
1. (of a person) Lacking in efficiency or vitality.
2. Unthinking and irresponsible
Meanwhile before everyone gets all carried away with how wholesome and wonderful Omnitrax ("the largest privately held rail services company in North America") may be, I suggest they check out my post from July 2009 at the House.
Pat Broe, who is bigger than Gordo's neighbor Maclean, is similiar it would seem, just on a larger scale as he focuses his lobbying and gets his rewards from
Gordo's hero Harper, though I'm sure he has the time of day for Gordo when it is in his interest.
Anyway, my piece is very well documented with links to ALL the claims I make there. And from the website Omnitrax itself I will leave this little teaser.
An Affiliate of the Broe Group, OmniTRAX ™ also has the unique capability of offering customers specialized industrial development and real estate opportunities, both on and off the OmniTRAX ™ rail network"
It is difficult to see the "sensitivity: to regional interests that Mr. Kierans portrays in the actions that Omnitrax and the Broe group have done in Saskatchewan and Grand Forks. The Broe group also has taken control of the RR to Churchill (for peanuts), soon to be an all year ice free port - or at least they think so.
The Broe Group also is very focused on the REAL ESTATE angle of railroad management (sic) ala Marathon. Another case of pots and kettles and jumping into frying pans, the way it looks to.
Ominitrax didn't get BC Rail, not because they weren't capable of screwing the province as well as CN (another US corporation) but because Broe doesn't live in the right neighborhood and supports Harper more than Campbell,or so it would appear.
Don't take it from me, look at the banner for Omnitrax at the top of my post (no photoshopping, right off their website)
"OmnitraX - Pride in Real Estate"
And that potential 2nd reason's name was 'Spur'.
Which is sometimes also known as, as even Vaughn Palmer was willing to whisper way back when, 'Quid Pro Quo'.
Like so many others decent people disgusted with our MSM coverups and political spin . . . unwilling for big bucks - to tell the truth re: the duplicitous dealings over BC Rail (and other big deals 'every which way' . . . I'm grateful for your integrity, determination and considerable journalistic skills that are fueled to persistently, push to dig for justice in the putrid pile of garbage that Campbell and ilk have tossed at British Columbians. THANK YOU!
Secondly: Welcome back to the real world, Brian Kieran - we missed you!
I can add my voice to attest that you are a good person having known you for years when politics used to cleaner and a lot more fun. You are also a first rate journalist who revealed many a scandal previously that needed to be 'aired' written for the right intent: for the benefit of the people.
You were not well 'suited' for the smarmy 'lobbyist world' - albeit the lure of enticing fees in comparison to journalism. Lobbying in all its layers, has undermined our entire governmental and political systems here in in the US. Money isn't everything - integrity IS!
Perhaps if you and Dr. Foth got together in the MSM now with the sale of the Canwest papers in Eastern hands, things would hearken back to the days of witty, 'for real', political journalistic GEMS for public consumption. Your Blog is a good start! I'm really excited by your first column in the Province. Push for more!!
Last but not least: Congratulations, Gordon Wilson, I admire your courage. Your article and future Blog are another breath of fresh air towards CHANGE.
I am well aware of how you were shoved aside and by whom in a quiet meeting - the same old 'Clubbers' dealing in the backrooms for decades.
Let's all use our experience, voices and determined action to really sock it to them; not only to retrieve our precious, stolen BC Rail that WAC Bennett created for the good of the PEOPLE, but re-affirm ethics and good government for ALL by insisting we ALL deserve so much better.
Let's rumble relentlessly, people until it happens.
What a great news day! Time for a piece of pie!!