CONTRIBUTION · 15th December 2010
Like airborne spores of mold, particles of information continue to rise from that barrel of apples known as the BC Rail scandal.
The latest? A judge ordered that previously edited portions of search warrants must now be released unedited. Among other things, what these documents reveal are statements from Erik Bornman, a lobbyist for Pilothouse Communications, alleging that he was making cash payments to Dave Basi long before the previously disclosed bribes of Spring 2002. These cash payments were made "in consideration of [Basi's] political support [and] his support in referring clients" to Pilothouse and "for assistance on client matters" (Dec. 14, Province).
According to news reports, "the documents also reveal that a forensic examination by a chartered accountant with the federal government revealed that Dave Basi had $870,000 in unexplained income between 2000 and 2004". These figures, of course, are being disputed by Basi's lawyers who claim that the "unexplained income" is only $112,000.
So many "particles" of information have emerged over the past 7 or 8 years that the air around this case is now heavy with the smell of mold and rot.
Indeed, when a barrel of apples reeks of mold, it usually means that more, perhaps many more, rotten apples are buried somewhere inside. But no matter how many "fresh apples" are piled on top, such rot will fester and spread until one day the whole barrel is infected.
That being the case, a person might then think that any "fresh apples" running in the BC Liberal leadership race would be most eager to root out all the rot associated with the BC Rail scandal.
But is that the case? For example, leadership hopeful Mike De Jong was the Attorney General of the province when the decision was made that the trial of Basi and Virk should be shut down last summer, just when many observers felt that it was digging down into the depths of the scandal. The controversial plea arrangement for Basi and Virk not only involved a sentence of just two years of house arrest, but also the paying off of their $6 million lawyer fees. A sweetheart deal, many complained bitterly.
Christie Clark, the current Liberal leadership frontrunner, is another case in point. Her then husband, Mark Marissen, was questioned by the RCMP in relation to the BC Rail scandal, and her brother, Bruce Clark, had his home office searched. Later, Basi and Virk admitted in court that they "disclosed confidential information about the sale of the BC Rail port subdivision" to her brother, although he was never charged.
You would think that, of all people, Christie Clark, who could become the next Premier of the province, would want to clear the air about a scandal that seems to be uncomfortably close to her. But that is not the case. Clark stated on the very day she announced her leadership bid that she would definitely not be calling for an inquiry into the sale of the publicly-owned railway or the alleged corruption associated with it.
Kevin Falcon is yet another Liberal leadership contender. During the trial of Basi and Virk, evidence was presented that the president of BC Rail, Kevin Mahoney, who was installed soon after the Liberal government came into office, received "a bonus and extra compensation as part of an employment agreement after BC Rail was sold in 2003" (Sept. 17, Vancouver Sun). This additional compensation amounted to more than $2 million spread over several years. The transportation minister in charge of authorizing those payments? Kevin Falcon. He, too, is against having a public inquiry.
And so is Premier Campbell himself, whose image has been perhaps the most tarnished of all from this scandal given that it happened on his watch as Premier, and given that the President of CN Rail, the winning bidder in the sale, was a close associate. Campbell has argued that he wouldn't be calling an inquiry because it would cost "millions of dollars". He, of course, is the same Premier who has no problem paying $458 million for a retractable roof over the BC Place Stadium, plus billions of dollars for many other costly projects. And now there is not enough money in the provincial budget to pay for an inquiry into what many feel is the greatest corruption scandal in the history of the province?
Novels and movies often use Sicily as an example of how a society can become overrun by corruption and organized crime to the point that ordinary people and even authorities are afraid to speak out. But such a phenomenon does not happen overnight. It starts with one rotten apple not being removed from the barrel. Then another, and another. Before long, the mold has spread everywhere.
British Columbians desperately need an inquiry into the BC Rail scandal that has now gone on for almost ten years. An inquiry that has teeth. Where witnesses testify under oath. Where all the lengthy list of politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and convicted felons involved in this scandal can have their day in the bright light of the sun. And, we, the people of British Columbia, can at least have a hope of finding out what really happened in this shameful scandal.
Provincial elections will be held sometime between now and 2013. Who to vote for can often be a difficult choice. But a clear distinction can be made that makes the choice easier. Which candidates support a public inquiry and which ones do not?
Or another way of putting the question, a fresh barrel of apples or one we know has rot deep within it?
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.
Comment by Barry English on 16th December 2010
Peter Ewart has written what I think is on most minds in British Columbia. There are just too many smells coming out of the BC Rail scandal for it to go away quietly, despite what Campbell is trying to do.
If it looks like an apple, smells like an apple and tastes like an apple, it's probably an apple.
Basi report files revealed
Comment by bj on 15th December 2010
Basi notarized report files for Oct 3 - November 23/2006 are being posted at:
First file posted yesterday (Oct 3 2003 Basi report).
More coming - one per day.
BC Rail deal - what went down