Optically unfortunate: BC Rail, CN and Patrick Kinsella

Thursday’s handover from Virk’s lawyer, Kevin McCullough, to David Basi’s lawyer, Michael Bolton, was seamless as one dropped and the other picked up the CN thread.

Not surprisingly the name of BC Liberal campaign co-chair Patrick Kinsella came up.

“Mr. Kinsella and his company were paid about $300 thousand to in assisting in divesting of its freight operations.  That’s a lot being paid to the man who ran the election campaign” Boulton asked.  “It’s a lot of money, yes” replied Kenning.

And what did Kinsella do for the $300 K?  “I don’t know,” said evaluation committee member and BCR audit chair Brian Kenning.

According to Kenning, Board Chair John McLernon and BCR CEO Bob Phillips told the board they were hiring Kinsella to “provide guidance on how to deal with government in context with core review.”  When Boulton reminded Kenning that BC Rail executives were already dealing directly with Brenda Eaton in the Premier’s office on the core review Kenning offered, “to be honest I don’t know what was in the minds of McLernon and Philllips.”

Scrambled minds mean hire a lobbyist.  And you wonder why the BC Liberal government is getting a bad name.

Then again why would Kenning want to know much about the lobbyist who slipped through the Lobbyist Regstry Act on a technicality?  In the case of Mr. Kenning, you do your duty no questions asked.  “Didn’t the directors and you in particular, didn’t you raise the issue whether its appropriate?” asked Boulton.  “No I did not,” was Kenning’s curt reply.

Then the many variations of  ‘I don’t know’ took over.  Sometimes this trial seems like an exercise in euphemism.

“Did you learn that Mr. Kinsella had been advising some of the railways,” Boulton asked.

“I have no knowledge of that,” Kenning replied.

Boutlon showed Kenning an email from Randy Woods to Alan Wallace of CIBC World Markets copied to Kinsella.  The email concerned a Mike Smyth column about a CIBC analyst who said early in the bidding process that CN was the logical purchaser.  “It was optically unfortunate,” said Kenning.

“Optically unfortunate”.  That’s new.  That’s fresh.

The e-mail was copied to Kinsella.   “You were battling a perception that CN Rail had a favoured track… why would Kinsella be interested?”  asked Boulton.  “What was Mr. Kinsella’s involvement in that?”  “I just don’t know,” Kenning answered.

It went on like that till the end of day, which came early as a jury member fell ill.

In one his exchanges, Boulton asked Kenning directly “did you learn that Mr. Kinsella had been advising some of the railways?  Do you have any knowledge of Mr Kinsella’s involvement with CN, whether he was a paid lobbyist?  “I have no knowledge of that,” Kenning said.

Around three o’clock Boulton raised the infamous exchange between Kevin Mahoney and John McLernon regarding a telephone call from Kinsella, when it looked like the CN deal was going south.  “Did you become aware that Mahoney went to Patrick Kinsella to find out what CNs issues were,”  Boulton asked? “Can you explain why Kevin Mahoney thought it was a good idea to check with Patrick Kinsella to see what Mr. McLean was concerned about?”

The Court adjourned and left the question hanging.  But it’s clear we’ll be hearing much more about Mr. Kinsella’s role in this trial.  You can bet the mortgage money that ‘Who’s side was Mr. Kinsella really on,’ will become a steady theme of this trial.

* The image is from Bill Tieleman’s site.

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