BC’s media pundits just don’t get BC Rail. And that means they are selling British Columbians short. Friday’s conversation between Bill Good, Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey is the perfect case in point.
Vaughn Palmer started by asking a caller “what would you ask a public inquiry? What questions would you ask?”
Keith Baldrey followed with the same thing. “What are the burning questions?”
And then Palmer elaborated on the theme “A lot of the questions I’ve seen so far Bill, are beside the point, or they draw on things, on allegations that the defence made in court that were never proven one way or another and no evidence….”
I’m not one to go around complaining about either Palmer or Baldrey and media conspiracy. The fact is I respect both of them as journalists, but this line of argument on BC Rail gets me agitated.
The list of unanswered questions is a mile long. And depends not only on rumour and conjecture but evidence gathered by both the RCMP and the defence through disclosure, sworn affidavits, patterns of behavior that haven’t been adequately explained and established facts that counter the government message.
Hansard is the first place to go to find unanswered questions. There’s a list of one hundred questions sitting on the order paper, based on questions the government refused to answer over six years, claiming the case was before the courts.
Stonewally wasn’t just the NDP’s name for Wally Oppal. It’s the public’s name because it rang true.
And then there are the questions that stem from the evidence that has been disclosed to the court in the five-year fight for disclosure. That evidence goes well beyond rumour and conjecture.
We could start with something I’m sure some would call tangential – the sworn affidavit of Rosemary Hayes regarding the destruction of documents relevant to the case. It’s never been disclosed how many documents were destroyed and more importantly, the name of the mysterious senior official who ordered their destruction in the months leading up to the 2009 election.
And there’s the sworn affidavit of George Copley that revealed that the Deputy to the Premier was provided with evidence and RCMP questions prior to RCMP interviews with two cabinet ministers, breaching the evidentiary protocol established by Chief Justice Dohm.
Here are a few of the questions that flow from that pattern of facts – What impact did that breach have on the questioning of Collins and Reid and the direction of the investigation? Is there any connection between the breach, the questioning and Collins surprise resignation three weeks later? Most importantly, did that breach constitute contempt of court or obstruction of justice as at least one RCMP official has implied?
There are also the recent questions about Christy Clark’s connections to the deal, a connection Clark denied in the Legislature. Documents Alex Tsakumis published last week leads one to ask “Did Clark lie. And if so, why?”
Keith Baldrey was quick to say that those documents “are not corroborated…. haven’t stood up in court…” But that’s ridiculous. If every document the media reported on was required to stand up in court before it was published newspapers would be blank.
Just last week the media was in a frenzy reporting allegations from Harry Lali – now there’s a credible source – about NDP membership forms, without seeing a single form or waiting to see whether the allegations stand up in court. Did that prevent the media from reporting? Of course not.
That line of argument is disingenuous in the extreme.
It’s clear that dozens of documents that have been revealed and leaked come straight out of the police investigations and the pre-trial and trial processes. Their provenance is not in question. For example no one – not even Christy Clark – has provided any reason to question the documents Tsukamis has released. The same can be said for all the documents the defence used in the trial and pre-trial. And it cannot be denied that they raise troubling questions that stand unanswered and therefore cast doubt over the fairness of the sale, the direction of the investigation and the conduct of the prosecution.
That harms trust in our key institutions.
The final nail in the coffin is the way in which the trial ended.
The government has still not offered a coherent and believable explanation of how the supposedly separate arms of prosecution and government managed to collaborate on the offer of reduced sentencing and continued immunity without talking or knowing what each other was doing. Somehow, a deal that ended the trial at a crucial and dangerous moment for the government materialized out of thin air.
Who set the Deputy AG and the Finance Deputy to work to overturn government indemnity policy in order to get a deal? Who approved their decision to overturn the policy to the tune of over $6 million?
Why did the Special Prosecutor drop his insistence on hard time for the slap on the wrist sentence of house arrest with generous exceptions? How did the deal get done between government, the defence and Special Prosecutor, because it took all three to make it happen?
The way the trial ended had British Columbians up in arms. The most common word heard in the week after the announcement was ‘corruption’.
Rightly so. What I don’t get is why pundits are so ready to brush their questions and anger aside.