BC Rail: No questions? You bet there are questions

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.

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9 Responses to BC Rail: No questions? You bet there are questions

  1. BC Mary says:

    Ian,

    I bet you could make an excellent summary on which the Terms of Reference could be based. In fact, this column could be it.

    We have an excellent person in mind, to head up the Public Inquiry on BC Rail … someone respected on all sides.

    Now we just have to set the wheels in motion.

    Um … btw, is it OK if I repost this column? Half? Whatever is OK by you … I’d like to have. Many thanks.

  2. Don McBain says:

    We ONLY spent 6 million on this that could have gone to the homeless and they think that they can still get elected?

  3. M Procaccini says:

    No, they “get” the BC Rail scandal. They are just trying their best to once again polish up the economy-wrecking, democracy-raping, poverty-inducing, ecology-forsaking BC Liars to rig the next election in their favour–as dictated by their corporate bosses.

    These corporate media brown-nosers have covered up and down-played the whole BC Rail atrocity since it started, all to sanitize their corrupt corporate-funded BC Liar thugs.

    Now with Christy ClarkieNazi, whose whole family is involved with t…he BC Rail scandal, is best poised to be their next leader, they are again trying to play it down to again sanitize these parasites.

    We need a good uprising here and boot these creeps and their corporate masters into the Pacific.

  4. Norm Farrell says:

    “That line of argument is disingenuous in the extreme.”

    True, and the reason for them to advance the line is self-interest. They told us for years this is not a story and to admit otherwise now would indict their own judgment.

  5. Paul says:

    For once, the gallery is part of the sausage making they are accustomed to critiquing – the wiretaps also captured conversations between suspects and gallery reporters. That’s the most likely reason none of them – NOT ONE – is eager to advance the proposal for an inquiry. Even the most caustic of government critics will remain silent on this one. Pick your favourite rebel reporter and survey their work for anything close to fair coverage on this issue, and then ask yourself why they are silent.

  6. PG says:

    I heard the conversation with the trio on Friday as well and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If these documents have not been proved in court, why is a media (Globe and Mail) application set to be heard in BC Supreme Court on Feb 16th? What is the media applying for? Documents!

    The manner in which the 3 pundits tersely deny callers an opportunity to discuss a differing point of view is becoming down right rude. The BC Media have become the lamestream media.

  7. George says:

    Excellent post Ian…

    might I suggest, raise these questions to a wide audience today…get these questions heard ….

    Tsakumis On ‘The Sean Leslie Show’ Sunday January 30th., 2011 @ 5:30pm PRECISELY!

  8. We can only assume the 3 stooges in question attended every court hearing and thus made their intelligent conclusion ? Ya right !

    Guy in Victoria

  9. Linda says:

    You would think, if Campbell was clean regarding his corrupt sale of the BCR, he would scream to high heaven, demanding a thorough investigation. I remember the fit Campbell pitched, regarding the CSIS saying, there were BC officials being influenced, by other country’s. The media of today, are a disgrace to their professions, they are merely, Campbell’s propaganda machine. They are laughable, as if we don’t see through them. Good Grief, we just aren’t that stupid. Norm is absolutely correct, they will not disgrace themselves, they have to keep their b.s. on a roll. Campbell thieves the BCR. De Jong thieves the tax payers dollars, to pay the two patsies costs. So, Campbell thieves, and we the tax payers, are forced to pay him for doing so. We should have got a real kangaroo to preside over, Campbell’s corrupt sale of the BCR trial. Justice in BC, ain’t it grand.

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