Monday, May 07, 2012

The Liberals and the point of no return

Having been in the provincial press gallery during the collapse of public confidence in Glen Clark and the NDP, I can claim some familiarity with government tipping points.
There is a day, or maybe a week, when something shifts, and political recovery, already difficult, becomes impossible.
It's not a question of one issue. The casino-licence scandal would have been bad for the NDP administration, for sure, but might have been survivable if it had not messed up so badly on other issues, substituting spin and empty announcements for competent government.
It appears the Liberals might have reached the same desperate point.
The BC Rail scandal will not go away. The government's decision to pay $6 million in legal fees for Dave Basi and Bob Virk appears to be fatal.
Government policy - and the agreement with Basi and Virk - were crystal clear. If they were found not guilty, the government would cover their legal costs. If they weren't, the two would be on the hook. Basi had signed a lien on his home, at the government's demand, as part of a deal.
But, as the BC Rail trial was about to hear potentially damaging testimony, the government cut a deal. It agreed to cover $6 million in legal fees for Basi and Virk. If they pleaded guilty. The special prosecutor also promised no jail time, which would have been expected in a breach of trust case of this magnitude.
The government's position has been that the guilty pleas and the $6-million payment were unrelated.
But that's simply incredible. No matter what clever legal and bureaucratic moves moves were made, the deal was that the government covered the $6 million as part of a deal to get guilty pleas. It appears a  government inducement to get guilty pleas and end the trial.
Vaughn Palmer offers a good review of the government's claims - and their weaknesses - here. The government's arguments might impress legal scholars - or 18th-century Jesuits - but average citizens will find them unpersuasive.
Which, like the casino scandal, might not have been determinative.
But the Christy Clark government has not shown competence on other issues. With 11 sitting days left, the Liberals have not yet introduced the bill to repeal the HST, the mea culpa citizens are awaiting. It has floundered on other issues and shown no clear direction.
The polls have been bad for some time. But this week might mark the point at which recovery became impossible

There is a very good look at the evidence establishing that the $6 million was an inducement to obtain guilty pleas, ending the trial, at The Gazetter's site here.


Anonymous said...

The BC Liberals are doing a very good job of keeping everybody's attention on a paltry $6 million, so that people don't think about the alleged fraud of the $1 billion BC Rail deal.

Imagine how folks would feel if the 'Big Deal' has to be rolled back because it was done wrong.

RossK said...

Thanks Paul,

Thining about the big picture is, indeed, important.

However, more nitty gritty re: documentary evidence of the release of the indemnity to Mess'rs Basi and Virk prior to their entering of guilty pleas is here.


off-the-radar said...

great column Paul, nailed it.

Anonymous said...

As always, Paul, a thoughtful column. But as for Vaughn Palmer's link, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Vaughn one of the three sagacious pundits who have spent years defending the Liberals on CKNW's Cutting Edge of the Ledge, and jeering and sneering at anybody who thought they smelled any smoke with respect to BC Rail Scandal. Alex Tsakumis and others have been trying to get through to those three repeatedly, , for what...two solid years by now? But Tsakumis was just another "internet kook", as Christy Clark called him. Vaughn jumped to her defence at that time declaring that people like Tsakumis were nothing more than
"Nincompoops ranting in their underpants is the term for people blogging, for me." (Present company excluded, let us hope, Paul). What has changed? If he's finally had an Epiphany it is far too long overdue for me to ever again trust either his motives or his veracity.

Raymond Graham