Friday, March 13, 2009

Finance ministry records included faked B.C. Rail sale e-mails

A few days ago, I posted e-mails from finance ministry files that indicated former New Democrat MLAs Paul Ramsey, Gordon Wilson, Helmut Geisbrecht and others plotting to attack Gordon Campbell's B.C. Rail sale.
They were fake, as Paul Ramsey has already said.
Wilson has added his notice that the e-mails were bogus.

"I can assure you that I did not author any email to Ramsey on the sale of BC Rail. During my time in politics I was a vocal critic of Campbell's desire to sell off the Railway, and predicted that he would do so despite his constant denials to the contrary.
I am not sure who wrote those emails or why anyone would go to such lengths to try to engage those named. It is quite bizarre, but then so is the whole episode even to the extent to which it has been kept out of the public spotlight.
Gordon Wilson"

So, who was behind the e-mails?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Binder 5: E-mails fake says, ex-Liberal MLA

Paul Nettleton also says the finance ministry e-mail files allegedly showing a campaign against the BC Rail are fakes.

"Your recent blog on BCR was brought to my attention with specific reference to my "letter to former Transportation Minister Reid" on the BCR sale. At no time did I correspond with Minister Reid at the direction of Lois Boone (former NDP Transportation Minister) and/or anyone else in the NDP. Furthermore at no time did anyone in the NDP request that I do so!
Paul Nettleton"

BC Rail paid firms of Liberal campaign co-chair for services

The New Democrats asked about questions yersterday about $297,000 in payments from B.C. Rail to the consulting firms of Patrick Kinsella, the Liberals' campaign co-chair in 2001 and 2005. Sean Holman sets out the details here. It's worth searching on Kinsella on for background.
An alert reader posted an interesting Hansard exchange from May 28, 2003, on my site. The exchange came during debate on the budget for the premier's office.

J. MacPhail: A longtime Liberal Party fundraiser is Patrick Kinsella. He is the lobbyist for CN. Has the Premier or any of his ministers met with Mr. Kinsella and representatives of CN?

Hon. G. Campbell: I don't have an answer for that. As the member opposite knows, if she wants to know about specific meeting times with either myself or the minister, she can do that through freedom of information.

J. MacPhail: My gosh, I didn't think he would refer me to that, because I'm going to get into freedom of information and this government's record on that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Binder 5: Paul Ramsey says he's never seen the e-mails referred to in the post below

Former NDP cabinet minister Paul Ramsey says he's never seen, and certainly didn't write, any of the e-mails in Finance Ministry files that supposedly include comments from him on the B.C. Rail deal.

"Very strange, Mr. Willcocks, very strange," he said in an e-mail today.
"I did not write the July 10, 2003 e-mail that appears in Binder 5 with my name on it. I never saw any secret "documents" that discussed the BC Rail sale. I was not part of any co-ordinated NDP attack on the sale--though I certainly thought it was a dumb idea (for both policy and political reasons) and said so in print and on the air. I never discussed the sale of BC Rail with Joy (MacPhail, I assume). And I don't know who Ron Cannan is."

I have no doubt that's Ramsey being candid and straightforward.
And I have no idea what's going on here.

Binder 5: New Democrats plot against the B.C. Rail sale, and the government gets the e-mails

Note: See post above. Paul Ramsey says he's never seen and didn't write any of these e-mails. Which raises a whole lot of questions about how bogus e-mails ended up in Finance Ministry files.

But how did e-mails supposedly between former NDP cabinet minister Paul Ramsey, ex-Liberal leader and later New Democrat Gordon Wilson and defeated NDP backbencher Helmut Giesbrecht end up in finance ministry files? Wilson was replaced as Liberal leader by Gordon Campbell; Ramsey represented a Prince George riding until 2001, and Giesbrecht represented Skeena until 2001.
Assuming the trio were not keen on telegraphing their plans to attack the sale of B.C. Rail, how did the Liberals get their hands on the 2003 e-mail exchange?
A mole in their midst? Carelessness? Or are the e-mails faked?
The e-mails are among some 8,000 pages of material — much of it blanked out — released to defence lawyers in the B.C. Rail corruption case under FOI requests. The NDP has posted them here .

“We should fine tune our strategy on rail,” Wilson allegedly wrote in a July 10 e-mail to Ramsey and Giesbrecht. “It will go to cabinet on July 23. Believe me gentlemen this is going to be more controversial than the Coq deal. We have the potential to really nail the coffin shut. Its clear the only thing Campbell cares about is the bottom line. We need to hit them fast and hard on this.” Wilson says cabinet will give the sale the “green light” at the meeting. “It is obvious from what I have seen from our friends, the tax advantages make it almost certain that CN will be the only suitor for B.C. Rail. Paul have you spoken to Joy or Lois? Even the stuff on raiding pension funds is good. Campbell won’t be able to find a place to hide. He will regret his promise not to sell bcr. Everywhere you look the word sale is mentioned.”

Giesbrecht's supposedly sent a response to Ramsey and Wilson within 15 minutes.
“I agree with you. Our good fortune is really hard to comprehend. I spoke to Lois the other day she is working hard with the unions. She spoke to nettleton yesterday and convinced him to write a strongly worded letter to reid. Once the negotiating team is given their obvious bottom line mandate, that will be the time to crank things up considerably. The order of the bids is not what I would have expected. Campbell will dread the word ‘sale’ every time it is mentioned!” (Reid likely refers to then transportation minister Judith Reid and Nettleton to Prince George MLA Paul Nettleton, who by then had been bounced from the Liberal caucus. Lois would be former Prince George NDP MLA Lois Boone.)

Ramsey allegedly responds to Wilson and Giesbrecht that evening.
“I spoke to Lois yesterday. She is beginning to ratchet up the pressure. I advised her to lay low until cabinet decides on july 23. The comments by cibc have been incredibly helpful. That just confirmed to me this was already a done deal. The job losses will be staggering… I can’t believe our stroke of luck. Please ensure you do not pass those documents to anybody else. Let’s keep them under wraps. I have put a call into Lois. I did speak to Joy. She called ron cannan to touch base and stir the pot some more. When I hear what transpired I will fill you in. It’s my understanding Campbell will be trying to sell this to his cabinet up in sechelt. Let’s hope they don’t develop a backbone overnight.”
(CIBC World Markets had been hired to organize the sale and a company analyst had caused a stir by suggesting CN was the logical buyer. Ron Cannan was then a Kelowna councilor who opposed the sale; now he’s a Conservative MP. The cabinet met in Sechelt on July 15; Reid did a telephone press call that day to try and ease fears about the sale and potential job losses.)

Finally, Giesbrecht is supposed to have e-mailed 10 former NDP MLAs on July 11 – Jom Doyle, Lois Boone, Corky Evans, David Zirnhelt, Erda Walsh, Steve Orcherton, Pietro Calendino, Glenn Robertson. Bill Goodacre and Moe Sihota.

“This is the latest. When we get a decision after July 23 I will follow up at that time.”

And there the record stops.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Who is paying lawyers for Basi and Virk?

The New Democrats have posted most of the 8,000-odd pages of material released to the defence in the B.C. Rail sale corruption case here .
I suggested it was a good chance to test citizen journalism; take a look and see if there's something you find noteworthy, and post it here - or anywhere else.
Having slogged through Binder 3, I note that Vaughn Palmer certainly makes people in government nervous.
And that taxpayers are, apparently, picking up the spectacular legal expenses for Dave Basi and Bob Virk. Documents in the binder say the deputy minister of finance and the deputy attorney general approved the indemnity in July 2005.
Taxpayers would pick up the tab for legal costs "in criminal procedures against them arising from conduct that was in the course of their employment as ministerial assistants." The reasons, offered in a briefing note, have been kept secret.
Another memo says, "Both of these individuals were told, as part of the correspondence related to the termination of their employment, that the province would consider giving them indemnity."
Which seems reasonable. If you're doing your job and end up in facing criminal charges related to your work, your employer should support unless clearly improper behaviour has taken place. That certainly hasn't been established.
And it's especially critical in this case. The prosecution appears to have a limitless budget, with a number of lawyers under special prosecutor Bill Beradino working on the case.
And, of course, remember that Glen Clark's legal costs were paid by the public, as they should have been.