Thursday, May 06, 2010

Kash Heed affair gets worse and worse

With the Kash Heed mess, the Liberal government has stumbled closer to the abyss that swallowed the NDP regime in 2001.
Heed stepped down as solicitor general April 9, after RCMP officers said they wanted to question him about Elections Act violations during his campaign.
On Tuesday, a special prosecutor recommended charges against Heed's campaign manager, his financial agent and a supporter.
The charges include allegations that they sent a flyer smearing the NDP without revealing the Liberals' role, failed to report the election expense and obstructed justice in an attempted cover-up.
But special prosecutor Terence Robertson said Heed could not have been expected to know anything about the dirty tricks. He was exonerated.
The timing becomes important here.
Sometime the next day - Wednesday - Premier Gordon Campbell decided Heed should be re-appointed solicitor general.
That was unwise. Heed's senior campaign managers faced serious charges. Their evidence had not been heard. His narrow election victory is tainted.
It was a situation that should have called for careful consideration.
But Campbell, in Europe, decided to go ahead. At "approximately 4 o'clock," Attorney General Mike de Jong told the legislature, Heed accepted Campbell's invitation to take up his old job.
"Within a few moments," de Jong said, Robertson dropped a bombshell. He resigned as special prosecutor. His law firm had donated $1,000 to Heed's campaign (and thousands more to the Liberals).
Robertson said he knew about the donation and the RCMP had asked him about a potential conflict of interest. But he only decided to act on the concerns after he had exonerated Heed.
The conflict should have been obvious. Someone who helped fund a politician's election campaign shouldn't be deciding whether potentially career-ending charges are justified. Equally, the government should have known that it would be wrong to go ahead with Heed's return to cabinet.
But it didn't act. Heed was sworn in around 8 p.m. despite the obvious problems. Ineptitude or arrogance? Or was THE government unable to function because of a dependence on Campbell, sleeping through the early morning hours in Europe?
There's no good explanation, as de Jong revealed in the legislature this week. The New Democrats pounced, of course. They went too far in slagging the Liberals - de Jong's unhappiness with all this is real.
But the main points were valid. The special prosecutor system was established to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest in political cases. The fear was that a Crown prosecutor might be suspected of being soft on powerful government figures who could decide his career future.
Yet it failed. A Liberal partisan was named to assess election campaign violations. And although campaign donations are online, no one noticed and Robertson apparently didn't tell anyone.
And even when that was revealed, Heed was re-appointed. He stepped down 13 hours later. But the re-appointment to cabinet should not have happened.
All this wrangling is significant, but dwarfed by the underlying issue.
In the last days of the 2009 campaign, a mailer went to households. It was in Chinese and English and hit hot buttons for the Chinese-Canadian community - about 40 per cent of the population in the Vancouver-Fraserview riding.
The flyer said the NDP would legalize heroin and prostitution and impose an inheritance tax. The flyer claims were false.
NDP candidate Gabriel Yiu lost by 748 votes.
No one admitted sending the flyer. The Heed campaign specifically denied having any role.
The special prosecutor believes that is not true and that the Heed campaign violated the election laws on the way to a narrow victory.
Which does not necessarily have anything to do with Heed. But it still taints his election, something Heed, Campbell and the Liberals have not acknowledged.
Heed might well turn out to be the victim in all this, a political Nemo swimming with sharks. His election could be overturned if the courts and Election B.C. finds the flyer pushed the campaign over spending limits
But the Liberals look like buffoons, willfully blind to serious scandal.
Footnote: Two other issues are of note.
Heed's campaign manager, Barinder Sall, is a strong Liberal supporter and former Liberal ministerial assistant. If the charges are proven, the party faces questions about campaign integrity.
And the independence of other special prosecutors in other cases is now being examined. Robertson recommended against illegal lobbying charges against former Campbell aide Ken Dobell. The Vancouver Sun reported at least seven other special prosecutors or their law firms had donated to the Liberals.


DPL said...

at first blush it would appear than giving money to the Liberals might well bring in a lot of business from the government. seems to be the case and I guess the media will watch just who gives who and the resulting business if any.

StandUpforBC said...

Paul, with all due respect, how is it exactly that you know that "de Jong's unhappiness with all this is real."

You can say you "think" his unhappiness is real, but you certainly cannot "know" this.

Please, this just does your excellent journalistic integrity a disservice.

Anonymous said...

If it's true that it was Robertson who "exonerated" Dobell then it follows that the Dobell file should be reopened. Do you think it will be? And I seriously doubt that any of "step outside the house and say that" de Jong's unhappiness is for any of the right reasons.

Raymond Graham

off-the-radar said...

Heed should resign his seat and fight it out in a byelection; that's the honourable thing to do.

Let the voters in Vancouver Fraserview decide who should represent them in the legislature.

Anonymous said...

Paul, you had me until this:

"Heed might well turn out to be the victim in all this, a political Nemo swimming with sharks."

Heed has to be given the benefit of doubt, but could he really be a political Nemo? I don't buy for a minute Heed went into politics naively. The man was a cop after all, and you don't make it as police chief without having at least some ability to cut and thrust with the best (or worst) of them.

As unfair as this may sound, sometimes you just go with your gut. And my gut tells that Heed is one of the sharks himself.

Is Heed a victim in all this? Maybe, sharks can also be victims. But is he a political Nemo? Highly unlikely, IMO.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things...

Barinder Sall wasn't just any old ministerial assistant. He was MA to the Attorney General which, given the nature of the charges, raises all kinds of alarm bells about the way this government operates.

Secondly, more important than the softball treatment of Dobell (which is tainted by these revelations)is the donation by Berardino to Oppal while sitting as a special prosecutor in the most political case BC has seen since the Summers case. Berardino is making decisions about cabinet and MLA evidence which may or may not involve Oppal and which does involve Oppal's colleagues. He's making decisions about investigation and privilege while showing his political leanings. Given the nature of the pre-trial hearings it is hard to believe that those leanings are irrelevant to this case. Absolutely scandalous.

RossK said...

Regarding 'timing'....

For me, nothing is more important than the timing of this:

"...Robertson said he knew about the donation and the RCMP had asked him about a potential conflict of interest. But he only decided to act on the concerns after he had exonerated Heed....."

Now, it is important to be very precise about that timing of the RCMP questioning of Mr. Robertson, which in fact was about the donations....


Because, again, this questioning, came BEFORE Mr. Robertson made his ruling.

Thus, Mr. Robertson knew that the Horsemen knew.


Why did Mr. Robertson go ahead and first make his ruling prior to resigning.

Especially given that he, himself, has personal experience with what can happen to a prosecution's case down the road if multiple SP's become involved.*

*See 'Bountiful'


Norm Farrell said...

Was Walter Scott writing about Gordon Campbell's BC Liberals when he composed:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

Anonymous said...

I suspect De Jong's unhappiness was mainly over the negative political fallout and the "unhappiness" he could expect to hear from his boss upon his return.

Anonymous said...

"Or was THE government unable to function because of a dependence on Campbell, sleeping through the early morning hours in Europe?

That may actually be the case. Reminds me of that war movie The Longest Day, where the Germans delay releasing their tanks to counter the Allied invasion because Hitler is sound asleep in Berlin and they need his permission....

Anonymous said...

hope that the situation in 2001 didnt occur again...