Thursday, November 10, 2011

Policies are pointless if routinely ignored

BC Liberals paid $6-million in public funds to Dave Basi and Bob Virk as part of enticements to end the BC Rail political corruption trial. The criminal court action had been embarrassing the government and was about to get worse. Former minister Gary Collins was next to testify and other Liberal big guns were to follow.

The settlement offer to Basi and Virk relieved them of crippling burdens for legal costs and financial penalties, eliminated the possibility of jail time and left their personal assets intact. The "house arrest" imposed offered generous absences for work, family, religion and recreation. In other words, trivial sentences. More importantly, the settlement left Basi and Virk available for new assignments that could be arranged by Liberal friends. Others at the centre of BC Rail, including Gary Collins, Patrick Kinsella and Brian Kenning, had been rewarded for silence and provided lucrative supplements or employment with wealthy associates of the government.

Payment of the $6-million was contrary to long established policy and tradition by which Government protects Crown servants from personal losses incurred while they are acting within the scope of their duties and not acting against interests of the Crown. Not only did that principle not apply in Basi/Virk, but the payment, together with punishment below typical for the charged offences, was aimed at inducing guilty pleas and non-disclosure agreements facilitating concealment of evidence.

Liberals bribed defendants to "take the fall" for wrongdoing by more senior people and prosecutor Berardino and Justice Anne MacKenzie facilitated the bribes. If the Government had clean hands, the case would have proceeded to its natural conclusion without interference. However, Liberals consistently set roadblocks and covered tracks while they encouraged and benefited from "I can't remember" perjury.

Premier Christy Clark has tried to change the subject away from her government's wrongful acts. She said in the legislature last June,
"I think that the public was concerned about the indemnity policy of government. I think they were right to be concerned about it."
Adrian Dix called her out,
"The Premier is wrong. The people of B.C. are not concerned about the indemnity policy. I have never heard that raised. What their concern is, is that the government didn't follow the indemnity policy. They didn't follow the indemnity policy, and they gave $6 million at a time when the government says that they can't afford to do basic things... The public is concerned that there was a $6 million payout to put it to an end, a trial that was a serious trial for the government in power. That's the concern of the public.

"... So the question to the Premier is: why aren't we reviewing that decision? Why did the Liberal Premier of British Columbia initiate a review and not ask that that decision be reviewed... a review of the decision not to apply the indemnity policy in the B.C. Liberal corruption scandal?"
Now, here is Stephen Toope's report. Who is he? Well, Stephen Toope is the head of the University of British Columbia, an institution that depends on the BC Government for more than $500-million annually, money that enables it to pay Toope a salary of about $600 thousand, along with an extraordinarily generous benefits package that brings the value of his remuneration closer to $1-million. Professor Toope may understand much about international law but he apparently knows little about conflict of interest. He should have declined the Premier's request to issue a report on such a politically charged matter, one that is vital to the government's survival. How could he have issued a report that offended the very people who control the financial destiny of UBC and Toope.

Regardless, the report only helps the Liberal Government change the subject. That will be successful only if media mouthpieces allow the switch in focus. As Dix pointed out, citizen discomfort was never with policy, it was with failure to follow policy. The fact is the Liberals ignored procedures that were in place and there remains no guarantee they will do right in the future.

Toope Report
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3 comments:

  1. You're absolutely correct in your laser-like assessment of this report Norm.

    This report just helps the government redirect public attention (aka "changing the channel") in the hopes that they will forget about the larger issues around the BC Rail Scandal. I can't imagine any of the mainstream news media calling this spade a spade like you did here.

    It's not that there are no policies, or that people weren't aware of them, or made "honest mistakes", or need more training (all convenient excuses that we frequently hear from those in power when they break laws that they expect the public to follow). No, they knew that what they were doing was wrong, and they did it anyway.

    Christy Clark’s deputy sheriff act and attitude towards Stanley Cup rioters is very much at odds with her kid glove treatment of her political pals in far greater crimes like the BC Rail Scandal. If the government breaks their own rules, why should they expect citizens to follow them?

    Coincidentally, the Harper Conservatives were convicted today of breaking the law on election spending limits in the In & Out Scandal during the last election.

    The interview tonight by Carol Off on CBC's As It Happens of the Harper government cabinet minister who is also a party official was a classic. He claimed the Harper Cons were vindicated! Deny, deny, deny -- even in the face of evidence, pleading guilty, conviction and a (paltry) $50,000 fine.

    Yes, this is the Harper "Law and Order government" in action -- breaking another law, just as Harper himself did when he refused to provide government documents to Parliamentary committees investigating military complicity in the mistreatment of Afghan prisoners and was cited with contempt of court. A Canadian prime minister charged with contempt of court, imagine that. Only in Harper country.

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  2. Norm, it's actually worse than the policy just not being followed. The original indemnity agreements that Basi and Virk had with the government, which DID follow policy, were deliberately amended so that they did not.

    This report, authored by a guy who did it for free and is now accompanying BCChristy on her vacation to China, didn't look into the details. That tells us all we need to know about its intended purpose.

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  3. Another great analysis Mr Farrell. The comments above detail my concerns as well. My MP gave me some blather that sounded like he had never heard of in and out or contempt of court or parliament. My MLA thinks that the silencer payoff to Basi/virk was good business. These people consider us wastrels that don't know what is good for us.

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