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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for March 14th, 2009

Palmer summarises the BC Rail scandal

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Vaughan Palmer in today’s Sun gives a useful summary of the latest development

NDP researchers, thumbing through reports in the legislature library, turned up $300,000 in payments from BC Rail to companies owned by Patrick Kinsella.

The same veteran political insider who co-chaired the B.C. Liberal election campaigns in 2001 and 2005.

Shortly after the first of those victories, Kinsella was hired by the government-owned railway to provide advice on the incoming administration’s plans and policies.

Prime focus on a so-called “core” review that was deciding what parts of the enterprise should be kept in the public sector, what could be safely downsized or privatized altogether.

The BCR brass must have liked what they heard, because they kept him on retainer for just short of 50 months, long after the core review was completed and most of the railway’s operations had been sold off. The contract didn’t run out until September 2005, four months after the second of those two Kinsella-chaired election wins.

He also provides this useful guide to political scandals

if you can’t boil it down to a single sentence, it probably isn’t a scandal

and then proceeds to provide a few single sentences to choose from

Liberal insider gets $300,000 contract. $6,000 a month for the premier’s pal. Government railway hires government insider to explain government policy. Campbell, Kinsella in BC Rail tryst.

He also points that he did cover the famous CP letter – when they pulled out of the bidding a week bfore it was due to close – at the time.

What does seem to be missing however is the same clamour that we once heard over a deck and hunting knife – or prior to that what had happened to bingo proceeds in Nanaimo.  The media in general – not just the Sun – give a much harder ride to NDP scandals than they do to Liberal ones. There is not much surprise about that either since the media in BC are in very few hands – and they are those of big businesses who would rather deal with a right wing government than a left wing one. They also perpetuate many of the myths about the parties – who is “fit to govern” being the most common. That is one reason why the BC Liberals can sit and stonewall questions about this scandal. Because the press is not baying for the blood of this premier as it once did for Glen Clark’s (who was cleared) and Mike Harcourt’s (even though he had nothing whatever to do with Nanaimo bingo).

Of course the BC Liberals hope that the trial will not get going before the spring election. That way they can keep up their sub judice defence.  But Kinsella has not been charged. Only Basi and Virk are carrying the can at present. But what seems to be revealed by this latest development is that there was plenty wrong with the BC Rail sale – and the raid on  the leg may turn out to have been a side show. The documents were not even turned up by the FoI requests, or the release of court documents but were in the legislature library all the time.

I think it is well past time for the BC media to show some of the same spirit it once showed over trivialities – none of the left’s scandals were anything like as scandalous as this one. Campbell dodged the bullet over his drunk driving conviction in Hawaii. But he has been very much a one man government – a control freak who does not share power – so it is well past time that he start wearing that same sheepish grin over being caught red handed in a lie (“we will not sell BC Rail”) and picking an early  favourite (CN) to win what was supposed to be a competitive tender.

Competence is not in fact the BC Liberals strong suit.  They managed to get the benefit of a period of economic growth which happened to coincide with their tenure. But they have also made some significant goofs – such as tearing up the health support workers’ contracts and then having to compensate them. Refusing  to concede that power lines would impact homes and then subsequently offering to buy them. Backing down over a private power project proposal in a provincial park. And no doubt you can add your own favourites to this list. Feel free to do so below.

I would like to think that the groundswell of opinion here is shifting as it did recently in the United States. Unfortunately that does not seem to be the case – although we have provincial and federal governments who share the same political philosophy as the Bush adminstration and many of the same policies. One of the things we really need to do right now is convince the people who are going to be voting that there is a need for a change. And the BC Rail scandal is only one of a number of convincing reasons why we need that.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2009 at 7:46 am

Posted in politics

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