Monday, December 28, 2009
This Is the Year of Decision for BC Legislature Raid case, Basi-Virk or Railgate to be resolved
Six years after Legislature searched by police, case finally will be cracked open and it will be "like Christmas every day" for political observers - or thrown out of court
By Bill Tieleman
The Tyee December 28 2009
"If I have to sit here in an empty courtroom by myself, the matters are going to be heard."
- Justice Elizabeth Bennett on the Basi-Virk case, Oct. 26, 2007.
Today marks the astonishing sixth anniversary of the unprecedented police raid on the British Columbia legislature -- and the sixth year without a trial in what may be the biggest political corruption case in the province's history.
The case involves blockbuster allegations that two former B.C. Liberal government ministerial assistants gave confidential government information about bids for the $1 billion 2003 privatization of B.C. Rail to a lobbyist representing one of the bidders, while a third former government aide laundered bribe money.
It also features defence allegations of a massive cover-up to protect current and former top B.C. Liberal cabinet members while hanging the government political staffers out to dry -- and allegations of political dirty tricks directed straight from staff in the office of Premier Gordon Campbell.
For political observers, a lengthy trial featuring witnesses potentially including Campbell himself would be like Christmas every day, with startling allegations and grueling cross examinations of major political figures.
And the trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi -- the accused three -- will either begin, or be dismissed, in 2010.
It's become an annual ritual to predict when the charges of breach of trust and fraud against David Basi and Virk and money laundering against Aneal Basi will start -- a prediction without success for anyone covering or following the case.
But as the quote above illustrates, even then-trial judge Bennett's fondest wishes to get things moving were thwarted by circumstances beyond her control.
"We need to accomplish something with this case so we can proceed in mid-March," Bennett said on Oct. 26, 2007, referring to an anticipated trial start in 2008.
Why 2010 is decisive
So what makes 2010 different?
Several important factors, not least being the disposition of a Supreme Court of Canada appeal by special prosecutor Bill Berardino on the key issue of whether testimony about and by a secret witness could take place with the defence lawyers, media and public excluded.
That testimony by a police informer will be allowed, the nation's highest court ruled, ending perhaps the most significant delay in a case marked by seemingly endless legal road blocks.
Also key may be the replacement of Bennett, who was promoted to the B.C. Court of Appeal, by Justice Anne MacKenzie. The new judge's no-nonsense approach has frustrated the defence team, as they have lost several rulings on disclosure of evidence.
Lastly, the Court of Appeal for Ontario made a potentially precedent-setting ruling that may ensure the Basi-Virk case goes to trial when it overruled a lower court decision to stay charges in a complicated police corruption case because it would have been 56 months before that trial could have been completed.
If nearly five years of delay is not enough to stop an Ontario case, can the defence expect MacKenzie to rule a similar length of time from charges to trial in a far more complex case is an "unreasonable delay"?
Defence has a few hands to play
But the veteran lawyers representing the accused have two kicks at the can in attempting to have charges against their clients stayed -- the legal term for not proceeding with trial without the charges being dropped.
The defence begins a Charter of Rights application on Jan. 11, 2010, on its contention that the trial has not begun because of "unreasonable delay."
But the defence will also argue an abuse of process application, presumably alleging that the police investigation was unfair and conducted inappropriately based on a wide variety of strange circumstances.
Those allegations include the fact that a senior RCMP investigator in the case, Inspector Kevin DeBruyckere, is the brother-in-law of B.C. Liberal Party executive director Kelly Reichert; that David Basi's mother sold a house to RCMP officer and prominent case investigator Andrew Cowan prior to the raid that Cowan was unhappy with; that the defence alleges the RCMP were asked by Reichert not to press additional charges against Basi because they would "embarrass" the party; and allegations that the RCMP knew key Crown witness Erik Bornmann -- a former lobbyist and both provincial and federal Liberal Party insider -- lied to the media in saying he had been cleared of any wrongdoing despite his own allegations that Basi and Virk were paid bribes for supplying him with confidential government information.
Notwithstanding the possibility of charges being stayed and the case coming to a shocking and complete halt, if the trial proceeds many devastating questions will be answered and the fate of several political careers quickly decided.
Here are just some of the outstanding issues that a trial may resolve.
Perhaps the biggest question will be answered before a trial begins -- could there still be a plea bargain by the accused to avoid a trial -- and possible jail time?That seems unlikely.
While the B.C. Liberals would desperately love the case not to proceed, special prosecutor Bill Berardino is an independent prosecutor who does not answer to the government, nor is he likely to want to approach the end of a lengthy courtroom career with a plea bargain in a case he thinks he can win.
It would also appear difficult to negotiate a plea bargain that would ensure the defendants legal costs are paid by the B.C. government despite their accepting any responsibility for the actions they are alleged to have taken.
Because all three were government employees, they have an indemnification agreement which means if found not guilty, their legal costs are paid for by the province -- if judged guilty, they are on the hook for massive legal fees on top of sentencing.
Provincial Liberal Party implications
The trial will feature considerable testimony on the role of the B.C. Liberal Party in paying David Basi an alleged $20,000 outside of his government position for "media monitoring" that the defence claims is a euphemism for political dirty tricks.
The defence made a series of bombshell accusations in court in the spring of 2007, including that Basi coordinated phony callers supporting the B.C. Liberals to flood radio talk shows; that he organized phony protests outside the B.C. Federation of Labour convention and hecklers to disrupt an environmental protest against salmon fish farms; that Campbell knew of Basi media interventions on his behalf; that Campbell's former press secretary Mike Morton and former caucus communications director Mike McDonald were directly involved with Basi's talk radio actions; and much more -- some of it allegedly intercepted by police wiretaps.
But perhaps an allegation that Reichert and the RCMP discussed additional criminal charges against David Basi over political dirty tricks -- with Reichert asking they not be pursued and that Campbell was informed -- could be the most explosive of all.
Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough told the court on May 15, 2007, that he was reading from an RCMP report titled: "Kelly Reichert -- Do Not Disclose" that was eventually disclosed to the defence.
"Careful consideration will have to be given to the wishes of the victim. The likelihood of successful charges versus the embarrassment to the victim," McCullogh said the RCMP report stated, referring to the B.C. Liberal Party as the victim.
"The wishes of the Liberal Party and Mr. Reichert, the same day he notifies the Premier, all came true," McCullough concluded, noting that charges were indeed never approved against Basi for those activities.
"We have the effort by Reichert to not have the charges approved. That reeks of political interference," McCullough alleged.
It should be noted, as with all allegations made to date, that they have not been proven or contested in court. Both Reichert and several spokespersons for the B.C. government have repeatedly declined comment on the case, saying it is "before the court."
Federal Liberal Party implications
While the B.C. Liberals have been in the crosshairs of defence attacks for some time, the news of the B.C. legislature raid initially appeared to involve the federal Liberal Party -- a separate organization from the provincial party -- far more.
David Basi first came to my attention before the raid because of his activities on behalf of then-federal finance minister Paul Martin in his war to replace Prime Minister Jean Chretien as Liberal Party leader.
Basi was alleged by former federal Liberal cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal to have been the organizer behind taking control of his riding association on behalf of Martin.
Erik Bornmann, the Crown's key witness who allegedly provided money and benefits in exchange for information on B.C. Rail, was a former Martin aide in Ottawa and an executive member of the federal Liberal Party in B.C. Bornmann's home and the Victoria office of his lobbying firm Pilothouse Public Affairs were searched by police seeking evidence.
Bornmann's lobby business partner Brian Kieran is also now a key Crown witness, while a third partner, Jamie Elmhirst, has previously been subpoenaed to testify. Elmhirst is a former Liberal Party of Canada -- B.C. branch president.
Police went to the house of key Martin supporter Mark Marissen and his then-wife Christy Clark -- Campbell's former deputy premier and now a CKNW talk show host -- to ask questions about Basi and Virk -- Marissen has made clear that he cooperated fully and his home was not the subject of a search.
The home of Bruce Clark -- Christy's brother -- was the subject of a search warrant by police at the same time as the legislature. Bruce Clark also served as a Liberal Party of Canada -- B.C. branch executive member and key fundraiser, as well as a Martin supporter. As recently as February 2009, Clark was still involved in high-level fundraising for the federal party.
The defence can be expected to focus heavily on federal Liberal Party connections to the accused and key B.C. Liberal government officials, including Christy Clark and former finance minister Gary Collins, who hired David Basi as his ministerial assistant.
Agricultural Land Reserve case
And almost forgotten is another upcoming trial -- again of David Basi on allegations that he illegally assisted Victoria developer Jim Duncan and business partner Tony Young in getting land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve for a housing development in Sooke between 2002 and 2003.
Duncan and Young also face trial in Victoria on charges that they paid Basi $50,000 in connection with building the giant Sunriver Estates project of 650 residential units on 382 acres being built in five phases through 2007.
The outcome of those charges may also raise a host of unseemly issues and unwanted attention for the provincial government.
A lengthy trial looms
If and when the actual trial commences, expect it to last for months. This summary of some aspects of the case is merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg for a trial the defence says "millions" of pages of evidence have been disclosed.
And still to be resolved is whether or not the defence will request a change in the trial from judge-only to judge-and-jury, as well as a possible application for a change of venue for the trial -- which could mean it takes place in Victoria rather than Vancouver.
But one thing is clear in the B.C. legislature raid case -- which I have previously described in The Tyee as entering the Twilight Zone -- predicting what will happen next -- let alone the actual outcome -- is completely impossible.
Buckle up for another wild ride -- or the most unsatisfying end imaginable to the most captivating show on B.C. politics we've seen in decades.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Christmas Marks Birth of a Revolutionary
December 22, 2009
"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"
- Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965
He was a radical, an angry man who physically threw loan sharks out of the churches, befriended prostitutes and the poor and so challenged the rule of military authorities that they cruelly executed him in public.
Jesus Christ was not working for Wal-Mart. Jesus was not promoting seasonal gift giving based on a religious holiday or corporate windfall profits from making toys in sweatshops exploiting child labour.
No, Jesus was working for revolutionary change.
So as we celebrate the day marking Christ's birth consider that the leader of one of the world's largest religions demanded sweeping social justice, not weekly prayers.
And whether you are a follower of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or another religion, or are, like me, an agnostic, secularist, humanist or atheist -- it's important to understand this at Christmas.
Charlie Brown had it right
Christ's true mission is rarely seen or heard at this time of year. And ironically, one of the few places one can watch a telling critique of the commercialization of Christmas has been broadcast on commercial television each year since 1965.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is generally seen as a popular children's program with a seasonal feel-good lesson.
In fact, cartoonist Charles Schultz managed to promote a highly subversive message that severely criticizes advertising -- while using it to pay for sending his vision to an audience of hundreds of millions. Brilliant!
Where else could you hear this line from Lucy Van Pelt: "Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."
Charlie's little sister Sally has a similarly cynical view of Christmas. She cannot yet write a letter to Santa but convinces her brother to take dictation:
Sally: "How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want."
Charlie Brown: "Oh brother."
Sally: "Please note the size and color of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties?"
Charlie Brown: "TENS AND TWENTIES? Oh, even my baby sister!"
Sally: "All I want is what I... I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share."
And as Lucy's brother Linus Van Pelt realizes: "Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous."
Charlie Brown sums up his confusion: "I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."
Give to charities, and work for change
The irony of the original broadcast -- sponsored by Coca-Cola -- was that the CBS network didn't like A Charlie Brown Christmas, not for its anti-commercialism but because in the key scene where Linus answers Charlie's question about the meaning of Christmas, he directly quotes the Bible.
But Coca-Cola liked and approved the show, so CBS was overruled and the broadcast premiered on Dec. 9, 1965 at 8 p.m.
CBS executives worried that a show about Christmas was "pro-Christian"!
They needn't have. A Charlie Brown Christmas was the number two show of that week, with very few complaints about its overt religious content, and won an Emmy Award for best children's television program.
A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a winter staple ever since. Thank God!
You too can remember the true meaning of Christmas -- by supporting charities that help those in need.
Season's greetings to all my Tyee and 24 Hours readers.
I return to 24 hours on Tuesday January 5, 2010 but check this blog for occasional items, including on the unbelievable sixth anniversary of the B.C. Legislature Raid, December 28, 2003 -- without a trial.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Basi-Virk: Defence application to throw out charges begins January 11, 2010; RCMP notes can be kept private by Crown
David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi will mark the 6th anniversary of the police raid on the BC Legislature on December 28, 2003 still waiting to have their day in court to defend themselves, leading their lawyers to believe they have suffered unreasonable delay and the charges should be stayed.
But as unfortunate and indeed unfair as that is to the accused, in my opinion, the defence's Charter of Rights Section 11(b) application will likely fail.
That is because of a recent precedent setting case in Ontario that saw the Court of Appeal for Ontario overturn an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision to stay charges in a case that would had gone 56 months before the trial could have been completed.
As I have previously written:
* * * * *
October 29, 2009
The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a lower court judge's decision to stay charges against five drug squad police officers because of the "unreasonable" delays in bringing their case to court.
"There was no unreasonable delay in this case. This complex case proceeded at the pace contemplated and dictated by the parties," the three member panel of justices decided.
"Admittedly, 56 months is a lengthy period of time, but it was not unreasonable These are very serious charges."
"This case proceeded slowly, but it also proceeded at the pace dictated by its complexity and the actions of all the parties," Justice David Doherty, Justice Marc Rosenberg and Justice Michael Moldaver wrote in their decision.
"Far from this being a case where the vast majority of the 56 months passed because of the Crown's failure to make full disclosure, virtually none of the time can be so characterized," they wrote. "This was a complex case that required and would require significant expenditures of court time."
[The five officers were charged in January 2004 with attempting to obstruct justice, perjury, assault and extortion. They are accused of falsifying notes, robbing and beating drug dealers, and conducting illegal searches between 1997 and 2002.]
In other words, 56 months delay - almost five years - is not sufficient for a stay of charges in a complex case.
* * * * *
In addition to the above, a re-reading of the Appeal Court judgment adds this interesting and clearly relevant line:
"The case also posed unique problems because of the involvement of confidential informants as witnesses, which led to the need for editing and vetting of disclosure materials," the ruling states.
THIS PAST WEEK'S DEVELOPMENTS
I have unfortunately been too ill this past week to attend any court hearings but my colleagues Keith Fraser of the Province newspaper, Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail and Robin Mathews of The Legislature Raids have filed interesting reports on the proceedings, as linked in this paragraph.
The two main developments are the scheduling of the Charter applications detailed above and Justice Anne MacKenzie's decision rejecting a defence request that over 400 RCMP source witness debriefing that have not been disclosed to them be reviewed by the court.
Lastly, watch this space on December 28 for an article marking the 6th Anniversary of the police Raid on the BC Legislature - a story I have been following since the day it happened!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The high price of privatized "green" power in BC - political intervention and its rewards for some environmental groups
PowerUp Canada's Tzeporah Berman presents BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell with an award for his "climate action leadership" in Copenhagen
The decision of some environmental groups to support the BC Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell before and during the May 2009 election has its rewards - for both sides.
At the Copenhagen global climate change summit Tuesday, Campbell was given a "climate action leadership" award by Tzeporah Berman, executive director of PowerUp Canada - a group that supports the privatized "green" power policies of the provincial government - and co-founder of Forest Ethics, on behalf of 10 environmental organizations.
Those groups are: the David Suzuki Foundation, the Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, ForestEthics, the Green Energy Act Alliance, the Pembina Institute, PowerUp Canada, TckTckTck, and WWF-Canada.
Berman, along with a representative of the David Suzuki Foundation and a representative of the Pembina Institute, were all appointed by Campbell in November to his Green Energy Advisory Task Force.
That group, along with a new cabinet committee, will "ensure B.C. remains a leader in clean and renewable energy by developing resources, maximizing opportunities and establishing B.C.’s potential as the supplier of choice for clean power."
Left unsaid, of course, is that all "clean" power will be developed by the private sector because BC Hydro has been prohibited from undertaking any green power initiatives by government order since the BC Liberals took office.
The resulting "Liquid Gold" rush, excellently detailed in professor John Calvert's book of the same name, has made millions for "independent power producers" while all BC Hydro consumers subsidize their profits.
But no matter to the enviro groups.
No, they awarded British Columbia with the prize because: "BC is being recognized for climate leadership for legislating aggressive targets to reduce emissions, banning conventional coal-fired electricity, and implementing North America's first broad based revenue neutral carbon tax."
No matter either that the BC Liberals under Gordon Campbell have the worst environmental record in Canada.
No matter that fish farming expansion under the BC Liberals is destroying our precious wild salmon stock.
No matter that the IPPs run-of-river projects are fiercely opposed by other environmental groups like the Wilderness Committee and Save Our Rivers Society, First Nations and communities because they are ruining our BC waterways to create overpriced power primarily destined to be exported to the United States.
As the Wilderness Committee says in its campaign to save Bute Inlet: "Plutonic Power and US-based corporate giant General Electric want to build a private power megaproject that would involve building 17 dams and river diversions, more than 100 bridges, over 250 km of roads, and over 440 km of transmission lines. This project would be the largest private power project in British Columbia."
But apparently that's what it takes to be a climate change "leader".
No matter that Campbell is still pushing to begin offshore oil and gas exploration on the dangerous BC coast.
No matter that the unsupportable grizzly bear hunt continues despite the risk to the species.
No matter how much of the Agricultural Land Reserve is paved overby the BC Liberals.
No, all that matters is that these groups sold their names to get the carbon tax and a few seats on a committee to further privatize public power.
Welcome to Copenhagen, Mr. Premier - what can we do for you today?
Cooperation and harmony under Proportional Representation in Ireland's Dail - A foul Single Transferable Vote moment!
The Dail is where proponents of Proportional Representation and the Single Transferable Vote electoral system say everyone gets along cooperatively and works together!
Err, perhaps not.
Gogarty's YouTube hit won't likely be used by Fair Vote Canada or anyone else who posts on this blog to argue in favour of either PR or the Single Transferable Vote that elected Gogarty in Dublin!
But it's worth talking a short look to remind everyone who thinks changing the electoral system will actually change the behaviour of politicians. Even - or perhaps especially - Green Party elected officials can behave reprehensibly.
Gogarty is now in a lot of trouble at home.
Warning - very foul language!
UPDATE - December 20 - My curiousity and comments made in response to this video clip led me to go back to the actual debate to determine what was going on prior to Gogarty's F-word meltdown.
In fact, Gogarty's Green Party is part of an alliance with the much larger Fianna Fail Party that leads the current Irish government, with some Green deputies holding cabinet positions.
The Labour Party's Emmett Stagg - who is the target of Gogarty's F-You comments - ripped the Green-Fianna Fail government for slashing welfare:
Deputy Emmet Stagg: People currently on social welfare are very poor. A single person on social welfare, some of whom may be 50 years of age, have lost their jobs and are on €204 a week, will find their benefit reduced by a significant amount relative to them. They will not receive any extra rent allowance because that is also being changed. It will mean a net loss to them.
They live on loaves of bread and sausages; they do not buy fillet steaks because they cannot afford them. Steak is not on the menu for them. They will now be even poorer. The most vulnerable people are the blind, the disabled and the handicapped and they will all suffer severely arising from this.
I will contrast those we are arguing should have contributed with those whom the Government insist will contribute. People on supplementary welfare allowance, which is the last safety net provided by Government for people to stop them going hungry and to ensure they have a roof or some form of shelter, will pay, whereas the banker whom we recently funded with taxpayers’ money — he is being paid out of the same kitty as the person on supplementary welfare allowance — thought he could not exist on €500,000 a year. He will pay nothing. That is what we are complaining about, the way the money was found. I take these two extreme cases as an example of the people who will pay and the people who will not pay, to demonstrate the point clearly.
It is a disgrace that the Government made a decision to target specifically and solely in this budget the poorest people in the country, the most vulnerable, the most in need and the people who are likely to suffer severely arising from the money that is being taken from them. The really galling aspect for them, particularly many of the recently unemployed, is that they are being forced to pay for the near criminal activity of bankers and speculators — in some cases, criminal activity — and the fact that the Government aided and abetted that activity by turning a blind eye, day in, day out, year in, year out, to their activities.
Deputy Paul Gogarty had been defending his vote to support the cuts:
Deputy Paul Gogarty: I suppose if I am sitting here, I am a target. My name has been mentioned by a number of speakers. Yes, it is hard for me, and I would hope for any other God-respecting humanist republican — you name it — to support measures that hurt the vulnerable. Of course, it is hard for me. It is hard for me to gratuitously insult many of my constituents who are public sector employees and tell them: “Listen, lads. It is necessary. I feel your pain but it is necessary”. To them, it comes across as baloney, insincerity, political rant. We have had much of that in past the couple of days in this Chamber although I must acknowledge we have had much sincerity also....
I have received God knows how many texts, including today, from constituents in both the public sector and those in receipt of social welfare. They say it is a shame and a disgrace, and ask “How can you hurt vulnerable people?” Unfortunately, this is what this debate is about. The Labour Party says there is a radical alternative. Those on the Government benches say there is no alternative. I believe there was an alternative in our society and there may still be an alternative. However, as far as this budget goes, there is not much room for manoeuvre. That is the problem. I stated on the record last night that approximately €3.2 billion is being paid in interest on our loans this year. If nothing is done by 2013 it will go up to €11 billion, a quarter of our tax take.
The Green Party argued for a number of things. Personally, even though I be shot by some sectors for saying so, I believe certain people over the age of 65, if social welfare is being cut, could also take a 1% or 2% cut, instead of the blind, the carers and other sectors. That did not happen, a judgment call was made. Some might say it was a cynical decision by Fianna Fáil to protect its electorate. Others might say that the pensioners were hurt last year, as the protest showed, and we should not hurt them this year. A cynic might say again that the pensioners can come out and protest whereas the more vulnerable cannot.
Then the back and forth with opposition members prompted Gogarty's hot temper:
Deputy Róisín Shortall: Does Deputy Gogarty believe the legislation is right?
Deputy Paul Gogarty: I do not believe it is right to take anything from anyone vulnerable.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Deputy just said that.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: Always blathering.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: It is, however, necessary.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: Providing the Government and Fianna Fáil with justification.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: It is necessary because of the wrongdoing of others, wrongdoing I bear no responsibility for.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: What about the big players? What about the wealthy paying their share? Does Deputy Gogarty not think they should pay their share?
Acting Chairman (Deputy Michael Kennedy): I ask Deputy Shortall to please desist.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: Bleating and blather.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: I respected the Deputy’s sincerity and I ask him to respect mine.
Deputy Emmet Stagg: The Deputy does not seem very sincere from what he has been saying.
Acting Chairman: Deputy Stagg will have his opportunity in a few minutes.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, fuck you Deputy Stagg. Fuck you.
Acting Chairman: Hey. Excuse me, Deputy Gogarty, that is most unparliamentary language.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: Excuse me?
Deputy Paul Gogarty: I apologise now for my use of unparliamentary language.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: How dare he.
Acting Chairman: Could the Deputy please withdraw that?
Deputy Paul Gogarty: It is most unparliamentary language and I now withdraw it and apologise for it but I am outraged that someone dares question my sincerity on this issue.
I do not like what has to be done, but I will take responsibility, take it on the chin, get the unpopularity and lose my seat because it is the only thing we can do to get this country out of the state we are in.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: No it is not, it is not the only thing we can do. What rubbish. Deputy Gogarty has bought into the Fianna Fáil line on this.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: I firmly believe that. Deputy Shortall should respect my view. I did not cause the economic mess, I did not take money from developers.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: Excuse me, neither did the Labour Party. How dare the Deputy accuse us of that. How dare he.
Acting Chairman: Please, Deputy Shortall.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: That is the point.
Deputy Joe Costello: Do the right thing then.
Acting Chairman: Deputy Costello, please desist.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: The point is we are screwed as a country because of the wrongdoing of others.
Deputy Joe Costello: This the opportunity.
Acting Chairman: Deputy Shortall and Deputy Costello, please.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: That does not mean we shirk our responsibility to do the right thing now.
Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Government should not compound the problem by hitting the poor.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: I do not like this unfair budget but it was made unfair because of bankers, developers and corrupt politicians.
Deputy Joe Costello: That is right, the people over there.
Deputy Paul Gogarty: The remedy must still be applied.
Deputy Shane McEntee: It is not necessary to go to bed with them though.
Once again - for those misguided souls who argued heartily that under the Single Transferable Vote politicians work together cooperatively and respectfully, I strongly urge you to read the debates of the Dail - they are highly illuminating!
PS - for an absolutely hilarious take off on Gogarty's tirade, see this YouTube video titled F Factor - it's an edited version that puts Gogarty swearfest into competition on Britain's Got Talent, including footage of Simon Cowell and his panel listening to Gogarty!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column
Reviled HST not a done deal
December 15, 2009
"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes."
-- Andrew Jackson, U.S. President 1829-37
"Sit down. Shut up. You don't understand. It's for your own good. Eventually you will benefit. It's a done deal."
That's a short summary of what most political, business and media elites are telling the public about the harmonized sales tax (HST) to be imposed on B.C. and Ontario citizens on July 1, 2010.
And it smacks of the same self-serving, arrogant approach the elites took in the 1992 Charlottetown Accord national referendum, which went down to resounding defeat despite their overwhelming support.
Unfortunately the biggest transfer of wealth from consumers to big business won't be subject to a binding referendum -- the elites can't allow a vote that would kill the HST.
But despite HST legislation passing in Ottawa last week with the federal Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois all voting in favour and only the New Democrats opposed, the deal is not "done."
Despite the Ontario Liberals pushing the HST through over the objections of the provincial Conservatives and NDP, people will not "sit down."
And here, despite B.C. Liberals insisting that they too will ram through the HST, the public will not "shut up."
No 'meal tax'!
This past week also saw the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association launch its own campaign against the HST -- No Meal Tax -- after failing to convince Premier Gordon Campbell to remove the planned 7 per cent tax on restaurant food. The CRFA fears the industry could lose $750 million -- nearly $50,000 per average restaurant -- and thousands of jobs.
It has launched a consumer petition to express public opposition.
HST backers punished in polls
Two new Angus Reid Public Opinion polls show that both the Ontario and B.C. Liberal parties are paying a huge political price for the HST -- months before it's even imposed.
The Dalton McGuinty Liberals have dropped into a poor second place in just a few months at only 29 per cent, while the Conservatives under leader Tim Hudak have soared to 41 per cent thanks to their spirited battle against the HST, which included having elected members occupy the Legislature. And the Ontario NDP has also jumped to 20 per cent.
In B.C. the Campbell Liberals have plummeted to 33 per cent while the Carole James NDP is at an all-time high of 47 per cent.
And the HST is the reason in both provinces, with Ipsos Reid finding that 82 per cent of British Columbians oppose the tax, 61 per cent strongly. A stunning 91 per cent believe it will hurt the provincial economy.
In Ontario, 75 per cent oppose the HST, with 57 per cent saying they do so "strongly" and 83 per cent believe it will make goods and services more expensive.
The HST vote in Parliament is also hurting the federal Conservatives in B.C. The CRFA did a poll which showed 54 per cent viewed the government as "less favourable" after learning Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed the HST deal.
And the CRFA uses strong language in condemning the HST:
"It's very simple. The new Meal Tax will hurt our communities while supporting tax breaks to business," the CRFA website says. "How can we support a tax that 'will raise more money from consumers to give tax breaks to business and there won't be more money for health or social programs.'"
Saskatchewan as prologue
And for those who say it is a "done deal" regardless of overwhelming opposition, look to Saskatchewan, where the Conservative government that brought in an HST was defeated in the 1991 election by New Democrats who reversed the legislation.
The Fight HST campaign, which I support, will try next year to force a province-wide initiative vote to overturn the tax.
The elites think they have already won. Time for the people to teach them another lesson.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Basi-Virk - Testimony on secret informer happens Monday with defence, public, media excluded; will venue change?
Long-awaited testimony about why the identity of a police informer in the BC Rail corruption case must remain secret will happen on Monday December 14 in BC Supreme Court - but the public, media and even defence lawyers will be barred from the hearing.
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TUESDAY UPDATE - Due to illness I was unable to attend Monday afternoon's planned court session - nor an I able to attend Tuesday's hearing either. But you can read reports from my colleagues Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun and Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail, who both attended.
The shorthand version is that in the morning Justice Anne MacKenzie heard from Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino about why information about the secret witness could only be discussed in the absence of defence lawyers, media and the public - and MacKenzie agreed.
The hearing continued in the afternoon in open court, and will again today, to discuss other disclosure issues where the Crown is also asserting "informant privilege" in connection to drug investigations it says are not relevant to the Basi-Virk case.
WEDNESDAY UPDATE - I'm still sick but Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail and Robin Mathews for The Legislature Raids have both reported on the court hearing Tuesday - where allegations that David Basi was laundering drug money through the Liberal Party were strongly denied by his lawyer Michael Bolton.
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Only Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and his legal team and Justice Anne MacKenzie will be in the courtroom, thanks to a decision Berardino won in the Supreme Court of Canada last month that overturned two lower BC court decisions.
And for the first time it was learned that the defence representing David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi may ask that the venue of the trial be moved from Vancouver to an undisclosed new location, most likely Victoria.
Lawyer Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, also dismissed speculation I have heard the defence might drop its applications to throw the entire case out of court for abuse of process and delay of trial.
"Pure rumour," Bolton told me outside court, while declining further comment.
In fact, in court Berardino and defence lawyers received MacKenzie's approval to being hearing a defence Section 11B application to have the ase dismissed because the Charter of Rights guarantees the accused access to trial without unreasonable delay.
Bolton also declined to discuss the possible change of venue motion, which could make media coverage of the complex trial difficult after nearly six years of pre-trial hearings in Vancouver.
The defendants all live in Victoria, as does Virk's lawyer Kevin McCullough but all other legal counsel are based in Vancouver.
The venue change could be connected to a possible change in the mode of trial from judge only to judge and jury, with jury selection in Vancouver potentially more difficult due to media coverage of the case. However, with Internet access to most reporting, that argument may fall flat if made.
In court Janet Winteringham of the Special Prosecutor team told MacKenzie that as part of the case management discussion around remaining issues on the secret informer question: "We will be discussing the Kevin DeBruyckere April 4, 2007 affidavit."
DeBruyckere is the senior RCMP officer involved in the investigation who also happens to be the brother-in-law of BC Liberal Party Executive Director Kelly Reichert.
The defence has repeatedly raised this issue, with the Crown responding that DeBruyckere disclosed the relationship to his superiors in an appropriate manner.
Reichert, the defence alleges, had conversations with Basi about political dirty tricks, hired Basi through the party for $20,000 to conduct "media monitoring" work and that RCMP wire taps heard Basi and Reichert discussing radio show appearances by Premier Gordon Campbell.
Reichert, the defence alleges, also told Campbell that the RCMP were recommending additional criminal charges against Basi but that the BC Liberal Party had asked the RCMP to not press the charges.
These allegations made in court are, of course, unproven and have not been subject to cross-examination.
Berardino also told MacKenzie that he and the defence have agreed to timing on a defence application that challenges the authorization of search warrants, with submissions to be made in January and a hearing to start February 1.
The pre-trial hearing resumes Monday December 14 at 2 p.m. - the open to the defence, public and media part that is - with arguments on issues related to the secret witness situation.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tune in to CBC TV's News Network program Power & Politics with host Evan Solomon on Friday afternoon between 3:30 and 4 p.m. when I will be appearing on the political bloggers panel.
On today's show with guest host Rosemary Barton and Kady O'Malley we talk about how the federal parties have used websites and the Internet to advance their interests.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association fires both barrels at BC Liberal government over Harmonized Sales Tax - launches campaign against HST
That's the slogan coined by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), which today launched a campaign against the Harmonized Sales Tax being charged on restaurant food called No Meal Tax.
The CRFA has clearly given up on persuading the BC Liberal government to back off on the HST despite close ties to Premier Gordon Campbell - it will be very interesting to see how the government reacts to an ally taking it on in public.
The CRFA earlier released a public opinion poll that showed widespread opposition to the HST - both in general and specifically in regard to the new 7% tax that will be imposed on all restaurant food - conducted by former Campbell chief of staff Greg Lyle.
Here's the news release from the CRFA - and be sure to sign up on their petition!
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New meal tax will add 7 per cent to your food order: 'Fed up yet?'
Nomealtax.ca campaign asks B.C. consumers to speak out against impacts of higher dining prices, potential job losses if the HST is added to restaurant meals
VANCOUVER, Dec. 9 - The British Columbia restaurant and foodservice industry today launched its new campaign to educate B.C. consumers and encourage them to speak out against a new meal tax.
The group has set up a website - www.nomealtax.ca - to serve consumers the facts about the effects of the 7 per cent meal tax and links to an online petition addressed directly to the provincial and federal governments. Foodservice workers will also be spreading the word as part of an associated in-restaurant campaign.
"A new 7 per cent meal tax will take a big bite out of customers' wallets, employees' wages and threatens our members' livelihoods," said Mark von Schellwitz, Vice President Western Canada of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA). "We're calling on consumers and industry staff to let their MPs and MLAs know that they are against this unfair tax."
The potential losses for the B.C. restaurant and foodservice industry are very real. Economic analysis indicates that adding a 7 per cent meal tax will lead to a 7.5 per cent drop in overall restaurant sales.
This translates into a $750 million loss in B.C. - nearly $50,000 a year for the average restaurant. Since the majority of operators' costs are fixed, the only way to offset these losses will be to cut staff hours.
In an industry that employs 173,000 people, a new meal tax could have a profound effect on the province's unemployment rates and the economy as a whole.
"Our industry employs more people than the agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas sectors combined," said Ian Tostenson, President and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA).
"Our campaign will give a much-needed voice to the thousands of restaurant workers whose jobs could disappear if governments don't start seriously working with us to come up with solutions that meet everyone's needs."
Findings from a recent survey commissioned by the CRFA for the B.C. restaurant and foodservice industry demonstrates that 64 per cent of B.C. consumers agree with the industry and favour exempting food in restaurants from a new meal tax.
Eighty-one per cent think it is not fair to implement a tax that will hurt some workers and businesses without doing something to help those feeling the greatest impact.
About the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association:
CRFA is one of Canada's largest business associations, with a membership of 33,000 representing independent and chain restaurants, bars, caterers, institutions and other foodservice providers, including more than 4,000 British Columbia-based members. CRFA's mission is to create an environment to help members in every community grow and prosper. Canada's $60-billion foodservice industry employs more than one million people in communities across the country.
About the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association:
With more than 25 years of leadership, the BCRFA is the foremost advocate and resource for the restaurant and foodservices industry, ensuring long-term dynamic growth within B.C. The Association is a representative body of restaurateurs, foodservice retailers, suppliers and educators. It works to enhance the image and integrity of the industry through positive communications, education and promotion of operating standards that encourage excellence.
Monday, December 07, 2009
From HandyDART strike to outrageous Community Living BC legislative changes, provincial BC Liberal government abusing people with disabilities
"Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life."
- Actress Emma Thompson
This is a column that I should not have to write, but I do because people with disabilities in this province are being doubly abused by the B.C. provincial government.
First, HandyDART drivers who provide critical transportation for people with disabilities have been on strike since Oct. 26 because their new employer, American firm MVT Canadian Bus, demanded they give up their existing pension plan and make other major concessions.
That means the frustrated people who depend on HandyDART have been confined to home or to use expensive taxis on their very limited budgets, and while negotiations are scheduled for Thursday, no end is in sight.
Second, the B.C. Liberal government quietly passed legislation allowing it to fire all family members and disability advocates from the board of directors of Community Living B.C., the provincial body responsible for administrating programs for people with developmental disabilities.
In both cases, the province has completely abdicated its responsibilities to the disabled community, by inaction in one and regressive action in the other.
HandyDART: Why ruin a good thing?
TransLink is the government-owned and controlled body responsible for HandyDART, and it created the current mess by contracting out the service to the for-profit MVT without protecting the interests of drivers, who are long term employees with deep connections to their clients.
Now MVT is trying to take away the Municipal Pension Plan that almost all drivers either already had or were scheduled to join in April 2010 and replace it with a risky RRSP scheme.
No one in their right mind would give up a good pension plan for an RRSP, nor should they be forced to.
The obvious solution is simple. Stop contracting out critical transportation services for people with disabilities and make it part of the regular TransLink structure that already includes buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus, roads and bridges.
And the province and TransLink should do that immediately and get service back to normal for people who do not deserve to lose HandyDART so a multinational corporation can increase its profit share on the backs of drivers.
The other issue is equally troubling.
The government suddenly amended sections of the Community Living Authority Act -- without consultation with or notice to individuals with development disabilities and their families -- so they are no longer guaranteed any seats on the board that administers their services.
The B.C. Association for Community Living, the non-profit group who represents them, is literally outraged.
"To say that it's not important to have people with disabilities or family members making decisions that affect their lives is to attack the core principles of community living," said BCACL president Rory Summers last month. "Government is removing power from the very people it is there to support."
BCACL has started an online petition to demand the legislative changes be reversed, and is asking the public to write Premier Gordon Campbell and Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman.
Picking on the disabled -- a new low for the B.C. Liberals.
Over 2,100 people have joined my Facebook protest group "Defeat the HST in Parliament" since it was created last week -- sign up to tell MPs you oppose passing the HST, which will likely come up for a final vote this week.
As CBC Politics' Kady O'Malley reports, the Liberals have switched from fighting the HST to backing an outrageous closure motion by the Conservatives to end debate on the biggest transfer of money from consumers to big business this country has ever seen.
"The government brought down the hammer earlier today: with the help of just enough Liberals to get the job done, they managed to pass that double-barreled closure-on-closure -- in case you've lost track, that's the one to shut down debate on the motion to impose time allocation on the HST bill, which goes to second reading tomorrow morning, and third reading tentatively scheduled for Wednesday evening," O'Malley says.
Despite this, Liberal MP Keith Martin of BC's Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca riding, insists he will not be present for the vote because he opposes the HST.
As O'Malley reports, Martin: "described the government's attempt to "ram" the legislation through the House as "a sham" and "a mockery of democracy" -- and announced that he, for one, wasn't going to be there to bear witness.
"The leader's given me permission," he explained to reporters -- which, as far as he's concerned, was a wise move. "That's just the way it's going to be. I'm not supporting the HST and I will not be here to vote for it. Period. End of story."
I applaud Keith Martin's opposition - for which he will no doubt be punished - but the real story is that the federal Liberals are not only supporting the HST, they are even shamelessly supporting closure on debate on the HST!
Presumably they are afraid of the consequences of voters in BC and Ontario hearing about their HST surrender through an extended debate - since only the NDP are opposing the HST legislation - but to back the Harper Conservatives on closure as well is simply unbelievable.
Count the days - Count Iggy's rule as leader is coming to an ignominious end soon.
I have just learned that the correct date for the Basi-Virk pre-trial conference is FRIDAY December 11, not Thursday December 10 as originally reported here, and will likely last about an hour. Apologies extended.
Defence lawyers, the Special Prosecutor team and Justice Anne MacKenzie will all be in court to plan out upcoming court dates.
The week of December 14 through 18 is expected to be taken up with arguments about issues related to the question of the secret witness - taking up from where it was left off two years ago pending the decision of the BC Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court of Canada.
This does not mean revisiting the informer privilege issue - that has been irrevocably determined by the SCC until the trial itself begins.
But issues arising from the secret witness that could not be adjudicated until the final decision was made can now come forward, including some disclosure issues.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
British Columbians overwhelmingly oppose the HST - new Ipsos Reid poll - 91% say it will hurt the BC economy
Another new Ipsos Reid poll shows that the Harmonized Sales Tax is deeply hated in British Columbia, with 82% of those surveyed saying they oppose the HST, with 61% "strongly opposed".
And 91% think it will hurt the economy by negatively impacting consumer spending.
The poll also shows that only 12% of British Columbians feel they know a great deal about the HST and 27% say they know little or nothing about the HST, which is scheduled to be imposed on July 1, 2010.
Just 12% support implementing the HST and a mere 2% strongly support it - the position of BC Premier Gordon Campbell, Finance Minister Colin Hansen and the BC Liberal caucus.
Ipsos Reid Senior Vice-President John Wright says the HST backlash has decidedly hurt the BC Liberals, who are currently 11% to 14% behind the BC NDP opposition in recent polling.
"It's clear the impact on the BC government has been direct," Wright said.
The poll also shows strong opposition to the HST in Ontario, where the Conservative Party has a new 11% lead over the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty, which is also imposing an HST next year. 74% of Ontarians are against the tax, Ipsos Reid reports.
Meanwhile, BC NDP leader Carole James heads to Ottawa Monday for a news conference with federal NDP leader Jack Layton and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath to reinforce opposition to the HST and tell BC Conservative and Liberal MPs to vote "no" in the upcoming final vote on the HST.
It's a good time to do so, as federal Liberal MPs start talking about getting rid of leader Michael Ignatieff over his mishandling of the HST - a potential game-changer for the hapless Grits until they surrendered without firing a shot.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Ontario voters strongly opposed to Harmonized Sales Tax - McGuinty Liberals bleeding votes to both right and left, Angus Reid poll reports
And Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberal provincial government is dropping votes rapidly, falling 12% behind the resurgent Conservative Party - 41% to 29% while the NDP also rises to 20%.
Here are the highlights of the poll:
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ONTARIANS DECIDEDLY OPPOSE HST, FORESEE HIGHTER PRICES
The HST continues to be a hot issue in Ontario with very high awareness and three quarters being opposed to it.
This and scandals have helped drive the Ontario PC party under Tim Hudak into a commanding lead. It is also worth noting that McGuinty is bleeding support to the left as well with the NDP on the rise to 20%.
• 76% are very or moderately familiar with the HST
• 75% oppose the establishment of the HST in Ontario
• 83% believe the HST will make goods and services more expensive
• 70% say their opinion of the McGuinty government has worsened over the
• PC’s 41%, Liberals 29%, NDP 20% and Greens at 11%
75% of BCers oppose HST, 63% "strongly" says news Canadian Foodservice & Restaurant Association poll
A new poll released Thursday will give indigestion to the BC Liberal provincial and Conservative federal government that together are trying to impose the Harmonized Sales Tax - because it shows once again that the overwhelming majority of BCers hate the HST.
The full poll results from Innovative Research show that 75% of British Columbians oppose the HST but with a stunning 63% "strongly opposed" and only 16% in favour. Another 5% are neutral and 4% don't know. The poll of 604 people was conducted from November 14 to 19, with a margin of error of +/- 4%.
Innovative Research was a particularly interesting choice by the CFRA because its pollster is none other than Greg Lyle, a former chief of staff to BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell back in his opposition days.
The full news release from the CFRA's Western Region is below and understandably focuses on the impact of the new 7% HST on all restaurant food, which will be disastrous.
But the full poll results linked above show a lot of interesting data that should give both BC Liberals, and federal Conservative and Liberal MPs - who are voting "Yes" to the HST in Parliament - cause for serious political concern. Here is the unedited, full release:
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No surprise – British Columbians do not want a new meal taxSurvey demonstrates strong opposition to HST being implemented in restaurants
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 3, 2009
VANCOUVER – With consumers’ wallets already in a pinch, paying more to dine out as a result of the proposed HST tax increase is leaving a bad taste in British Columbians’ mouths.
Findings from a recent survey commissioned by the B.C. restaurant and foodservice industry show that 64 per cent of B.C. consumers favour exempting food in restaurants from a new meal tax.
“Consumers’ wallets will take a major hit if the federal and provincial governments move forward with implementing an additional seven per cent tax on food served at restaurants, despite the strong opposition by British Columbians,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Vice President Western Canada of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA).
“Everything from morning coffee to lunch at the university or office cafeteria to pizza dinner with the kids will cost consumers more. This survey underscores that it is not just industry that opposes HST, but that consumers agree with much of what we have argued for months.”
The restaurant and foodservice industry has strong ties to residents and communities throughout B.C. More than half of survey respondents reported that they visit a quick-service restaurant once a week and a full-service restaurant at least several times a month.
In addition, more than a quarter of all respondents have a direct connection to the industry: 17 per cent either work or have an immediate family member who works in the industry and six per cent are in a household that works in an organization that depends significantly on the restaurant industry.
“The B.C. restaurant and foodservice industry employs 173,000 people, so it’s not surprising that British Columbians are worried about how HST will affect them directly,” said Ian Tostenson, President and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA).
“With so many jobs at stake, consumers are beginning to realize the domino effect HST would have on the economy and the $10 billion restaurant industry. The negative effects of a new meal tax would reverberate throughout the province as the impact on our sector will have a cascading effect on everyone from suppliers and vendors to their employees and to farmers.”
Other findings from the survey indicate that:
67 per cent are less likely to support a new meal tax to be applied to restaurants and coffee shops when told that the “HST will raise more money from consumers to give tax breaks to business and there won’t be more money for health or social programs.”
64 per cent are less likely to support a new meal tax when told that “prepared food sold in groceries, such as frozen pizza, won’t be taxed while pizza made by local workers in a local pizzeria will be taxed.”
59 per cent are less likely to support a new meal tax when told that “there are 173,000 jobs in B.C. coffee shops and restaurants at stake.”
The survey also shows that there is resentment amongst B.C. consumers towards the federal and provincial governments for their HST implementation plans.
Tied with Olympic spending, respondents identified HST as the most critical issue that concerns British Columbians the most about the provincial government’s performance.
Thirty-five per cent of respondents were aware that HST is an initiative that is being driven by the federal Conservative government.
However, when informed that the federal government offered the provincial government a $1.6 billion incentive to endorse the initiative, 54 per cent of respondents indicated they had a less favourable impression of the federal Conservatives.
“We are not asking for any government handouts or a bailout, we simply want food tax fairness for B.C. consumers and those working in the restaurant and foodservices industry,” said von Schellwitz.
“B.C. consumers shouldn’t be discriminated against and taxed for choosing to dine out rather than prepare a meal at home. A solution that protects B.C. consumers’ interest is what is most important to us and that won’t happen without the cooperation of the federal and provincial governments.”
The results were drawn from a telephone survey, which was conducted among 604 B.C. residents in the evenings between November 14 and November 19, 2009. A sample of this size is considered accurate to an estimated margin of error of plus-or-minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.