Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Test BC Liberal Cabinet Ministers, not kids, with Political Foundation Skills Assessment!

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday January 27, 2009

Test Cabinet, not students


Standardized testing has become the arbiter of social mobility, yet there is more regulation of the food we feed our pets than of the tests we give our kids.

- Educator Robert Schaeffer

There's a controversy raging between the B.C. Liberal government and teachers over whether or not students should take what's called Foundation Skills Assessment test.

Education Minister Shirley Bond is demanding all B.C. Grade 4 and 7 students take the tests, which she says ensure they are meeting expectations.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation opposes the tests, saying that they don't help students learn or teachers teach but are used by the right-wing Fraser Institute to unfairly rank schools without considering social situation and other factors.

And guess what? Students at ritzy private schools in Shaughnessy do better than kids at East Vancouver public schools!


But I have a modest suggestion to end the controversy. With a minor wording change, all British Columbians could support this test.

I propose a Political Foundation Skills Assessment test - given to all B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers before the next election.

Here's a direct Education Ministry quote about the FSA - but I've changed a few words, which are in bold - to make this test worthwhile:

"The Political Foundation Skills Assessment is an annual assessment of British Columbia's Liberal Government Cabinet Ministers' skills, and provides a snapshot of how well B.C. Cabinet Ministers are learning foundation skills in Reading, Comprehension, Writing, and Numeracy.

The main purpose of the assessment is to help the province's voters evaluate how well B.C. Liberal Cabinet Ministers are achieving basic skills, and make plans to improve government achievement.

"The Political FSA is designed by British Columbia voters. The skills tested are linked to the provincial election."

Test kids?

Better to test politicians!

And the BCTF could partner with the Fraser Institute so all voters see the test results before the May election!
Massive convention centre overruns? Unfair pay hikes for top bureaucrats? The test would show what went wrong.

But there is one problem: Is it fair to force Premier Gordon Campbell to take the Political FSA test when he unfortunately has a disability that could affect the results?

Some people may be uncomfortable talking about this, but it's obvious that Premier Campbell has Political Attention Deficit Disorder.

Just look at his erratic record: Slash the public service, then give bonuses to government workers, gut environmental protection, then fight climate change, oppose Aboriginal treaties, then negotiate them, close schools, fire librarians, then make literacy a priority!

Nonetheless, I'm afraid we simply have to give Campbell this Political FSA test for the same reason the Education Ministry says kids have to take it.

Because the test will help: "Make plans for improvement."

Monday, January 26, 2009

BASI-VIRK - RCMP "cloaking duplicity" in efforts to deny disclosure of legal memo to accused - defence allegation

Defence charges that RCMP “cloaking duplicity” by denying evidence disclosure in BC Legislature Raid case

By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours newspaper

A defence lawyer in the B.C. Legislature raid case Monday accused the RCMP of “cloaking duplicity” in not disclosing evidence to the accused, drawing strong objections from the Special Prosecutor.

Kevin McCullough, representing Bob Virk, one of three former B.C. government aides facing corruption charges connected to the $1 billion B.C. Rail sale, alleged that the RCMP failed to fully disclose a key memorandum from their lawyers regarding wiretap applications at the Legislature.

“The RCMP are cloaking duplicity,” McCullough said, prompting an angry Special Prosecutor Janet Winteringham to leap to her feet in B.C. Supreme Court during a pre-trial hearing.

“Objection! This submission is premature and the issue goes to innocence at stake,” Winteringham told Justice Elizabeth Bennett. “Maybe down the road but not today.”

Bennett agreed with Winteringham, telling McCullough he will have a later opportunity to argue RCMP abuse of process during the actual trial.

But McCullough repeated his accusation against the RCMP again, drawing another objection from Winteringham.

“How many other documents are there that we aren’t pursuing because we don’t know they even exist?” asked an exasperated McCullough.

The "innocence at stake" reference is to a court term that is a test of whether there are grounds sufficient to set aside solicitor-client privilege - one of the strongest protections the courts allow. Only in cases where the innocence of the accused may be at stake is that privilege overruled.

Earlier Michael Bolton, representing David Basi, argued that the RCMP had wrongly avoided obtaining the Legislature’s Speaker’s permission to place wiretaps on Basi’s cell phone and phone in the office of then-Finance Minister Gary Collins.

Bolton said the date of the memorandum in question - which the defence has part of - was December 22, 2003 and that it appeared to be faxed from Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino's law office to "Kevin".

"I assume it was faxed to Kevin DeBruyckere, the RCMP officer in charge of the investigation," Bolton told Bennett.

McCullough drew Bennett's attention to the circumstances at the time of the memo, which apparently provides the RCMP with legal advice about wiretap applications it was making.

"The context, milady, that I think you should see these documents in is that in August 2003 the RCMP was trying to get a DNR on the cell phone of Mr. Basi and the Finance Ministry office," McCullough said, using the term DNR to refer to a Dialed Number Recorder - a type of device that records all dialed numbers and is often a precursor to a wiretap.

"Their application was twice declined by the judge on Parliamentary privilege grounds," he said, noting that the RCMP did not seek the consent of the BC Speaker.

It was then that McCullough triggered objections from Winteringham, by saying that another lawyer who mentored him early in his career told McCullough that "when dealing with police duplicity, it is usually hidden by olice procedure" and other tactics to avoid disclosure.

Winteringham objected quickly and added that if McCullough was alowed to continue the argument: "We're going to have to stand down and deal with allegations of duplicity."

Bennett agreed, saying: "You can't argue innocence at stake at this point."

Addressing McCullough directly, she continued: "I understand the context. I understand the importance. I understand the issue with the DNR."

But McCullough wasn't letting go.

"The RCMP are guarding vetting in this case in an extreme way," he replied. "We know for certain the RCMP have these three pages."

"Where's the fairness in us not having the remainder of the document? When we are assessing conduct we need the document in full."

"In light of the RCMP changing course, not getting the Speaker's permission ....there was talk of getting another wiretap... the RCMP are cloaking duplicity...." McCullough continued but Winteringham's second loudly exclaimed "Objection!" stopped him.

"Objection again. This goes to innocence at stake and can't be dealt with now," Winteringham told Bennett.

"I'm not sure where you're going," Bennett said to McCullough.

"They changed tactics and instead of getting another wiretap, they raided the Legislature," McCullough replied, suggesting for the first time in court that the RCMP raid of December 28, 2003 may have been borne out of frustration with failed wiretap applications.

Then McCullough launched into his complaint that the RCMP and Special Prosecutor were not providing full disclosure.

"Where are these two documents on the Documents Not Disclosed List? And how many other documents are there that we aren't pursuing because we don't know they even exist?" he asked. "We rely on tht Documents Not Disclosed List to determine what to pursue."

"The fact that I figured there were two of them doesn't solve the problem and begs for an explanation," he concluded.

[I should note here that I missed the beginning of the morning session due to my appearance on CKNW's Bill Good Show and am at this point unclear what second document is being referred to.]

McCullough then referred to "a legal opinion written by a lawyer named Jody Puscas" whichm he said Berardino claims is protected by the rule of privilege.

The Puscas opinion has been mentioned only in passing at recent previous hearings.

McCullough then prompted another objection from Winteringham by telling Bennett that: "This is the context of documents we had been seeking for three and half years."

"Hold on. If we're going to argue the whole disclosure..." Winteringham started, but McCullough continued.

"...documents we should have received three and a half years ago," McCullough finished.

"Objection!" Winteringham almost shouted.

Bennett intervened: "I would not have expected an argument now that the documents should have been provided three and a half years ago. I could have expected that in your abuse of process application."

"You want to keep me happy and I suggest you not ask me to deal with that today," Bennett concluded to McCullough.

Unstated but lying heavily over the proceedings was one fact - that the RCMP had never sought the permission of the Speaker of the Legislature - then BC Liberal MLA Claude Richmond - for placing wiretaps in the Finance Minister's office where David Basi worked and on Basi's cell phone.

Richmond gave his consent to the police raid on the Legislature in an unusual meeting with RCMP senior officers at the Kamloops Airport on December 27, 2003, but not to electronic eavesdropping.

The defence, of course, will argue that those wiretap applications should never have been granted by a judge without the Speaker's approval - and that will form part of their arguments to have wiretap evidence ruled inadmissable - a decision that could deal a fatal blow to the prosecution.

NOTE: Neither Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino nor Special Prosecutor team lawyer Andi MacKay were present for today's hearing. There were no media except myself and Robin Mathews and no observers either.

A shorter version of this story will be published in Tuesday's 24 hours newspaper.


BASI-VIRK - Story to come here tonight on fireworks in BC Supreme Court

Just a teaser for now but there were lots of fireworks in BC Supreme Court this morning over defence allegations against the RCMP and objections from the Special Prosecutor.

I unfortunately don't have time to file a full posting till late this afternoon or early evening, but stay tuned - or read 24 hours on Tuesday for a story there also.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Canwest Publishing internal memo details severe cost cutting measures

Canwest Publishing details severe cost cutting measures including freeze on hiring, salary increases, travel, consultants, conferences and more

I have obtained an internal memorandum from Dennis Skulsky, President and CEO of Canwest Publishing and Doug Lamb, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Canwest Publishing which details a series of significant cost cutting measures to be implemented by Canwest newspapers across Canada.

Canwest Publishing is a division of Canwest Global Communications Corporation.

Canwest publishes the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal and other major market and community newspapers with a combined weekly readership of over 5 million. Canwest Global also owns the Global Television network.

Canwest reported a $33 million quarterly loss earlier this month and recently announced it was dropping morning and noon newscasts at Global Toronto's television station.

The cuts include:

A freeze on all hiring.

A freeze on salaries until the end of the fiscal year.

A freeze on travel with "essential" travel requiring publisher's approval for economy class or best price single tickets only.

A freeze on meals, catering and entertainment expenses, including food at meetings.

A freeze on attending conferences and seminars.

Ending contracts with external consultants.

Limiting use of cell phones, with a goal of reducing the number of cell phones by 20 to 25%.

Delaying capital expenses unless absolutely necessary.

Reducing energy usage.

Cancelling subscriptions.

Creating a Voluntary Vacation Leave program for unpaid employee holidays.

Suspending "national employee events for this year," including the Vancouver Sun Run, Hockey Tournament, Slo-Pitch Tournament, Enlightened Leader sessions and Leadership Forum.

[NOTE - The Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith reports tonight that Vancouver Sun Managing Editor Kirk LaPointe tells him the Sun Run has NOT been cancelled - the Canwest memo is unclear as to it's status - as you can see below.]

Encouraging employees to suggest further cost-cutting measures.

Here is the complete internal memo:


Date: January 23, 2009

To: All Canwest Publishing

From: Dennis Skulsky and Doug Lamb

Subject: Cost Control

As you know, our business is facing unprecedented pressure due to both the global economic downturn and challenges to our traditional publishing business.

The recent voluntary buyout program and costsaving initiatives we have implemented are proving to not be enough to offset advertising revenue shortfalls.

We are faced with significant advertising declines across the board but in particular in our employment, real estate and auto advertising categories.

As a result,across our organization, teams are taking a hard look at how to affectthe one lever we have absolute control over, our costs.

Following are a few initiatives underway and additional tactics that will contribute to our cost savings objectives:

· A freeze on all hiring. All new hire requests – including replacement and backfill positions – must be approved by the appropriate publishing executive management committee member and the SVP People. Expenses for consultants, freelancers and contractors mustbe approved at the publisher/SVP level.

· A freeze on salaries until the end of the fiscal year (September). Any exceptions must be approved by the President of Publishing.

· A freeze on travel. Essential travel must be approved inadvance of booking at the publisher/SVP level. All approved travel should be economy class or best price single tickets only – for alllevels within the organization.

· A freeze on meals, catering and entertainment expenses. An immediate freeze on all food at meetings. This includes previouslyfunded or subsidised coffee/snacks/drinks. Only expenses related toexternal customers and suppliers that are pre approved will be reimbursed. Approval for the expenses must be obtained in advance from a Publisher or SVP level executive.

· Evaluation of marketing and promotional spends. All marketing and promotional activities will be reviewed and re-evaluated. Approval for the expenditures must be approved by a Publisher or SVP level executive.· Ceasing engagements with external consultants. Consultants should only be used for those limited instances where a specific expertise which does not reside within our organization is absolutelyrequired.

· A freeze on conference/seminar attendance. Attendance at anyexternal conference must be approved by a Publisher or SVP levelexecutive and is expected to be severely curtailed. At this time, all external training expenses are to be halted.

· Equipment expense and capital purchases will be delayed unless absolutely necessary.

· Limiting the use of mobile devices. All contracts arecurrently under review to ensure the appropriate service level with the objective of limiting data usage and reducing the number of unitsby 20-25%.

· Reducing energy usage. Many companies, including our NetworkTen in Australia have significantly reduced costs by better managingthe use of energy and hydro.

· Use discretion when printing. Whenever possible avoid printing unnecessary copies by reading on your desktop. Colourprinting should be used only when necessary. When printing multiple pages, set printer defaults to double-sided output.

· Subscriptions. Cancel those subscriptions which are not essential.In addition, we are announcing a Voluntary Vacation Leave program. Any employee may make a request for unpaid vacation days between now and August 31st to their manager.

Approval is at management's discretion and based upon impact to the operation. This voluntary program will allow employees to take unpaid days in addition to their allotted paid vacation days for longer holidays or family time. Details of the program will be communicated next week.

We have also decided to suspend a number of our national employee events for this year including the Hockey Tournament, Sun Run,Slo-pitch tournament, Enlightened Leader sessions and Leadership Forum.These critical measures must be taken to weather the current economicclimate we're doing business in.

We appreciate all the efforts that have been taken by everyone during these difficult times. Corporate and Broadcasting are taking similar measures, and in the coming week, your manager will be following up with you to discuss anyfurther cost-control measures specific to your department.

The above list of measures is by no means exhaustive and we are sure there are many other measures that can be implemented to help reduce operating costs. Please feel free to share any additional ideas orthoughts you may have in this regard by e-mail at reducingcosts@canwest.com .

Just think, if every employee could save$1000, the collective savings would amount to 10,000,000! Our overarching goal is to come out of this with stronger businesses that best position us for the future.

Your involvement, support and hard work to maximize our cost savings initiatives are sincerely appreciated.

Dennis Skulsky
President and CEO, Canwest Publishing

Doug Lamb
Executive Vice President &Chief Financial Officer, Canwest Publishing

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If you receive this email inerror, please notify the sender immediately and delete all copies,including attached material from any computer immediately.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

BASI-VIRK: 82 documents RCMP trying to withhold ordered released by BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett

Defence lawyers have won a major victory in their ongoing and lengthy fight to obtain disclosure of documents the RCMP wants withheld in the BC Legislature Raid case.

BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett has ordered the release of 82 documents that the RCMP wanted kept from defence lawyers for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - the three former BC Liberal government aides facing corruption charges related the the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003.

The newly-released evidence is described as "RCMP investigative documents" and a lawyer for the RCMP has argued that they fall under the category of solicitor-client privilege and should have been denied as such.

But only the defence will see the documents - nothing has been released to the public or media. Nor were there any other media in the courtroom Wednesday, just myself and two veteran observers.

Court heard on Wednesday defence arguments as to why an additional 35 documents should also be given to them.

W.P. Riley, a lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada who is representing the RCMP in court, told Bennett that her rulings have led to 48 documents being fully released to the defence, another 34 documents being partially released, leaving 35 documents that the defence want access to.

Defence lawyers Kevin McCullough for Virk, Michael Bolton for David Basi and Joe Doyle for Aneal Basi, have said that the Crown has an obligation to provide context for the documents that have been previously released to inform their arguments but Special Prosecutor Janet Winteringham disagreed.

"I appreciate that they don't have the documents and are somewhat in the dark but they have the descriptions and they onus is on them - these have already been ruled privileged documents," Winteringham said.

Riley argued Wednesday that: "So long as solicitor-client privilege exists, all of the communication is covered."

Justice Bennett also dropped some tantalizing hints about what might be in the remaining documents in question.

At one point she referred to one of the documents, saying: "With respect to the White Castle Memorandum, I've had a look and clearly solicitor-client privilege applies."

McCullough replied that it will be dealt with at Monday's court hearing.

There was no other as to what the White Castle Memorandum means - presumably it does not refer to the 2004 stoner movie: "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" although a Victoria drug investigation did lead to the BC Legislature Raid.
The court was in session Thursday but I was unable to attend. The next date is Monday January 26.

Ignominious end - BC Liberal MPs Ujjal Dosanjh, Hedy Fry, Joyce Murray all ignored in Iggy's shadow cabinet

It's an ignominious end to the shadow cabinet careers of three prominent BC Liberal Party Members of Parliament, as new leader Michael Ignatieff cut loose Ujjal Dosanjh, Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray today.

All three MPs are conspicuous by their absence from an announcement today of the Liberal Opposition Critic roles by Ignatieff.

“This is a lean and focused line-up, with fewer critic roles and no associate roles,” Ignatieff said in a news release. “We will be a focused and disciplined Opposition with a single purpose: holding the Conservatives accountable.”

What he didn't say is that Dosanjh was a major supporter of Iggy's former Liberal leadership opponent Bob Rae, as was Fry, while Murray - who was first elected in the Vancouver-Quadra by-election in March 2008 - was one of the very few who backed Stephane Dion. Dosanjh and Fry joined the Dion side after the third ballot.

Dion's surprise win was seen at the time as a huge victory for backroom strategist Mark Marissen but obviously that success turned into an enormous failure when Dion showed he was a dud.

Their are only two BC Liberal MPs on the list - Sukh Dhaliwal and Keith Martin - shockingly,
both supported Ignatieff!

Here's today's list of Ignatieff's shadow cabinet choices:

Liberal Opposition Critics

Michael Ignatieff - Intergovernmental Affairs
John McCallum - Finance
Bob Rae - Foreign Affairs
Denis Coderre - Defence and Quebec Lieutenant
David McGuinty - Environment & Energy
Carolyn Bennett - Health
Marc Garneau - Industry, Science & Technology
Mark Holland - Public Safety & National Security
Geoff Regan - Natural Resources
Dominic LeBlanc - Justice and Attorney-General
Scott Brison - International Trade
Martha Hall Findlay - Public Works and Government Services
Todd Russell - Indian Affairs
Larry Bagnell - Arctic Issues & Northern Development
Joe Volpe - Transport
Gerard Kennedy - Infrastructure, Communities and Cities
Maurizio Bevilacqua - Citizenship & Immigration
Judy Sgro - Veterans Affairs, Seniors & Pensions
Yasmin Ratansi - National Revenue
Gerry Byrne - Fisheries & Oceans
Jean-Claude D'Amours - Atlantic Gateway and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Pablo Rodriguez - Canadian Heritage & Official Languages
Maria Minna - Labour
Dan McTeague - Treasury Board, Consumer Affairs and Consular Affairs Mike Savage - Human Resources & Skills Development
Anita Neville - Status of Women
Wayne Easter - Agriculture, Agri-food and Canadian Wheat Board
Sukh Dhaliwal - Asia-Pacific Gateway & Western Economic Development Ruby Dhalla - Youth & Multiculturalism
Keith Martin - Amateur Sport, Health Promotion and the Vancouver Olympics
Alexandra Mendes - Economic Development Agency for Regions of Quebec Glen Pearson - International Cooperation
Raymonde Folco - La Francophonie
Ken Dryden - National Outreach Advisor, Working Families & Poverty Special Liason, National Fundraising

Compare this list to the Critic Portfolios under former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, as announced on November 14, 2008:


Agriculture Hon. Wayne Easter Malpeque
Asia-Pacific Gateway / Sport Sukh Dhaliwal Newton – North Delta
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency / Atlantic Gateway / Official Languages Jean-Claude D’Amours Madawaska – Restigouche
Canadian Heritage Hon. Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre
Consumer Affairs and Consular Affairs Hon. Dan McTeague Pickering – Scarborough East
Democratic Reform Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra
Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec Pablo Rodriguez Honoré - Mercier
Environment Hon. Ken Dryden York Centre
Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor) Anthony Rota Nipissing – Timiskaming
Finance Hon. Scott Brison Kings – Hants
Fisheries and Oceans Siobhan Coady St. John’s South – Mount Pearl
Foreign Affairs Hon. Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill
Foreign Affairs (Americas) Mario Silva Davenport
La Francophonie, Associate – Foreign Affairs Bernard Patry Pierrefonds – Dollard
Health Hon. Carolyn Bennett St. Paul’s
Human Resources and Skills Development Michael Savage Dartmouth – Cole Harbour
Human Rights Hon. Irwin Cotler Mount Royal
Indian Affairs Todd Russell Labrador
Industry Gerard Kennedy Parkdale – High Park
Intergovernmental Affairs Hon. Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan
International Cooperation Hon. Mark Eyking Sydney – Victoria
International Trade David McGuinty Ottawa South
Justice Brian Murphy Moncton – Riverview – Dieppe
Labour Ruby Dhalla Brampton – Springdale
National Defence Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South
National Revenue Hon. Judy Sgro York West
Natural Resources Hon. Navdeep Bains Mississauga – Brampton South
Northern Development Hon. Larry Bagnell Yukon
Public Safety Mark Holland Ajax – Pickering
Public Works Hon. Denis Coderre Bourassa
Science and Technology Marc Garneau Westmount – Ville-Marie
Seniors Hon. Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan
Small Business and Tourism Hon. John McKay Scarborough – Guildwood
Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale
Treasury Board and Western Economic Development Hon. Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre
Veterans Affairs Hon. Keith Martin Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca
Water Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis
Women Hon. Maria Minna Beaches – East York

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BASI-VIRK - Stay tuned for report soon on Wednesday's pre-trial hearing

I attended today's Basi-Virk pre-trial hearing for a lengthy discussion of yet more disclosure issues surrounding police investigation reports and solicitor-client privilege but haven't got time to file a posting today.

Please have patience and I hope to do so sometime Thursday afternoon.

In any case, I can tell you that you won't find a report anywhere else, as I was the only media person there!

Your humble and overworked BC Legislature Raid correspondent.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

BC Liberal Cabinet Minister Stan Hagen passes away suddenly from heart attack

I was very saddened to learn this evening that Stan Hagen had passed away suddenly from a heart attack late Tuesday.

Stan had successfully survived a fight with prostate cancer in 2004.

Stan was Agriculture and Lands Minister in the BC Liberal government and MLA for Comox. He was 69.

Stan had a long career in BC politics, first as a Social Credit MLA and cabinet minister from 1986 to 1991 under Premier Bill Vander Zalm and later as a BC Liberal from 2001 on.

Whatever political differences I had with Stan, I always admired his commitment to public service and pass on my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Premier Gordon Campbell released a statement on Stan's passing, as did NDP Leader Carole James - they are below:


For Immediate Release
Jan. 20, 2009
Office of the Premier


VICTORIA – Premier Gordon Campbell released the following statement today after learning of the sudden passing of Agriculture and Lands Minister and Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen:

“The province has suffered a great loss with the passing of my friend and colleague, Stan Hagen. He was a man who gave of himself to public life from 1986 until today. He loved British Columbia and the people who live here. Our thoughts and prayers are with Judy and all his children as they mourn the passing of their father.

“Stan served as minister of 10 different ministries in governments from 1986 to 2009. No one in Canadian public life can match that. Whether as Minister of Advanced Education or Agriculture and Lands, Stan’s record was one of exemplary service. He worked with people in a way that encouraged them to do their best as he worked on their behalf.

“His passing reminds us all of the suddenness of life and of the time we take away from our families to serve. It reminds us of the importance of friendship and inner strength, two characteristics that defined the man.

“All British Columbians have suffered a loss today. Our gratitude goes to Stan’s family for sharing him with all of us. He embodied the spirit of ‘the Honourable Member of the Legislature’. He will be sorely missed.”

Statement from Carole James

It is with great sadness that I learned tonight of the passing of the MLA for Comox Valley, Stan Hagen.

Over decades of service, Stan made an enormous contribution to public life and to the well being of his community. He will be greatly missed by all legislators and those he served in the Comox Valley. Since his election in 1986 Stan served as a minister of 10 different ministries, and his accomplishments leave a lasting legacy for all British Columbians.

On behalf the New Democratic Caucus and Party, I offer my deepest condolences to his family, friends and to everyone he touched in a life of service and commitment to our province.

Carole James
Leader of the BC NDP

Non-Partisan Association desperately tries to evade responsiblity for Olympic Village mess - but the evidence is in

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday January 20, 2009

NPA playing the blame-game


"The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have."

- Author Brian Koslow

Vancouver taxpayers face the biggest potential disaster this city has seen since it burned to the ground in 1886, thanks to the Olympic Village fiasco.

It's astonishing that the B.C. Legislature had to be recalled for an emergency session to give Vancouver authority to borrow up to $875 million to complete the Millennium Development condominium project that will be temporarily home to 2010 Olympic athletes.

But even more astonishing is that former politicians and staff from the Non-Partisan Association city government that got Vancouver into this mess are now trying desperately to evade responsibility for it.

And no wonder. The NPA's outrageous behaviour has left taxpayers on the hook for an undetermined amount that could exceed $200 million.

"This project will not land on the taxpayers," says Peter Ladner, the NPA's mayoral candidate and former councillor.

Ladner complains that Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is "using inflammatory rhetoric and misleading information" to hold the NPA accountable for "problems beyond their control."

And Daniel Fontaine, former chief of staff to NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan, and other NPA stalwarts at website Citycaucus cry about the "blame-game" going on.


Look at four key facts about the Olympic Village and decide:

  • Flash back to April 2006, when council had to pick between three developers' proposals for the Olympic Village.
Millennium Development won with the highest cash offer for city land, beating out the Wall Group and Concord Pacific, both developers with long successful track records.

But despite requests from Vision and Coalition of Progressive Electors councillors, the NPA majority refused to allow them to see all three full proposals.

  • In June 2007, the NPA majority voted to guarantee a loan to Millennium for completion of the Olympic Village - a loan which put Vancouver on the hook for the entire project when Fortress Investment Group, Millennium's lender, put the brakes on funding. Vision and COPE councillors voted no.

  • In October 2008 Vision and COPE tried to make open to the public and media a council meeting that gave a further $100- million loan guarantee to Millennium - but were voted down by the NPA majority.

  • The city's chief financial officer, Estelle Lo, quit because the NPA wouldn't listen to her deep concerns about the project.

The results of the NPA's work are clear - Vancouver's good credit rating is in jeopardy, according to rating agency Standard & Poor's, and the city at risk for hundreds of millions if the project doesn't break even.

So for the NPA to complain is pretty rich - and fixing their mess may make the city a lot poorer.

Full disclosure: Bill Tieleman is a Vision Vancouver supporter.


Monday, January 19, 2009

BASI-VIRK: New police drug investigation documents released to defence by Justice Bennett

Justice Elizabeth Bennett has ordered the release of about 75 police documents related to the drug investigation that triggered the BC Legislature Raid an led to corruption charges against former BC Liberal government ministerial assistants David Basi and Bob Virk.

In BC Supreme Court this morning it was learned that Bennett made the ruling last week in an unusual Victoria court hearing separate from the preliminary hearing being held into charges that Basi helped two developers remove land for the Agricultural Land Reserve for $50,000.

I was unable to attend the short hearing today but learned of the developments from a regular courtroom observer.

The Vancouver Sun's Neal Hall also reported on the hearing at his newspaper's website.

Bennett ruled that the documents be released on the basis of public interest in the case.

About 25 further documents remain in dispute, with legal arguments resuming in Vancouver's BC Supreme Court on Wednesday January 21 and continuing through Friday January 23. Those hearings will also deal with waiver arguments.

On Friday the defence will argue for disclosure of a document related to Josiah Wood, a previous Special Prosecutor for a short period of time in 2003, and two other individuals.

Justice Bennett also set a date of February 16 for arguments about BC Rail Freedom of Information requested documents related to govenment ministries.

Outside the courtroom Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton said the BC Rail documents are important to the defence.

"Why are these documents on hold from disclosure? They are very significant documents in this trial. The defence is having a hard time prying these documents from government hands," Bolton said.

The April 22 Supreme Court of Canada hearing to consider an appeal of earlier BC Supreme Court and Court of Appeal rulings on the secret witness issue was also raised.

Special Prosecutor Janet Winteringham told the court that they have until the end of the week to file materials for that appeal.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Erik Bornmann, David Basi, Bob Virk all spotted outside Victoria courthouse Wednesday, Thursday

CHEK and A Channel television news in Victoria have both reported that Erik Bornmann, David Basi and Bob Virk were seen outside that city's provincial courthouse on Tuesday and Wednesday, including running video clips of them there.

Basi and Virk, of course, are the two former BC Liberal ministerial aides who face corruption charges in BC Supreme Court over the BC Legislature Raid case, where they are alleged to have provided confidential government documents about the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail to lobbyists for a bidder.

Bornmann is one of those lobbyists who is the Crown's key witness against Basi and Virk, and Aneal Basi, who faces money laundering charges connected to the case.

Apparently there is a publication ban on the proceedings of David Basi's preliminary hearing on charges of breach of trust and fraud related to Crown allegations he helped remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve for the Sunriver Estates housing project in Sooke in exchange for a payment of $50,000.

Justice Ernie Quantz is hearing that case, in which veteran developers Tony Young and Jim Duncan are also facing charges.

Global TV's Keith Baldrey interviewed Basi's lawyer Michael Bolton about the case for CHEK but unfortunately I did not see that report.

UPDATE - To clarify, Bornmann, Basi and Virk were videoed separately, not together, by TV stations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is this politician too conservative to be successful in Canada?

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday January 13, 2009

Too conservative for Canada?


"When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, 'Well, what do you need?'"

- Comedian Steven Wright

Imagine where a Canadian politician who held the following positions would fit in our political system:

This politician opposes legalizing same-sex marriages.

He has no problem with citizens owning handguns - but proposed limiting their purchase - to one per month.

This politician wants to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan - and to keep them there for years instead of withdrawing them in 2011.

He thinks Robert Gates, U.S. President George W. Bush's Secretary of Defence, has done an excellent job in the Iraq war.

The politician is willing to restrict late-term abortions for women and admits he's not sure at what point a human being gets human rights.

So who did he choose to deliver a prayer before a major political event?

A controversial fundamentalist Christian pastor who has called abortion "a holocaust" and who campaigned in California for the successful Proposition 8, which bans gay marriages.

This politician has described government-run public health care as "an extreme" that leads to high taxes and is "wrong" while supporting private health insurance as the best option.

And despite saying that he has done more than anybody to "take on lobbyists and won" - this politician just appointed one to a top position.

So, where would you place this politician on the Canadian political scene?

An elected representative with these policies that are so obviously way out of line with Canadian mainstream values and popular opinion would likely lead a fringe party far to the right of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with little hope of political success.

But in the United States - his name is President-Elect Barack Obama.

And with just one week to go before Obama is sworn into office in a $40-million extravaganza paid for by private donations, it's worth realizing that America has simply not become Canada-South with one election.

Obama, to be sure, is an enormous improvement over Bush and has many commendable positions on a wide range of public policy issues.

But Obama is a politician working in the context of a right-wing country with deeply held conservative values that are out of place in Canada.

We can all wish Obama well in changing that political landscape for the better and making us feel a lot better about our neighbours, top trading partner and good friends across the border.

Just make sure that you don't get caught up in next week's Obama-mania and miss the fact that the new American president is in many ways far more conservative than any of Canada's political leaders.

Monday, January 12, 2009

NO STV chosen as NO proponent in May provincial referendum on Single Transferable Vote

The BC government has announced who it has chosen as the NO and YES proponent groups in the May 12, 2009 provincial referendum on the Single Transferable Vote electoral system - and I'm happy to report that NO STV - the group I am part of - has been picked.

I was very much involved in the May 2005 STV referendum that saw this complicated, obscure and problematic electoral system defeated by a narrow margin and look forward to a vigorous campaign again this year.

Fair Voting BC is the YES proponent and both sides receive funding of $500,000 from the province for educational campaigns in support or against STV.

Below is NO STV's news release:


Official Proponent - NO to the Single Transferable Vote - May 2009 Referendum

NEWS RELEASE Sunday January 11, 2009

NO BC-STV Campaign Society chosen by province as official NO proponent on Single Transferable Vote in May 2009 referendum; group successfully fought STV in 2005 vote as “KNOW STV”

VANCOUVER – The group that successfully opposed the Single Transferable Vote or STV electoral system in the 2005 referendum has been chosen by the province as the official NO proponent for a second vote in the May 12, 2009 referendum.

The decision means that the NO BC-STV Campaign Society – or NO STV in short – will receive $500,000 in provincial funding to run a campaign opposing the Single Transferable Vote, says NO STV president Bill Tieleman.

“We are very pleased with the decision of the Attorney-General’s Ministry to give our organization the responsibility for running a vigorous educational campaign to defeat the STV electoral system proposal, which we believe would be disastrous for British Columbia,” said Tieleman, a communications consultant and newspaper columnist.

“STV is a confusing and complicated electoral system that would take away accountable local elected representatives and replace them with regional MLAs in ridings with as many as seven members,” Tieleman said. “STV also gives unequal weight to votes in different ridings, fails to deliver true proportional representation, especially for rural voters and would make it harder for independent and third parties to elect MLAs.”

Tieleman said that “KNOW STV”, the group that successfully fought STV in the 2005 referendum, has been renamed the NO BC-STV Campaign Society, a registered non-profit group.

NO STV Secretary-Treasurer David Schreck said the problems with the Single Transferable Vote explain why it is such a rare and obscure electoral system.

“STV is only used as a national government voting system in two small, island countries – Malta and Ireland,” said Schreck, a former NDP MLA. “STV has been around since the 1920s in both those countries but no other country has adopted it in over 80 years – why would British Columbians want such a bizarre electoral system with so many problems?”

NO STV’s other directors include former Social Credit cabinet minister Bruce Strachan, former BC Citizens Assembly representative Rick Dignard and former Green Party Vancouver school trustee Andrea Reimer, now a Vision Vancouver city councilor, Schreck said. Other active members include former provincial deputy minister Bob Plecas, former NDP cabinet minister Anne Edwards, former Citizens Assembly member Jyoti Gill, Trinity Western University political science professor John Redekop and business owner Paul Gill.

Tieleman said NO STV is completely non-partisan in its approach, noting that in the 2005 provincial referendum it brought together BC Liberal Party, New Democratic Party and Green Party supporters to oppose STV, and its position was endorsed by former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett and former NDP premier Dave Barrett, who both warned of the dangers of STV before the vote.

The Single Transferable Vote was proposed as an electoral system by the BC Citizens Assembly in late 2004. The referendum rules, which remain the same for the 2009 vote, require a 60% majority of all valid votes in the referendum to be in favour, plus the referendum also requires that 60% of all constituencies in BC vote in favour of STV by a simple majority.

In May 2005 STV received 57.7% of the votes cast, failing to reach the required 60%. The BC Liberal government subsequently decided to hold a second referendum.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tieleman debates Single Transferable Vote on CKNW AM 980

I will be debating the Single Transferable Vote electoral system - which will be the subject of another province-wide referendum on May 12, 2009 - with Bruce Hallsor of Fair Voting BC on CKNW AM 980's The Sean Leslie Show at 3 p.m. today - Sunday January 11.

I am president of NO STV, the group that successfully fought STV in the May 2005 referendum under the name "KNOW STV". The new group is a registered non-profit society.

Tune in for a lively debate and the start of a new campaign against STV.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New BC Conservative Senators are Tory hacks - like all the others appointed by Stephen Harper to the pork barrel

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday January 6, 2009

The scoop behind B.C.'s new senators


I do not believe it is consistent with the true notion of popular Government that we should have a Senate selected by the Administration of the day, and holding their seats for life.

- Liberal leader Edward Blake, 1874

Once upon a time, a young Reform member of parliament eagerly campaigned for a Senate that was "equal, effective and elected."

Today, that MP is Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Christmas-time appointment of 18 new Conservative senators shows why the unelected upper house has survived for 141 years without any change.

Simply put, the Senate fulfills the patronage and political needs of the government. And despite Harper claiming he wants a triple-E Senate, it remains a partisan pork barrel.

B.C.'s three new senators are no exception - Nancy Greene Raine, Richard Neufeld and Yonah Martin are tried and true Tories who will toe the Conservative line.

They join former Conservative MPs, party fundraisers and staff - new senators who will vote Harper all the way.

Martin is the New Westminster-Coquitlam Conservative candidate in the October federal election who lost but turned out the big winner. That's because the 43-year-old teacher can collect her senator's pay of $130,400 a year - indexed to inflation - for up to 32 years!

Former 1968 Olympic gold medal skier Greene Raine has a long track record of supporting the original Reform Party, its Canadian Alliance successor and now the Conservatives. Greene Raine and her husband Al Raine endorsed Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod in the last election and previously donated $1,000 to former MP Betty Hinton.

Greene Raine was a card-carrying Reform member and Al Raine donated another $500 to Herb Grubel, the ex-Reform MP who is now a senior fellow at the right-wing Fraser Institute.

Neufeld, the B.C. Liberal energy minister whose claim to fame is privatizing BC Hydro and pushing for offshore oil and gas exploration, is a former Reform B.C. MLA who was a player in the "unite the right" movement that led to the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.

None of this partisan politicking excuses the shameful use of the Senate as a patronage pool by the federal Liberals, who still hold the majority of seats there.

But the reality is that Harper had choices. Harper could have left the seats vacant, he could have told the provinces with vacancies that they would only be filled through elections - as Alberta has done and Saskatchewan intends, or he could have struck an all-party committee to nominate worthy candidates supported unanimously instead of partisan hacks.

Ultimately, Harper is no better than any other prime minister who has used the Senate to reward party faithful and advance government interests.


Tieleman back from Mexico!

Hola amigos y amigas! I am back from a week's holiday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Mucho apologies to posters whose comments have languished while I was unable to access my blog due to Internet restrictions where I was staying.

Watch this space for new items shortly. And all comments will be posted soon.