BC Liberals paid $6-million in public funds to Dave Basi and Bob Virk as part of enticements to end the BC Rail political corruption trial. The criminal court action had been embarrassing the government and was about to get worse. Former minister Gary Collins was next to testify and other Liberal big guns were to follow.
The settlement offer to Basi and Virk relieved them of crippling burdens for legal costs and financial penalties, eliminated the possibility of jail time and left their personal assets intact. The “house arrest” imposed offered generous absences for work, family, religion and recreation. In other words, trivial sentences. More importantly, the settlement left Basi and Virk available for new assignments that could be arranged by Liberal friends. Others at the centre of BC Rail, including Gary Collins, Patrick Kinsella and Brian Kenning, had been rewarded for silence and provided lucrative supplements or employment with wealthy associates of the government.
Payment of the $6-million was contrary to long established policy and tradition by which Government protects Crown servants from personal losses incurred while they are acting within the scope of their duties and not acting against interests of the Crown. Not only did that principle not apply in Basi/Virk, but the payment, together with punishment below typical for the charged offences, was aimed at inducing guilty pleas and non-disclosure agreements facilitating concealment of evidence.
Liberals bribed defendants to “take the fall” for wrongdoing by more senior people and prosecutor Berardino and Justice Anne MacKenzie facilitated the bribes. If the Government had clean hands, the case would have proceeded to its natural conclusion without interference. However, Liberals consistently set roadblocks and covered tracks while they encouraged and benefited from “I can’t remember” perjury.
Premier Christy Clark has tried to change the subject away from her government’s wrongful acts. She said in the legislature last June,
I think that the public was concerned about the indemnity policy of government. I think they were right to be concerned about it.
Adrian Dix called her out,
The Premier is wrong. The people of B.C. are not concerned about the indemnity policy. I have never heard that raised. What their concern is, is that the government didn’t follow the indemnity policy. They didn’t follow the indemnity policy, and they gave $6 million at a time when the government says that they can’t afford to do basic things… The public is concerned that there was a $6 million payout to put it to an end, a trial that was a serious trial for the government in power. That’s the concern of the public.
…So the question to the Premier is: why aren’t we reviewing that decision? Why did the Liberal Premier of British Columbia initiate a review and not ask that that decision be reviewed… a review of the decision not to apply the indemnity policy in the B.C. Liberal corruption scandal?
Now, here is Stephen Toope’s report. Who is he? Well, Stephen Toope is the head of the University of British Columbia, an institution that depends on the BC Government for more than $500-million annually, money that enables it to pay Toope a salary of about $600 thousand, along with an extraordinarily generous benefits package that brings the value of his remuneration closer to $1-million. Professor Toope may understand much about international law but he apparently knows little about conflict of interest. He should have declined the Premier’s request to issue a report on such a politically charged matter, one that is vital to the government’s survival. How could he have issued a report that offended the very people who control the financial destiny of UBC and Toope.
Regardless, the report only helps the Liberal Government change the subject. That will be successful only if media mouthpieces allow the switch in focus. As Dix pointed out, citizen discomfort was never with policy, it was with failure to follow policy. The fact is the Liberals ignored procedures that were in place and there remains no guarantee they will do right in the future.