“Reality is easy. It’s deception that’s the hard work.” ~ Lauryn Hill

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8000 pages of government documents relating to the privatization of BC Rail fill a Vancouver boardroom table

 The rapid clicking of heels on hard tile floor, mirrored the staccato beat of my heart as I walked quickly down the hall towards the room where history was waiting. Within those walls lay 8000 strands of spider-web,( as Bill Tieleman so smoothly refers to them) just waiting to be woven into a snare… 

Let’s go back in time… to  December 28th, 2003, when the B.C. Legislature was raided by both the RCMP and  the Victoria police – based on information uncovered in an investigation regarding organized crime and drug trafficking.

Think about that for a moment.

An organized crime and drug trafficking  investigation led police to the government buildings in Victoria.

 Let’s continue. It was finally revealed in March 2004,that the police had in fact, been also investigating a possible breach of trust in the sale  and privatization of  one of  our provinces oldest institutions, BC Rail .

BC Rail was sold to Canadian National in November 2003, in a billion dollar privatization deal that was plagued with rumours and accusations of unfair treatment to the other companies who had submitted bids.  In 2004 ,Dave Basi and Bob Virk( aides to the Transportation and Finance ministers )  were charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly providing confidential government documents  to some lobbyists  who were working on behalf of one bidder – Omnitrax. It is alleged that they provided these documents in exchange for money and “goodies”.

After so many years, the case is  still dragging on in pre-trial stage in BC supreme court. When- and if-  the trial does finally begin, it may very well last as long or longer than 6 months –  and could see a witness list  containing  some of British Columbia’s most notable politicians and players within the political scene.

Up until the NDP legally asked for these documents in court, there were far more questions than answers surrounding the BC Rail deal. Questions that the Liberals have not been eager or willing to address. 

 Bidders had pulled out during the process, complaining of unfair treatment,accusing the BC Liberals of “leaking” secret  documents to CN Rail and saying that the entire process was skewed. Within the 8000 pages of documents are emails and correspondence that would seem to support this. I would refer you to Bill Tielemans Tyee article that highlights the specifics in an easily read manner: http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2009/03/tyee-article-railgate-bombshell-bc-govt.html

 But there was more to be found in those documents, much more.

 Documents that demonstrated the extent to which Gordon Campbell and his government would go to spin both the media and henceforth,the public  – in order to achieve the desired result.  In an excerpt from a recent column by Bill Tieleman, one can clearly see why the public never hears the truth:

B.C. Liberal government ministerial aides are under strict orders when the B.C. Legislature is in session and rule No. 1 is to not provide answers to the opposition in Question Period and spin the media, a newly released confidential government document shows.

“It’s Question Period, not Answer Period,” reads an internal government document titled House Review: A Day In The Life dated January 2007.

“Answer the best you can each time, every time. But if you can’t, ATTACK!! NDP record, evidence of internal conflict, etc ….” the document instructs ministerial assistants to B.C. cabinet ministers.”


Read the full column here: http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2009/03/revealed-bc-liberal-ministerial.html

Now,be honest here. Does this really surprise you?

 No, I’m sure it doesn’t. We all know the government employs spin doctors – those snake tongued, smooth talking agents of deceit that occasionally seem capable of turning water into wine.

 Or scandal into a “miscommunication”.

Either way, I’m certain that the average joe  has no idea just how many of our hard earned dollars are being wasted on monitoring all the media, and how much of it is spent on coming up with real and hypothetical responses to any given situation- in advance.

But come back to the meat and potatoes with me – the bidding process and the the sale of BC Rail to CN.

Back to the accusations that the bidding process was tainted, leading to bidders pulling out.

Among the 8000 documents are quite a few emails that directly indicate that the Liberals knew they sale was going to CN on October 1st, 2003, and yet the announcement didn’t happen until  November 25th, 2003!  

Gordon Campbell’s government knew who the bid was going to , yet carried on the illusion and continued to string along  the other bidders to better their negotiating position.

http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2009/03/cn-others-new-actual-value-of-bids-for.html

Now, we can talk about emails here and  emails there, and believe me – there are some whoppers in this bunch that in my opinion are as incriminating as they come – but there are also other bits of very interesting reading that were released with those 8000 documents. And to my eyes , the following  items contain scribble that are about as incriminating as they come.

 The  notebooks.

 Not just any notebooks, but the notebooks of  Yvette Wells, who up until now has remained an obscure figure in all of this.

 Yvettee Wells  was the  Executive Director of the Crown AgenciesSecretariat at the time of the sale. The Secretariat is responsible for the accountability of  crown corporations, so keeping that in mind, it could be said that she was basically the person to oversee the accountability of the entire BC Rail sale  in her position. She would very much have been the “go-to” person of preference to reference anything to do with the ongoing negotiations.

Her notebooks were released because of the relevance of the information within them to the entire BC Rail deal, and they do not disappoint. Among all the hundreds of pages that I read through, the following excerpt clears any question as to the fairness of the bidding process for me.

” dilema :

          – don’t want to mislead other bidders

           – don’t want to tell them CN are getting other info –  don’t want them to do work, spend $

           – don’t want them to drop out b/c if can’t resolve issues- we may go back to other bidders.

           –  CN got data from CIBC that they shouldn’t ” 

October 22, 2003 notes.

Wow.

Kind of hard to explain those notes away no matter how you try to spin it. Remember – this was coming from someone who was in charge of accountability and governance of crown corporations.

In fact, many of her copious and detailed notes back up  the accusations voiced by other bidders in reference to an unfair bidding process. Don’t take my word for it though, check it out for yourself .

Important dates in her notebook ?

September 4, September 11, September 25, September 29, October 2, and October 22 -all 2003

 Her notebooks are available online  in PDF format here: http://www.bcndpcaucus.ca/en/node/2512   and oddly enough, despite both a journalist from The Sun and the Globe and Mail in attendance at the document release, neither has written about these notebooks to date.

Why is that?

Believe it or not, in an effort to quash any lingering accusations surrounding the bidding procedure, an independent review of the sale was  then done by an outside American firm in an effort to find any wrongdoing.

The firm declared the sale price to be fair and that the bidders were treated equally. However, even back in 2004 there were sizable questions as to the information that was given to Charles River Associates, and how they arrived at their valuations.  This article from a local paper in 2004 addresses the seeming discrepancies of the accounting involved in compiling that report itself. http://www.republic-news.org/archive/79-repub/79_potvin_bcrail.htm

And, no matter what pronouncement of innocence of inequity was made at the completion of that report, you can bet that no one was privy to any of these 8000 documents that have now been brought to light by the NDP.  

Clearly, the documents indicate that the entire bidding process of the sale of BC Rail was tainted.

BC Rail was in effect, given away – and the public has a right to know why.I have a right to know why. BC Rail was not merely a rail road, it was a part of the grand history of the province of BC and as such, should have been protected  from disassembling as much as any other historically significant  entity.

It also brings into question the validity and legality of the  sale contract itself, considering what has now been revealed. Some say it should be declared null and void.  Some say this could mean the Premier may have to answer to allegations of breach of trust.

As for myself? 

 I say the premier’s time on the gang-plank has run out, and the sharks are circling,famished.

The only way for Gordon Campbell to save his skin is to finally live up to his own claim of holding a transparent government  – and call for a full public inquiry into the  sale of BC Rail immediately. 

Anything less is akin to an admission of wrongdoing.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

* The full 8000 documents are available online in an easy to read , PDF format here : http://www.bcndpcaucus.ca/en/bcrailcorruption

For full and ongoing coverage of the BC Rail scandal and the Basi-Virk Trial  , check out the following sites for indepth and complete analysis:

http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com/

http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/

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21 Responses to “Reality is easy. It’s deception that’s the hard work.” ~ Lauryn Hill

  1. “The only way for Gordon Campbell to save his skin is to finally live up to his own claim of holding a transparent government – and call for a full public inquiry into the sale of BC Rail immediately. ”

    I hardly see where revealing the gross corruption of the government he leads would save Gordie’s skin. More like Samson bringing the temple down around him. This all looks good on Gordie, Laila, keep up the good work.

    Like

  2. RossK says:

    Great stuff Laila,

    Thanks, especially, for bringing the notebooks of Ms. Wells to our attention.

    _____
    Hey! – Who are those folks in the photo with Mr. T. and all those binders at the top of the post?

    .

    .

    Like

    • Laila says:

      Ross, The notebooks of Ms.Wells may be considered ‘hearsay’ by some, but they really offer insight into the entire deal. She talks at length about how to handle the mayors, the PR in each town, the best way to broach the subjects, as well as touching on the bidders. Interesting as well, is the mention of Whistler Rail tours in regards to bids for usage of the line. Peter Armstrong had nearly reached a track- access agreement with BC Rail prior to Gordo deciding to sell, and consequently met with all the bidders who were vying for BC Rail in an effort to make good with all of them, so his Whistler Rail line and the Jasper line would likely go ahead regardless of who won the bid. Since he already used CP and CN tracks, he had an in with those bidders. But to cover all bases, OmniTrax and Burlington Northern were buttered as well. see this story from the Vancouver Sun, date November 11, 2003.

      ” November 11, 2003

      Passenger rail service proposed to Whistler
      Rocky Mountaineer tours would need new access to BC Rail line

      Bruce Constantineau
      Vancouver Sun

      The owners of the Rocky Mountaineer have announced a proposal to operate services along the BC Rail route — from Vancouver to Whistler and from Whistler to Jasper. The plan would require Vancouver-based Great Canadian Railtour Company to negotiate a successful track access agreement with the winning bidder for BC Rail’s assets. Great Canadian Railtour president Peter Armstrong said his company was close to a track access deal with BC Rail before the province decided to sell the railway’s freight operations and it has already talked with the potential buyers about a new tourism rail service along the Vancouver-Whistler-Prince George corridor. Three potential buyers remain in the bidding for BC Rail in a process that’s expected to last several more weeks. They include Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and a partnership between OmniTRAX and Burlington Northern.”We are very fortunate because we operate over CN and CP tracks so we have had a long relationship with both those railways,” Armstrong said in an interview. “We have also met with Burlington Northern/OmniTRAX so whoever the government chooses, we hope to conclude something with the successful proponent.” He envisions a high-end service between Vancouver and Whistler — to be called the Whistler Mountaineer — and a service from Whistler to Prince George that would use BC Rail and CN lines to connect to Jasper. Armstrong said that if the necessary approvals are obtained before the end of this year, he could start the new services by the spring of 2005. “This is part of a much bigger plan and we think there is a lot of potential in moving people through Prince George, Jasper and maybe intermediary points along the route,” he said. “We have already started a shore-excursion program for cruise ships in Prince Rupert and in time, we’d like to see if we could connect Prince George with Prince Rupert.” BC Rail shut down its tourism and passenger rail services last year because the operations lost money. The closures involved the Pacific Starlight Dinner Train and Whistler Northwind tourism operations and the Cariboo Prospector, a passenger rail service that lost an estimated $5 million in its last year. Armstrong said there are not enough passengers along the route to make a passenger service viable. “It’s what has happened with rail and tourism all over the world,” he said. “Over long distances, you’re not going to get enough locals using the service on a regular basis. They might use it once in a while but that won’t be enough to pay the freight.” Armstrong said his company would invest millions of dollars on new equipment for the proposed rail services as it is anxious to expand its operations throughout B.C. He noted Great Canadian Railtour will conduct a trial run next spring to test the feasibility of a Kootenay service linking Golden, Cranbrook, Creston, Trail, Castlegar and Nelson. “We think rail tourism has a real potential in this province and we’d like to see how far we can take it,” he said. A new Vancouver-to-Whistler rail service has also been proposed by Vancouver-based Whistler Rail Tours and Via Rail. Whistler Rail would provide the rail cars while Via would operate and maintain the service. ”

      There is relevance to all of this in regards to rumour that as of yet, myself and others have been unable to confirm, but ties into the emails to the Premier from Brian Kieran, where he is trying to set up a meeting with Broe, from Omnitrax. Stay tuned.

      As for the photo, that would be Leah Herman, communications officer for the NDP, who arranged all the copies etc, and Robin, well known from BC Marys Blog.

      Like

  3. RossK says:

    Thought it was Mr. Mathews and glad to know it was Ms Herman.

    Ya, it’s interesting, because I’ve been reading binder #8 which shows the public ‘face’ of the gov’t interaction with mayors…..It’s a whole lot sunnier when you look at it from that perspective.

    .

    Like

    • Laila says:

      You know something else that I noticed at the media open house, Ross?
      You know, the one with the full, unhindered access to all 8000 pages AND free photocopies, AND pre-packaged summaries and a researcher on site for questions?

      I noticed the lack of media.
      Mark Hume was there when I arrived. We were joined by Neal Hall and Bill Tieleman. And of course, Mr. Mathews was already busy with his nose deeply into one binder.

      I was there for a couple of hours, and no one else showed up. Not a soul….

      Now, these 8000 pages seem to revealing story after story, and more revelations ARE certain to come. One would think the media would be elbowing one another to get such a chance with the goods.

      I’m just hoping those phone records are coming next…..

      Like

  4. anonymous says:

    I wonder if your name is on the witness list, my dear Laila, since you were dating Spiderman during a very interesting time period….. perhaps he told you something over a dinner, or two, or four?

    Why is it you have never been questioned?

    Like

  5. Laila says:

    God, you again? Grasping at straws. As I mentioned the last time you posted a similar comment, I’ve never even met the guy.

    Like

  6. Greg says:

    Haha…. looks like the PABsters are trying to make you look biased with ridiculous allegations.

    This too is an important post for those interested in seeing some background to this case.

    Like

  7. North Van's Grumps says:

    I feel like I’ve wasted my summer, recess from the BC Rail trial, when I could have spent hundred of hours of reading Yvettee Wells notebooks and typing them into something legible, and in chronological order, rather than accepting the RCMP and Victoria police’s compilation methods.

    Over the past two days, while the Crown, Defense, Jurors, Court staff, and Witness get to look at all of the documents …. please turn to Tab 19, page 2, line x, gallery attendees sit in the dark, listening to the Special Prosecutor “directing traffic” to his bone of contention…………do you see……

    WELL NO I DON’T

    Now if I had YW notebooks, by way of one example available to refer to, sitting inside my laptop, converted from hand written notes, non-chronological order made into logical order, indexed, in typed presentation, I could quickly pick up the lead on this data instead of looking at photos of YW notebooks and that is the crux of what took so long in the disclosure process. The police didn’t provide converted documents, they had to photo copy-into-photos the evidence on paper. Looking for a word in a document is easy, looking for a word in a photograph requires reading every single word.

    Laila, out of curiousity, in your reading, have you actually converted the photos into Word document format? If not all of it, some of it?

    YW will be called as a Witness for the Crown. Could we, bloggers,in your estimations find some way to produce a source by which it will be readily available….not wikipedia…to open to be manipulated by ….pab…. or others?

    “Among all the hundreds of pages that I read through, the following excerpt clears any question as to the fairness of the bidding process for me.

    ” dilema :

    – don’t want to mislead other bidders

    – don’t want to tell them CN are getting other info – don’t want them to do work, spend $

    – don’t want them to drop out b/c if can’t resolve issues- we may go back to other bidders.

    – CN got data from CIBC that they shouldn’t “

    October 22, 2003 notes.”

    Like

    • Laila says:

      A quick answer for one part- No, I don’t have anything converted into anything, I do believe I still have all the actual copies at a storage facility, which number in the thousands.. eek.

      Email me for more info.

      Like

  8. Kevin Logan says:

    Dating Spiderman?

    Wow, I think they made a couple movies about that which I have seen!

    I did not see your credit Laila….
    :)

    Must have been pretty cool though, swinging through town on shooting spider web….

    lol

    Like

  9. Laila says:

    Funny Kevin, funny…lol. Yes, in between raising kids and working, I was living the high life with Bornmann… not. This fellow who keeps insisting we dated, has shown up a few times from Victoria, and clearly has no clue what my life is really like as supermom. But it does provide comic relief, certainly!

    Like

  10. e.a.f. says:

    thank you for bringing this out into the open.
    B.C. Rail was meant to be something B.C. could use to help the people/businesses in B.C. prosper. It made money.
    It should never have been sold.
    The whole thing smells like an old fish cannery running open.

    Like

  11. Fly on the wall of the B.C. Legislature says:

    There is no mistake about why this trial was stopped on the eve of Gary Collins testimony. None whatsoever. These notebooks of Yvette Wells are very important, very, very important. While Christy’s involvement in this deal is a given, by far the greater threats to many in government and in padded positions following their departures, is still held in details not shown in any documents available online. I am concerned too many are focussing on Christy’s involvement only, when there are many others more inherent to this sale that are being overlooked. Yvette holds the key to substantial dealings with the key players in the deal, and those with far more to lose now than her.

    I am looking for your other story of the day you were in the courtroom and will reference that if I can locate it, for the information you wrote contained within that post.

    Like

  12. anonymous says:

    Oh yeah, I remember this. Yeah, funny no one ever wrote more about her or got her to talk, but then again she probably has a confidentiality agreement too. Who’d take a bet on that?

    Like

    • Maggie says:

      @Anonymous:
      I am sure you are right, these confidentiality agreements are given out like candies again like in the olden days, a fat settlement still silences so many none-courageous people, that is the greed that one should fight off, why give in to these temptations?

      Adam & Eve are history, so learn from it for gods sake.
      Forget about your own selfish gain, just say no and be strong and tell the truth. what is wrong with the Truth? The Truth shall set you Free, right?

      why can’t one do the right thing for the right reason anymore? what happened to stand up to the bully? they sure have tons of anti-bully videos created by students that don’t know that their biggest bully is yet to face them when they grow into the adult world..
      their bully is the one that hands them the award.

      Too many stories go missing and are taking off the net and are re-directed to what they want us to believe, that is simply brainwashing, the media has let us down as they are part of the charade,
      it is only people like Laila and Agent K etc. that will not be silenced and put it out there for us to read, thank god for these courageous bloggers.

      I hope we use these blogs instead of reading the manipulated stories in our local papers and media that only reflect what they want us to read, the radio stations aren’t much better, they got a script to go by and it sure is not to put certain politicians down,

      that brings me back to the same issue anonymous is talking about, that confidentiality agreement, free press is no longer being practiced, we all know it.

      until we all come together in Unity and Humanity, they will keep trading lives for cash around the Province, around Canada.

      Like

      • Laila says:

        Great comment Maggie. The truth does set you free, but as the old adage states, first it will piss you off…; ) I do want to say though, Maggie, that there are a lot of wonderful journalists out there,who need jobs to pay bills just like we do and cant rock the boat, if you know what I mean.That is where I see bloggers and independents like myself straddling that line. I have gotten some great stories from press who have had editors or producers squash stories that get sent onto me, and I have had stories passed onto media that have subsequently been covered. That being said, there are those out there that only tow one party line and thats enough to make you sick!

        Like

        • Maggie says:

          Hi Laila,
          took me long enough to get back to you on this one sorry :)

          the journalists and reporters that I personally admire are not paid by any media outlet or Mayor/Politician or any other corrupt “Leader” that wants the Truth hidden from the People so we can’t crucify them.

          The reporters that have the balls to “say it as it is” are mainly bloggers like yourself, yes, and people that have no personal gain by telling the truth, or gaining by hiding the truth and taking bribes or god knows what they get in return to zip it.

          When a journalist knows wrong or corrupt is part of something they cover, in my opinion they owe to tell the truth, otherwise they should get into another profession, maybe become Politicians.

          I do not agree at all with the comment you make “and can’t rock the boat”.
          that is exactly why we are in the mess we are in, Sheep Gutless Country Canada…

          We need to rock the boat, if not well then people that stay silent are just as bad and part of the corruption and the problem. Bills shouldn’t be paid by spreading and printing lies or withholding the Truth we so desperately need to hear in order to move forward and to have a Country that has Freedom as it once was so globally advertised.
          There is no Freedom, no Democracy, no Honesty, no Accountability, no Humanity, no Integrity, simply put, all the good solid ingredients to be a “great” leader are missing, and without these flavours I personally crave, Canada will stay and let Greed be the Boss.

          Not the Country I so proudly immigrated to 32 years ago, this is far from Free and now they take the Beauty of The Land and turn it into an oil puddle. In the mean time the poor and less fortunate will not survive as all the profits go to the 1% and or the ones that take bribes to keep that Silence going until the burst..

          Like

          • Laila says:

            MAggie, I agree we need to rock the boat, I do, you do, many do, but what I am saying is this isnt the world we used to live in. For many people, you can’t just walk away from your job to tell the truth. Would be great if that could and would happen, but its not realistic.

            And yes, far from the country my family immigrated to as well, from europe. In the words of a lovely, highly educated Egyptian woman I know, when talking about her life before in Egypt, and coming to Canada for a better one… and then seeing all around her evidence that this is not the land of the free as she thought it was. Same thing here, same thing there, just different gradients. A refreshing conversation it was. For all the differences, we are the same. We need a revolution in this country too. Sadly,still far too many people are too comfortable in their daily existance to see beyond their own front door.

            Like

  13. jonp says:

    The ‘breaking new’s’ just out is not surprising for anyone who followed the trial. These notes of Wells were entered and would have been presented in court, Yvette would have to testify what exactly she meant in these notes. No surprise there. There is alot to show in the documents that CN had info the others didnt. Duh.

    Like

    • Laila says:

      Not sure what breaking news you are referring to, I was away for a bit so perhaps I missed something? Yes, the notes of Yvette Wells are very clear and yes, it would have been interesting and revealing to hear her testimony and see these notes in the trial. The documents the NDP have so much in them that many have never seen, or read, with the exception of Bill Tielmans coverage. Wells clearly states CN had info the others did not. There are a lot of gems in those documents.

      Like

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