Friday, March 27, 2009

RailGate Riding.... With Mr. P.....Recusal Refusal


You may (or may not) have noticed that VSun columnist Vaughn Palmer's name came up in yesterday's RailGate pre-trial court hearing?


Well, it was because of an Email exchange that was read out in court in which two government officials, officials of the Gordon Campbell government, discussed a column by Mr. Palmer from way back in ancient times (ie. 2004).

First, courtroom witness Bill Tieleman's description of the Email exchange:

....One e-mail dated July 7, 2004, concerned a column written by Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about possible problems with the BC Rail sale to CN running into problems.

The e-mail was from BC Rail VP Kevin Mahoney to Deputy Minister Chris Trumpy, who was a government appointee to the BC Rail deal evaluation committee.

"Mr. Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun had written an article that contained what appeared to be confidential information -- that he wouldn't otherwise know," McCullough said, going on to read the e-mail into the record.

"Subject: Palmer. Mahoney: Where does Palmer get his stuff?"

Trumpy replied 36 minutes later, McCullough said.

"Trumpy: What is your phone number now?".....


What does Mr. Palmer think of all this?


Is he refusing to answer any and all questions about himself because he, himself, is now and forever himself 'before the courts'?

Well, let's head on over to his Blog and find out shall we:

....I'd like to answer. I really would. But the matter is before the courts, and my overriding obligation is to respect the independence of the judiciary...

But fact is, I wrote the column five years ago, have only the vaguest memory of doing it, and can't begin to recall where I got the information.

For the record, the column dealt with the one of the lingering regulatory concers with the CN takeover of the government-owned BC Rail. "CN, Liberals finally pry BC Rail okay out of the competition bureau.".....

Now, all joking aside, given how concerned Mess'rs Mahoney and Trumpy were with that 2004 column one can only wonder if any members Premier Gordon Campbell's government became apoplectic after they read the following, also from Mr. Palmer, in a column that was published more than two years later on Nov 04, 2006:

The aides (ie. Basi and Virk) are accused of being involved in the exchange of confidential information regarding the sale [of BC Rail] and of gaining benefits and/or other considerations in return.

But one possible defence would be that they were authorized to pass along information to keep the bidding process alive.

That was a critical consideration for the B.C. Liberals as they moved to privatize BC Rail in the second half of 2003.

The preferred bidder was CN Rail. It had a continent-wide rail network and it was offering the highest price -- $1 billion.

But to preserve the competitive aspect of the process and to keep pressure on CN, the government needed other bidders.

Initially there were three. But one dropped out in the early going and a second exited in the final month, complaining that the process was tainted.

With only one other bidder left, the competitive aspect was hanging by a threat. Not surprisingly, the Liberals wanted to keep that alternative player in the game.

The rival bidder was OmniTRAX, a Colorado-based operator. It did stay in until the announcement Nov. 25, 2003, that CN Rail would takeover BC Rail.

OmniTRAX subsequently got involved in bidding for another BC Rail asset, the spur line serving the Roberts Bank superport.

There was talk that it might prevail in the bidding process as a sort of consolation prize.

But the Roberts Bank sale was cancelled in early 2004. Police had advised the government that confidential information regarding the spur line had ended up in the wrong hands, possibly compromising the bidding process.

The charges in the case imply a tit-for-tat. The aides were allegedly passing confidential information to gain something for themselves.

But what if any passing was inspired by their bosses, the politicians? What if the objective was to keep OmniTrax in the loop and thereby preserve the credibility of the BC Rail sale?"

Now, why does this matter?

Well, because if such a quid pro quo was, indeed, in place would it not suggest that the defendants in the RailGate case were not actually acting as rogue elements while they (allegedly) lined their pockets, but instead were actually working at the behest of their political masters.

And further, would it not also mean that, perhaps, when the RCMP informed the government in early 2004 that the Spur line bidding process had been compromised that it was actually the government itself, NOT the rogue elements, who had done the compromising?

From the beginning?

On purpose?

With malice aforethought?

If you get my drift.


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