When I opened the Vancouver Province this morning and turned to the editorial page I thought Wendy had thrown some strange potion into my cereal, as I read:
“And what sort of a government do we have in BC when our top justice official, Attorney-General, Mike DeJong, can agree to pay the crooked officials’ million legal fees as part of a deal between a supposedly independent special prosecutor and the defense lawyers? What is the point of hiring an independent prosecutor in the first place, if at the end of the process the attorney-general – a a politician in the very government whose integrity the case brings into question – will be needed to approve such a massive carrot in the plea bargain”.
The Province then asks. “Have the payment of lawyers’ fees ever before been part of such an arrangement?”
The answer comes right from the Campbell government which, when Glen Clark was charged with a criminal offense, said they would pay the lawyer if he won, not if he lost. Under this precedent, the accused should not have had a penny paid by us the taxpayers.
The following is now clear – this bargain wasn’t made by Mr Berardino, the special prosecutor and his role was really a conduit between the Campbell government and the accused. Mr Berardino says that the deal was solely his. That, (forgive the legal jargon here) is bullshit. Clearly he didn’t have authority, on his own, to shell out this money but had to get that from DeJong, the attorney-general. Just as clearly, that authority had to come from cabinet, which is to say, Premier Campbell. Premier Campbell knew what the deal was and I suspect that he initiated the settlement proceedings.
This leads to one conclusion and one conclusion only – indeed I suspect that most people would agree – this trial ended because the next steps were to call witnesses that would badly hurt an already terminally wounded government.
To me there can be no doubt that this settlement was politically motivated.
I also have looked at this from a lawyer’s point of view.
Why would you stop a trial that has gone on when the end is in sight?
If it became clear that the accused would not be convicted then it would be the duty of Crown Counsel to stay the proceedings but that’s not the case here. Mr Berardino must have interviewed a number of future witnesses, including the former Finance Minister, Gary Collins and the Premier himself. If he knew from these witnesses that they were going to help the accused, he was bound by ethics to disclose this to their lawyers. One must, therefore, infer from this that the Crown witnesses to come, that is to say Messrs Collins and Campbell plus, no doubt other government insiders, would hurt the accused. With this reasonable and logical inference – and the decisions of the accused to cop a plea reflected this – then clearly Premier Campbell knew that it was time to bail.
If one does not assume that, one must assume that Mr Berardino, entirely on his own, made a deal where the accused would have all their legal fees paid and not go to jail and the government would have to pay $6 million dollars then after he had made the deal he told them what he’d done. If you believe that happened, I have a dandy bridge you might like to buy.
The only sensible conclusion one can come to is that this was not a legal decision and that that the government made a political decision to save the little that’s left of their bacon.
Of course there should be an investigation into the entire BC Rail issue.
When I finished the foregoing I felt a sense of emptiness then I realized what was bothering me – it wasn’t anger, and it wasn’t just embarrassment, though I certainly feel that.
No, for the first time in my life I felt thoroughly ashamed of my government.
Here’s a non political story that is a political story too.
Carole Taylor is to become the new Chancellor of Simon Fraser University for a three year term. I don’t believe that Ms Taylor woukld take that on if she had any interest in getting back into politics which vaults Diane Watts, the mayor of Surrey, into the favourite’s role in the contest for Pinocchio’s job. I think Ms Taylor knew enough about the BC Rail case to know it would stick to anyone who’d ever been part of a Campbell government.
By the same token, Ms Watts may well think that she really doesn’t need to voluntarily accept the poisoned chalice that is the leadership of the BC Liberal Party.
More and more the vacuum at the centre enlarges begging for a party of the middle will happen.