Van Dongen’s got the goods

A bombshell in the British Columbia Legislature on March 11!

Abbotsford South independent MLA John van Dongen said in Question Period that he has obtained a copy of the $6 million indemnity agreement from October 2010 for Dave Basi and Bob Virk. The ex-Liberal aides maintained their innocence in connection with the BC Rail privatization scandal… until a plea bargain that included the taxpayer-funded absolution of their legal bills, contrary to government policy. 

Van Dongen was an intervenor in Auditor General John Doyle’s failed legal bid to get a copy of the agreement. Here is van Dongen’s exchange with Attorney General Shirley Bond, in its entirety. 
Photo of MLA John van Dongen
van Dongen

PAYMENT OF LEGAL FEES IN B.C. RAIL COURT CASE 

J. van Dongen: For the last 2½ years the government has disclosed as little as possible in order to hide the facts about the controversial decision to forgive and forget $6 million legally owing to the province by Dave Basi and Bob Virk. 

The $6 million write-off actually happened during this term of government. I now have a copy of the Basi and Virk indemnity agreement signedlegally owing to the province by Dave Basi and Bob Virk. The $6 million write-off actually happened during this term of government.Mr. Speaker, I now have a copy of the Basi and Virk indemnity agreement signed by the Tamara Vrooman, Deputy Minister of Finance. Paragraph 9 says that every advance of public funds to the defence lawyers “constitutes a loan to the indemnified person.” A loan. The funds advanced were in the form of a loan. Now, when someone gets a loan from a credit union or bank, that sets up a debt. That sets up a liability. That establishes a legal obligation from the borrower to the financial institution. So starting in 2005 this government advanced public funds by way of two loans to two political staff, and by October 2010 Basi and Virk had accumulated a debt to the province of $6 million — a $6 million loan. Section 18(3) of the Financial Administration Act states: “A debt or obligation to the government may not be forgiven without the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council if the amount forgiven is $100 000 or more.” 

Mr. Speaker, I am asking the Minister of Finance to explain to this House how Deputy Minister Graham Whitmarsh magically wiped out two loans, two debts totalling millions of dollars, without actually executing the transaction under section 18 as intended by this Legislature. 

Hon. S. Bond: The member opposite continues to bring this issue to the Legislature, and I continue to provide exactly the same answers to him every single time he asks the question.As the member opposite well knows, in fact, recently there was a court case in which the member was an intervener in that process. In fact, what was the outcome of that? That in fact the judge made it very clear that the government of British Columbia had met all of the commitments that it said that it would in terms of release of information. He was very clear about the fact we said we were going to provide documents, and we did exactly that. 

When it comes to the issue of the decision made, we have said over and over in this House that the Deputy Attorney General provided a statement at that time in which he said: “No one outside the legal services branch, myself and the Deputy Minister of Finance had any knowledge…or involvement. For clarity, neither the special prosecutor nor the Attorney General had any knowledge of the matter or involvement in this.”Since the time that the indemnity was altered, we have gone to Stephen Toope at the University of British Columbia. He has provided us with a number of recommendations to ensure that this process does not occur again. We have accepted those recommendations and made those changes. 

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental. 

J. van Dongen: I’m disappointed in the minister’s answer, and I’m also disappointed the Minister of Finance didn’t answer because he was the Attorney General at the time the deal was done.The government has two storylines on this issue, both of which they are attempting to keep well hidden. There is the real story. And for the real story, I ask the Attorney General to read the actual indemnity agreements signed in 2005. I ask her to read the October 14, 2010, Basi and Virk agreement signed by then Assistant Deputy Minister Richard Fyfe and, third, the October 2010 public statement that the minister referenced, emphasizing three times Basi and Virk’s legal liability to repay. 

The second storyline, which I call the fictional storyline of this government, can be viewed by the Attorney General by reading the following documents: the April 19, 2011, letter to Mr. Edwardson, also signed by Assistant Deputy Minister Richard Fyfe; the e-mail of May 4, 2012, to certain members of the press gallery that no one in the Justice Ministry wanted their name attached to; and the Attorney General might even be able to find the so-called modified indemnity agreement signed by Graham Whitmarsh… 

Mr. Speaker: Could the member pose the question, please? Could you pose the question? 

J. van Dongen: …as claimed by the government.I’m asking the Attorney General to examine the glaring inconsistencies between these two sets of documents. My question to the Attorney General is: how is it that the Deputy Minister of Finance, Graham Whitmarsh to examine the glaring inconsistencies between these two sets of documents. My question to the Attorney General is: how is it that the Deputy Minister of Finance, Graham Whitmarsh, acting alone, was able to magically and illegally vaporize $6 million of loans to Basi and Virk in direct contravention of section 18 of the Financial Administration Act? 

Hon. S. Bond: While I fully respect the member’s opportunities to stand in this Legislature and ask questions, today I ask the member opposite to step out into the hallway if he is going to make the kinds of allegations he is making about senior public servants who are widely respected. To suggest that the Deputy Attorney General or the Deputy Minister of Finance made any illegal behaviour in terms of this, the member opposite needs to shed the immunity of this place, step out into the hallway, provide evidence and stand up to the courage of his convictions to make those accusations in the hallway.

Van Dongen charged Premier Christy Clark with being in conflict of interest in connection with the 2003 tendering. Northwest Territories conflict of interest commissioner Gerald Gerrand is investigating. Gerrand, coincidentally, is connected to donations to the Liberal Party of Canada. Though separate from the BC Liberals, Clark is a loyal federal Liberal. 

Wondering why the big fuss about BC Rail and why you should care? Listen to the CKNW AM 980 documentary from The Investigators for the lowdown on B.C.’s scandal of the century.  

2010goldrush.blogspot.com
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.

One thought on “Van Dongen’s got the goods

  1. Unknown

    Shirley Bond says, “we have gone to Stephen Toope at the University of British Columbia. He has provided us with a number of recommendations to ensure that this process does not occur again. We have accepted those recommendations and made those changes.”

    In fact, they went far beyond the recommendations of that shallow report. The resulting Excluded Employees (Legal Proceedings) Indemnity Regulation they created would make it illegal for us to even be talking about this right now had it been in place at the time Basi and Virk were indemnified.

    The Assistant Deputy Attorney General (ADAG) now has sole authority to approve charges against the employee, grant or deny the indemnity, appoint the special prosecutor, amend or remove the conditions attached to the indemnity, terminate the indemnity, and arrange a plea deal similar to the one that caused the controversy prompting the new regulation. And it would be illegal under section 19 of the regulation for anyone to inform anyone about it, including the fact that an indemnity had even been requested. In addition, since Cabinet or Treasury Board approval is not required at any stage, the reporting requirement under section 72(8) of the Financial Administration Act does not apply. The whole thing can now be done without any public disclosure. In fact, disclosure would be illegal under section 19.

    Bond also says, “the judge made it very clear that the government of British Columbia had met all of the commitments that it said that it would in terms of release of information. He was very clear about the fact we said we were going to provide documents, and we did exactly that.”

    All the documents, Ms. Bond?

    Reply

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