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Liberal lawyer gets Queen's Counsel nod

A former lawyer for the BC Liberal caucus, who was a bit player in the BC Rail court saga, was one of 32 designated Queen's Counsel on Dec. 11 by Attorney General Suzanne Anton.

The designation is meant to honour lawyers for "exceptional merit and contribution" and demonstrating "professional integrity and good character," according to the Justice Ministry.

Trade and investment lawyer Clark Roberts is Gowlings International's chief Beijing representative and a board member of the Canada China Business Council. The appointments were announced, coincidentally, the day after Premier Christy Clark spoke at a CCBC lunch in Vancouver.

In May 2007, Roberts showed up at B.C. Supreme Court to represent ex-finance minister Gary Collins and speak on his behalf during pretrial hearings about the tainted 2003 privatization of BC Rail to CN for $1 billion.

Roberts told Bill Tieleman: "Mr. Collins asked me to act for him but who is paying the bill is not clear at this time. I understand Mr. Collins has an indemnification as a former cabinet minister."

Collins was scheduled to testify during the bribery trial of his former aide Dave Basi and ex-Transport Ministry aide Bob Virk on Oct. 18, 2010, but they changed their pleas to guilty and had their $6-million legal bills covered by taxpayers, contrary to government policy.

Elections BC records show Roberts, who once ran federally for the Liberals in Saanich-Gulf Islands, donated $1,500 to the party in 2006. Gowlings has donated $8,675 to the Liberals and $1,500 to the NDP.

The 2013 QC list also includes former NDP MP and MLA Ian Waddell, media lawyer Dan Burnett, acting assistant deputy attorney general Geoff Moyse and Law Society of B.C. CEO Timothy McGee.

Nominations were reviewed by Chief Justices of B.C.'s Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and two members of the B.C. Law Society appointed by benchers. The recommendations were approved by cabinet. Only seven per cent of practicing lawyers can be designated QC in B.C.

A January 2, 2012 Lawyer Magazine story headlined "the most wonderful time of the year: QC appointments" said Ontario and Manitoba no longer make QC designations, but Alberta does every two years.

Since Clark became premier in March 2011, a number of Liberals have been appointed.

Richards Buell Sutton partner Sharon White was elected the BC Liberals' president in May 2011 and named a QC seven months later.

Clark's 2011 Liberal leadership campaign co-chair Douglas Eastwood was on the 2012 list. Eastwood is a Justice Ministry lawyer and chair of the B.C. Justice Institute. He donated $3,530 to the Liberals since March 31, 2011.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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