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Debate: After six years, one question and no answer on BC Rail scandal

The B.C. Legislature Raid has hung over B.C. Liberals Premier Gordon Campbell’s head for six years and two elections – but he managed to avoid answering any questions about the case yet again in tonight's leaders’ debate.

Campbell caught one big break when NDP leader Carole James spent too long on her wind-up pitch and ran out of time to pose it to Campbell.

Then she came back for a second try – and tossed a softball instead of the high heat many had hoped for.

“Given everything that’s happened with the BC Rail corruption scandal, would you do things differently?” James asked Campbell, who must have been clutching his lucky rabbit’s foot beneath the podium.

Regardless, Campbell simply ignored the question and that was it – no more discussion of B.C. Rail, David Basi or Bob Virk or anything else from the largest and longest provincial political corruption scandal in recent memory.

And if Campbell felt lucky, imaging how relieved B.C. Liberals Party insider Patrick Kinsella must have been. Kinsella’s storied name did not even get mentioned in passing all night – the B.C. Liberals election campaign co-chair from 2001 and 2005 has played a prominent role in recent months for getting paid $297,000 by BC Rail for “business advice” but he slipped out of sight tonight.

James was clearly the winner, forcing Campbell to stoop to condescending comments that will give him no points with women voters – or anyone who dislikes political arrogance – but on one of his most vulnerable fronts the premier was able to stonewall once again, as he has done repeatedly in and out of the Legislature.

Monday morning the Basi-Virk case resumes pre-trial hearings on disclosure of evidence – and the New Democrats are hoping for more bombshell material in B.C. Supreme Court before the May 12 election..

Bill Tieleman is a 24 hours columnist and a regular Tyee contributor.

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