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BC Rail director questioned about fees, donations to BC Liberals

A B.C. Rail director got testy during testimony about his own $550,000 in fees from two Crown corporations, and political donations his companies made to the B.C. Liberal Party, under cross-examination in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday.

Brian Kenning bristled repeatedly under questioning from defence lawyer Kevin McCullough in the Basi-Virk political corruption trial. McCullough represents former B.C. government ministerial aide Bob Virk.

Kenning confirmed he was paid $550,000 in directors fees on the B.C. Rail and B.C. Ferries boards since the B.C. Liberals were elected in 2001. That's an average of $62,000 a year.

"I would point out one little thing. I make more sitting on the MacDonald-Dettwiler board alone," Kenning replied to McCullough.

McCullough: "Just a pittance?"

Kenning: "No, it’s not a pittance."

McCullough: "Do you know the average wage in B.C.?"

Kenning: "No."

MacDonald-Dettwiler corporate reports show Kenning was paid $98,519 for sitting on its board last year: $68,500 in fees and $30,019 in "share-based awards". He owns $294,536 worth of MacDonald-Dettwiler common shares and deferred share units.

The average annual salary in B.C. last year was $41,600.

McCullough also said that Kenning was involved in firms that gave the B.C. Liberal Party hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"And that is absolutely irrelevant," Kenning responded.

McCullough questioned Kenning on his personal connections to a number of key figures in the political and corporate world, including CN Rail chair David McLean, B.C. Liberal Party insider Patrick Kinsella, former B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Gary Collins, B.C. Rail chair John McLernan, Alan Wallace of CIBC World Markets (which handled the billion dollar sale of B.C. Rail), and former B.C. Rail CEO Bob Phillips.

Former B.C. Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk are charged with breach of trust and fraud for allegedly providing lobbyists for a bidder with internal government information about B.C. Rail. Former government staffer Aneal Basi faces money laundering charges related to those allegations.

Bill Tieleman, a former communications director in the B.C. Premier's Office, writes for The Tyee and 24 Hours newspaper.

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