No Apologies Yet for BC Rail Accusations: NDP's Krog

Court documents confirm Clark never a target of investigation. Abbott still wants probe into taxpayers footing legal bills for Basi, Virk.

By Andrew MacLeod 18 Feb 2011 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's legislative bureau chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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Liberal leader candidate Christy Clark: Not investigated by RCMP.

With the release of court documents which indicate that no elected British Columbia Liberals were the focus of police investigations into the sale of BC Rail, a senior Liberal says the NDP should apologize for some of what its members said while the case was before the court.

But the opposition MLA who took the lead in that questioning says his party won't apologize for anything to do with the tainted deal until the full story is known.

The Globe and Mail reports that court documents released to the newspaper and CTV on Feb. 16 show that the police were never suspicious of Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark.

"Although police initially suspected Gary Collins, who was then finance minister, those doubts were quickly erased as investigators probed deeper into the activities of Mr. Basi," the paper reported. The documents included daily investigation reports, wiretap transcripts and statements by key witnesses, it said.

Collins and Clark both quit politics in 2004, but Clark has gotten involved again, joining the Liberal leadership race in December. Her campaign did not respond to The Tyee's request for comment.

Among those who've raised questions about Clark's connections to people involved in the BC Rail deal is Bill Tieleman, as in his Tyee column published the week before she entered the race.

Apology needed: Coleman

"Lots of people have made some comments, particularly in the legislature of British Columbia," said government house leader Rich Coleman. "Clearly now that the documents are released, a lot of those comments were quite inappropriate to go after people's reputation and credibility and make comments about their character inside the chamber."

Comments made in the legislature are protected by privilege, meaning MLAs cannot be sued for things they say in the house. For several years the NDP opposition raised questions in the house regarding the sale of BC Rail.

"It's up to the NDP now that this has been exonerated for people, whether they're going to step up to the plate and apologize to them at some point," said Coleman. MLAs made allegations even though they knew the police had said from the beginning that no elected person was involved, he said.

The NDP critic for the attorney general, Leonard Krog, has led questioning of the BC Rail deal. "Excuse me?" he said. "The opposition apologizing to this government for breaking a major campaign promise, for selling BC Rail in a tainted deal that caused CP and Omnitrax to withdraw from it?"

There are too many unanswered questions regarding the deal, Krog said.

"I don't think the government's going to get any apologies from the opposition," he said. "I'm not prepared to apologize to anyone until we see all the documents, the full story is out and a public inquiry has determined exactly what happened in the course of the sale of BC Rail."

Payment of legal bill still rankles

The public is also concerned about why the government paid the $6-million legal bill for David Basi and Bob Virk, who pleaded guilty in the case, he said.

"I think most British Columbians are absolutely disgusted by the concept that the legal fees of two convicted criminals who accepted bribes have been paid for out of their pockets," he said.

"At the same time autistic children can't get help, people sleep in our streets day in and day out, our education system is underfunded, people wait in crowded hospitals. I think British Columbians are outraged by that."

Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott said that given the release of the court records he still supports a review into the payment of Basi and Virk's legal bills. "I remain convinced... that both the public and the government would benefit from a thorough review of that settlement by an eminent official, likely a retired judge and likely from outside British Columbia," he said.

"In my mind there are some unresolved questions around that," he said. "It is imperative, I think, that government be prepared to learn from its experiences, even when those experiences are painful. This is a chapter I think we need to thoroughly air and then be able close in a way people will be satisfied and comfortable with."  [Tyee]

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