Thursday, July 16, 2009

Corruption, Private and Public

Here in B.C., some of us have been paying attention to the Basi/Virk trial—these are the guys who got arrested in 2003 when the RCMP raided the Ledge, hauling off cartons of files and papers. B&V are charged with fraud and corruption relating to the sale of BC Rail to CN. More precisely,leaking information, rigging the deal, and taking payoffs. Their defense is based on “just following orders” to get the interest (and, by extension, price) up on the sale. They deny having accepted money in any way (other than their salaries, of course), but acknowledge that they leaked information—though on the instructions of higher ups, including from our premier. So their lawyers subpoenaed all emails relating to the sale of BC Rail, including those of the premier.

It turns out, to no one's surprise, that the email records were destroyed. Of course there are rules concerning such things; “Government records destruction must be suspended during court orders for Demand for Discovery.” Also “Records disposition must be suspended during legally mandated reviews (e.g. Litigation, document discovery, and commissions of inquiry).” “Well,” said the business charged with keeping track of government backups, “that was more than 13 months ago, and they've already been trashed.”(or words to that effect.) Except that now it comes out that some email backup records from pre-May 2004 were discovered during the election campaign earlier this spring—including some of the premiers email. And somehow, someone in a position of power decided that the tapes should be destroyed. And so they were, during a campaign in which the court case was an issue. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

And Gordon Campbell “cruised to an easy win,” returning as premier for the third time. “Cruised to a win” in an election in which 4,500 votes, in the right ridings, would have almost exactly reversed the outcome. This is the kind of crap that sent Dick Nixon down. It's sunk quite a few Canadian politicians as well.

The question of whether the sale of BC Rail was corrupt isn't in doubt; by admission of Basi/Virk, it was. But naturally this won't make a damn bit of difference to the sale. Nothing can be allowed to interfere with that. Instead, at best, it will cost a couple of flunkies their jobs and maybe some jail time. Gordon Campbell is expected to retire before the next election, and every effort is being made to see that he remains un-tarred by this particular brush (although his bio will always record that he was a convicted felon when elected for the third time (having been convicted of felony DUI in Hawaii)). He will, of course, be cared for by those for whom he's made boatloads of money over the last two terms. But anyone actually paying a price for corruption in government? Not gonna happen.

This is one of the failings in our current system of government; there is a real and serious lack of accountability. CN knew damn well that it was participating in a corrupt process, but there will be no piper for them to pay. A couple of schmucks will have their lives ruined (maybe—they too may be cared for in the end by the rich pricks ripping apart the commons for private profit).

But what would happen if the sale was nullified? The billion dollars BC took for BC Rail returned to CN, and CN not compensated for “improvements” (the line has not only not been improved, but in fact has been the scene of numerous speed-based derailments, including the one that dumped highly toxic chemicals into the river outside of Squamish a couple of years back. CN paid a few bucks for the massive destruction of salmon at the time, but apparently no changes have been made to the way they've been doing business in the region. The number of derailments since bear witness to that.), but what if CN was actually taxed to recover all the profit they've made on the line since its sale? After all, a case could be made that, by participating knowingly in a corrupt bidding process, these profits are in fact proceeds of crime, just like any pot dealer's car. Corruption flourishes because of economic benefits. If you remove the benefits, you can slow or stop corruption.

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