$297,000 BC Rail payment to Liberal insider draws NDP fire
Last Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 10:59 AM PT
New Democratic Party MLAs are demanding to know what role a key B.C. Liberal backroom organizer played in the privatization of BC Rail and why his companies received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Crown corporation.
Liberal insider Patrick Kinsella's consulting companies billed BC Rail for $297,000 in undisclosed services between 2002 and 2005, according to documents released by the NDP earlier this week.
The Liberal government sold off the Crown corporation to Canadian National Railway in 2003 despite campaigning on a promise in the 2001 election to keep it in government hands.
Now NDP MLA Leonard Krog wants to know what role, if any, Kinsella played in the deal with CN Rail and what his consulting companies did in return for the payments.
"The people of British Columbia have a right to know how the co-campaign chair, personal friend of the premier, the ultimate party insider and bagman, gets $297,000 in taxpayers' money," Krog said Wednesday outside the house.
No answer from Liberals
Currently, two former Liberal ministerial aides are facing corruption charges related to the sale of BC Rail.
David Basi, who worked for former finance minister Gary Collins, and Bob Virk, an assistant to former transportation minister Judith Reid, are charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting a benefit in connection with the billion-dollar sale of BC Rail to Canadian National Railway in December 2003.
That case has been mired in procedural disputes for several years, and the actual trial has yet to begin.
The New Democrats say they are not alleging a connection to that court case; they simply want to know what services Patrick Kinsella provided to BC Rail.
But both inside and outside the house on Tuesday, the Liberals engaged in a cat and mouse game with the NDP on the affair.
The Liberals says they can't clarify the payments to Kinsella because they can't comment on any matters before the courts. At the same time, they, too, did not suggest any link between the payments to Kinsella and the court case.
"Under the circumstances, it would be improper for anyone in this house to comment," Attorney General Wally Oppal said in the provincial legislature on Wednesday.
Outside the chamber, Premier Gordon Campbell also refused to comment.
"I've already answered those questions," he told reporters.
Earlier in the week, the New Democrats accused the Liberals of hiding behind the court case to avoid coming clean on payments to Kinsella.
Krog said the documents that reveal details of the payments are not court documents, and his party is not alleging any connection to the Basi-Virk corruption case.
"Let's be very clear. You can walk up this corridor and get those documents in the library," Krog said Tuesday. "They're public documents. They were not released through BC Rail."
This is not the first time Kinsella's connection to the Liberals has been questioned in the legislature.
The co-chair of the last two B.C. Liberal election campaigns was accused in October 2008 by the NDP of working as a lobbyist without registering as a lobbyist with the province as required by law.
But the party insider refused to co-operate with B.C.'s registrar of lobbyists, effectively putting an end to the investigation of the allegation.