Friday, July 17, 2009

BC Rail issue raises flags for NDP MLA

"Gordon Campbell, after the RCMP raid on his offices, needs to answer some tough questions about the sale, and come clean with British Columbians by giving us the down and dirty of his sell-off," -- NDP MLA Gary Coons offering up his thoughts to the Daily News on the state of the BC Rail investigation.

The growing fog of delay over the release of information on the BC Rail sale is raising a few more eyebrows and voices in Victoria, as the NDP Opposition strives to focus the debate on the Premier's office and the latest drama playing out in the provincial capital.

For the last few months, North Coast NDP MLAGary Coons has been outlining his concerns over the path that the BC Rail investigation has been taking. With the latest developments of missing e mail correspondences adding to the growing file of suspicion on the events that led to the take over of BC rail lines in the province by CN.

Thursday, Coons added his voice to those of his fellow members of the NDP caucus, who perhaps smelling a little blood in the political water are pushing hard for answers over the missing emails and other controversial and confusing issues surrounding the sale.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Page two

Delays in releasing information on rail deal are frustrating opposition.

According to the opposition's Attorney General Critic, Leonard Krog, the sale of the former provincial crown corporation rail line has not been fully disclosed to the public and he said he blames Premier Gordon Campbell for the delay.

''Today, certain clauses in the B.C. Rail Transaction agreement that are in place to protect British Columbians, will expire. The public has the right to know what the Campbell government plans to do with valuable track land from North Vancouver to Squamish to Dease Lake,' said Krog to media members in Vancouver Tuesday.

The BC liberals have said that a full disclosure of the contract could not be made because of a trial that has implicated two former high-level aides in political corruption charges.

The men on trial are Dave Basi and Bob Virk, who have been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting benefits for allegedly leaking confidential information to one of the bidders about the bidding process for BC Rail in 2003.

At the time, Basi was an assistant to Gary Collins, who was finance minister, and Virk was an assistant to Judith Reid, who was transportation minister.

A highly severed version of the B. C. Rail deal, released in August 2004 in response to a FOI request from the BC NDP, includes clauses that allow Canadian National to stop service to portions of the rail line. The premier has also said the contract allows the government to sell off rail lands for one dollar. Despite public pressure, the Campbell government has never released a complete version of the contract.

The deal has drawn the ire of the BC NDP for some time now but the party has been unsuccessful in gaining full access to the documents through Freedom of Information requests.

Krog is now trying another tactic by claiming that a full disclosure would help enlighten British Columbians on what the plans are for track that extends as far north as Dease Lake and south to North Vancouver.

It's a question his North Coast colleague, Gary Coons, agrees needs to be asked. Coons brought up the controversial sale many times during the past provincial election.

"Gordon Campbell, after the RCMP raid on his offices, needs to answer some tough questions about the sale, and come clean with British Columbians by giving us the down and dirty of his sell-off," said Coons.

He added that British Columbians deserved to know if the deal signed away the rights of communities by giving CN the right to abandon parts of the rail line, and whether the deal will allow the private company to buy valuable land for as little as one dollar.

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