Independent MLA John van Dongen on Monday poked another stick into the B.C. Rail snakepit.
He filed a court application to become an intervener in auditor general John Doyle's pursuit of the right to look at every single scrap of paper in relation to any indemnity deals ever offered by the B.C. government.
It's unclear how much luck van Dongen will have angling his way into the argument. But his affidavit sure makes for an intriguing read. It's an insider's look at how the deal went down. And it indicates the insiders were as much in the dark as anyone.
Van Dongen asserts that the government's forgiveness of the huge legal bill racked up by the B.C. Rail duo - ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk - was a complete mystery to him as an MLA. The pair pleaded guilty immediately after and the case was quickly closed in October 2010.
The official story was that two deputy ministers - with no political involvement - decided there was no hope of ever getting the money. So they forgave the mounting bill, regardless of the verdict, and the pair pleaded guilty soon after.
Case closed. But not to van Dongen's liking. In his affidavit, he says he started asking questions about it.
He asked then-premier Gordon Campbell about it, but was unsuccessful in getting any answers.
He pressed for disclosure of the details a week later at a caucus meeting. "I could not reconcile the fact that MLAs in the government caucus had no meaningful information with my long-held view that transparency and accountability are crucial."
He asked for an urgent caucus meeting where the deputies - Graham Whitmarsh and David Loukidelis - would explain things, but "my request did not appear to be welcomed by the premier or the caucus chair."
A meeting with then-attorney general Mike de Jong was arranged for him, but van Dongen cancelled it when a meeting with Campbell was arranged. In a pointed confirmation of the vast distance between the two Fraser Valley Liberals, van Dongen noted: "I did not have any confidence I would receive factual information from the attorney general."
Van Dongen said he even asked Virk about it and "he told me that he did not agree to plead guilty until 20 minutes before the start of court on Oct. 18. He said he did so extremely reluctantly."
On Oct. 28, Van Dongen met Campbell, whose leadership by that time was under pressure.
"The premier knew before the meeting began that I was already talking to MLAs about asking him to resign. He told me he would not resign but would stay on.
"He proceeded to lay out for me, chapter and verse, what his plan was."
Van Dongen said Campbell's earliest possible quit date was June 2011. The premier wanted to extend his term to the fall of 2011 or even the spring of 2012.
"It was 40 minutes before I had the opportunity to make my request concerning the two deputies."
There was more back and forth before another meeting between van Dongen and de Jong was arranged. Van Dongen balked and told Campbell he should quit, then phoned other MLAs and told them he'd told Campbell he should quit.
"I requested his resignation for a variety of reasons, but the legal-fee indemnity waiver ... had been the final straw."
The other reasons were the "major, incomprehensible restructuring of government ministries with no consultation, a tax cut announcement and controversial decisions like the HST."
Van Dongen said former finance minister Gary Collins met him Oct. 30 to go over the issue. He told Collins the fee waiver was the last straw.
Campbell announced his plan to quit as premier on Nov. 3 and van Dongen said caucus members were not told. "I learned about it from the news media."
Two other tries to get the deputies to explain themselves to caucus failed, as planned meetings were cancelled.
Van Dongen fumes in his affidavit about the lack of transparency and accountability in the Attorney General's Ministry. The story eventually subsided, but left van Dongen disenchanted.
He quit the Liberals on March 26, and the tale of the indemnity was the first reason he cited.
Now he's submitting his tale to a judge, who will decide whether to let him join in the concerted attempt to find out more about such deals.
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