Premier’s top adviser had access to key evidence
RAID ON LEGISLATURE: Ken Dobell went through cabinet files before police IN THE HOUSE
The shocking 2003 raid on the legislature created a bizarre and unprecedented situation for the police, prosecutors, politicians and parliamentarians.
Bashing down the door of a crack house or grow-op is one thing. But this was the legislature, the centre of our democracy, the people’s house.
The legislative “precincts,” as they’re known, operate under their own ancient rules and privileges. At the beginning of every session, MLAs approve a bill called “An Act to Ensure the Supremacy of Parliament” to drive the point home: This is the seat of power in B.C.
So what happens when the cops show up with a search warrant and start hauling away the contents of filing cabinets and computer hard drives? Can any flatfoot flash his badge and start rummaging through the cabinet laundry hamper?
Hardly. The cabinet operates in the strictest secrecy. Cabinet ministers swear an oath to ensure its secrets are preserved.
In a system where parliament is supreme, a special process had to be worked out to ensure the evidence collected in the raid was preserved and the investigation allowed to proceed, all while the supremacy of parliament was respected.
That’s why the B.C. Supreme Court set up the evidence-vetting protocol I described in Tuesday’s column: All the evidence was sealed in a locked room and only four people, who signed a secrecy agreement, were allowed to look at it.
Thus, it could be decided which documents could be turned over to police and which would remain secret due to cabinet “privilege.”
Ken Dobell knew about this protocol. Premier Gordon Campbell’s deputy minister and closest adviser was kept in the loop during the protocol’s development, according to a government e-mail trail.
Dobell also knew the seriousness of the situation: Three former senior government insiders are charged with accepting bribes, influencepeddling and money-laundering in the government’s $1-billion sale of B.C. Rail to CN Rail.
The revelation that Dobell reviewed several of the most crucial cabinet documents in the case before releasing them to the police is mind-boggling. He was not covered by the Supreme Court protocol. He did not sign the undertaking not to discuss the evidence.
“This could jeopardize the trial,” NDP justice critic Leonard Krog, who revealed Dobell’s involvement, told me yesterday.
Now Krog has written to the deputy commissioner of the RCMP asking for a separate investigation into the Dobell bombshell.
The documents that Dobell reviewed were to be used by the police to conduct interviews with former cabinet ministers Gary Collins and Judith Reid and three senior bureaucrats, Krog notes.
“Mr. Dobell . . . at no time swore an undertaking not to disclose information about those documents and the use the RCMP intended to make of them,” Krog wrote yesterday to RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass.
“Mr. Dobell, due to his unique position in the government, had greater day-to-day access to all the parties to the RCMP interviews than almost anyone in government.
“Given the gravity of the implications of these facts, I ask that the RCMP begin a separate criminal investigation immediately.”
There was no immediate reaction from the RCMP to Krog’s request. What a mess. I can only hope the government’s appalling handling of the evidence doesn’t derail the case completely so the public gets its answers.