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What I learned at the BC Rail corruption trial last week

"I don't recall"

Not much except…

* “I don’t recall” is a government talking point.

* ‘The less you do, the higher the pay’ = BC Liberal exec compensation policy.

* The management of a defunct railway needs to fill their time – hello, box seats at the Canucks and golf club memberships.

* There was no strategy to undervalue the railway, just a few fake talking points about debt and grossly distorted financial results.

* The BC Liberal government really, really cared about confidentiality and a fair process for BC Rail bidders, except when they didn’t.

Brian Kenning hogged the limelight the first week back at the BC Rail corruption trial. He deserved every uncomfortable minute.

Until earlier this year Kenning was a political appointee to the board of BC Rail, where he headed the audit committee.  He was also one of two trusted board members asked to sit on the Evaluation Committee that managed the sale of BC Rail for the BC Liberal government.

So what has Brian Kenning been doing for the last nine years? 

Well, first of all, he’s been busy forgetting what he knew, except when the Special Prosecutor asked him a question.  Those answers he remembered, but nothing much else. It’s all such a blur.

Something Kenning’s been working hard at forgetting is Gordon Campbell.  Kenning wasn’t appointed by Campbell - nor any politician - never really met the guy, in fact wouldn’t know him if he bumped into him in a gentleman’s club on the French Riviera, martini in hand.  And Kenning has no idea why his firms have donated so much money to the Premier’s party. 

Kenning especially doesn’t remember Patrick Kinsella.  No.  Never.  Heard. Of. Him.

But Kenning was working hard those nine years.  He quietly, but thoroughly, watched the expenditures go by.  Each and every decision made by the BC Rail management team was rubber stamped by Mr. Kenning and his audit committee:  Hockey tickets, no-bid contracts to Liberal insiders, airline tickets to Dubai, golf club memberships, big severance packages, bigger salaries to the managers of what was nothing more than a corporate shell – all duly noted and approved.

Kenning also made sure the BC Rail privatization process wasn’t compromised by leaks---except when it was---and then he made sure the process continued, especially if the process favoured the favourite, CN.  Which it did, a lot.

That’s not really fair.  Mr. Kenning made it clear that he was a discriminating man.  He was very concerned about the leaks the Special Prosecutor cares about.  The ones the defence raised?  Not so much.

So it wasn’t Kenning’s fault he didn’t notice that the leak that scuttled the Roberts Bank Spur Line deal in the spring of 2004.  It occurred after the defendants were either fired or placed on leave, so what’s to remember? 

Like the previous witness, Martyn Brown, Mr. Kenning seems to have a selective memory. If it’s bad for the government, it’s beyond recall.

And that’s what I actually learned last week at the BC Rail Corruption trial.

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