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May 6, 2010

Another Special Prosecutor for Kash Heed

When a lawyer says that someone didn't have "direct knowledge" of something, ask why the word "direct" was used. Does that mean that there was "indirect knowledge"? That is one of the questions a new special prosecutor must ask when reviewing the file abandoned by former special prosecutor Terrence Robertson.

The May 4th news release from the Office of the Premier, the one issued regarding re-appointing Kash Heed as Solicitor General, not the one backtracking and accepting his resignation about 12 hours later, said that:

A statement released by the Criminal Justice Branch states:

"On the evidence presented to the Special Prosecutor, there is no evidence that Mr. Heed was either involved in the production of the pamphlets or had direct knowledge of the pamphlets or the allegedly fraudulent [advertising sponsor form]."

It goes on to state: "On the evidence presented to the Special Prosecutor, there is nothing to show that Kash Heed had any personal knowledge that the election financing report was false."

The wording of that statement leaves open a number of possibilities but a new special prosecutor will be limited by Section 252 of the Election Act which imposes a one year time limit for laying an information respecting an offence under the Act, with the start of the one year measured from the date the chief electoral officer became aware of the facts on which the information is based. That date has not been reported; it may have already passed, but, if it hasn't, it can't be far off.

The information bulletin issued from the Premier's Office on May 5th, concerning Heed's second resignation, said: "Mr. Heed anticipates a new Special Prosecutor will be rapidly reappointed and is confident that individual will confirm the findings of his predecessor which was the basis for his reappointment into cabinet." Of course Heed deserves the presumption of innocence, but many might find it objectionable that the Premier's Office would report Heed's anticipations with respect to a new Special Prosecutor, let alone what the new investigation might find.

Heed and the Premier should take the opportunity they have missed and express disappointment that the validity of the election in Vancouver-Fraserview has been questioned because of alleged violations of both the Elections Act and the Criminal Code. Instead, all they have done is express regret with respect to the circumstances that caused Robertson's resignation, a belated recognition of an apparent conflict.

Controversy over the Liberal campaign in Vancouver-Fraserview isn't going to go away any time soon; it could be years before cases involving the campaign manager and financial agent (also presumably innocent) work their way through the courts. In the meantime, gallows humour has overtaken the fate of the BC Liberals as pundits lose track of the number of bad news stories yet to unfold for them - HST, BC Rail Corruption, John Les investigation and Vancouver-Fraserview election to name a few. Trivia fans might wonder whether someone who serves 12 hours in cabinet receives a full day's pay as a cabinet minister or whether his pay is prorated by the hour. The Legislature's Comptroller General can sort that one out, but it might be appropriate for the potential beneficiary to announce that he won't accept any payment for those hours.