(This column was published in the North Shore News on Feb. 23, 2000)


New NDP leader changes little

By Leo Knight

ABOUT the only positive thing about the emergence of Ujjal Dosanjh as the leader of the NDP and de facto premier is we have, hopefully, seen the back of Glen Clark and Moe Sihota.  


One cannot see much in revelling in the fact that Dosanjh is the first Indo-Canadian premier in the country. Albeit, the fact that race had little, if anything to do with the campaign shows, perhaps, how far we have come as a more tolerant society. But even that positive point was overshadowed with the new member sign-up scandal that has yet to be fully dealt with.  


What puzzles me about the fraudulent sign-ups is that no one has requested the police investigate the situation. There are several sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that would have been breached in the process. Not the least of which is forgery.  


There is another offence called "Personation," which is defined in section 403 of the Criminal Code.  


The section states that "every one who fraudulently personates any person living or dead with intent to gain advantage for himself or another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years ... "  


There were over a thousand names (by the NDP's own admission following an internal audit) of people whose identities were used without permission and were signed up as party members.  


Over a hundred of these were listed as party members of the B.C. Liberals.  


By any definition, this is illegal, not merely cheating at politics.  


For the attorney general of the province (as he was when this occurred) to countenance a crime knowingly or by willful blindness -- a crime committed a thousand times over apparently -- and not demand the authorities investigate, especially when he was the beneficiary, is shocking and a measure of how corrupt this bunch is.  


In his acceptance speech, Dosanjh promised a transparent government.  


But one must surely question his commitment to this idea when one looks at how opaque his own department has been in so many controversial matters over the past few years since he took over the AG's job from Colin Gablemann.  


Yet, at the end of the day, Ujjal Dosanjh is probably the best of a bad lot. Faint praise to be sure.  


Dosanjh's credibility issues don't end there though. In the "Casinogate" scandal, which ultimately drove Glen Clark from office in disgrace, Dosanjh doesn't come out clean by any stretch.  


He was briefed by the RCMP March 3, the day after Clark's house was searched. Despite this knowledge he allowed the cheap and dishonest spin doctoring to occur from Clark's office, his lawyer and bootlick supporters.  


The more cynical among us might suggest he did this for purely personal political reasons. He recognized that the criminal investigation of Clark was a politically lethal bullet.  


There are those who might argue that he used the next six months to gather his political support and position himself for a run at the top job. When he had his ducks in a row, he delivered the coup de grace by calling a press conference and announcing to no one's surprise that Clark was indeed the subject of a criminal investigation.  


Clearly, what Dosanjh should have done was to meet with Clark privately early in March, and without disclosing any specific information he was made privy to by the police, advise him that until the matter was cleared up one way or another, he had to step aside while the investigation proceeded. That was his duty to his office and to the people of British Columbia. But he didn't.  


When he made his announcement in August, he said he was only then in possession of enough information to bring the matter to the premier. That's untrue. By any measure, the information provided to him on March 3 was more than sufficient for him to go to Clark. So much for transparency in government.  


What followed was a flurry of membership sign-ups which directly led to the criminal activity outlined above.  


Dosanjh's elevation to the top job also breathes life into the careers of Joy McPhail, Sue Hammell and Cathy MacGregor, cabinet ministers who left the Clark cabinet when they could no longer stand the stench. Not to mention former premier Mike Harcourt who has re-surfaced as an advisor to Dosanjh.  


Then there's David Schreck, the former North Vancouver MLA known more for his illogical but loquacious defence of the failed policies of Harcourt on Internet news groups than for anything he accomplished as a politician.  


The new age of Dosanjh may signal the end of the likes of Clark, Dave Barrett, Moe Sihota, Harry Lali and the rest of that thoroughly discredited crew, but don't look for much in the way of change in policy.


Dosanjh, McPhail and the rest were still members of caucus and cabinet in both the Harcourt and the Clark governments. They were part of the thinking that made B.C. the only province in the country that failed to show any growth in the GDP in the '90s.  


They were there as the NDP lurched from one scandal to another, from one financial disaster to the next.  


The cloud of scandal that hangs over Dosanjh at the outset of his term as premier shows that precious little has changed for the party that has now had four different premiers in five years.






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