(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 10, 1999)

 

NDP's big guns firing but missing

By Leo Knight

THERE'S an old Irish saying: "It's not nice to mock the afflicted." With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the ongoing scandal involving the premier.  

 

The NDP party machine has been in overdrive since word of Glen Clark's most recent and, inevitably, most damaging misadventure.  

 

Within a day of the execution of the now infamous search warrant on Clark's house, the NDP brought out the heavy-hitters. No waiting to see how things evolved this time, the big guns began firing salvos from the get go.  

 

Chief among these was Burnaby MP Svend Robinson.  

 

The day after the news broke, Robinson clambered on his hind legs in the House of Commons and began baying about "collusion" between the RCMP and the media, in the form of BCTV's John Daly. He demanded an immediate investigation by the solicitor general.  

 

Well, as any football coach will tell you, the best defence is a good offence.  

 

In the first place, this is nothing more than a red herring meant to deflect attention from the salient questions: Was the premier involved in granting a gaming licence to a company partly owned by his friend, Dimitrios Pilarinos?  

 

And perhaps even more to the point: Why did this government give a casino licence to a business running an illegal gaming operation with associations to bikers and other aspects of organized crime?  

 

Now, first off, there was absolutely no tip from the RCMP to BCTV concerning the warrant on Clark's house.  

 

The connection with Pilarinos was already known to Daly.  

 

Once it was learned that Pilarinos was in custody, it didn't take much of a leap to wonder if the police would be visiting Pilarinos' residence, only a few short blocks from Clark's house.  

 

In checking that house and Clark's constituency office and residence, the police stakeout was noticed. So Daly and the cameraman simply staked out the cops. A damn fine piece of work if you ask me.  

 

While on that topic, Clark's lawyer, David Gibbons, certainly outdid himself with hyperbole at his news conference on Thursday.  

 

Referring to "McCarthyism" and saying the police entered the residence in "the dead of the night" was such absolute drivel it's amazing he could keep a straight face.  

 

With the warrant they could have simply forced their way into the residence and begun searching. They had the lawful authority to do that. But they didn't. They waited for someone to show up at the house and that turned out to be Clark's wife, Dale.  

 

As for BCTV "invading" the privacy of the premier, I checked with Daly and asked where the cameras were located. He said one camera was on the sidewalk and the other in a public park behind the house. Nothing shown on television was anything that could not have been seen by anyone walking by. If Clark has a problem with that, then he should invest in new drapes or blinds.  

 

Now let's deal with some of the other information, or perhaps misinformation would be more appropriate.  

 

It is not particularly surprising that Clark has hired a lawyer to represent and advise him given the fact the police were combing through his private residence with a warrant.  

 

It is not surprising he engaged David Gibbons in that role. Gibbons is a senior member of the defence bar and is highly respected for his abilities in aggressively defending his clients. He does his job well.  

 

However, it is quite surprising that Clark had Gibbons go out and face the assembled media to provide his excuses for the events.  

 

Clark has not been charged with anything yet. He may never face any charges. Usually a lawyer will only front a situation like that when a matter is before the courts. Equally, Clark has always been a fighter, quick to rise up and face anyone at anytime.  

 

As far as the claims by the lawyers and the NDP that the police have said "the premier was not suspected of any criminal activity," let's be clear -- they have said no such thing.  

 

On March 3, the RCMP issued a terse press release which said, "The warrant did not allege any criminal activity on the part of Premier Clark."  

 

Nor should it.  

 

The document filed by police to get the warrant -- called the Information to Obtain -- is the one where details of the investigation are outlined and in which the cops suggest what the property searched for will mean to their investigation. That document has been sealed by the courts and is the subject of a media legal challenge to get it opened. The warrant itself is incidental.  

 

The investigation is centred around the application and subsequent granting of the casino licence. The Mounties said that in the press release too. They also said the investigation is continuing.  

 

That's a far cry from saying Clark is not suspected of any criminal activity as the NDP would have us believe.  

 

The simple fact that the RCMP are conducting an investigation tells us this is a criminal matter. That's what the police do. They do not investigate political embarrassments. They investigate crimes. It is also interesting to note that Clark's lawyer opposed the court opening the Information to Obtain.  

 

Gibbons claimed the premier was afraid it would infringe on the RCMP's ability to continue its investigation. Yeah, right.

 

As a final observation, any one involved in the justice system knows how difficult it is for the police to get a warrant for a private residence.  

 

Obtaining a warrant to search the residence of the premier of the province must surely be that much more difficult.  

 

Any judge or justice of the peace would want to ensure the police have gone the extra mile to ensure they were on very solid ground before signing off on that document. You can be sure of that.  

 

If this was a moral government we wouldn't be hearing this stuff. The premier would have showed us all the receipts and cancelled cheques for the work done on his house by his friend, Pilarinos, not had his lawyer spout weasel words to deflect from the salient issues.  

 

Finally, the premier would do the honorable thing and resign pending the conclusion of the investigation. If this was a moral government.

 

  -30-

 

 

 

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