(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 17, 1999)

 

Bet on casino truth surfacing

By Leo Knight

HANSARD -- Legislative Debates - April 11, 1990 -- Glen Clark on the Knight St. pub issue:  

 

"We saw all these friends and campaign managers and principal secretaries to the Premier involved in this commercial enterprise, and it dribbled out every day on television for about two years. And BCTV, doing their job as investigative reporters, kept digging and digging. We had to dig and dig on our side of the House, and it dribbled out every day. They'd rush to the television to watch the latest revelation. My God, they're finding out. The truth is coming out. What are we going to do? they said. It was terrible. Remember that?"  

 

That was then and this is now.  

 

The masterful politician Glen Clark and the NDP party machine is in overdrive trying to fight the overwhelming scandal now dubbed Casinogate.  

 

While most reading this will merely shake their heads at the hypocrisy and silliness of the attempts to blame the media and the police for the problems of the party and the premier, it is a bit scary to think there are people out there who truly believe it.  

 

The radio talk shows have been inundated with the party hacks leaping to the defence of the embattled premier.  

 

The "true believers" must have tendonitis in their dialing fingers for all the calls trying to monopolize the air waves to diffuse the criticism by spouting the party line reading from the same script produced by the back room boys.  

 

It certainly hasn't been without its moments of humour though. One caller to the Bill Good show, following a "true believer," suggested these people should wear traffic cones on their heads so the rest of us could identify them at malls and other public places.  

 

While the mental image conjured up by that particular suggestion is especially engaging, there has been considerable effort made on behalf of a navel gazing media to follow the government spin. I fail to see, for example, what difference it makes how John Daly of BCTV arrived at the conclusion he did and was present for the execution of the search warrant.  

 

Steve Wyatt, a BCTV executive, wrote a thoughtful analysis in the Saturday edition of the Vancouver Sun, pointing out the specific responsibility of the media to act as watchdogs on the various arms of power of the state to educate and inform the public what our representatives are doing with the power we confer upon them. Whatever the political mandarins would try and have us believe, this is crucial to maintain a free society.  

 

The spin becomes even more ridiculous when you consider the quote from Hansard at the top of this column. During the scandal-plagued days of the Vander Zalm government, Clark and his colleagues in opposition were described as "pit bulls" in the way they dogged the government of the day.  

 

BCTV, for its part, was equally determined in getting at the truth of that issue which involved a friend of Bill Vander Zalm, Peter Toigo, and his connection to an application for a neighbourhood pub licence.  

 

A pub licence is a mere bagatelle compared to a casino operation with 300 slot machines and 20 gaming tables which can be described as a "licence to print money."  

 

Certainly, in the Knight St. pub debacle never once did we hear the phrase "organized crime" in any of the debates, investigations and media reports. Yet, it is the aspect of organized crime which appears to be salted throughout the whole casino affair.  

 

Dimitrios Pilarinos, carpenter, glazier and buddy of the Premier has no experience in running a casino. Steve Ng, businessman, pub owner and business associate of bikers and friends of bikers, doesn't know squat about casinos per se. Yet they formed partnership and put together a successful casino licence bid, later described by gaming minister, Mike Farnworth, as "the most qualified proposal."  

 

The business cards seized by police at the Lumbermans Club had the name of Pashos Katanas on them. Katanas has now been charged with running an illegal gaming house and, according to police sources, has been a person of interest to them both here and in Alberta prior to his current problems. Tony Ricci, Ng's business partner, has on his record, a 1996 conviction for bookmaking.  

 

Ricci, Ng, several members and known associates of the Hells Angels and at least two individuals associated to eastern Mafia families show as significant shareholders in Starnet Communications -- a company dealing in Internet porn, on-line gambling and other interesting ventures.  

 

For the record, Katanas is also a heavy private donor to the NDP. Interestingly enough, Katanas and Pilarinos were just finishing a lunch meeting when the RCMP arrested the Premier's friend.  

 

Clearly it is the people behind the scenes who are the main players in this casino venture. Clearly it is the reason the police investigation has taken place over several months and will take weeks more to complete.  

 

Wasn't it Jack Munro, staunch defender of the NDP and Clark in this mess, who said during the Solidarity campaign of the early '80s, at a rally of 30,000 people at Empire stadium, "If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it must be a duck."  

 

It would seem the information which has come out on this matter has only scratched the surface. It will be only if the media fulfills their responsibility to the public that the whole story sees the light of day. To blame the media is surely the last act of a desperate government and a failed political party.  

 

Clark's days are numbered. Bet on it.

 

  -30-

 

 

 

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