Fewer than six months after he co-chaired the B.C. Liberals' stunningly successful election campaign in 2001, Patrick Kinsella trumpeted his insider's perspective on the new government to prospective client BC Rail, the Crown corporation now at the heart of a long-running political corruption trial over sale of its operating rights to CN Rail.
Mr. Kinsella, a close confidante of Premier Gordon Campbell, also co-chaired the Liberals' repeat election victory in 2005.
In a letter dated Oct. 30, 2001, to BC Rail vice-president Kevin Mahoney, Mr. Kinsella refers to his company as communication consultants "with a value-added component. That value could be interpreted as political savvy and to some extent providing commentary and advice to our clients vis-à-vis the current B.C. Liberal government."
Defence lawyer Michael Bolton read the passage in B.C. Supreme Court Friday to bolster an application to have Mr. Kinsella summoned to testify and provide further documentation about his role in the privatization of BC Rail.
Based on previously disclosed e-mails and notes, defence lawyers have suggested in court that Mr. Kinsella had ties, not only to BC Rail, but to the government and CN Rail, while the $1-billion sale was going through.
Five days after his Oct. 30 letter, Mr. Kinsella signed a contract to provide services to BC Rail from 2001 to 2004, for which he was paid "roughly $200,000," according to Mr. Bolton.
"The Liberal government owns BC Rail and yet he [Mr. Kinsella]is going to provide political savvy re: the government," Mr. Bolton told Madame Justice Elizabeth Bennett. "This says a great deal about the role of Mr. Kinsella. He has a very political role and he's offering it at a very high level."
Former Liberal political aides David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi are facing trial on corruption-related charges connected to the BC Rail deal, including fraud, breach of trust and exchanging information in return for a benefit.
The bulk of the railway's assets were sold to CN Rail in 2003, with the deal closing in 2004. Mr. Bolton, who represents Mr. Basi, pointed out that Mr. Kinsella was working "to provide this political savvy" to BC Rail for the entire "critical" period of the transaction.
The defence lawyer also reminded Judge Bennett of several e-mails, released earlier this year to the court, indicating Mr. Kinsella had dealings with top executives of both BC Rail and CN Rail. At one point, CN Rail chair David McLean conveyed information to Mr. Kinsella that the deal appeared to be falling apart rather than dealing directly with BC Rail. Mr. Kinsella then conveyed CN's concerns to BC Rail, Mr. Bolton said. "[Mr. Kinsella]may not be working for CN, but there's clearly a relationship."
Defence lawyers have said their clients were acting under orders from their political masters in matters related to the BC Rail sale.
Mr. Bolton said it was essential to the defence's position to have Mr. Kinsella appear in court to shed light on his relationship with CN Rail in the BC Rail purchase.
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, who represents Mr. Virk, said that Mr. Kinsella has, so far, refused to answer some "very simple questions" posed to him through his lawyer, James Sullivan. "Did you work for CN? If yes, when? What was the nature of that work?"
Mr. McCullough said the extent of Mr. Kinsella's relationship with CN is "significant to the issues at stake in this case … Where else are we going to get that evidence [than from Mr. Kinsella]"
Judge Bennett will hear further argument Aug. 31 on the defence bid for a subpoena to be issued to Mr. Kinsella.
Meanwhile, veteran Supreme Court justice Anne MacKenzie has been appointed to take over the complex case from Judge Bennett, who has recused herself from the trial because of her recent elevation to the Court of Appeal.
The formal trial has not yet started, nearly six years after RCMP raided the legislative offices of Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk. Proceedings have bogged down in wrangling over disclosure of tens of thousands of documents.
Judge Bennett has agreed to decide several outstanding issues, including whether Mr. Kinsella should be summoned for questioning, before standing down.