Provincial New Democrat attorney general critic Leonard Krog is raising concerns about Supreme Court of British Columbia Chief Justice Donald Brenner's participation at a Fraser Institute event. Next Tuesday, Justice Brenner is scheduled to talk about reforming the legal system as part of the institute's Behind the Spin cocktail series. Tickets to the event, which is being held at the "stylish" Metro Restuarant, are $65 dollars. And those who want to attend a private dinner with Justice Brenner - which is "closed to the public and the media" and has a 14 person seating limit - must pay an additional $195.
Asked for comment, Mr. Krog said he didn't think it was "appropriate for Justice Brenner to be speaking at that kind of engagement" - citing the fact the institute, a free market advocacy group, has a political agenda and is charging a fee for the event. "It's not the same as speaking to a truly public, non-partisan body."
Mr. Krog wrote to the attorney general on September 30, expressing his concern and asking Wally Oppal to ask Justice Brenner to cancel his appearance. But Mr. Krog said "I am not anxious to be making political hay out of this," noting he respects Justice Brenner's "integrity and energy. And I have enormous respect for his abilities as a judge."
But Justice Brenner defended his participation in the event, saying, "I'd be happy to go and speak with any group - the C.D. Howe Institute, the Institute for Research on Public Policy - it doesn't really matter where they are. If I receive an invitation to speak and talk about justice issues, I'm happy to do so. I think it's part of our job."
Moreover, Justice Brenner said the institute told him the event fee is a "cost-recovery charge and it is not a fundraiser."
But, in an interview with Public Eye, institute communications director Dean Pelkey said, "part of the funds collected go to offset the cost of staging the event and the rest goes to the institute as fundraising."
Although, Mr. Pelkey added the event "isn't a huge money-maker for us. It really is a question of covering the cost, providing some food for people and give people a chance to mingle and network."
In his response to Krog on November 7, Attorney General Oppal declined ask Justice Brenner to cancel his appearance, stating such a request would be inappropriate "given our respective roles and the independence of the judiciary." The following is a complete copy of the invite to the aforementioned event.
Fraser Institute is pleased to announce the third speaker in our Behind the Spin Fall 2008 Series.
Our signature cocktail series takes place at the stylish Metro Restaurant at Waterfront Centre and offers you an insider's view on current affairs, unique access to influential speakers, and extensive networking opportunities with other professionals.
Also, be sure to sign up for the private dinner with the speaker - this intimate salon-style setting offers you the opportunity to continue the conversation over an exquisite meal well into the evening.
200 Burrard Street (@Cordova)
Supreme Court of British Columbia
A Conversation with Chief Justice Donald Brenner
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A champion of sweeping reforms to our province's legal system, Chief Justice Brenner will join us for a discussion on what has turned into a highly controversial provincial issue. The proposed rules around the way law suits are conducted are designed to make our 19th century legal system less expensive and more efficient. Yet outspoken critics - including judges, lawyers, and the Law Society of BC - have said the amendments will restrict citizen's rights, add costs to litigants, and drag out the length of time required to deal with each case.
What should be done to make our legal system more effective and just for the average citizen?
Cocktail Reception: 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Speaker & Discussion: 6:30 PM - 7:15 PM
Private Dinner (Optional): 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Individual Event Ticket: $65.00
Private Dinner (Optional): $195.00