Last week, provincial New Democrat attorney general critic Leonard Krog called for an "independent investigation" into Liberal campaign co-chair Patrick Kinsella's activities. But, in an interview on Public Eye Radio, Attorney General Wally Oppal rejected that call.
"Well, Leonard Krog really should know better Sean," he said "He knows we don't hold probes or inquiries unless there is a good reason in law to hold that. I have a responsibility, as the attorney general, not to succumb to any political requests that may be made out there. And that's what Mr. Krog's request is here. It's really a political thing. I have a higher duty here. And we don't just hold public inquiries just for the sake of having them. If there is something to be learned from any inquiry or probe then we hold it."
"A perfect example of an inquiry where it's justified is what's going on at the airport - the Dziekanski inquiry," he continued. "What happened that night at YVR? Why did it happen? Did the police act reasonably? Was a taser being used properly? As you know Sean, we held an inquiry into the Frank Paul case. What were the motives of the Vancouver police when they left Frank Paul in that alley? Why did that happen? What are we doing to correct that? Those are some of the reasons that militate the issue of whether or not we should be holding an inquiry."
But if there isn't an inquiry, won't allegations Mr. Kinsella violated the Lobbyists Registration Act go un-investigated?
"Well, you know Sean, you know the act as well as anyone. You're absolutely right that, if the six months has expired, then the registrar is powerless to investigate," Attorney General Oppal responded. "But, first of all, I'll step back a bit. The act is not an adequate act. That's why we're going to do amendments to the act this spring. We've indicated that, in any event, depending on what the time schedule will be. What the problem here is that, if there is any wrongdoing alleged by anyone, the people who are alleging the wrongdoing can nevertheless go to the police and the police are free to investigate. Now, if the time period has expired, then that is unfortunate for the people who are complaining. They should have complained earlier."
"There are very good reasons why we have statutory limitations on charges," he added. "It's because we want fairness in the process. It's to prevent people from coming back five or 10 or 15 years later and alleging that some wrongdoing was done. And that puts the person who was alleged to have done the wrongdoing in a disadvantageous position because he or she will then have to defend himself, herself from something that may have taken place years ago. So there are reasons why we have limitation periods. But I get the people that the act needs to be changed. And we are committed to changing the act."
Doesn't it concern him, though, that British Columbians will never never then know the accuracy of those allegations - which have been denied by Mr. Kinsella?
"I would be concerned were it not for the fact some of this now appears to be before the Supreme Court of British Columbia in the trial that's going on" - a reference to documents obtained by legislature raid trial defence lawyers relating to Mr. Kinsella work for British Columbia Railway Co. "And, if it is, that's another reason why we should not call an inquiry. Because, as you know Sean, Madame Justice (Elizabeth) Bennett made reference to this issue a couple weeks ago. So, if that's the case, then that's all the more reason why we shouldn't be taking about it - particularly as legislators."