Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's the Premier's office hiding about Atwal?

Remember the story about the Ghuman and the gunman?

The Ghuman was Tariq Ghuman, a B.C. Liberal Party director. The gunman was Jaspal Singh Atwal, the buddy Ghuman brought to the 2012 B.C. Budget speech on Feb. 21 in the Legislature.

Atwal, a Liberal supporter, was convicted in 1987 for his attempt to murder Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu, who was visiting British Columbia in May 1986.

On Feb. 27, Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun reported the following:

Shane Mills, Premier Christy Clark's director of communications, said Monday that Atwal only made his way onto the guest list when another person invited by the premier's office asked for an extra ticket to attend.

"His name was on a list. It was put on the list at the request of an invited guest," Mills said. "If we had known his background, he would not have been invited."

Mills said Atwal's name was just given to government the day before the budget speech.

"And we don't normally vet those kind of things. So we were unaware of the person's background and we will be working to improve the vetting and working with the Speaker's office on that," he said.

Ghuman resigned, but popped up at party events shortly after.

The Jaspal Atwal controversy garnered Clark the revulsion of commentators on opposite sides of the political spectrum, from Bill Tieleman (who found Atwal's buddy Ghuman literally rubbing shoulders with Port Moody-Coquitlam by-election candidate Dennis Marsden and former Tory MP Stockwell Day) to Alex Tsakumis (who claims a source told him Clark unsuccessfully lobbied an Indian diplomat to grant Atwal a visa so he could travel with her on last fall's trade mission to India). When I asked Mills about this, he denied the Premier did so.

I was curious. Who were all the people on the guest list? What did the invitation look like? What was being said internally in the Office of the Premier about Atwal? Could there have been correspondence with the Indian consul about Atwal? Or correspondence with Atwal, himself?

So I filed a Freedom of Information request. Lo and behold, the Office of the Premier claimed it had no records. My laughter ensued.

See the two denial letters below. Then compare them with the records received when I asked for the guest list and invitation for the Clark-and-cabinet swearing-in ceremony of March 14, 2011. Remember how Clark claimed she was a champion of openness and transparency? Apparently not anymore.

Message to the Office of the Premier: I was born at night, but not last night. Kindly cough up the guest list for the B.C. Budget speech, show me the Atwal correspondence. I just hope the documents, didn't grow legs and jump into your paper shredder on their own.

UPDATE (April 24, 2012): I have formally asked for the Information and Privacy Commissioner to intervene.

Another request denied

Another request denied

Premier Christy Clark's swearing-in guest list


Unknown said...

My guess is that the list is held in the Speaker's Office, or the Finance Ministry, and they're playing games with the location rather than help you and the rest of the public get information we are entitled to. There are numerous quotes from various government sources referencing the list, and now they're playing silly bugger with its actual location. Despicable, but business as usual for this lot. They're too stupid to realize that every time they do it, another nail gets hammered in that big electoral coffin waiting for them next year.

Martin said...

The Dummy's guest list for her swearing in reads like a who's who of scoundrals...past, present and future.

Unknown said...

If the lists are in a different office, the government agency has a legal duty to assist the applicant by either transferring the FOI request to the appropriate department or by re-directing Mr. Mackin. It's in the law.

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