Heed is a spent force in politics

Decision to not go after former top cop
doesn’t mean his troubles over

Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun, April 11, 2011


Kash Heed.
Photo: Darren Stone, Postmedia News, Vancouver Sun.


VICTORIA — The controversy-dogged campaign that elevated former police chief Kash Heed to the legislature as a B.C. Liberal has now generated the most serious charges ever laid in connection with a provincial election.

The 14 charges under the Elections Act and the Criminal Code relate to a trio of Chinese-language pamphlets, produced anonymously and distributed during the campaign in a significantly Chinese-Canadian riding, that together accused the New Democrats of preparing to legalize heroin, cocaine and prostitution.

Heed’s campaign manager Barinder Sall stands accused of producing the pamphlets without identifying that they were sponsored by the Heed campaign, bypassing the financial agent in paying for them, and filing a misleading report to Elections BC. Also of “telling a false story,” “making a false document,” and obstructing police in the course of their investigation by “fabricating” a story.

An associate, Dinesh Khanna, a provider of bulk mail services, faces one count of publishing advertising without identifying the source, three of “telling a false story” to an election official and to police.

The combined charges of coverup, lying and forgery constitute the most serious allegations of electoral misconduct since the Elections Act was modernized in 1995. A cursory search of earlier records found no precedent from previous campaigns.

Together this adds to the taint of a campaign that was troubled from the outset. News of the pamphlets broke the week before the election. Heed, disavowing all knowledge of them, went on to defeat NDP rival Gabriel Yu by 748 votes out of almost 20,000.

But Heed himself has not been charged, despite expectations that he might be.

Special prosecutor Peter Wilson made the call after inheriting the case from a previous special prosecutor, Terry Robertson, who also decided charges against Heed were unwarranted.

Robertson had to bow out after disclosing that his law firm had made a donation to the very campaign he was vetting. Police then pressed on with their investigation and delivered “a significant volume of new evidence” along with recommendations for further charges against Heed and others.

But after a months-long review of the evidence, Wilson reached much the same conclusion as his predecessor. “I find no fault with the previous decision of Mr. Robertson,” said Wilson after tinkering with the charges “in a small way” but reaffirming the decision to not go after Heed.

Key consideration was lack of proof. A special prosecutor is bound by an obligation to not just lay charges but prosecute them in court. And here in B.C. the test for laying charges is “substantial likelihood of conviction.”

Wilson concluded that the police hadn’t gathered enough evidence to persuade a court of law that Heed was involved in the production of the offending pamphlets or in the filing of the false election financing report.

MLAs are, however, obliged to exercise “reasonable diligence” in filing such reports. If it can be shown that they failed to do so, they can lose their seats and be banned from running again. But Wilson gave Heed the benefit of the doubt.

“There is no reliable, independent evidence proving that Mr. Heed knew of, or could with reasonable diligence have learned of, any unreported election expenses,” he wrote. As a clue to the special prosecutor’s thinking, one notes that he also stayed a charge against Satpal Johl, financial agent for the campaign. If the financial agent was out of the loop on the alleged falsification, Wilson probably concluded that the candidate himself did not have sufficient grounds to suspect anything.

He did leave dangling one other tantalizing allegation, namely whether Election Act charges were warranted against Heed for a payment of $6,000 that he made to Sall and another associate six weeks after the election.

The special prosecutor concluded “there is no reliable, independent evidence proving that Mr. Heed made payments to these individuals for election-related purposes.” Then what was the money used for? The report doesn’t say, but perhaps the court proceedings will shed some light on the transaction.

Heed was already on record with the claim that he was the victim of a vendetta by the RCMP, driven by their resentment of his support for a provincial police force. This outcome may also have him entertaining thoughts of a return to cabinet and status (as he once put it) of a “stallion” among the lesser plug horses.

But before he claims total vindication, it should be noted that Elections BC is still after him for overspending the legal limit in the last election and failing to file an updated financial report.

He could lose his seat over that as well, though possibly a court would be placated with a late filing and repayment of the amount ($4,000) overspent. Either way, impressions would linger of a victory secured, at least in part, via dirty tricks.

Heed, for all his earlier ambitions, strikes me as a spent force in provincial politics. I expect the Liberals would be glad to be rid of him when the next election rolls around, if not sooner.

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