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Premier's top aide threatened job of Minister: Basi-Virk defence

Gordon Campbell's chief of staff Martyn Brown denied Supreme Court of B.C. allegations Thursday that he threatened the cabinet post of then-Transportation Minister Judith Reid.

(The highlights of Martyn Brown's testimony have already been published here and at Bill Tieleman's blog but much more evidence was given that day.)

Brown denied allegations from defence lawyer Kevin McCullough, who is representing accused former BC Liberal government ministerial assistant Bob Virk.

The defence alleges that Brown "screamed" at Virk by phone that Minister Reid had "exasperated" Premier Gordon Campbell and that if the "weak minister" didn't improve she'd be out of cabinet.

McCullough said the event followed a televised "Open Cabinet" meeting that he alleged was actually rehearsed the night before - something Brown admitted.

McCullough: "Do you recall Gordon Campbell getting fed up with Judith Reid?"

Brown: "No - Judith Reid was an excellent minister."

McCullough: Did you call Mr. Virk on his cell phone and scream at him to come in about something Ms. Reid said?"

Brown: "I can tell you I never screamed at Mr. Virk to come in and talk to me. That's an unfair characterization."

McCullough: "Did you say Ms Reid is a weak minister?"

Brown: "I never characterized her that way.....I try to be respectful of ministers."

McCullough: "Transportation was a very political ministry - you were selling BC Rail and had problems with BC Ferries."

Brown: "We weren't selling BC Rail and the problems with BC Ferries we inherited from the previous government."

The testy nature of that exchange was missing from an earlier discussion of the reason for the Open Cabinet meetings - an innovation of the first BC Liberal term that disappeared soon after the second term began in 2005.

The Basi-Virk trial centres on the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail, the biggest in B.C. history. The trial continues Monday.

Bill Tieleman writes about the Basi-Virk trial for The Tyee and 24 Hours Vancouver. A longer version of this article first appeared on his blog.

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