05/07/2012 06:05 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Van Dongen seeks to join BC Rail lawsuit

Conservative MLA John van Dongen has applied to B.C. Supreme Court for intervener status in the court action by the province's auditor general for access to legal records in the BC Rail case.

The case centres around the auditor general's probe into the $6-million legal bill the province picked up when former Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk pleaded guilty in October 2010 to breach of trust and receiving benefits in connection with the 2003 sale of BC Rail.

The auditor general has since launched an inquiry into the decision, and took the government to court in order to obtain key documents it has refused to hand over.

The governmment says the documents are covered by solicitor-client privilege and it cannot provide them without the approval of third parties.

Van Dongen is now seeking intervener status in the case.

"There's been a pattern of resistance to accountability and disclosure on this decision right from the start," van Dongen told a North Vancouver news conference Monday.

A key question van Dongen wants answered is whether or not the legal fees were paid as part of a prior deal with the defendants.

It’s a question the B.C. NDP also are asking.

"If the sign-off on the decision to forgo the $6 million in legal fees was made before the guilty plea, wasn't that indeed an inducement to plead guilty,” NDP justice critic Leonard Krog asked in the legislature Monday.

But B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond wasn't having any part of it, replying that Krog was wrong and that the facts had been clearly been laid out. The government has maintained that the decision to pay the legal fees was made independent of any politicians.

Van Dongen has been critical of the Liberal government's handling of the BC Rail case since he quit the party to join the B.C.Conservatives in March.

First elected in 1995, van Dongen was appointed to the provincial cabinet in 2001 by then premier Gordon Campbell, serving as agriculture minister before becoming minister of state for intergovernmental relations and then solicitor general.

He resigned from cabinet in 2009 after it was revealed he had been issued two speeding tickets for travelling in excess of 41 km/h over the speed limit. He then sat as a backbencher in the B.C. Liberal ranks until he joined the B.C. Conservatives.