Skip to comments.Canada's Liberals Admit They Badly Hurt by Scandal
Posted on 04/08/2005 8:02:49 AM PDT by nypokerface
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Liberals admitted on Friday they had been badly hurt by a cash-for-favors scandal which could bring down the minority government and has also boosted the separatist forces in French-speaking Quebec.
Advertising executive Jean Brault told a public commission of inquiry into the scandal that senior Liberals in Quebec had asked for and received big kickbacks in return for government contracts. His testimony was released on Thursday.
Brault's allegations -- which have not been proven in court -- prompted a slew of newspaper headlines such as "Canada's Watergate", "Disgrace", "Bombshell", "The human face of corruption", "Revolting!" and "Political mafia".
"What Mr. Brault has outlined for the commission is cause for great concern for our institution," Liberal party national director Steve McKinnon told CBC radio on Friday.
"This is an institution that must earn the trust of Canadians every day and clearly a lot of that trust has gone away and we need to start the rebuilding process."
The official opposition Conservatives, aware that more leading figures in the scandal are soon due to testify, say they are in no hurry to try to bring down the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin.
But most observers believe an election will happen this year, most likely after the head of the inquiry releases his first report in November. The Liberals -- who lost their parliamentary majority in last June's election -- have been in power since November 1993 and look increasingly tired.
"If Brault's allegations stick and voter revulsion spreads beyond Quebec, this Liberal government's fate can now be carved in six words on its sponsorship program tombstone: Extortion. Kickbacks. Forgeries. Blackmail. Fraud. Waste," wrote columnist Don Martin in the conservative National Post newspaper.
Most newspapers devoted at least half a dozen pages to Brault's intrigue-filled allegations of secret meetings, fake invoices and large amounts of cash stuffed into envelopes. He is due to go on trial for fraud on June 6.
The commission is looking into a sponsorship program designed to increase Canada's visibility in Quebec after separatists barely lost a referendum on independence for the province in 1995. At least C$100 million (C$81 million) went to Liberal-friendly firms, often for little or no work.
A poll in the Journal de Montreal newspaper on Friday showed the provincial Liberal government badly trailing the separatist Parti Quebecois.
The scandal took place when former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien was in power. Martin, who took over in December 2003, called the public inquiry in February 2004 when the extent of the wrongdoing became clear.
McKinnon said it appeared a small number of people may have acted in collusion to defraud the party.
"We are taking every measure possible to root out whatever happened in this whole sordid affair ... we will do everything in our ability to make sure that this can never happen again," he said.
Opposition parties say the small group in question actually ran the Quebec Liberal party and ask how Martin -- who is from Montreal and was finance minister at the time -- could not have know what was going on.
For your ping list. Must have hurt al-Reuters to print this...
I wish Quebec would stop threatening and break away already.
Then the rest of Canada could save money by not having to force feed the french language on everyone.
It's a pleasure to see the Canadian liberals going down.
It's not like Liberals ANYWHERE are any cleaner...but good to see them getting exposed in Canuckistan.
Nice try, but we've already seen how you intend to keep this from happening again - by trying to silence the bloggers and the few media outlets that wouldn't play along with your cover-up by refusing to report on this scandal.
Gmmac, can you ping too?
If you want on or off my Adscam ping list, just post or Freemail me.
Could Quebec legally unilaterally leave the Confederation? What happens if Ottawa says no. We had a nasty little spat down here awhile back when some states decided to leave and Washington said no.
There's another story about Chretien's relatives linked to scandal on yahoo. See http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1845&e=5&u=/cpress/sponsorship_chretien_clan