Skip to comments.Canada's Watergate (only better .. with Liberals in the cross-hairs!)
Posted on 04/08/2005 10:07:15 AM PDT by GMMAC
National Post (front page!)
Friday, April 08, 2005
He glanced at reporters salivating to escape his news quarantine, looked at the bank of television cameras carrying his inquiry live for the first time in a week and issued the order: Unleash hell.
When Justice John Gomery lifted his own publication ban Thursday on jaw-dropping testimony by Groupaction president Jean Brault, a nightmare of allegations against the federal Liberal party gushed forth into the public domain in a firestorm of ferocity.
National television networks went live, government antagonists went wild in Question Period, urgent alerts pinged across the newswires.
The dam protecting federal Liberals from the disclosure of their party's ugly past had been breached -- and Canada's Watergate spilled out.
In six days of unflappable testimony, Brault recounted living a life of dirty tricks with rotten scoundrels pocketing, procuring and defrauding taxpayers by using a $100-million advertising pot set aside to promote national unity in post-referendum Quebec as their own private slush fund.
The Liberals swapped cash for contracts, kicked back money for nothing and traded payola for spots on Brault's payroll.
It's the darkest side of ugly Canadian politics, confirming every cynic's worst suspicions that grease and slime lubricate the wheels of government activity.
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.
Brault painted a graphic picture of Liberal conduct in Quebec as that of a secret mutual backscratching society where public money was laundered through bogus business deals to fill up cash-strapped Liberal party coffers. It was bold, crass, transparent sleaze with organized crime overtones, complete with cartoon-caper nicknames like White Head for one top operative or Choo Choo Man for the head of Via Rail.
Cuddling with the Liberals in Quebec in the mid to late 1990s meant the right hire or the correct amount of cash in an envelope was the fast track to juicy government contracts. If that wasn't reward enough, there was the option of kickbacks through false invoices, inflated costs or simply taking the money for pretend projects.
The legitimate worry now being reflected even by federalist opposition parties is that a program custom-designed to promote the face of Canada in Quebec will give separatism an referendum-winning facelift. The irony is too ugly to contemplate.
OK, perhaps a journalistic Valium is in order here -- this is, after all, all single-witness testimony. And the witness is not exactly lily-white, with Brault now facing six conspiracy and fraud charges, with a June 6 court date.
Still, corroboration by others involved in the scandal is emerging and some of Brault's say-so on the stand has documentation to support his recollections.
So will the scandal stick? Haven't a clue. But after days watching the testimony on closed-circuit television, little things linger in the memory as defining images of the scandal.
Like, say, the $5,000 in an envelope Brault says he brought to pay off a Liberal fundraiser he was told to hire. (Brault left it on the table when he visited the washroom, only to find it gone when he returned.)
Or the Liberal insider ordered on to Groupaction's payroll for $7,000 a month, whose only work appeared to be writing a fawning biography of former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano.
Or the racing car we paid $30,000 for, to be decorated with two Maple Leaf bumper stickers.
It all adds up to a party brand tarred and feathered for the long run, which could end up turning its minority rule into a short-term proposition.
If Brault's testimony is not rendered fictional by future testimony at the inquiry, being Liberal means never having to worry about being elected in Quebec. They'd have better luck running in the dry Grit gulch of Alberta, where the provincial Liberal leader is thinking of changing his party's name to escape the poisoned brand name.
While the tentacles reach high into Jean Chretien's organizational chart, it must be stressed they stop short of touching Paul Martin. That might not matter. This is one heavy albatross Martin will haul into the next election -- and while I'd never underestimate the Ontario voters' ability to forgive the Liberals almost anything, this is going to be harder for Martin to overcome than his 2004 sponsorship mea culpa.
The Liberal spin of this as a scandal confined to a small band of unsupervised rascals who auctioned off contracts to the highest bidder and used the proceeds to line their own pockets is a tough sell. How, then, to explain the rogue party official who was able, after receiving a $50,000 cash bribe, to muscle the justice ministry into killing a planned advertising tender for the much maligned firearms registry, leaving the business in Brault's hands? That's deep penetration stuff, not just the small circle running the sponsorship program.
These and a host of other inquiry revelations have left the Prime Minister of Canada floundering in a political maelstrom, the leader of a party that could be dragged into an election at any time by Opposition forces while it remains vulnerable to an electoral wipeout in Quebec.
As for Jean Brault, he's no hero. The spectators who cheered him as he left the inquiry have confused him with an altruistic whistleblower. He's nothing of the sort -- merely a self-admitted scam artist taking down as many cohorts as possible before he's hauled into court. But as of today, he has unleashed enough hell on the government that the keys to 24 Sussex Drive are jangling in front of the Conservatives.
If only the Quebec Liberals' mentality prevails in the next government, someone in Stephen Harper's office will reward Jean Brault with a hefty advertising contract. No kickback required.
© National Post 2005
PING - big time!
I wish I could care about Canada, one way or the other, but I just can't.
The next election will need several things:
1) Don't worry about the NDP numbers, especially in Ontario. The higher they get, the better, that means they are just taking seats away from the Fiberals. They are never going to win.
2) Convince some right-wing Liberals to cross the floor (and perhaps a few left-wing Liberals to join the NDP).
3) Focus on mobilizing the base first - that can win the Conservatives 120 seats easily and into minority territory. (It worked for Ronald Reagan, it worked for George W. Bush, it worked for Ralph Klein, it worked for Mike Harris, it worked for Margaret Thatcher...) After that, try to focus on some of the more marginal Liberal seats to get up to a majority government.
4) Don't be afraid for local candidates in right-wing ridings to use socially conservative tactics, like bans on abortion and same-sex marriage. If they can use those to mobilize the base, they can win easily. The social activist ridings are hopeless for the Conservatives - best to hope for NDP or other party gains in those.
5) Don't bother putting resources in hopeless areas.
So this gonna stick or what?
My thoughts exactly
"I wish I could care about Canada, one way or the other, but I just can't."
MisterRepublican to canadian conservatives: F*CK Canada.
Nice eh. We conservatives up here are trying to fight the liberals and all we every get is "F*CK Canada".
You have to admit the message coming down from Canada the last few years in particular has been F America.
Sorry You are right. I just wish there were more of you guys up there.
Yes, primarily from the elites in Toronto and from the Quebecois...
However Johnny Z is dead on
I'm talking about members of FR. I thought conservatives stick together.
Dont take it that way- I am sure that is not what he meant- it is just that Canada has bee so liberal- maybe he is not seeing the growing conservatism there- I am on the Buffalo/Ontario border and I am happy by some of the things I see and hear from my Canadian freinds- and now they are gettign FOX NEWS it will help a LOT
Can someone familiar w/ Canada explain the parties.
Liberals = left of USA Democrats, pretty socialist
NDP = New Democratic Party = like our Reps, more left?
Liberals = lock on national govt. for 40 years?
Sorry, I'm ignorant, but at least I know it.
Hey, I will love canada when the politics change. From the article and the past election hopefully that will be soon. I am all for canadian conservatives and wish them the best.
Yet another poster who got stuck with Canadian quarters!
Sheesh - get over it!
Wonder if the scams extended over into the gun registration mess up in Canada. For the life of me, I don't see how it could cost over a billion dollars to register a bunch of guns.
Gotta be some payoffs somewhere.
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