Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Gomery Summary - For My International Friends

I get quite a bit of traffic from the United States and the United Kingdom, thanks in part due to linkage from Progressive Conservative ReView & ReKnew (U.S.) and Progressive Conservatism (U.K.), and I bet half the traffic coming from those places are asking what's Gomery all about?

In summary, Canada has been embroiled in a political scandal affectionately referred to as "AdScam". In 1995, the province of Quebec held a referendum to secede from Canada. The "no" side (saying no to secession), won with almost the thinnest of possible margins. The federal government at the time, under Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, created the "Sponsorship Program" - designed to contract ad space to the government of Canada (and Canada in general) to events and programs in Quebec. The theory being, that the program would reinforce Canada's image within the province of Quebec.

In February, of 2004, the Auditor General of Canada released a financial audit of the Sponsorship Program that included questionable spending. In short, some of her findings included that [source, CBC]:

  • Senior government officials running the federal government's advertising and sponsorship contracts in Quebec, as well as five Crown corporations – the RCMP, Via Rail, Canada Post, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Old Port of Montreal – wasted money and showed disregard for rules, mishandling millions of dollars since 1995.
  • The government's $3-million sponsorship of the RCMP's 125th anniversary celebrations was wasteful, because the Mounties were already required to display the "Canada" word mark. Three ad agencies – Lafleur, Media/I.D.A. Vision and Gosselin – deducted $1.3 million of the money before passing the remaining $1.7 million to the Mounties. Some bank records of Quebec Mounties were destroyed.
  • In the $5-million sponsorship of a television series about Maurice Richard, to be produced by the private firm L'information essentielle, communication firms, including Lafleur, Media/I.D.A. Vision, Gosselin and Groupaction, received $440,000 in commissions without signing any contracts or doing any work. The program also used Via Rail as a conduit to transfer nearly $1 million to the television series through a "fictitious contract," reimbursing the Crown corporation for all but $160,000 of the money. Lafleur received $112,500 to handle the transfer. In addition, Canada Post paid $1.6 million to sponsor the series without any deal being signed or any documentation whatsoever, breaking the corporation's own rules.

Among other issues.

The fallout of these revelations led to our current minority government situation in our national parliament, where the ruling Liberal Party of Canada only managed to win 133 of the 308 seats in our 2004 summer general election. The Liberals had held straight majorities since sweeping the Conservatives from power in 1993.

As a result of the audit and the minority situation, Prime Minister Paul Martin called for an inquiry into this scandal. Today, Justice John Gomery reported his initial findings that pointed out what happened and who was to blame. The summaries are available here from the CBC:

The two biggest findings, politically speaking, is that the Gomery Report does place blame with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien:

"He chose to disregard this advice [from the Clerk of the Privy Council] and, since he is directly responsible for errors committed by Mr. Pelletier, he must share the blame for the mismanagement that ensued."

And exonerates current Prime Minister Paul Martin (Minister of Finance during the timeline of the scandal):

"Mr. Martin, whose role as finance minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or (Public Works) is entitled, like other ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct."

Going forward, politically, Mr. Martin has promised an election within 30 days of the publishing of Mr. Gomery's final report (due in February). As well, Mr. Martin had promised to resign if he was directly implicated - since he was not, he will not.

So, the big question now is, will Canadians associate the Sponsorship Scandal with the Liberal Party in general and deal it another blow in the next election, or will they leave the blame with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his government. Prime Minister Paul Martin's record has been, ho hum at best.

In most speculation, the governing Liberal Party will be returned in a minority situation, both due to residual anger because of AdScam and the ineffectiveness of Paul Martin as PM in general. A second minority government will be politically bad for Mr. Martin, who would most likely step down and lead to a new leadership race.

Tags: , , , ,

1 comment:

Public Broadcasting News said...

Hi,

Just wanted to let you know that I've added your blog to the politics blogs section of

http://www.publicbroadcasting.ca/blogs/politicsblogs.html

as well as the blogroll for politics

http://www.publicbroadcasting.ca/blogs/politicslatest.html