Sunday, January 15, 2006

Talk about the wrong message

What do Allan Cutler, Conservative candidate in Ottawa South and the sponsorship whistleblower, and Prime Minister Paul Martin have in common?

Both of them were honest enough to put their jobs on the line to expose government corruption. Cutler was fired - Martin may well be.

The sponsorship scandal is often touted as the "biggest scandal in Canadian history." The validity of this statement is suspect, as some would point out the legendary corruption of Sir John A. Macdonald's government. However, the point is taken. Perhaps the biggest scandal of all is the effect that the sponsorship scandal could have on Canadian politics. The Gomery Inquiry could indeed serve as a warning to future governments, but not in the way it ought to.

Let's trace the events, as we know them:
- Auditor General Sheila Fraser exposes the sponsorship program and the unaccounted money.
- Paul Martin cancels the sponsorship program.
- Paul Martin calls the Gomery Inquiry.
- Judge Gomery releases his fact-finding report.
- Despite being exonnerated by Judge Gomery, Paul Martin still takes the blame from the public.

This is very troubling. Essentially, the message is this: If you are honest, you will pay for it; if you tell the truth, you will be punished.

Scandals happen. This is the reality of government. Any time people are put in charge of hundreds of billions of dollars, some of it is going to go missing. Stephen Harper was quoted as saying, "When there is a scandal," which is telling. Of course there would be scandal under a Harper government - the question is, would it be covered up?

I am not optimistic. The Gomery Inquiry is not without precedent in Canadian history. It is comparable in many ways to the inquiry into the CPR Scandal, both of which saw sitting prime ministers testify, and both of which (it seems now) toppled said prime minister. But the unprecedented thing is that Paul Martin so willingly and so readily established the public inqury. He put his career on the line to get to the bottom of the scandal, and he is paying the price for being honest - that price could be his job.

So let's ask the question - when scandal next happens, as it will, will the sitting prime minister be stupid enough to be as honest about it as Martin has been? After all the message we're sending is that if you call a public inquiry and expose the scandal for all to see, even if you are personally exonnerated you will still pay an electoral price. On the other hand, if you do what Jean Chretien surely would have done, and did through his tenure as prime minister, and sweep it under the rug, denying everything and covering it all up, then nothing bad will happen to you.

This has happened before. Jean Chretien took the lesson of Brian Mulroney seriously. Mulroney was a more or less honest prime minister, and his government faced scandal, as most do. But Mulroney did not tolerate scandal, and he fired ministers over it. And he paid the price, and is remembered as corrupt. Chretien would not let the same thing happen to him, and he was almost completely unaccountable, since no one knew what was happening in his government. Martin, like Mulroney, would not stand for the scandal, and he now ends up with the same reputation as Mulroney.

If the message that Canadians send is that honesty is punishable by termination, how can we realistically expect our politicians to be honest?


For all you Liberals out there who want a place to discuss things with other Liberals in a friendly environment, there is now a place where you can be unabashedly Liberal without being called corrupt. It's a place for Liberals and Liberal supporters to gather and converse without having to worry about conservative trolls. There are placed on the net for conservatives to meet and talk, so why not, eh?


At 1/15/2006 11:48 p.m., Blogger Scott Tribe said...

You're not necesarily going to be called "corrupt" at Progressive Bloggers either. Maybe I'm being unfair, but I find it interesting that the Liberals who want the "echo chamber" are the Pro-Martin Liberal blogs... the anti_martin blogs are seemingly more tolerant of people criticizing their Party (and obviously their leader).

Also.. I dispute its Gomery that is causing this seeming upcoming defeat of Martin. Remember, Martin was ahead in the polls til Christmas; which was when you had the Ralph Goodale controversy with the income trust allegations. It appears that, combined with Goodale refusing to resign while under investigation (That seemed to resonate with the public - an SES poll a week or 2 ago said 45% thought Goodale should have resigned) as well as the Martin advisers idiotic comments and general incompetence that has caused his apparent demise.

I dont want Harper get elected.. but I for one will not miss Martin or more imprtantly his legion of advisers who knew how to take down their former leader and get rid of internal Liberal opposition to Martin (ie Sheila Copps) but couldnt fight their way out of a wet-paper bag in this election campaign

At 1/16/2006 12:14 a.m., Blogger lecentre said...

I agree with Scott's post. I'm not sure it's gomery that's having the Liberals behind in this race. Like I posted, Harper's running a tight campaign ship, grabbing headlines with his policy announcements and his convincing the media he's further towards the centre, nowadays. Even the Toronto Star's run a few decent pieces on him.

What you said is insgihtful, and I laud Martin for calling the Gomery inquiry. I question whether he did it of the forthrightness of his heart though, or as the opposition said, because they made him.

Also, it's questionable that Martin really didn't know about sponsorship. He WAS the Finance Minister, after all...

Overall, there is some truth to what you're saying, but I'd suggest that it's not the reality of why the Libs are behind in the polls. Note also I said the Libs are behind in the polls. Even if Martin and his cabinet aren't corrupt (which the RCMP is investigating, incidentally, with Goodale and income trusts), there's a perception the Liberals are. I don't recall Gomery exonerating the LPC.

At 1/16/2006 12:18 a.m., Blogger Mark said...

Scott, I think we all get the point on how the campaign has been run, and I'm not going to weigh in on Martin's advisers (having been one) to your satisfaction, but let's just get back to the first issue for a moment.

The ONLY reason the Goodale story is even newsworthy is because of Gomery, and its rleation ot the broader theme of "corruption: that the Tories have exploited in this election. And I guarantee you, at least from my own experience, that if you are wearing a liberal button, taking a candidate's flier door-to-door in any Liberal-held riding in this country, you are not hearing about (a) Harper's policies, or (b) the campaign gaffes.

Nearly every inhospitable doorway I have stood in has been ranting about Gomery, or some variation of the word "corrupt".

if others agree, or have another experience at the door, please share it at:

At 1/16/2006 2:12 a.m., Blogger Thingamabob said...

I'd echo Scott's points, but add one more: surely the perverse lesson you are concerned may be learned was already well-known prior to the Sponsorship scandal. Martin did not elevate the profile of this scandal out of a pure desire to do the right and honorable thing, no sir. The primary impetus always seemed to me to score political points by creating a stark distinction between the (corrupt) Chretien and the (honest) Martin.

Isn't it ironic how acting in bad faith can come around to bite you in the ass? Regardless of the fact that the Gomery report itself is probably a small factor, the daily regurgitation of scandal made the public (and more importantly the media) sensitive to Liberal duplicity. How else to explain the public's seeming amnesia about how they ran the country for 12 years?

At 1/16/2006 2:55 a.m., Blogger Clear Grit said...

It isn't about why the Liberals are losing, that's incidental. It's about the message that's sent. There's a whole host of factors that could explain why the Liberals are losing this election, but the fact is, Gomery is the reason we're having the election in the first place. The 38th parliament will be recorded in history as the Gomery Parliament, and the resultant 39th election will be recorded as the Gomery Election. So the interpretation of this election will be very simple: Gomery inquiry sinks government.

Think about it, the Liberals dropped in the polls once the sponsorship scandal was first revealed. It has dogged them every step of the way over the past couple of years. There have now been TWO election campaigns fought on it; one of them was successful in reducing the Liberals to a minority, and one of them will be successful in either reducing that minority or defeating them entirely. The message, for all who aspire to public life, is very, very clear - honesty, no matter the motivation, is political suicide. The lessons of this parliament and this election will not be soon forgotten. No prime minister will dare to be as open and transparent as Paul Martin has been, because they will all look to Martin's example and see what the consequences of that are.

People are so bloody inconsistent and unrealistic; they want openness, and when the government is open, they hang them. They just expect an organization which employs hundreds of thousands of people to never experience corruption. This is the message; this is the lesson that our leaders will take, and only those who are very idealistic, very stupid, or both, will ever be as honest as Paul Martin in the future.

Incidentally, as to the role of the Finance Minister, Martin would have known only vaguely about the sponsorship program. Everybody knew about it, in fact. Every MP at the time knew there was a sponsorship program; the sponsorship program was not corrupt in and of itself. The way the government works would mean that Finance Minister Martin would have been told by Chretien to budget and extra $x million for the Ministry of Public Works, and he would have done so. From that point on, it would have been out of Martin's hands. The Minister of Public Works (Gagliano) was then responsible for overseeing the program, which was administered by Chuck Guite. There are a lot of degrees of separation between the Finance Minister including something in a budget, and knowing EXACTLY where it goes. To say Paul Martin could possibly have known about exactly where the money was going beyond the Ministry of Public Works is a huge stretch, completely unrealistic, and a lie that the opposition has been very effective in convincing people to believe, because at the end of the day, people just seem to eat up simplistic "logic" like "Paul Martin was the Finance Minister and therefore knew about it."

At 1/16/2006 5:21 a.m., Blogger lefti said...

Harper is starting to talk about his Cabinet... Such arrogance!!!!!!! He already named Laurence Cannon from Pontiac, Quebec Minister before the election!

Canadians seem to be moving towards giving the neoconservatives power. Furthermore, the conservatives seem to be moving towards a majority. The media is completely bias and they don't ask important questions. For example, Harper will scrap the Kyoto Accord, he is in favor of Bush's missile defence in space, Harper will abolish same-sex marriage which is already legal accross Canada. It's very worying to take away a right!!!!!! Health Care is another point of concern!!! A parallel system will only take away resources from the current public system... It's dangerous... Alot of people are just tired of the Liberals and dislike of some former liberals... alot of Canadians are blinded and don't want to know about the neoconservative agenda... they just want to punish the liberals. I strongly beleive that our country is founded on principles of tolerance and diversity... THIS ELECTION will be very close and each VOTE will count! The Canadian Parliament was able to continue working last May because of one vote.. And alot of liberal Members of Parliament were elected with a few votes... The division within the progressive forces (NDP, BLOC QUébecois, LIBERALS and GREENS will be fatal to them... The NDP can't stop the conservatives... We will have to get use to the word "Prime Minister Stephen Harper" for 4 to 5 years at least... ONly the liberal party can prevent the neoconservatives from taking over the country.

Religious right and the Conservative Party...

Moderate ?

“There is a dependence in the region that breeds a culture of defeatism”
- Stephen Harper, describing the Atlantic provinces, CBC News, May 30 2002.

Moderate ?
ALberta conservative MP Anders said Nelson Mandela was a terrorist and voted against his Canadian honorary citizenship.

Moderate ?
An Conservative candidate from Ontario declare WAR to those who don't think like he does.. in this video dated 2005.

Stephen Harper: “west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society.”

Harper and other conservatives participated in a far-right wing organization's fund-raising event …

At 1/16/2006 9:53 a.m., Blogger HisHighness said...


Well, since I created the forum I'm the one who knows what it is.

This is an ALL Liberals forum, if anti Martin Liberals want to join up they are more than welcome, as I've said to all who I've personally invited this is NOT a circle jerk place like freedominion where we all pat each other on the back and tell each other how great we are, this is a place where Liberals can get together and talk about issues, debate, and share information, without getting drowned out by Con Hacks.

For any Liberal who's been to any public political message board during the last two weeks you know it's virtually impossible to have a conversation with other Liberals without some idiot Con hack saying "woo hoo it's all over, finally we'll get rid of the corrupt liberals, blah blah blah."

I'm vehementy opposed to the tactics of the Anti-Martin Liberals inside the government who have been sabotaging us and allowing a man like Stephen Harper to be on the cusp of power, I've said that many times, but that doesn't mean I want to drown out the other side. I want to debate them and try to convince them why I think I'm right. That's what Liberals do.

So I would invite anyone who is a Liberal to join us. I felt it was high time the best party in the country had a forum where we could talk with each other. The Cons have freedominion, the dippers have babble.

At 1/16/2006 10:33 a.m., Blogger Elizabeth said...

Ummm, you forgot a few things about the lib response to adscam. check out for a more complete story. Darn facts.

At 1/16/2006 10:37 a.m., Blogger Elizabeth said...

I forgot. Scroll down to the November 2nd posting.

At 1/16/2006 9:14 p.m., Blogger CanadianTruth said...

You forgot a few things:

> Martin said he'd wait for the Gomery report before calling an election - he didn't which is why we are in the midst of an election now. Martin flip-flopped because he wanted an election before the Conservatives could have a policy convention.

> Who gave Gomery his instructions and boundries for the investigation? Martin. The jails would be empty if suspects got to set the boundries of an investigation.

> Who received the money? Did Paul Martin receive soem of the money? We don't know, he won't tell us.


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