Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement

The AdScam Inquiry: Canada's Watergate

Placing greater limitations on power minimizes misappropriations or potential abuse. While it doesn’t guarantee that abuse will not occur, it makes it much more difficult for it to happen.

Adscam Inquiry Shows Possible Corruption
Frank Tridico Columnist, April 9 2005


In what is soon becoming Canada's version of Watergate, the AdScam Inquiry, a federal judicial investigation is currently being held to examine potential government misappropriation of 250 million dollars. It is alleged that the former Liberal federal government funneled funds to Quebec advertising companies and liberal friends for little to no work.

In six days of cross-examination, former Groupaction Marketing president Jean Brault told the AdScam Inquiry he funneled well over one million dollars to the federal Liberal Party and its staff in exchange for 40 million dollar federal contracts and sponsorships. Brault, a 30-year Chretien family friend, conceded that he paid Jacques Corriveau's firm (another Chretien confidant) hundreds of thousands of dollars for doing nothing, money that was understood to be funneled to the federal Liberal Party. Brault also stated that the former Prime Minister's brother, Gabriel Chretien, conspired with Brault to obscure a paper trail linking the Liberal party to the sponsorship scandal.

Golf Balls, Handshakes and Thousand Dollar Suits

During earlier testimony, former Prime Minister Jean Chretien entered the Inquiry, styling and profiling, armed with a planned offensive against all those that would hold him to scrutiny.

Mr. Chretien claimed the real focus should be on strategic move toward doing whatever was necessary to stop Quebecers from breaking away from Canada. He argued that what was at stake was Canadian unity, and the sponsorship program, however costly, was strategically necessary to preserve national unity.

It is ironic how all the major players in the AdScam, including then Prime Minister Jean Chretien, former Finance Minister and current Prime Minister Paul Martin, and former federal Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano, continue to pass the political hot potato to each other with no one apparently aware of who authorized what. What we have been told by them is that they had nothing to do with any of it, that it was someone else but they don't know whom and that they are as concerned as any of us with finding who really is responsible. Someone here is not telling the truth.

An Arrogant Attempt to Thwart Due Process

Instead of focusing on the issue during his testimony, Mr. Chretien opened his taxpayer-funded briefcase, took out celebrity-signed golf balls and tossed them out one by one. This was meant to mock Justice Gomery who once had received a pair of Jean Chretien's signed golf balls, and criticized the gift. Since his testimony, he has taken legal initiative to remove Justice Gomery because he believes Gomery is showing bias in the Inquiry.

What is key here is that the Mr. Chretien has a history of placing obstacles before federal inquiries. He closed the Somalia Inquiry when they started asking embarrassing questions. It included 27 separate litigations and court cases aimed at weakening federal information commissioner John Reid to deny him access to the former Prime Minister's daily agendas. This latest attempt to remove Justice Gomery from the Inquiry will not work. It is appearing to be desperate and heavy-handed. Moreover, it is drawing attention to broader concerns of possible political corruption and ethical impotence.

Change Must Include Accountability and Limitations of Power

While political adversaries are salivating for change, one should be cognizant that any changes made should be on the premise of holding political officials to accountability and placing greater limits on their power. While alternative political parties argue that they have greater public interest as their premise, we must first examine how these players operate within the system.

It can be argued that the founders wanted to enact a system of government that would serve the interests of the people. Yet, even with such intentions and carefully constructed systems of rule, the political system found a way to remain structured and resistant to change. It has done the following things since its conception:

(1) It has been resistant to change.
(2) It has found ways to preserve its powers.
(3) It has found ways to enhance its powers.
(4) It has found ways to minimize dissent (the right to disagree).
(5) It has found ways to limit its accountability.

All established political parties advocate change to win political favour. However, all parties have done well in accepting and endorsing the rigid make-up and structure of the larger political structure. This is the very system that has allowed for this type of abuse to occur. It needs to be changed to make it palpable to us, not necessarily to them.

In the absence of effective systems of checks and balances, citizens must demand that public officials, both elected and non-elected, be held accountable for their actions, particularly when they bring our political system into disrepute. Placing greater limitations on power minimizes misappropriations or potential abuse. While it doesn't guarantee that abuse will not occur, it makes it much more difficult for it to happen.