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April 10, 2005
Canadian Corruption Moving Beyond Adscam?

Greg Weston writes in today's Ottawa Sun that the Gomery testimony not only paints a bleak picture of corruption and sleaze regarding the Sponsorship Program, but that it also contains clues showing that the graft extends far beyond that -- and possibly involving billions of dollars:

While the auditor general found bureaucrats broke "every rule in the book" in the sponsorship scandal, evidence is emerging at the Gomery inquiry that Adscam may be only the tip of corruption in government contracting.

In one case that emerged at Gomery this week, Groupaction president Brault described how a $100,000 bribe got the firm over $5 million in contracts with the federal Justice Department.

According to the AG, in 1998, Justice officials were not happy with work being done by Groupaction and wanted to re-tender the contract. The retendering process began, but suddenly "was halted without explanation, and Groupaction was retained until mid-2002" after getting another $5.4 million in contracts.

What really happened, according to Brault, was he had asked Liberal Party bagman Joe Morselli to see if anything could be done to help Groupaction keep the contract in 1999. The two men met one day in Montreal, Brault testified, and Morselli told him: "$100,000 and your problem is solved."

Brault said he slipped the first $50,000 to Morselli at a spaghetti dinner, and never got around to paying the second instalment before the sponsorship scandal erupted in 2002.

Canadians can certainly be excused for missing some of the subtleties that Weston notices for today's column. After all, the release of the Brault testimony showed many of them for the first time the extent and brazenness of graft and corruption that ran rampant through the Sponsorship Program. The breadth of the embezzlement made such a splash that missing some of the less-overt links to other programs was easy to do. However, Weston points out several such connections in his column today. None of them are damning -- yet, anyway. However, prosecutors surely will pick up their threads and may yet unravel a much broader pattern of corruption.

Weston says that Martin may be able to lay Adscam off on the Chretien regime, even though Martin himself was finance minister for Chretien and had responsibility for overseeing the use of the monies in the Sponsorship Program. Martin won't be able to escape blame if the scandal widens appreciably, though. That may soon be coming, and may explain why the Conservatives have been content thus far to wait for more testimony before initiating any action that will cause the fall of the government.

UPDATE: More at Debbye's excellent blog, Being American in T.O.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 10, 2005 10:06 AM

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