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April 12, 2005
Check Register Corroborates Brault, Harper Won't Wait For Gomery

Testifying before the Gomery Inquiry today, former Groupaction controller Bernard Michaud produced a check register and testified to helping to covertly direct illegal cash contributions to the Liberal Party. Michaud's testimony provides the first independent corroboration of the illegal cash transfers and bolsters Brault's credibility:

A cheque register and testimony by ex-controller Bernard Michaud at the federal sponsorship inquiry backed Brault's claim that he covertly funnelled secret cash payments to the party. Michaud told the inquiry he handed over $15,000 in cash to his boss in April 1997 - around the same period Brault has said he gave $15,000 in cash to a party official.

The cheque register tabled at the inquiry showed a $15,000 cheque issued in Michaud's name on April 28, 1997.

Brault told the inquiry last month he asked Michaud to withdraw the sum for the first instalment of a $100,000 cash request by top Liberal brass in March or April 1997.

"Jean Brault (said he) needed $15,000 quickly and he didn't have the time to go to the bank," recalled Michaud.

Michaud said he told his boss, 'Jean, $15,000 can't be found quickly.' "So I told him, 'We'll make out a cheque in my name in advance and we'll arrange it later.'

"I made out a cheque in my name, and I cashed it . . . and gave it to Jean Brault."

Prior to Michaud, the only evidence supporting Brault's earlier testimony came from Brault's own handwritten records. One of the actions contemplated by Liberal strategists was to paint Brault as a liar out to save his own skin and to point to reviews of Liberal ledgers entered into evidence earlier as proof that none of the money actually reached the Liberal Party. However, as the Gomery Inquiry continues its work, Brault's explosive testimony appears to be gaining support from subsequent witnesses, making it more and more difficult for the Liberals to distance themselves from the accusations.

In that regard, Stephen Harper's statement today should surprise few. Despite requests from Paul Martin that political action should wait for Justice Gomery to conclude his public investigation, the Tory leader told Canadians that new elections designed to replace the government need not wait for Gomery to file his final report on the corruption scandal that has already upended Canadian politics:

Canadians do not need to wait until the final report from the sponsorship inquiry before deciding the fate of the Liberals, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has urged the Conservatives to hold off forcing an election until Justice John Gomery issues his final report on the sponsorship scandal, expected in late fall.

Voters do not need to wait that long, Harper suggested.

Canadians don't need to form the kind of judgments Mr. Justice Gomery is going to form, he said. Justice Gomery has to make decisions about potential prosecutions, about criminality. Frankly, the standards of the electorate are a lot higher than that.

Harper refused to support an immediate no-confidence motion suggested by Bloc Quebecois, preferring to wait a while longer to see if more specifics arise about Adscam, and perhaps the Earnscliffe investigation as well. Harper appears to hold most of the cards now. He can set new elections in motion at a whim, and even Paul Martin understands that the Liberals will likely lose their position; the only question will be how many seats they will lose. Harper wants to wait until the law of diminishing returns starts to set in. After more than a few weeks of this kind of testimony, he runs the risk that the Canadian electorate will start to suffer from scandal fatigue and simply stop paying attention. On the other hand, calling an election while guilty politicians have not yet been exposed risks having them return to power.

For political aficionados, even those of us across the border, it makes for fascinating study. Martin and Harper appear caught in a grueling chess match, where the incumbent champion has been reduced to playing desperately for a stalemate while the challenger ponders the precise timing for checkmate.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 12, 2005 12:00 PM

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