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April 30, 2005
Chrtien Plays The Gay Card In Adscam

Former Canadian PM Jean Chrtien made an appearance in Philadelphia to accept an award as an "international role model" while his political cronies and aides face ruinous testimony tying his administration to widespread corruption and graft in the Sponsorship Program. Chrtien refused to acknowledge the damage, insisting that the $250 million program which his Liberal Party and close aides turned into an electoral-fraud and money-laundering scheme was good for Canada:

Former prime minister Jean Chrtien defended his handling of the sponsorship scandal last night, as he made his first public appearance since testifying at the Gomery inquiry. ...

And as he did at Mr. Justice John Gomery's inquiry, he said that he accepts responsibility for any mistakes that were made under the sponsorship program, even though he continued to insist it was a good initiative.

"I said I was sorry if mistakes were made. And I said that I have to take the full responsibility of what's good and what's bad when you're the prime minister," he said.

The American gay-rights group Equality Forum has to win an award itself for the worst political timing in years in choosing to honor Chrtien. With even his own party's leadership abandoning his legacy as the chain of corruption creeps ever further towards his office, holding Chrtien up as a role model for gay rights would have its American equivalent in making Richard Nixon the poster boy for environmental activism in government for his creation of the EPA and support of the Endangered Species Act. Both may have solid bases in the historical record, and neither man will be remembered for it. Chrtien will be fortunate indeed if he escapes prosecution for Adscam, hardly a qualification for an international role model.

However, the Equality Forum did give Chrtien a chance to trot out a new defense for the Liberal Party against an expected no-confidence vote by Stephen Harper and the Tories. The former PM used the occasion to turn the election issue away from rampant Liberal corruption and graft into a gay-rights issue instead:

Mr. Chrtien was in Philadelphia to be honoured for his defence of gay and lesbian rights, particularly his introduction of same-sex marriage legislation, which may now die on the order paper if the Conservative Party and Bloc succeed in bringing down the government.

Toronto lawyer Douglas Elliott, who argued the 2003 Court of Appeal case that validated same-sex marriages in Ontario, praised Mr. Chrtien yesterday for his support of the same-sex bill and for his role in including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution.

Gays in the United States have long praised Canada for its tolerance and have flocked to the country to become legally married. But during an afternoon panel discussion, Mr. Elliott warned his U.S. colleagues to prepare for setbacks in the Canadian same-sex battle.

The federal law would extend the right of homosexual couples to marry to all provinces, notably Alberta, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island where courts have not legitimized such unions. Mr. Elliott noted, however, that if Mr. Martin's government falls, the legislation will be left dead in the House of Commons.

If gay marriage enjoys the kind of broad-based support that the Liberals claim, the measure will likely survive the fall of Martin's government, although it may face tougher procedural hurdles in the unlikely event that the Tories win a clear majority. If not, then it wouldn't have passed anyway. Nevertheless, that's hardly the reason that Harper will call for new elections, and it certainly isn't the issue foremost on the minds of Canadian voters. The ongoing testimony showing how the Liberals picked Canadian pockets for years in order to keep themselves in power and pay off supporters gives plenty of reason to get rid of the Grits.

This attempt to spin Adscam into a gay-rights issue is not only desperate, it's laughable. It shows that Chrtien and his former party may have reached a point where the only defense left to them is an American-style smear campaign against their accusers on baseless and irrelevant grounds of bigotry.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 30, 2005 7:48 AM

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The Globe and Mail has this story on former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien: PHILADELPHIA — Former prime minister Jean Chrétien defended his handling of the sponsorship scandal last night, as he made his first public appearance since test... [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2005 12:55 PM

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