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May 8, 2005
Beryl Wajsmann, In His Own Words

Upcoming Gomery Inquiry witness Beryl Wajsmann left a lengthy statement in the comments section of this post on CQ. Mr. Wajsmann serves as President of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal and his pending testimony before the Inquiry promises to shed much light on Adscam. In order to ensure that everyone gets a chance to read his statement, I'm pulling it out of the comments and posting it separately. (Note: I'm awaiting confirmation from Mr. Wasjmann that sent the message, but the IP address and the e-mail from IAPM matches. UPDATE 5/9: I've confirmed this as coming fro mMr. Wajsmann.)

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INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS OF MONTREAL

8 May 2005

Montreal

WAJSMAN AND GOMERY

Harry Truman said, If you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen. I just wanted to drop you a note to tell you that I can not only stand the heat, but were going after the kitchen.

I specifically want to share some comments with you on Michel Beliveaus testimony Friday at the Gomery Commission about a certain PMO meeting that occurred in 2001, and give you a heads-up on some of my upcoming testimony. Some news stories have reported that the meeting concerned hidden fundraising. That is not what Beliveau said. He testified that the meeting was held because the new LPC (Q) director-general Daniel Dezainde complained that I was not respecting his authority and freezing him out. The chain of command if you like. This is all in the record.

Just to set the matter straight, this was an incident I have spoken about many times. It is not new, and I addressed it in a Le Devoir article. But some reports still got the facts wrong.

Dezaindes claims were utter nonsense. I briefed him regularly on all the work of our cultural communities sectoral financing project. He simply wanted it shut down. Part of the reason was due to the fact that Gagliano had opposed his nomination as director-general in Quebec and Dezainde was doing everything to take complete control of the LPC (Q) headquarters.

It is always frustrating having to sit on evidence and wait to testify. Ive been waiting to tell this story for four years. We knew about the PMO meeting in 2001. Percy Downe was new to his job as Chief of Staff to Chrtien. Dezainde had just come in. The whole power structure had changed in two months and no one in the PMO or the party had the basic decency to call me, Benoit Corbeil or Joe Morselli to hear what we had to say. It was a set up. When I demanded from Gagliano that he set up a meeting for me with Chrtien - that my 25 years of public involvement warranted that minimum courtesy - he refused and asked me to just keep working and be patient and let him handle Dezainde. I told him then his fecklessness would be his undoing. I still cannot forgive him that lack of courage.

I have been asking the Gomery lawyers for some weeks to testify early and I think I will finally get the chance this week. They have asked me not to distribute certain materials but hold them for presentation to the Commission. They will clear up all the allegations from Brault and Dezainde.

My testimony will include an overview of the outreach work I did during the six months I spent at the party in 2001. I responded to all manner of requests for help and advice from people for whom the party purpose itself was suspect. We obtained assistance for ethnic, communal and sporting events; established liaison for interfaith and cultural dialogue; spoke to dozens of organizations explaining the appropriate forms of approach to government agencies; produced guides to make available subsidy programs accessible and understandable; and even assisted with anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives.

It will also include the fact that I informed Joe Morselli I wanted to leave the party in April 2001 when I heard Dezainde call the work we were doing marketing the party or something like that. I wanted to leave again in May 2001 when Gagliano and Morselli themselves informed me that Dezainde had complained to the PMO that we were doing events without informing him, specifically that he was not involved enough in a June 28th 2001 fundraiser which was the second and last event we did. Mr. Morselli told me that he had confronted Dezainde and asked me to stay at least through the June 28th evening. I agreed.

Though Dezainde was always informed of all events, he had to be prodded by Mr. Morselli into attending a meeting of cultural community leaders relating to that event - and a subsequent event planned for October - on June 20th 2001 at the partys offices. There was nothing hidden. Everything was done at the partys offices.

A francophone Senator once told me that the real two solitudes in Quebec is not between English and French, but between those French-Quebecers who are heirs to arguably the most progressive political patrimony in North America from Papineau to Levesque, and those others who are the heirs of Adrien Arcand and Maurice Duplessis. I will leave you to guess from which tradition Dezainde comes.

In a letter I wrote to certain Liberal officials on June 24, 2001 (which I gave to the Commission lawyers and they want a chance to produce it there and make the identities public), I stated, When citizens ask for guidance from the Party of the ruling government, we have an obligation to provide that guidance and make of our offices more than just a processing center for membership cards and cheques.That is how you build a culture of commitment. And if you cant, then what in blazes is that office in existence for! This was five days before I left the party.

When the public learns to whom that letter was written, it will allay any doubts anyone might still have, after all my interviews and articles, about envelopes and secret financing. It will demonstrate that I was not allied to, nor pleased with, any aspect or affect of the Liberal Party of Canada at that time. My story is one of a party reformer opposed, not a party consultant enriched.

The reforms I tried to put in place - that I was asked to put in place - were met with revanchiste reaction. And those who had called on me to make these reforms had either left or did not have the power to protect their own imperatives and initiatives.

And thats what it was all really about. I cant speak for everything Morselli and Corbeil have done in every corner of their lives or what motivated them to approach me in November of 2000 to start the cultural communities sectoral financing project. But rest assured they really tried to open the party up and reform its processes and procedures. And even if it was not necessarily for totally altruistic motives - even if it was just to save the party wing - it was a noble effort worth doing.

This project was closed down by narrow minds at LPC (Q) headquarters, backed by several in the PMO, who wanted to keep everything a closed shop.

Youve heard a lot about alledeged parallel financing that was going on. This is a bit like the debate on two-tier health care. Its a red herring. Two-tier has existed since the first day of Medicare and continues today. The following will give you an understanding of the parallel systems of financing already in place within the Federal Liberal structure in Quebec in 2001 and why it was necessary - just to pay for the ongoing operations of the LPC (Q) never mind reduction of the debt - to launch the sectoral financing initiative I was involved with.

The Federal Liberal Agency for Canada which runs the PMs dinners and the Laurier Club raises seven figure amounts annually that are shipped to Ottawa and never returned to Quebec. It is totally under national party control. During the project of sectoral financing I ran in the six months of 2001 we could not even get a list of corporate contributors from Ottawa that might have helped us within the cultural communities. We had to get it off a two year old website. There was no co-operation between Ottawa and Montreal.

The MPs in their ridings were responsible for fund-raising activities, 10-25% of which were sent to the LPC (Q). But since the Liberals had just won Quebec for the first time in sixteen years, that fundraising base was not yet producing results.

The fundraisers of the LPC (Q) itself were not very successful. As Benoit Corbeil once said to me, the old networks were burnt out.

Parallel to all this were the fundraising efforts of the potential leadership candidates. Martins team in particular was taking a lot of money in and making it even harder to raise funds.

That was why Joe Morselli and Benoit Corbeil wanted a sectoral approach to financing with regular events aimed at specific communities that would provide regular cash flow for basic LPC (Q) operational needs like rent, salaries, etc

They supported my demand that this not be simply for raising money but would include an outreach component to the communities where their needs, questions, and concerns would be addressed so that they felt there was value in what they were involved in. That was my mandate and Gagliano, as Political Minister for Quebec, had approved it.

But it was hard to change the party culture. Black was white, white was black. Liberals had for too long allowed the sovereignty of subservience to privilege reign over the duty of service to people. That was the low estate to which the party of Trudeau liberalism had sunk.

But there are many of us who still believe in that liberalism. The liberalism of inclusion not exception. The liberalism of expanded opportunity, not low limitation. A liberalism based on the equity of just consideration, not the inequality of narrow circumstance. A liberalism that is the shield of the vulnerable and the staff of the unempowered. And I know that our members still believe that fidelity to that liberal creed can help us take our country back with a leadership that does not use power as a two-edged sword of craft and oppression

If we acquiesce in our own self-abnegation to the point where we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, how they would analyse it, judge it, tamper with it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we cannot truly call ourselves a free people.

I choose not to acquiesce.

Beryl Wajsman, President

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 8, 2005 11:04 PM

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