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November 2, 2005
Gomery Report, Or Liberals Run Wild!

Yesterday's big news in Canada came not from Parliament barring doors, as did its American counterpart, but from the release of the long-awaited Gomery Report. Lengthy, detailed, and detached, its style appears more scholarly than accusatory, and almost seems designed to moderate calls for justice into points of mildly interesting historical review.

The facts, however, completely the style. Gomery accuses people at the highest levels of the former Chrtien Liberal government of malfeasance, theft, money laundering, and more. Gomery identified Jean Pelletier, Chrtien's chief of staff, and minister Alfonse Gagliano as the highest-ranking members of the government personally tied to the corruption, and blames Chrtien himself for allowing the pair to run the entire scam right out of the Prime Minister's office:

# The Prime Minister's Office, via Jean Pelletier, and then-minister of public works, Alfonso Gagliano, directed the awarding of contracts through the Sponsorship Program bypassing normal departmental oversight. ...

# Jean Chrtien ignored advice from the Privy Council Office that it would be prudent to transfer the sponsorship program to a department or let PCO run it.

# Jean Chrtien and Jean Pelletier are both to blame for the mismanagement of taxpayer money resulting from a program that was set up without proper oversight and had no clearly articulated objectives.

They didn't get all of the blame, however. Jacques Corriveau, the long-time Chrtien crony, also gets his share of exposure in the report for running the kickback part of the Adscam scheme. He lets Gagliano and Pelletier off the hook for the kickbacks -- a conclusion that will have the Tories screaming -- but blames Chrtien for creating a program with so few safeguards as to allow them in the first place. Also officially off the hook, at least as far as concerns Gomery, is present Prime Minister Paul Martin. Despite his position during the Adscam period as Finance Minister, Gomery states that "Mr. Martin, whose role as Finance Minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or PWGSC, is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct."

That may well be the final legal word on Martin, but it's doubtful that either he or his Liberal Party will escape political judgment as easily. Martin showed impressive adeptness at dodging Adscam especially during the spring's testimony, but that came in lieu of the full report. He asked Canadians for patience and to wait until Gomery concluded his inquiry to make their minds up about the Liberals and his government.

Yesterday, the bill arrived, and it looks huge. Even the media, which normally could be expected to soften the blow, called it the realization of the "Liberals' worst fears". The CBC, a government-owned network that has been quite friendly to the Martin executive, had this to say yesterday:

Mr. Justice John Gomery has touched a nerve.

By concluding that Jacques Corriveau, a close friend of former prime minister Jean Chrtien, masterminded an "elaborate kickback scheme" to funnel money to Liberal party headquarters in Quebec, he has confirmed the party's worst fears.

"Jacques Corriveau was the central figure in an elaborate kickback scheme by which he enriched himself personally and provided funds and benefits" to the Liberal Party, Gomery wrote in the summary of his fact finding report. ...

This will not go over well with voters who are expected to go to the polls in the spring.

The aura of scandal will have lingering effects, especially in the province of Quebec. It will give ammunition to the opposition parties, especially the Bloc Qubcois.

And while the CBC noted that Martin came out of Gomery looking "pretty good", it seemed passingly strange that he did so, considering that he held the Finance portfolio during Chrtien's term of office. The rest of the Canadian media have given this report the highest possible profile, choosing to make it the biggest story in Canada since the testimony itself rather than, as some feared, burying it immediately upon release. That isn't good news for Martin, nor will Chrtien's legal challenge help out the Liberals as they defend against a no-confidence motion. All of the legal activity will keep Gomery and his conclusions in the forefront of Canadian thought for weeks and months to come.

What do the Tories need to do? They need to learn a lesson from their springtime debacle and strike as soon as possible. Delay only encourages the Liberals to write the entire issue off as a dead letter applicable to an expired government. While the electorate still recalls the shock and anger over the betrayal of their government for petty cash, Harper needs to give Martin one hard push to knock him out of the PMO. Waiting until next spring, when voting seems a bit more convenient, delivers the message that Canadians can live with a corrupt government running their nation for a few months. If so, then why not for a couple of years?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 2, 2005 5:50 AM

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» Gomery Commission Report Released from The (not so) Daily Me
Some of you may remember that I followed the Gomery Commission's testimony closely for a while. Justice Gomery is a Canadian judge that has been appointed to lead an investigation of massive government kickbacks and corruption by the Liberal Party in C... [Read More]

Tracked on November 2, 2005 1:25 PM

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