Just when Liberal politicians thought it safe to go into the water, it turns out that Adscam still may lie beneath the calm surface of Canadian politics. The National Post reports this morning that Adscam witnesses may have lied to either the Gomery Inquiry or to a Parliamentary committee, and some in the Commons want to pursue perjury charges (via Newsbeat1):
MPs went behind closed doors Wednesday night to decide whether to pursue perjury charges against half a dozen politicians and bureaucrats who said one thing at the Gomery inquiry and another when they testified before the Commons public accounts committee.
The MPs on the committee were confronted with the decision when they received a report that compared “discrepancies” in the testimony of key witnesses.
The witnesses appeared first at the committee’s hearings into why the sponsorship program went off the rails in 2003 and were later called to testify at the inquiry headed by Justice John Gomery. …
House of Commons lawyers advised MPs that perjury charges are a “tricky” and “tortuous path” and would be a long-shot. If MPs decide to turn the case over to Ontario’s attorney general to pursue, it would be a first in Canada’s history.
Another option, favoured by many MPs, is to report to Parliament with a recommendation that those who are unable to explain the differences in their testimony be found in contempt of Parliament.
It seems a little bit late, but apparently someone finally started reviewing the transcripts from both inquiries and found stories that didn’t match. The Gomery inquiry resulted in no charges being offered but became an important factor in the collapse of Liberal political support and the historic win of the Conservatives last year. Stephen Harper owes his position as Prime Minister in part to the exposure of Liberal corruption in Adscam.
Liberals had hoped that Adscam had become old news since the nadir of their fortunes in January 2006. They had reason to believe that their fortunes had improved. An SES Research poll taken earlier this week put them in a dead heat with the Conservatives on a national level, with both parties polling at 33%. Earlier, they trailed by only two points. That’s a significant decrease from five years ago, when the Grits had almost a majority, but a four-point improvement from last winter.
Now it looks as if the Commons will have to dredge it all back up again, and the Liberals will have to weather another tour of its darker days. The witnesses that allegedly perjured themselves in one inquiry or the other are very unlikely to be Conservatives or from the NDP, after all, and it could lead to an expansion of the inquiry that would involve even more Liberal politicians. Hundreds of millions of dollars still remain missing from the Sponsorhip Programme, and Canadians might take an interest again in finding them.
UPDATE: I’ve taken out references that the witnesses may have been MPs, although the story does say “politicians”. As Mark in Ottawa points out, the article doesn’t specify the offices held by the politicians.