April 19, 2005


Woe Canada (DAVID FRUM, 4/19/05, NY Times)

Over the past few weeks, a judicial inquiry in Montreal has heard charges that Canada's governing Liberal Party was running a system of extortion, embezzlement, kickbacks and graft as dirty as anything Americans might expect to find in your run-of-the-mill banana republic.

Just last week, for example, Canadians learned that one of the closest friends of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was paid more than $5 million for work that was never done and on the authority of invoices that were forged or faked. It is charged that this same friend then arranged for up to $1 million to be kicked back in campaign contributions to Mr. Chrétien's Liberal party.

Corruption charges have dogged the Chrétien Liberals for years. Mr. Chrétien left office in 2003 under suspicion that he had pressured a government-owned bank to lend money to businesses in which he held an interest. But until recently, nobody was able to prove anything worse than carelessness and waste. Now, though, the improper flood of money from the public treasury is being connected to a reciprocal flow of money to the Liberal Party and favored insiders, including Mr. Chrétien's brother.

And because Mr. Chrétien's successor, Paul Martin, failed to win a parliamentary majority in last year's federal election, Mr. Chrétien's old survival strategy of denial and delay no longer works. Together, the opposition Conservative and Bloc Québécois parties could force an election call at any time. Opinion polls suggest that if an election were held now, the Liberals would lose decisively.

The discrediting and defeat of Canada's Liberal government would constitute a grand event in Canadian history: after all, the Liberals have ruled Canada almost without challenge for the past 12 years and for almost 80 of the past 109 years. But the kickback scandal could reverberate outside Canada's borders too.

Many Americans see Canada as a kind of utopian alternative to the United States: a North American democracy with socialized medicine, same-sex marriage, empty prisons, strict gun laws and no troops in Iraq.

Isn't that dystopian?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2005 6:08 AM

"Together, the opposition Conservative and Bloc Qubcois parties could force an election call at any time. Opinion polls suggest that if an election were held now, the Liberals would lose decisively."

So let's all sit back and watch the stupid, stupid party tie its knickers in a knot and decide to give it another year--just to be sure.

Posted by: Peter B at April 19, 2005 1:22 PM


They don't have any ideas anyway, do they?

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 1:29 PM

There are some very bright types among the Conservative M.P's, but there is so much paranoia about saying the wrong thing on social issues and being swarmed for it that they tend to be muted. Also, regional sores get opened so easily that everyone talks mush. They should be better on fiscal and international issues, but that is where they are going to want to hide for a while, as everyone knows the next election will be won and lost in the suburbs of English Canada. The Libs will lie in wait for just one Tory to slip up on healthcare or tell women they should be having more kids and then the fun will start.

Posted by: Peter B at April 19, 2005 4:40 PM