April 11, 2005


Kickback scandal plagues Canada liberals (BETH DUFF-BROWN, 4/11/05, Associated Press)

Prime Minister Paul Martin scrambled Monday to prevent the fall of his government amid a kickback scandal in his Liberal Party, as a new poll showed the opposition Conservatives would easily win fresh elections if held today.

In what some say is Canada's version of Watergate, in terms of magnitude and potential damage, Martin reiterated that he had nothing to do with the ethics fiasco, in which party members are accused of having taken kickbacks from advertising agencies hired to promote federalism in the rebellious French-speaking province of Quebec.

"Not only do I have the moral authority, I have the moral responsibility," to keep the government afloat until the full inquiry into the scandal concludes in the fall, Martin said. "Canadians are entitled to ask someone to step forward and I'm the prime minister of this country. I can assure you that anyone who has been implicated is going to be punished."

How long Martin can remain prime minister is anyone's guess, and the halls of Parliament were rife with speculation about whether new elections were around the corner.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois could introduce a confidence motion by Thursday, though the more powerful Conservative Party was hedging, knowing most Canadians are not keen for new elections.

"There is a depth of anger there. The Liberal Party is in deep, deep trouble," said Richard Simeon, professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

A poll published by the Toronto Star on Monday indicates that only 25 percent of those questioned last week would vote for the Liberals if elections were held today. The Conservatives were backed by 36 percent, up 10 points from a survey taken in February.

If it's not worth going to the polls over it's no Watergate.

Canada's kickback scandal grows: Prime Minister Martin comes under fire amid new revelations of his party's misuse of public funds. (Susan Bourette, 4/12/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Canada's opposition parties are threatening to topple Prime Minister Paul Martin's reigning Liberal minority government, following allegations of kickbacks and money laundering.

For the past year, Canadians have been incensed by a scandal concerning the misuse of public funds by the Liberal Party to promote national unity with Quebec.

But late last week, anger exploded after the publication of statements by Jean Brault, an advertising executive at the center of the furor, who testified that his firm laundered millions in taxpayer revenues to help bolster Liberal Party coffers between 1997 and 2002.

The furor could present political rivals with their second chance to oust the Liberal Party, which lost its majority in Parliament in June 2004.

For Canadian citizens, however, the scandal cuts much deeper: It's a scar on the collective psyche of a nation that has entrusted its hopes and aspirations to one political party for the greater part of the last century.

It's not as if anyone else believed their delusions about Canadian values--they were only fooling themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2005 8:36 PM

It is amusing to listen to "As It Happens", the even more insufferable Canadian version of "All Things Considered" studiously ignore this 10,000 pound elephant.

Imagine the cascades of indignation that would be pouring out of the Canuck media if this was a conservative thing.

Posted by: Earl Sutherland at April 11, 2005 9:04 PM

The notion that anyone in Francophone Canada is disturbed by this rather puny scandal is laughable. The Liberals remain the only party with a national presence, this means they have a huge advantage in a country that could be divided into as many as four separate nations.

Martin was certainly competent as a Treasury Secretary, but as PM he has been Velcro rather than Teflon, which his truly disgusting predecessor seems to have been. If a new election is declared, the Liberals dump Martin, and pick any of about a half dozen new faces, they win.

Posted by: bart at April 12, 2005 11:58 AM

How many times does one have to be told to not sweat the small stuff but focus on what's really important.

Hat tip: Snapping Turtle.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 12, 2005 2:11 PM

Glad to see the Canadians (not the hockey ones) victorious! I kind of enjoy curling, and agree that its outcome is a really important event.

Posted by: Dave W. at April 12, 2005 4:15 PM