Tag Archives: Gomery

Gomery Report Buoys Liberal Cause

By Jason Menard

That’s not the Liberal Way.

It’s a message Prime Minister Paul Martin has hammered home over the past few months, and reiterated ad nauseum during the reveal of the Gomery Report findings. And it’s certain to be a common theme in the upcoming election – a platform built upon the very report the Liberals’ opposition was hoping to bring down the government with.

With Justice Gomery absolving Martin of any responsibility in the sponsorship scandal and placing the blame on the previous regime, the Liberals have been given a new lease on life – and the opposition partys’ golden chance to topple the mighty Grits may have come and gone.

Already Martin is working to purge his party of any ties to the former regime. He’s created a Terrible 10 list, banning a selection of the allegedly worst offenders from the Liberal Party. He’s running as the man who chose to turn the light of introspection on his own party, forcing it to be accountable for the sins of its past. And, most importantly, he’s using this particularly nasty bit of Party history as the launching point for a more successful future.

And why? Because, as he states, corruption, patronage, and underhanded deals are not the Liberal Way.

Far from being Mr. Dithers, Martin has moved decisively and authoritatively during the Gomery report. By announcing that an election would be called within a month of Gomery’s recommendations, Martin not only staved off an election call that his Party could not be sure of winning, he also conscripted the Gomery report as a Party platform.

Obviously the final statements haven’t been written, but common sense dictates that Gomery’s recommendations are going to be for more independent accountability when it comes to doling out funds from the public purse. It’s going to insist on checks and balances, and a transparent tender process for any future contracts.

It’s the way a government should be run, it’s what Martin would have promised anyways, and it’s what Canadians want to hear. Exactly how are the opposition parties going to attack a platform built on truth, especially if they don’t want to come across as petty.

By asserting throughout the process that those responsible will be held accountable – and by following this up with a 10-fold banishment – Martin’s appearing strong before a country weakened by a minority government. By standing up and taking the reins and driving government to a new accountability, Martin may show voters that he has the strength, ability, and conviction needed to steer the entire country to a brighter future.

He added to this impression with the announcement that the Liberal Party itself would be repaying $1.14 million in squandered government funds. And, if that wasn’t enough, by turning the dossier over to the RCMP and requesting that chairs and boards of Crown corporations look at taking punitive action against any employees involved in the scandal, Marin is allowed to come across as the man with the big broom – sweeping corruption from the Canadian government and leading the way for a brave new world of accountability.

But in addition to Gomery, Martin also needs to thank the Canadian media, who has done much to ingrain the concept of a Martin/Chrétien rift over the past few years. While one may have trouble swallowing that a former Finance Minister wouldn’t have an inkling about some improprieties in the spending of federal funds, the fact that Gomery lays the blame at the PMO and its independent spending lends credibility to Martin’s declared ignorance of the scandal. It certainly doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief for the average Canadian to think that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien would keep his bitter rival in the dark about these activities – especially when the goal was the glory of bringing this country together.

In the end, the opposition parties are left with the option of chasing ghosts. Any volleys lobbed at Martin can simply be bumped to the past. While the Liberals opponents can claim that the sponsorship scandal is indicative of the party itself, Martin can turn around and say that it was the result of the neglect and corruption of a previous regime – issues which the current government tackled head on and with a goal of cleaning up the house.

And maybe, thanks to Gomery, the Liberal Way will once again lead to victory.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Teflon Liberals May Slide to a Majority

By Jason Menard

If the Liberal Party of Canada wants to find a creative way to raise money for the coffers this year, perhaps they should think about releasing a line of non-stick fry pans under their moniker. Simply put, the Grits are more effective than Teflon when it comes to having things slide off them.

A recent Leger poll found that the Liberals enjoyed the support of 40 per cent of respondents. That’s the same type of numbers that propelled them to their last majority government. The opposition Conservative Party has seen its numbers plummet 10 per cent to a disappointing 24 per cent support.

Despite anger over the sponsorship scandal, despite increased chatter over separation both in the East and the West, despite bad feelings caused by the federal government’s lack of action over the price of fuel, the Liberals have been able to keep their heads down, roll with the punches, and are ready to come out swinging in the next election.

Unfortunately for the Liberals’ opponents, things appear to be falling into place for a significant majority the next time Canadians are called to the polls, which is expected to be in the spring. And the main reason why the Grits are on their way back into power is simply the perceived lack of a viable alternative.

For the Conservatives and their supporters, this was their moment to regain the reins of power that they lost back in 1993. Buoyed by the allegations levied in the Gomery hearings, they were to ride that wave of anti-Liberal sentiment and outrage to a crushing victory. Alas, the Tory train derailed somewhere along the way, and continues to wind its way down a dangerous track with several supporters waiting to replace its conductor, Steven Harper.

Conversely, the New Democratic Party has chosen to remain self-satisfied with its ability to integrate reforms to the recent budget by promising to prop up the embattled minority government. But instead of building upon its gains and making a move for greater penetration into the Canadian populace, the Party appears to be pleased with the status quo, as if it realizes that being a key cog in a minority is the best that it will get.

And both opposition Parties have missed the key opportunity that the recent turmoil in the Liberal ranks has brought about – the ability to show Canadians what the alternatives to Liberal governance truly are. Both Parties have focused on the Gomery allegations to the exclusion of developing, refining, and presenting their Party platforms. Like the schoolyard squealer that runs around pointing fingers, they’ve forgotten that it’s not enough to point out what’s wrong – you need to identify what steps can be taken to make it right.

The Liberals, led by Prime Minister Paul Martin, appear to have understood this. They have addressed the issue by setting an ultimatum on a date. One month following the now-delayed release of the Gomery report, the government will call an election. Canadian voters have appeared to be appeased by this action. Now that the initial furor over the scandal has died down and the rhetoric has been digested, Canadians are choosing to take a wait-and-see approach with the results and will base their decisions on facts, not speculation.

Canadians have grown tired of the childish name-calling and dragging through the mud. However, instead of taking this opportunity to put forth a calm, rationale, and well-thought-out alternative plan for Canadians to embrace, the opposition Parties chosen to rest on their laurels and continue to sling accusations, respectfully.

It’s time to move on. The spring is not too far away and, unless the opposition Parties take this opportunity to let the Gomery investigation run its course and focus their energies on explaining to Canadians what there alternatives are, then it’s their own fault if Canadians aren’t able to see the way to change.

For a Canadian populace that wants stability and effective government, we’re left with only one readily apparent alternative for governance. And, unfortunately for the opposition Parties that proven entity is the same one that’s been in power for the past dozen years.

As the election race heats up, it’s hard to bet on the Party with the Teflon coating. To win the opposition needs to start cooking an appealing alternative that Canadians will find palatable.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Federal Liberals May Be Buoyed by Landry’s Resignation

By Jason Menard

Navigating through the murky waters of a minority government and weighed down by the anchor that is the Gomery inquiry, Paul Martin has just been thrown a life preserver by the least-likely source possible.

Mr. Prime Minister, next time you’re in your home riding of Ville Emard, make sure you make a side trip to say merci to Mr. Bernard Landry.

The Parti Quebecois’ leader decided this weekend to step down after receiving a less-than-enthusiastic 76.2 per cent support from the party’s delegates during its leadership review. His decision to gracefully step away leaves a void in separatist leadership – a void that would probably best be filled by one man, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

The lure of the PQ post may be too much for Duceppe to resist. While politicians for other parties often look to move from provincial politics to the federal ranks, Quebec separatists know the true seat of separatist power doesn’t lie on Parliament Hill – it is firmly entrenched in Quebec City’s National Assembly.

The call of the PQ leadership is enticing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Duceppe could take control of a party that is not in power. Quebec Liberal leader Jean Charest is under no obligation to 2008 and is not exactly enjoying exalted status in the province.

The Parti Quebecois is at its most effective when it doesn’t have to worry about little things like actually running a province. Without the distractions caused by the compromises and sacrifices that a ruling Party needs to make to effectively govern a province, Duceppe could ride his wave of popularity back into the province and spend the next three years promoting the sovereigntist cause without actually having to be accountable for anything. He could use his gift for rhetoric and charisma to chip away at the ruling Liberal government and to build momentum for the separatist movement.

And Quebecers’ collective memories are long. With a federal government in turmoil, a provincial Liberal party that’s struggling to make inroads with the soft separatists, the PQ is poised for a return to power – and Duceppe knows that it may be time to strike while the iron is hot. Who else has the record and the charisma to take the reins? Certainly not Pauline Marois and her $400,000 taxpayer-funded renovated bathrooms (complete with silent toilets). Anyone else is just a pretender to the throne should Duceppe decide to accept his coronation.

After all, how much more can he do on the federal level? He has shown that he is a competent statesman and an effective thorn in the side of the government. He has displayed the poise and grace that his federal counterparts only wish they could — Duceppe’s performances in the two national debates left his three opponents choking in his exhaust. And he’s raised the profile of the Bloc, with the help of some Liberal blundering, to lofty heights. A virtual sweep of the province of Quebec would be almost assured in the next federal election should he remain at the helm.

But therein lies the problem. By leaving the federal forum for the provincial arena, Duceppe would be filling one void only to create another. A fall federal election would likely coincide with a fall PQ leadership convention. Duceppe would have to make the choice, and should he make the politically savvy move to provincial politics, he would leave his federal party struggling to find a leader in its time of need – a scenario that would play right into the Liberals hands.

The Bloc and the PQ are parties that thrive on charisma. Rene Levesque had it, Lucien Bouchard had it, and Duceppe has shown he has it as well. But there’s no one else on the horizon that displays the same je-ne-sais-quoi that the position requires. And the loss of that X-factor on the federal level could make the difference in a handful of ridings – which could make all the difference in a fall federal election.

The ideal situation for separatists is to convince Landry to retake the reigns and guide his party through the coming federal election. With no provincial vote on the horizon, there is no urgency for a change in leadership. Landry could steward the PQ through the federal election, which would allow Duceppe to focus on continuing the momentum the Bloc has enjoyed up to now.

After the election, Landry could announce his resignation and Duceppe could, at that time, ride in on his white horse to spin his magic with the provincial party. But would Landry be able to subjugate his pride for the betterment of his party? That’s a question only he can answer.

If he doesn’t, then Prime Minister Martin should make sure Landry’s added to his special Christmas card list – along with Belinda Stronach – of former adversaries who have helped keep his government afloat.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Out of the Playground, Into the Real World

By Jason Menard

It certainly has been hard to be a proud Canadian over the past few weeks, hasn’t it? With our political leaders sniping, name-calling, and generally behaving like kids in a schoolyard, maybe it’s appropriate that the Queen has arrived to settle down her wayward children.

With Thursday’s vote, we saw the Liberal minority stave off its own extinction with the help of a high-profile defection and a lower-profile – but, ultimately, just as important – independent vote. Belinda Stronach may have grabbed the headlines earlier in the week, but it was Chuck Cadman who had the biggest spotlight shined on him during the actual vote.

But now, we turn our attention back to the principles – and the minute hand slowly ticks down on Mr. Cadman’s 15 minutes in the spotlight. The problem is, as usually happens in these types of skirmishes, is that few look good coming out of it.

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Coalition now look like nothing more than opportunistic schoolyard bullies. Flexing their muscles, using intimidation, and generally behaving rather badly to get what they want. But, like bullies, when the tide turns – and with Stronach’s defection, the Conservatives lost a lot of muscle – they tucked their tail between their legs and slinked off quietly, without much fuss.

If this is truly a fight against corruption and the belief truly was that the Liberals are evil, then you fight the good fight, no matter what the odds. You continue the rhetoric, you use every available means at your disposal (including enticing some fence-sitting MPs – paging Mr. O’Brien – to jump ship). But now it’s clear that this wasn’t a battle based on political principle, but political gain – an opportunistic grab for power that leaves a bad taste in some mouths.

The NDP’s Jack Layton continues to look like the cat who ate the canary, secure in the knowledge that – as he’s been trying to convince us for a while now – that the NDP are a legitimate power in Parliament. The previous Conservative/Bloc majority left the NDPs somewhat powerless, but now that the numbers are more even, his party has even more opportunity to flex its muscle.

The BQ deftly managed to stay out of the fray – Gilles Duceppe playing puppet master while Steven Harper took all the hits in the public. By remaining aloof, the Bloc gets to claim moral superiority, which it can use in a future election. Ironically, a group that’s allegedly tampered with election results in the past now gets to run on a platform built on accountability.

And where do the Liberals go from here? Well, the Liberals have to shore up their East Coast support, hold on to its power in Ontario (and probably pick up a few extra seats here and there), and work like mad to make some inroads in the West. And they have to forget about Quebec.

Sad to say, it’s done in Quebec for an election or two. The Liberals were granted a slight reprieve when the eminently likeable Paul Martin took power from the despised Jean Chrétien. But any goodwill has been washed away in this sponsorship scandal. Quebec’s stable of soft separatists are always looking for a reason to jump ship, and the findings from the Gomery inquiry are exactly the springboard they have been looking for. Add to that the miserable job Jean Charest has been doing propping up the Provincial Liberal name, and there’s little doubt that the BQ will pick up many, if not all, seats in Quebec.

Martin and his party have survived the flurry of the opening rounds. They’ve taken the Conservatives’ best shots and are still upright – however wobbly their legs may be. Yet the political rope-a-dope strategy needs to move into the next phase. The Liberals have absorbed the punches and, instead of waiting for its opponents to catch their breath, they need to come out swinging.

The Gomery inquiry needs to result in some rolling heads. Martin needs to show the electorate that the sins of the past will not be tolerated now or in the future. He needs to regain the trust of those Canadians who may be inclined to forgive and forget. The Liberals need to make a concerted effort to move forward with an aggressive and generous policy that creates a positive impression on the electorate. The new budget is a great start, but implementing it effectively is the key to long time success.

Like a veteran boxer, The Liberals have been through a number of these ring wars, so smart money says not to count them out. The second round’s just starting.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Conservative Gambit, An Uncertain End Game

By Jason Menard

Circling the battered and bloody Liberal carcass like vultures, the Tories and the Bloc have used the trickle of information flowing from Gomery inquiry to fuel a campaign to shut down our Parliament in the hopes of riding a wave of public distrust to an election victory.

But by masking political opportunism with the façade of public concern, will their plans blow up in their respective faces? The next election may come down to how each voter answers the question, “Is the devil you know better than the devil you don’t?”

As the Bloc and Conservatives work themselves into a lather about the alleged misappropriation of funds in the Sponsorship Scandal, voters will have another number in the back of their minds — a quarter of a billion dollars. That’s approximately how much last year’s election cost Canadians, through donations and dipping into the government coffers – which are filled with our tax dollars.

Voters will have to reconcile how parties preaching from a pulpit built on fiscal responsibility can employ tactics to shut down the Parliament, prevent it from doing its duty to its constituents, force another election down our throats, and stick us with the bill. Might that cause some resentment in the electorate?

How will voters react to the potential scrapping of one of the most humane budgets we’ve seen in ages? Will voters be resentful that the so-called deal with the devil — which saw the Liberal Party plugging the holes in its political dyke with a band of New Democrats all-too happy to sell their allegiances for fiscal concessions, finally able to leverage their legislative presence for power — trampled by a stampeding conservative caucus racing towards a chance at power?

And how will those disaffected swing voters upon whom the Tories are counting, reconcile the presence of that Unholy Trinity – separatism, the alleged hidden right-wing conspiracy, and George Bush? If we thought last year’s campaign was ugly, when the Liberals went into the election somewhat confident of the outcome, how will this wounded animal, fearing its very survival, fight back during this year’s campaign?

As the Bloc enjoys the swelling bandwagon from soft-separatists just looking for a reason to jump back on board, the Liberal Party will raise the spectre of political turmoil and financial instability caused by an emboldened sovereigntist movement. And to counter the right-wing parties, will the Liberals float the rhetorical balloon invoking mass cuts to our social programs, attacks on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and any number of insidious inferences to a hidden small-c conservative agenda? As well, if there’s one thing that many Canadians will agree on is its general antipathy towards the President of our neighbour to the south. By tying Stephen Harper to Bush Jr.’s politics, the Liberals are well aware – as they were in the last election – that they can play on Canadian fears of increased Americanism in our social and financial policies.

Already we see the public’s initial venom towards the Liberal Party is dissipating. There is any number of polls showing any number of results, but as we’ve seen time and time again, polls aren’t worth the time and effort it takes to get them. Canadians will be vociferous in their opposition when it doesn’t count, but the act of marking a ballot prompts sober reflection and fear of the unknown. If the current Liberal Party is able to distance itself from these accusations – or find someone who will fall on their sword – they may be able to convince the electorate that this scandal will usher in a new era of accountability.

Most importantly, can the resurgent right fight the hardest battles of all – voter fatigue and apathy? Last election, only just over 60% of Canadians went to the polls in an election that was rife with intrigue. Indications are we may see even fewer as voters express their resentment of being called to the polls yet again. And, as the pundits like to say, poor voter turnout favours the incumbents. Can the Conservatives win over the hearts of an electorate that really doesn’t want to have an election? If not, can the right effectively translate the anger of those outraged voters into fuel for an election win?

The final question is whether or not the status quo is the best option available? The Conservatives and Bloc have shown that they wield the power in Parliament, and can demand greater concessions from the Liberal minority. By refusing to play nice now with the Liberals, does that set up a culture of retribution should they be voted in as a minority government in their own right? Is turnabout fair play? It would seem that forcing an election is an all or nothing gamble – anything less than a majority government would result in a Parliament paralyzed by Liberal and NDP opposition, and an emboldened Bloc Quebecois concerned only with its own best interests with added clout to back it up.

The pawns are in motion but will the Conservatives’ gambit eventually lead to their desired end game, or will their bold move to wrest power backfire? The Tories are banking on a nation that hates politicking but loves its politics forgiving such a brazen power grab. Yet, Canadian’s love their politics from afar, and when it comes to consummate the affair, they generally shy away from actual commitment.

Who said politics was boring? This year’s pending election stands to be one for the ages.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved