Scandal Up North

Canadian news tends not to make much of a ripple in the United States, but our neighbor to the north is currently embroiled in a massive governmental scandal that has the potential to knock down the ruling Liberal Party government led by current Prime Minister Paul Martin.

For the uninitiated, the “Adscam” involves millions of dollars in Canadian government money that was designed to go towards purchasing Canadian propaganda in order to ease the Québécois succession movement and encourage Canadian unity. Except about $100 million of the $250 million allocated ended up going into the coffers of Liberal Party hacks.

The scandal has been brewing for years, but now has implicated Prime Minister Martin (who claims that he knew nothing of the scandal despite being Finance Minister at the time) as well as former Prime Minister Jean Chrétein.

Currently Judge John Gomery is overseeing a major investigation into the scandal, but the concept of the public’s right to know in Canada isn’t quite what it is here — the investigation is under a “publication ban” in which any records of the testimony are sealed. The testimony is supposedly so damning that the Liberal Party is preparing for an upcoming election although the main opposition parties are putting a damper on such talk. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party has just been granted the right to cross-examine witnesses at the trial.

The AdScam affair indicates the level of corruption that has settled over the Canadian government. The fact that the testimony in the Gomery Inquest is sealed under a publication ban is equally worrying and denies Canadian citizens the right to know what is going on with their government. Of course, bloggers like Ed Morrissey are all over this case and have been willing to break the publication ban. This has resulted in threats of legal action against any Canadian who even mentions the name of a blog that’s carrying the testimony.

The fact that the Canadian government is so eager to shield Canadian citizens from the truth should be extremely worrying to the Canadian electorate. In a democracy, the values of transparency and openness are absolutely critical to keeping elected officials honest and accountable. The minority Liberal government deserves to stand up to the public scrutiny and give answers in the open to the Canadian people. The arrogance of people like Jean Chrétien who curtly stated that "perhaps there were a few million dollars that might have been stolen in the process but how many millions have we saved … by keeping it a united country?" displays the abject hubris of the Canadian ruling class in this affair.

The old saying goes, politicians are like diapers — they need to be changed frequently, and for the same reason. It appears that the stink from Ottawa may yet bring a new Parliamentary election where the Canadians will have a chance to change their leadership — hopefully for the better.

As always, Captain’s Quarters is once again the best source for the latest in this story. Small Dead Animals also has some more detail into the background of this major scandal.

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