To my response to Mr Ivison’s Oct. 14, 2009, National Post online article “Conservatives embrace culture of entitlement,” Mr Ivison responded by email as follows:
“In response to your letter, I quote from page 435 of the Gomery Report: ‘The method of providing for the financial needs of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada, using kickbacks obtained by Jacques Corriveau from persons deriving benefit from the sponsorship program such as Jean Brault (and probably others) is described elsewhere in this report. The venality of the scheme makes Mr. Corriveau’s participation particularly blameworthy.’
“I would argue that’s a pretty strong foundation on which to base the case that ‘the Liberals’ stole millions of taxpayers dollars.” — John Ivison, email 2009-10-15
Justice Gomery also says (Assigning Responsibility, p75) that: “… The absence of any evidence of direct involvement in Mr. Corriveau’s wrongdoing entitles both Mr. Pelletier and Mr. Chrétien to be exonerated from blame for Mr. Corriveau’s misconduct.”
And (p77) “… On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility to any other Minister of the Chrétien Cabinet …” (“other,” here, alluding to Mr Gagliano alone, who as Minister of Public Works failed to give proper oversight and was alleged to have had improper input into sponsorship decisions — but no theft nor kickbacks!)
Furthermore (p78) “… The persons who accepted contributions in cash and other improper benefits have brought dishonour upon themselves and the political party …”
This clearly identifies that these were the actions of a few individuals, not the party, nor the party leadership nor the Liberal government of the day.
Mr Corriveau is not “the Liberals.” He might have been, at the time, “a” Liberal, and in a position of responsibility within the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec), which he clearly abused, his actions themselves were not done by, nor in any way condoned by the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec) or the Liberal Party of Canada itself, or the Liberal leadership or government.
In this respect, Justice Gomery does go on to say that: “The LPCQ as an institution cannot escape responsibility for the misconduct of its officers and representatives …”
But responsibility is not blame. The responsibility here is for a failure to provide adequate supervision and oversight over such conduct, which lapse was due in part that it was two successive LPCQ Executive Directors who should themselves have been responsible for assuring correctness within the LPCQ, who were, in fact, involved in the misconduct.
But, even so, Mr Corriveau is not alleged to have committed any theft. There is no argument that there were illicit kickbacks to some individuals, and accepting of illegal contributions, but this still is not theft.
Nevertheless, to the extent that the Party was able to ascertain the extent of these wrongful contributions or any other wrongful transfers to it, the Party made full restitution to the Government of Canada, as is proper and correct. Again, no theft.
There was indeed money stolen from the Government of Canada, and it remains at this date that some of it has not yet been recovered. The pitfall here is to leap from there to the absurd conclusion that if it’s missing “the Liberals musta took it,” and from there, inevitably, to “the Liberals took it!” Again: unwarranted, unsubstantiated, and as identified by Justice Gomery and numerous extensive criminal investigations, highly unlikely.
“The Liberals,” here meaning the Liberal government of the day, due to omissions and haste in concocting the Sponsorship program and with the best of intentions, which were to preserve Canada as a whole nation, did unquestionably create the climate in which this fraud and abuse could occur. This was an error, not a crime. To that extent they were responsible. But again, this responsibility is for an administrative and management fault, not blame for any wrong-doing nor any criminal activity.
To their credit as well, the Liberal government of the day also notably took steps to arrest the problem, and correct it. This included actions of Mr Goodale who halted the program as soon as he took office as Minister of Public Works and was briefed on it, resuming it only after checks and balances were re-established. And it prominently included Mr Martin, who launched the Commission itself in order to get to the bottom of the problem. “The Liberals” stepped-up, faced their errors, and took proper action to correct them and to identify the root causes so that they could better be avoided in future.
It must be clearly stressed in all of this, that though there were indeed a few individuals who might well have been carrying Liberal membership cards, and who were guilty of misconduct and in some cases even crimes, this cannot properly be applied in a broad brush to Liberals in general, nor the Liberal Party of Canada, nor any subordinate part of the party. A dog is not to blame for the bad behaviour of its fleas.
There is no foundation at all for Mr Ivison’s case that “the Liberals” stole millions of taxpayers dollars. “The Liberals” stole not so much as a nickel.
In response to this (as well as my request for permission to use his replies) Mr Ivison replied:
“You can use my comments as you wish. But you are probably the only person in Canada — and I include my many Liberal friends and associates — who does not accept that the Liberal Party was culpable in the sponsorship scandal.” — John Ivison, email 2009-10-15
Even if I am, as Mr Ivison suspects, alone in this, it would be entirely irrelevant; the truth, here, is easily and objectively ascertainable, regardless how many know of it or are willing to make the effort. I know that’s the common belief, and I know that many, many people buy into it, but it’s not supported by the facts, as in small part I portrayed above.
I was not even a “Liberal” back during the Gomery hearings. I had at that time never been affiliated with any party, though hailing originally from Alberta if for no other reason, I thought I was probably Conservative.
But I saw what I saw on television twisted seriously awry, without any regard to what was really going on. That, as well as delving deeper into the principles, values, and the track records of the respective parties helped me along.
The common belief is also driven by the very well orchestrated and well-executed mis-representations of the Gomery results during the 2006 election, and since.
I think that a great many, if not most, people who have an opinion on this, formed such opinion based on what it was said Gomery said, not what he in fact said.
This is not to say that the Chrétien government didn’t make some serious errors, and they certainly bear responsibility for them, nor does it say that a wake-up call wasn’t needed, but these things are a far cry from the things for which they’re commonly, and wrongly, accused.