The better part of 250 million dollars of our tax-payer dollars has flowed through the Federal Government Sponsorship funds into the grubby hands of Liberal Party of Canada public relations firms in Québec during a period of 4 years, from 1997 to 2001.
Fat commission fees for shuffling papers from one crown corporation to the other, astronomical sums paid out for non-existing reports, fake invoices, dummy corporations – the litany of white-washing schemes is truly mind-boggling. Only about half the funds ended-up in flags, banners, sponsorships and other baubles of federal propaganda, while the rest flowed back to Liberal Party coffers through sophisticated kick-back schemes.
We’re talking about money that Paul Martin, the erstwhile Minister of Finance, dutifully removed from Federal transfers to the provinces leaving their health and education in tatters. We’re talking about money that Paul Martin’s corporation, Canada Steamship Lines, never paid to the government when it relocated part of its activities to the safety of the tax-sheltered Bahamas.
It is no wonder that anger and disgust is sweeping the land and Paul Martin’s numbers are plummeting at the polls. In one month, the Liberals have lost a third of their support, free-falling from 51% in mid-January to a mere 34 per cent in mid-February! No one is buying Martin’s routine of blaming it all on Jean Chrétien and claiming “I knew nothing!” Worse, some of Martin’s advisers, anxious to white-wash their boss, have whispered to the Globe and Mail that the true culprit is “the tribalism that affects much of Québec’s political life”. But rather than blaming the victims, let us delve to the bottom of this system of corruption and attempt to understand its true roots and function.
Remember when Jean Chrétien was elected Prime Minister of Canada in 1993? For a majority of Québecers, he was Trudeau’s right-hand man, the one who clobbered Québec with the War Measures Act of 1970, who had nothing but contempt for the nationalist movement and who, rather than protecting French in Québec, imposed two official languages “coast-to-coast”. Trudeau “put his seat at risk to renew Canada” during the 1980 referendum campaign and, two years later, stuffed a unilaterally repatriated Constitution down Québec’s throat that has yet to be signed by Québec! Jean Chrétien is perceived by Québecers as a token francophone who, when a second referendum came up, tried to subdue his people, urging them to “step into line, once and for all”. Not surprisingly, Québec voted mostly against Chrétien in 1993. It was the central provinces, particularly Ontario, that brought in the Liberal government.
The 1995 referendum campaign was marked by the invasive and scandalous intervention of the federal government, and the organisations it financed, in Québec’s debate about its future. Despite Québec law restricting the spending of both the ŒOui’ and the ŒNon’ campaigns, the federal government spent more than these two campaigns combined! Worse, it rushed the citizenship proceedings of 50,000 immigrants, confident that these individuals would vote ŒNo’. Guess what! The ‘No’ side won by about 50,000 votes!
Panicked by the fact that they won by such a small margin despite the abuses they committed during the referendum campaign, the federal political elite were ready to shatter the independence movement by any means‹by breaking the law, if necessary, as they had done during the referendum campaign or by creating a new legal framework, as they did with the adoption of the Clarity Bill. Even better if they can offer a few goodies to friends of the regime along the way!
What the Auditor General’s report revealed was a system of corruption aiming to finance a campaign against the independence of Québec. Even Jean Chrétien admits it, saying “even if a few million were wasted,” at least he succeeded in “keeping Québec within Canada.” The ends justified the means.Š This scandal is supposed to represent a Québec style of doing politics?! More like a federal style!
So what should we think of the power exercised by the Liberal Party for so long in the Canadian state? Our first-horse-past-the-post electoral system contributes significantly to the maintenance of such a regime. That explains why Paul Martin is more interested in reforming parliamentary activities than the electoral system itself.
We have to look further than a so-called “Québec style of politics” for the source of this scandal that promises both to feed the media juicy stories over the next few months and to colour the upcoming elections. The style of politics at the source of this scandal is federal and it offers false power to Québec elite in an effort to impair the self-determination of the Québec nation. So long as this right is not recognised and respected within the Canadian framework, this country has no future and there will be no end of scapegoats to take the blame.
This article appeared in the March/April 2004 issue of Canadian Dimension .