Sponsorship scandal should be a lesson learned

Mr. Justice John Gomery’s first report about the federal sponsorship scandal was released on Tuesday. In his report, Gomery implicates key members of Jean Chrétien’s government, particularly his Chief of Staff Jean Pelletier, former Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano and senior bureaucrat Chuck Guité, who ran the sponsorship program until 1999. Prime Minister Paul Martin, however, escapes the report relatively unscathed.

The year-long investigation found “a complex web of financial transactions among Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), Crown Corporations and communications agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the Sponsorship Program.”

By now, the findings of the Gomery inquiry are not surprising to Canadians. The continued media attention has made it virtually impossible to avoid the controversy. However, familiarity with the issue does not mean Canadians should be apathetic about the gross abuse of power by our elected representatives. If anything, we should voice our disappointment to remind the government whom it is accountable to.

Martin has vowed to hold an election 30 days after the release of Gomery’s final report in February. Until then, we hope the other parties will respect Martin’s promise and allow the regular processes of government to be carried out without the constant threat of a possible election. The sponsorship scandal underlines the growing detachment within a bureaucratic framework. Members of the upper echelons of government, like ministers, are often unaware of the activities of their own offices. Such a separation contributed to the scandal, indicating a need for many ministers to restructure and re-evaluate the organization of their offices.

Ironically and unfortunately, the intention of the program—encouraging the federal government’s visibility in Quebec following the 1995 referendum—has been lost in the shadow of the sponsorship scandal. In light of the tenth anniversary of the referendum, the report highlights the importance of engaging Quebec and points to the failure of the sponsorship program—failure being an understatement. The Gomery report should serve as a wake-up call to the government that Canadians will not stand for abuses of power.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.