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Opinion

KNIGHT: Liberal scandals: Just business as usual

Remember the scandals of the last Liberal government? There were many.

Revelations that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured the former Attorney General to intervene in the prosecution of SNC Lavelin should not really surprise anyone. What was surprising was the Minister, after being demoted to Veterans Affairs, resigned from Executive Council refusing to become finger-tamed.

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation as the Minister of Veterans Affairs was a broadside at the Prime Minister himself. The matter has been taken up by the Ethics Commissioner for investigation, but given the previous convictions of the Prime Minister by that body, one wonders what this investigation might yield.

After 10 years of a Harper government, many have forgotten the inherent nature of corruption in the Liberal Party of Canada. They see themselves as the natural governing party, and often display a complete disregard for the rules or maintaining ethical standards expected of elected officials.

Remember the scandals of the last Liberal government?

There were many.

I would argue the government of Jean Chrétien was one of the most corrupt our country has ever seen.

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“Shawinigate”

It reached the Prime Minister himself with what was later called Shawinigate which involved a property initially owned by the Prime Minister, the Auberge Grand Mere which got sold to a friend of his, Yvon Duhaime on a back of a napkin deal.

Then it turned out Chretien lobbied Francois Beaubien, then the president of the Business Development Bank to give a loan of $615,000 to the Auberge Grand Mere.

To add to the intrigue brothers Robert and Gordon Fu of Imperial Consultants met in the PMO with Chrétien ten days before $1.75 million was invested in the Auberge Grand Mere by an investment group which included the Fu brothers who around the same time were charged with trying to bribe immigration officials.

It was all stunning stuff that Chrétien just shrugged off saying he did what he could to help constituents who asked.

“The Billion Dollar Boondoggle”

Around the same time, the HRDC scandal was coming to light. It became the “Billion Dollar Boondoggle” although the money involved was actually over $3 billion. It involved funneling tax dollars to a variety of organizations ostensibly to create jobs. Funnily enough, the money went to Liberal insiders, donors and Liberal ridings.

The Minister, Jane Stewart, was attacked mercilessly in the House but Chrétien stood by her. She was eventually moved to the backbench after Chrétien’s successor Paul Martin took office in late 2003.

It would be bad enough if that was it. But it wasn’t and not by a long shot.

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Adscam

There was Charles (Chuck) Guité a bureaucrat who played fast and loose with contracts involving the Quebec advertising company Groupaction. It was well-known in Parliamentary circles that Guité had a wine cellar worth well north of $100,000. Not bad on a bureaucrat’s salary.

Guité was ultimately charged and convicted on five counts of defrauding the federal government and was sentenced to 42 months in jail.

Groupaction was at the centre of what became known as Adscam and the focus of the Gomery Inquiry which laid bare the corruption of the Liberal Party and ultimately cost Paul Martin the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sponsorship Scandal

Then there was Alfonso Gagliano. Another Quebec politician, he was ultimately found to be at the centre of the sponsorship scandal as determined by the Gomery Inquiry.

Gagliano, an accountant by trade, was linked to mobster Augostino Cuntrera of the Caruana-Cuntrera mob family. Cuntrera was the cousin of Alfonso Caruana who was ultimately convicted of the slaying of Paolo Violi.

Gagliano was from Siculiana in Sicily as were the Caruana-Cuntreras. He, along with Cuntrera, was a founding member of the Siculiana Cattolica Eraclea Society in Montreal. In 2004 an article in the New York Daily News alleged that Gagliano was a made member of the Bonnano crime family citing former capo turned informant Frank Lino.

Project Sidewinder

Then there was the granddaddy of them all, the PMO’s suspected involvement in the cancellation of the investigation into Project Sidewinder.

Sidewinder was a joint RCMP/CSIS report into corruption of the highest levels of government by aspects of the People’s Republic of China and elements of Asian Organized Crime.

The report analyzed the connections and recommended a full-blown investigation. The project got killed by the PMO and a sanitized version was ultimately released and the corruption was allowed to continue.

The Liberal Party of Canada doing favours for donors, friends, political allies is nothing new.

They only stopped when they were thrown out of office. But with the revelations about the PMO interference in the prosecution of SNC Lavelin it seems they picked up right where they left off.

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